SEBTS speakers Land, Heimbach say war with Iraq is just
March 7 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

SEBTS speakers Land, Heimbach say war with Iraq is just | Friday, March 7, 2003

Friday, March 7, 2003

SEBTS speakers Land, Heimbach say war with Iraq is just

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

WAKE FOREST - The U.S. has just cause to attack Iraq, according to speakers at a "Just War Doctrine" symposium held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) on Feb. 26.

Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at SEBTS, reviewed classical characteristics of just war theory and said the case against Iraq meets all the criteria for a just war. The former advisor to President George H.W. Bush, who is widely credited with outlining the "just war" doctrine Bush employed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, cautioned against "regime change" as a valid reason for war, however.

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Religious Ethics and Liberty Commission, disagreed, insisting that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power is a legitimate objective for war. Land described Hussein as a "sociopathic psychopath" on a Jan. 31 television program in Nashville. "We are talking about a man who, if he lived in a normal society, would be institutionalized."

Heimbach said the two key issues in approaching the war are whether there is just cause, and whether we have reached the point of war as a last resort.

The problem with relying heavily on just cause is that it can easily be transformed into a crusade ethic, Heimbach said. The U.S. has just cause to enforce the terms of surrender of the 1991 war, he said, which was a response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. To enter Iraq with the goal of deposing Hussein, however, crosses the line into a crusade mentality, he said, seeking to impose American ideals on the Iraqi people.

Heimbach said he believes President Bush has provided sufficient evidence that Hussein is supporting global terrorism, which might provide just cause for a new war, but many others remain unconvinced. Thus, Heimbach said, if the president asked for his advice, "I would recommend that we not focus on what Iraq is doing to support terrorism, but focus on enforcing the terms of the 1991 surrender." Just war is based on actual wrongdoing, Heimbach said, not just the potential for future wrongdoing.

The problem with defining when conflict becomes the means of "last resort" runs the risk of falling into practical pacifism, Heimbach said, because there can always be more negotiations. When it becomes apparent that the opponent is not negotiating in good faith, it is appropriate to set deadlines and regard the failure to meet them as the point of last resort, Heimbach said.

"We are way past" all reasonable criteria for seeing an impending attack as a last resort, Heimbach said. "Bush has been extraordinarily patient, more than morally necessary, in holding Hussein accountable."

The criterion of last resort depends on clear communication with the adversary and a clear response, not just "signs of progress and endless negotiations," Heimbach said. Indeed, "failure to proceed after reaching the point of last resort is immoral," he said. "Bush has a moral duty to go to war to enforce the terms of surrender."

Land concurred with Heimbach on most points, but said he believes regime change is a legitimate goal of the war. Citing what happened when Hitler and Stalin were left unchecked by countries who thought it was not their business to intervene, Land said millions of lives could have been saved by removing them from power. Hussein is already responsible for many deaths, Land said, and must be deposed in order to save the lives of others.

Noting that some critics say the U.S. should not attack without the endorsement of a United Nations resolution, Land said the legitimate authority for sending U.S. soldiers into action resides with the U.S. Congress, not with the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the president should not act without congressional approval, Land said.

Land acknowledged that many church spokesmen oppose the war, including leaders of the National Council of Churches. Some religious critics are guilty of "anticipatory reconciliation," Land said, assuming the enemy is a nice guy who is just misunderstood. They have lost the concept of evil in the world, he said.

Land quoted Martin Luther King as saying that when the enemy has a conscience, one should follow the non-violent path of Gandhi, but when the enemy has no conscience, one should follow Bonhoeffer, a former pacifist who reluctantly decided it was his moral duty to participate in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

"War is ugly," Land said, quoting John Stuart Mills, "but not the ugliest thing."

While some argue that the use of force is never justified, Land said resorting to duly authorized lethal force "is sometimes the price humans pay for living in a moral universe."

Paige Patterson, president of SEBTS, asked panelist Mark Liederbach, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at SEBTS, to comment on the gospel implications of the just war discussion.

Liederbach said Christians must first acknowledge that military might cannot solve the world's problems, and that only Christ can bring true peace and security.

But there is clearly a need for Hussein's regime to be disciplined, Liederbach said. He used the analogy of a father who disciplines a child's misbehavior and outlines the consequences of future misbehavior. If the child breaks the rules, the father should practice further discipline, not only to ensure compliance, but also to help the child rethink his view of the world.

Christians should pray that Hussein and Osama bin Laden will rethink their views, get saved and start giving out Bibles, Liederbach added.

Citing a recent article in Time magazine by Stanley Hauerwas, a Christian ethics professor at Duke University who opposes the war, Patterson posed the question of why Christians should not simply trust in the providence of God and forgo all war.

Land responded that Hitler provided the best argument one could have for the legitimacy of a just war. Land said Romans 13 teaches that God has ordained civil authorities to enforce the law and wield the sword. The U.S. government is not perfect, but far more moral than Iraq, he said.

Fewer innocent people in Iraq will die as a result of a U.S.-led war against Iraq than are dying now or will die in the future under Hussein's leadership, Land said. "We can deal with him now at less cost than dealing with him in the future."

Returning to Patterson's question, Land said, "I do trust God, but God chose to assign us to participate in promoting justice in this world." Jesus could have healed everyone, but chose to have His followers share in caring for others, he said. Likewise, Jesus could have established worldwide justice, but chose instead for Christians to take responsibility for upholding justice for His sake.

Endorsing the concept of a just war does not reflect a lack of trust in God, but acceptance of God's choice to work through us, Land said.

Liederbach said Matt. 5:39-48, where Jesus counsels believers not to resist evildoers, but to turn the other cheek and love their enemies, must modify a Christian approach to war, but does not exclude the possibility of war. War must be "as considerate as possible," he said.

Liederbach wondered what would have been an appropriate response if the "Good Samaritan" in Jesus' parable of Luke 10:30-37 had arrived while the victim he later helped was still being beaten. He suggested that neighbor-love would have required him to defend the man against his attackers.

Christians may not be allowed to protect themselves, Liederbach said, but "neighbor-love says we must get involved on behalf of others."

Land agreed. "Neighbor-love allows the use of whatever force is necessary to protect others."

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3/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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