War Defined and Examined (Moses Lard on War; Part 3 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For earlier parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)

War Defined and Examined

But what do we mean when we talk of an act of going to war? The language is vague and general. It strikes me that a sharper and more specific view of its import and implication is necessary before we can either test it by rules or apply to its arguments; and this we must certainly do before we can pronounce on it a very reliable judgment.

By an act of going to war, then, we mean, not to speak more particularly, an act of going out to subdue by force an enemy. Now the very first question which here arises is this: Is the Christian in any case allowed, to say nothing of his being bound, to use force against a human being? This is a hard question, lying on the very threshold of our subject. If a Christian may not use force at all, then the question is settled. He cannot go to war. May he, then, use force? Of course, the advocate of war must affirm it. Can he prove it? I ask the candid reader if he has no doubt? Does he feel sure that the advocate of war can make good on his case? I must say my doubts are large with heavy point. Indeed, I feel satisfied that he can never invest his cause with even a high degree of probability, far less can he make it good. On what ground, let me ask, may he use force, if on any? Let it be constantly borne in mind that the Christian man is not his own; that he has been redeemed by Christ, and consequently belongs to him. Christ’s will, then, and not his own, is the rule of his conduct. He has no rights on his own, and may do nothing save by sufferance of Christ. Has, then, Christ given him the right to use force against a fellow-creature? – especially has he given him the right to use it against him to the extent of taking away his life? Every precept of the New Testament, having the slightest bearing on the case, negatives the question. This is not the place to argue the question save on general grounds, yet even these appear enough. Suppose it to be admitted that the Christian may use force against his fellows, whom of them may he use it against? When the advocate of war says against the enemies of the State, this is an arbitrary discrimination. Why not equally against his personal enemies? Of course, the answer is: He is forbidden to use it against these, but not against the enemies of the State. But this is not satisfactory. For, in the first place, it is an assumption of the point in debate; and, in the second place, it implies a false ground of action. The Christian may not do things merely where they are not inhibited, especially where even this is doubtful. Mere non-inhibition can never justify an act such as that of going to war. It must rest on a far more solid and authoritative basis than this. The right to use force is hence far from being apparent.

But the act of going to war is more than the mere act of going out to subdue an enemy by force. It is the act of going out to take his life. Further than this, it is the act of going out to take many lives. When the Christian enters the ranks as a soldier, he enters expecting and waiting to be led into battle. And when led into battle, he intends to kill to the full extent of his power. Hence, every time he has a chance to shoot, he shoots; and every time he shoots he aims to kill a man. Suppose now he has a chance to shoot twenty times a day, and this is a very moderate estimate, twenty times in a day, then, he aims to take the life of a human being who was created in the image of God. These human beings are generally unprepared to die. They are hence hurried into eternity in the midst of passion, while their souls are thirsting for blood, and curses are on their lips. Yet twenty times in the day the Christian deliberately intends thus to hurry one off. Is it possible now that he can be acting with the approbation of Christ, and that his soul is pure in the sight of God? Whether he kills or not every time he shoots affects not the case which I am making. He intends to kill. This intent is the thing which I wish to have shown to be right. If this cannot be done, again I repeat, the question is settled. The Christian cannot innocently go to war.

Hence, when maintaining the right of the Christian to go to war, what he who maintains it has to do is, to maintain the Christian’s right to intend and actually to kill a human being, called his enemy, every time he gets a chance on the battlefield. I know not what proposition the New Testament may not be made to sustain, if it can be shown to sustain this.

The subject in discussion being now pretty fully stated, and the proposition to be opposed being fairly before the mind, I may, I believe, next proceed to adduce my arguments. The proposition to be opposed, let it be borne in mind, is this: Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s first argument here:
War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)

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