By Lawren Guldemond
Short days ago, we Canadians observed our annual Remembrance Day in honour of our country’s fallen military personnel. We paused to remember those who served and died in the line of duty, defending our country and our country’s allies. It was especially poignant this year, as we remembered Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, two soldiers recently slain at home by ISIL sympathizers. It struck a personal chord with me, as I once served in Cirillo’s regiment, although many years earlier than he.
We honour our warriors as heroes in recognition of the magnitude of the dreadful dangers they faced for our sake. We laud the valour and bravery of all those who went forward in the face of grave perils. Many were sent to the grave by those perils. Those who run the gauntlet and survive are often emotionally scarred and psychologically troubled. War is a dreadful, miserable, and grisly ordeal to go through. It is a great scourge by which humanity has plagued itself throughout history.
Skeptics and unbelievers often point to all the suffering and evil in the world as evidence that it could not be created and governed by a good God. The innumerable brutalities of our endless wars offer ample ammunition for anyone seeking subject matter to support this argument. It is true that the repeated occurrences of war in this world must have some implications which bear on the nature and character of God. However, the implications are not what the skeptics imagine, chiefly because they cannot fathom or comprehend the plans and purposes of God regarding this world and those that dwell in it.
The occurrence and prevalence of war in human history also has implications that bear on the nature and character of humanity. When man’s vicious behaviour toward man is held up as proof against the existence of God, attention is directed toward the wrong party. From the observation that people are sometimes brutally and lethally hostile to other people, the first thing we should deduce is that humanity has a catastrophic moral deficiency. Looked at from this angle, does this present a conundrum for Christian theology? Not at all. The Bible has an explanation for why we are the warmongering race that we are.
The Bible gives us the fundamental facts of the history of our existence. It tells us, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”[i] The very first couple of people on earth, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God.[ii] In so doing, they revealed that they did not wholly believe and trust in the goodness of God. For if indeed God is good, and everything He says and does and is, is true, and you knew and believed this, then you would obediently do what He told you to do, wouldn’t you? All of our sins—Adam’s, Eve’s, yours, and mine—are rooted in a malicious unbelief regarding the perfect, virtuous, benevolent, and steadfast character of God.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they initiated a war of rebellion against God, and all of their offspring have continued this rebellion ever since. In the prophecy of Isaiah, God delivers this indictment: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”[iii]Throughout the Bible, there are multitudes of passages in which God indicts various people and nations for being sinful, wicked, and ungodly. Lest there be any doubt, there are didactic summary passages, such as Romans 3:9-19, which pronounce all of humanity guilty of being sinners, and therefore under condemnation. In Romans 5, the Bible plainly labels us all (before redemption in Christ) as enemies of God.
This is our story, our history. This is who we are; it is our collective identity as mankind. We are creatures in a state of rebellion and war against our Creator, the Most High God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, fount of life and every good thing, most excellent and glorious, the Righteous judge of all the earth, the good and gracious King of Kings, who alone dwells in light unapproachable.[iv] We defy His commandments and despise His holy name, using it as a swear word. He sent His Son, Jesus, to reconcile us and bring us to Himself, and we mocked Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. That is what the Bible tells us about what kind of creatures we are. Is it any wonder, then, that we go to war against one another?
The reason that we have plagued ourselves throughout our history with wars and atrocities is that we are rebels against the good God who made us all. The old saying, “there is no honour among thieves,” captures a profound truth that is very applicable here. Those who steal from others cannot be trusted to forbear from stealing among themselves. Likewise, those who are evil in their dealings toward God, who is good and worthy of all honour, reverence and obedience, will never be perfect and good in their dealings toward each other. As long as mankind continues to be at enmity with God, there will be no enduring peace among us.
The final chapters of the Bible present a prophetic picture of the end of the ages. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the residents will be those from every tribe and tongue and nation who were reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”[v] Neither shall there be any more war, once there is no more sinful rebellion against God.
[i] Genesis 1:31 ESV.
[ii] Genesis 3.
[iii] Isaiah 1:2 KJV. Knowledgeable readers might insist that this divine indictment was spoken specifically of the particular nation of Israel, not of all mankind. While the exegetical case for this might have good merits, I nonetheless think it is valid to consider it to have an additional and extensive application to all of humanity.
[iv] Daniel 5:21, Colossians 1:16, Jeremiah 17:13, Genesis 18:25, Revelation 19:16, I Timothy 6:16.
[v] Revelation 21:4 KJV.