War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Moses Lard on War; Part 4 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous 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 (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong

My first argument in refutation of this proposition [Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war] is drawn from the source whence wars springs. The argument is, that war cannot be right when its cause is wrong. What now is its cause? The following from the New Testament supplies the answer:

Whence are wars, and whence battles among you? Are then not hence, from your lusts that war in your members?

James 4:1

Here lust is, in the word of Christ, set down as the cause of wars and battles; not as the cause of some wars and some battles, but as the cause of all wars and all battles. And I hesitate not to believe that, were we capable of tracing every war to the secret motive from which it originates, we should find the apostle’s remark to be in every case, and in the severest sense, true. Lust of territory, lust of power, lust of fame, lust of wealth – few will be found to deny that these are the great mainsprings of war. Extinguish all trace of these in the human breast, and unless Satan could muster some other passion into service, wars would universally cease. Now that lust is positively forbidden in the word of God, as a thing wrong in itself, no one will deny. Hence all acts which are strictly performed to carry it out and gratify it must be wrong. This includes war – all war. Hence all war must be wrong. But is it the object of the apostle in the passage to show merely whence wars come, and that they are wrong because lust is wrong? Is it not rather to show that lust is wrong, because it leads to war? Does he not take for granted that war is wrong; and the, as war is the effect of lust, reason from the effect to the cause show that the cause is wrong? Clearly, to my mind, his object is to condemn lust because it leads to war. But how can he condemn lust because it leads to war, if war itself be right? The answer is obvious. Hence from every view we can take of the passage the same conclusion results – war is wrong.

But in reply to this it will be said that the wars and battles of the passage are not war in the sense in which the word occurs in the question “Should Christians go to war?” but in that they denote merely the little feuds and contentions which from time-to-time spring up among the children of God. How, I ask, is this known? Or from what laws of language results such a narrowing of the terms? This view is clearly arbitrary, and taken for a special purpose. If the words “wars and battles” have not here their accustomed signification, it would be difficult, it seems to me, to show that they have it anywhere else in the Bible. I can certainly take them in no other than their usual sense; and must deny to others the right to do so, till they make good that they have that right.

But even granting that the wars and battles of the passage refer only to the little feuds and strifes which occasionally arise among Christians, does a better conclusion result? If Christians may not take part even in the small strife, which is free from the guilt of human blood, may they yet take part in the great battle where thousands are slaughtered? Is it the magnitude of a war which makes it right? Or is it right only when human blood runs, and wrong only when it does not? If an argument from the less to the greater ever sound, then must that be sound from which the wrong of the bloodless feud infers the wrong of the bloody battle? How Christians can be wrong when merely quarreling with their brethren, and yet right when shooting human beings down in battle, is something which I confess my utter inability to see.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s second argument here:
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)