The Christian Ethic of War

by P.T. Forsyth, 1916
The Christian Ethic of War

This book provides a much needed perspective on the relation between love and judgment. The love of God is holy love, and that distinction will change the way that love is manifested in various circumstances from the way many Christians have been taught to expect. It would be hard to find a better picture of the centrality of the Cross of Christ in human history than this portrait of the love of God, the righteousness of God, and the judgment of God as they all were effectively worked out in that Cross. Because of that Cross, the lives of believers have become inextricably linked to love, righteousness, and judgment. That, in turn, brings the responsibility for the manifestation of love, righteousness, and judgment into the realm of this earth over which we have been given stewardship.

Some critics of Christian fundamentalists have equated them to Islamic fundamentalists in their zeal to subject the world to their religious ideals. It must be understood that this book is not pro-war in that sense of promoting violence and bloodshed as the means to accomplish the goals set forth by the Christian religion. Rather, it recognizes war as a necessary means to bring judgment on a violent and bloodthirsty nation much as the police use force to bring criminals to justice.

The significance of the Cross cannot be underestimated in this process. It was much more than a demonstration of love, it was an act of judgment which brought righteousness on all. This book will make that connection between love, righteousness, and judgment clear. It is worth the time and effort required to meditate on the concepts presented here in order to come to a better understanding of these vital aspects of Christianity.

  1. KILLING NO MURDER — Cosmopolitanism and Internationalism — Humanity and the peoples — War but a ‘dangerous operation’ for justice — Killing not of its essence — Divine Love as the passion for righteousness at any price — And the desire to secure full life and liberty to all — Our service to Germany — The ultimate meaning of the Golden Rule
  2. THE JUDGMENT OF CRIME BY CRIME — Our choice is mostly not between good and evil but between a less and a greater evil, when we are dealing with affairs — The Sermon on the Mount non-national and non-economic — The impossibility of the plain black and white treatment of life or duty — The first-rateness of the second best — It is in religion, not ethic, that we touch the absolute — God in history and its evolution — His use of crime to destroy crime — Dividing Satan against himself — To abjure national morality is to take up arms against the Kingdom of God
  3. WAR AND LOVE — Affectional theology at the cost of moral — Love divorced from holiness — The excision of the Cross — The suppression of the note of judgment in religion — The neglect of righteousness — Interrogate phrases — Bring idealism to book with Faith
  4. JUDGMENT BY THE SAINTS — Why drag the Cross into ethic? — The fatal severance of religion and morals — The Cross much more than a revelation, an object lesson, of love — Moral neutrality of sacrifice per se — The real question is not, Does God love? but, can He make His love conquer — The positive answer only if love be holy, and if the Cross secure that victory — It does so as setting up the Kingdom which the teaching but expounded impressively — Identity in the holy Cross of the root of Christian ethic and the source of Christian life.
    Humanity is the organ of God’s judgment in a historic Christ if the Incarnation be true — As King Christ is judge, and His Kingdom must be His agent in judgment — All this is true only if in the Cross we have a real Atonement, and a judgment which Christ absorbed; and so became judge of men and nations, who as His subjects must execute the judgment in His righteousness
  5. PASSIVE RESISTANCE — This when taken quite seriously is a matter for the Church rather than individuals — The great dignity and authority of the State for individuals — The place for passive resistance and martyrdom is rather the region of ethic than of worship — Go to the army under protest; but if the State require you (as in the soldiers’ oath to the Emperor in old Rome) to worship another than Christ, refuse — But the State should treat honest recusants gently, since the condition of Germany shows how valuable a thing our freedom is, even when trying
  6. THE MORAL SANCTION OF FORCE — How practical morals carries us into the centre of faith — The collision of Idealism and Faith and the weakness of idealist religion — The fatal exclusion from the Cross of the ideas of righteousness and judgment — The Cross of Christ was immediately, and therefore implicitly, a national issue — Shown in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem — Christ, who refused legions of angels, used the legions of Rome — The moral and national realism in Christ’s death — It was no mere other-worldly ethic that was in it — Pharisaism and its meaning for the case — The world ethic of the Kingdom of God — Group ethic and Church ethic — Intuitional ethic and evangelical
  7. CHRISTIAN LOVE AS PUBLIC RIGHTEOUSNESS — Lack of historic sense, and therefore of historic conscience, in certain types of religion — The intuition of ideals tends to lose the sense of a situation — Zeal for morals also is often without insight into a world ethic — The foundation of the Christian gospel in such an ethic, especially in Paul — In public issues love takes the form of righteousness rather than of affection — This means historic crisis or judgment — The failure in this respect of the doctrine of the ‘inner light’ — Corporate Judgment, Regeneration, Sanctity — Public freedom and the freedom in Christ, their union in the Puritans — Modern lack of largeness in religion and morals — Life without sacrifice, and sacrifice without duty — The inconsistency of pacifists taking any benefit from a state whose life costs war — The Cross of Christ means a world righteousness and a New Humanity both secured in blood — How we move here to a theological ethic, and how in Christianity we really have no other at last
  8. CHRISTIAN ETHIC LAY AND HISTORIC — Faith is a life — Therefore a moral thing — Therefore bound up with morality on the largest scale — The justification of a world is the moralizing of a world and its nations — The Christian source of moral life is not a thing seen but a thing done, done in a national conflict unto blood, and done on a world scale — It is in the nature of a great war — The Lord’s controversy — The first interest of the world is the first interest of the Cross — The Kingdom of God — It is into this moral reality that we are justified — How Justification is the moral principle of life and humanity — It is the principle and secret of the moral soul in Christ for a world of men and nations — We have here provided for Christianity that public and international guidance which is said, by critics who stand but in Christ’s teaching, to be ignored — The principle is not only justification but judgment on a historic scale, not excluding national conflict — Men and nations as instruments of God’s judgment — A moralised theology the principle of public ethic — It requires and pursues the moralising of politics, and the religionising of international relations — The less sinful may be the instrument of judgment on the more sinful, in the strategy of the Kingdom of God
  9. CHRISTIAN ETHIC HISTORIC AND NATIONAL — The source of Christian ethic the same as the source of Christian life — The Cross not incidentally ethical, but the action fount and norm of all final ethic — The teaching of Jesus is but detailed application of the principle given in the Cross — The Cross not priestly only but kingly — The ethic of nationality is given in the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom is set up in the Cross — The work of Christ was the crisis of a nation’s history, and therefore organic with universal history — National ethic not precept but action — Rome and Israel — Salvation and judgment — The present conflict integral with the world-conflict of the Cross
  10. JUSTIFICATION AND JUDGMENT — The doctrine of Justification the meeting-place of religion and ethic — History the working-out of a world-righteousness secured in the heavenly places — Therefore world-righteousness the first charge on men of faith — Cosmic righteousness not an ideal but a foregone achievement — Organic connection between creation and redemption — The objection that the doctrine of Justification is morally unreal — Justification a matter not of God’s verdict but of His treatment — Faith a righteousness answering the revealed righteousness of God as personal and not formal
  11. THE JUDGMENT ON THE CROSS AND IN THE FIELD — Judgment implicit in justification — Love and judgment not contraries — The nature of Christian love revealed and inspired by justifying faith — The holiness of love — The Incarnation not the mere assumption of humanity but the active moral conquest of history — Human history transpires within Christ’s foregone moral conquest — A new moral world possible only as the judgment of the Cross is positively understood as the establishment of righteousness and worked out in concrete conditions of history — Note on the conscientious objector — The war as an issue of world-righteousness and the Kingdom of God — The coming repentance — The contribution of intercession to the conflict
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