Moral Dilemmas, War and Pacifism

I was on a Christian forum, where the questions was: “Are Christians allowed to fight?” Let me inject theological answers from Got Questions (Got Questions) – a Protestant biblical site and philosophically – by introducing the moral dilemma.

Moral Dilemmas

The problem with taking absolute positions is that it would open you up to Ethical dilemmas, like those found at Ethical dilemma; Ethical dilemma 2.

  • The first article says, “Ethical dilemmas, also known as a moral dilemmas, are situations where there is a choice to be made between two options, neither of which resolves the situation in an ethically acceptable fashion.”
  • Wiki in the second article says, “An ethical dilemma is a complex situation that often involves a clear mental conflict between moral imperatives, to obey one would result in transgressing another.”

A perfect example is this. Suppose I had a child and suppose someone is running towards them, to kill them with a knife. I have a gun and can shot the killer dead. Should I do nothing and let the child die? Or should I shoot the killer and save the child? Which would it be? Whose life is more important – the killer’s or the child’s?

We could even make the above example more interesting. Suppose the killer was your wife (or husband, if you are female), who has a psychotic problem. She forgot to take her medication today. She is the one coming at your child with a knife, saying she is going to kill them. And you are too weak from a flu virus, to physically stop her. You only have the gun option. What would you do?

How would pacifists resolve this and other ethical dilemmas?

We could even inject some interesting alternatives to the above ethical dilemma. Like:

Do we still face the same moral or ethical dilemma? Unless you have a solid theological and philosophical solution to ethical dilemmas, then you are threading on shaky ground.

Let me leave you with some interesting moral dilemmas to reflect upon at:

Ethical or moral dilemmas can be even be situations where nothing drastic will happen. There’s a popular Pentecostal Chicago preacher on local access TV. His wife is always shown on TV – in the audience – wearing awful hats. She once had one on that looked exactly like a flower-pot – full of flowers. It was the ugliest hat you ever saw. Imagine you are friends with the TV reverend and his wife. Then the wife asks you, “how do you like my new hat?” You can tell her it’s awful and hurt her feelings. Or you can say it is great and lie. Or you can say something like, “this hat brings out the real you” or “It’s nice that the flowers are the same color as your hair.” How would you answer her?

Sometimes there’s not enough information in the Bible, to make a solid case either way. And we also get into the problem of when to interpret something figuratively or literally. This can be the topic of a debate – in and of itself. And some groups – like the Quakers – rely more on the inner light than biblical verses. As the old saying goes (i.e. re-adapted from Jewish lore), if you get three theologians in a room (i.e. regardless if they are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Protestant), you might have five different opinions. The martial arts – if taught from old traditions – has a great philosophy behind it. They don’t go out looking for fights. Hence, Pacifism is a good quality to mimic. But the martial artist (i.e. a good one), would be well-trained to respond to any reasonable, philosophical ethical or moral dilemma imposed. Hence, live for peace, but if war or battle is needed – respond. But there’s always the Conscientious objector route available – to those who object.

Let’s look at some Got Questions theological answers:

There’s another site called CARM, who tries to answer this question at Should a Christian go to war?  I like these points from the article, which I shall quote.

  •  “This question has caused a lot of division in the body of Christ. Should a Christian go to war where he might kill other people when the Bible says to ‘turn the other cheek’ (Luke 6:29)?

  • From this we can easily conclude that going to war is not a sin, that is, if it complies with the biblical instructions of self-defense and protection of the innocent.

  • Finally, notice that some soldiers approached John the Baptist and inquired about repentance. John did not tell them to stop being soldiers but to do their jobs properly–honestly.

  • “From all of this, we can see that going to war is not wrong it itself and that a Christian can go to war under the right circumstances.”

Finally, notice that some soldiers approached John the Baptist and inquired about repentance. John did not tell them to stop being soldiers but to do their jobs properly–honestly.

is interesting to me. I’ve used a similar argument in the past against groups that dismiss secular healing. This can be anything from Christian Science to a Christian grief group, that dismisses any secular counseling and help. Or whether depression should only be treated by Christian biblical direction, instead of with, secular counseling and medical medications. My response to them was:

“In all the time Luke hangs around Christ, Paul and the apostles and sees all the miracles going on,not once did he renounce being a physician.”

I believe a person should avail themselves to the best that conventional medicine, alternative or complementary medicine, and spiritual healing and prayer – working hand in hand – have to offer.

It should be noted that I’m not always in accord with what CARM and Got Questions always says biblically, but they do offer some good starting points for discussion.

So I guess the original question is

“Are Christians allowed to fight?”

The answer would be yes. But we should then follow up with a second question:

“Should ALL Christians fight?”

The answer is no and should be left up to the Christian and his Conscience – whether guided by the inner light of Quakerism, their understanding of Biblical directives, church teaching and affiliation or reflections on the Just War criterion. But whatever the choice made:

  • The Christian will have to deal with any secular repercussions from any decision, other than conscientious objection.
  • The moral or ethical dilemma might be something a person could be confronted with.
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