War & Violence in Scripture, what would it be without it?

I was recently asked about suicide by someone who believed that God might understand a person’s pain enough to allow them grace to end their own pain. His reasoning was partly developed because he couldn’t find any Scripture on the exact issue. I explained to my view and tried to help him see the depravity of the issue. He thought his view was justified because it wasn’t it Scripture but I mentioned to him how the words Trinity and Trinitarian do not appear in the Bible yet the Trinity is the core of our belief. Even though certain topics are not discussed explicitly in the text we are still given a moral compass by which we can understand those issues.
I mention that because I’m currently reading a book in which the Christian author has advocated for peace and not war and violence. Regardless of the difference in views between just-war and pacifism (I have my opinion like anybody), I’m curious as to what significance the wars and violence of scripture is meant to teach us? In considering what I mentioned about suicide or the Trinity, things that are not explicitly detailed in Scripture, what would we be missing if God’s wars we’re not in Scripture?

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Hi Pete,

When you ask, “what would we be missing if God’s wars were not in Scripture?”, I’m not sure where you’re placing the emphasis – whether on “God’s wars,” distinguishing between those which are divinely sanctioned from all others, or whether your question is regarding the general significance of war as a biblical narrative, given your qualification exempting the “difference in views between just-war and pacifism” as the substance of your argument. So, I think it will be best to come at this by approaching the latter (on narrative), followed by the former (on theory of application).

My first impression on war in Scripture is simply that it’s a fact of life after the fall. There is a historical accounting of war, wars, and violence recorded for us in the canon. Although each instance will carry its own lessons and types, I would say the wider significance is how it demonstrates the sinful nature of man, the limitations of this age, and the dire need for the redemption of this world.

Isa 9:6-7 NKJV - (6) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Peace in our current age is not an option. I submit the entire history of mankind as evidence. I think it would do the modern world good for us to humbly acknowledge the limits of humanity. And, I hope Christians will lead the way, understanding that no government of man will ever bring peace on Earth. Only the reign of Christ can fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in total. Blood will continue to cry out from the ground until the new age dawns.

So, were violence to not have been recorded in the Bible, there should not have been any Bible at all. Sin and death were borne of Adam. From Cain, to me and you, violence is a fact of life. A Bible absent violence would be a Bible absent sin, and absent sin, absent a Savior; absent Savior, null.

You mentioned that things like the theology of the trinity or the morality of suicide are not explicitly addressed in Scripture. I don’t want to contrast these two items, nor conflate them with your question. But, for the sake of your line of argumentation, let’s look at the category of “gray areas.” Just war theory fits into this subject.

In such cases, we should proceed from axioms to conclusions with both caution and humility. While we may posit a strong theory from the sum of Scripture, we are dabbling in a dimension that I believe we can only approach corporately as the Body of Christ, and even then, that we might see as in a mirror dimly lit. With any antinomy, we should also be wary of false dichotomies (like Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Just-War vs. Pacifism) and consider multivariate causality, situational ethics, and the many-faceted substance of love.

I don’t know how well I’ve addressed your query here. Is there something deeper you were wanting to get at? If so, please clarify. I hope this at least provides a framework for further discussion, if applicable.

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