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Letter: Chalcedon Turns Pacifist?

  • Stephen Hays
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After Knodel's piece, I would have hoped that Chalcedon had learned its lesson. But, instead, it publishes another pacifistic-sounding piece. At the moment your published position seems to have the same cash-value as Sojourner and the National Council of Churches. Is that your intention? Both Knodel and Selbrede think that we need to cast the current war effort in a broader theological perspective. Fine. If the Chalcedon Foundation would like to make a real contribution to this cause, why doesn't it solicit articles on such topics as: (i) the Biblical theology of war; (ii) the divine warrior motif in Scripture; (iii) war-themes in the NT; (iv) OT holy war, Jihad, and Medieval just war theory: a comparison and contrast? But what Chalcedon has so far offered is just the opposite: Reactionary tirades and puff pieces. Moving on to the specifics of Selbrede's new piece, I'd just say the following:

1. I notice a disturbing parallel between the way that Knodel and Selbrede broach the issue, on the one hand, and the way in which the left-wing approaches it, on the other hand. Instead of dealing with the actual provocation and imminent threat, both sides use this event as a pretext to ventilate their long-standing grievances against US foreign policy. What is the relevance of this to the stated motives and aims of al-Qaeda? How does this address the issue of appropriate retaliation and national defense?

2. Selbrede asks, "What if America's sword becomes a terror to the innocent in Afghanistan?" I don't know how far he wants to go with this. If he's going to press the logic of his objection, then there is never a case in which self-defense is justified, be it at the individual, intrastate, or interstate level, since that always carries the risk of injury to innocent bystanders. Something also needs to be said about the relative complicity of civilian populations. The population of Afghanistan is about 30 million. The hard-core Taliban numbers about 4000. Even if we make allowance for the percentage of women, children, and old men, this means that, by a conservative estimate, the number of able-bodied Afghan men must outnumber the Taliban by about 1000-1. Now every time one of our bombs goes astray and hits a civilian site, we are treated to footage of furious, fist-waving Afghans blaming America for their woes. Or we're told about the plight of refugees. Well, don't they have some responsibility to contribute to the war effort themselves? Instead of sitting around passively or fleeing the country for Iran and Pakistan, why aren't their able-bodied men joining the Northern Alliance or offering logistical aid to special-ops forces? It is their country, after all. It is the Taliban who invaded and occupied their country. Why aren't the Afghans themselves doing more to throw off their oppressors now that they have the US and coalition forces to back them up? When America liberated France during WWII, did de Gaulle blame the US for collateral damage? On the contrary, the French had an internal resistance movement of their own. They didn't just sit on their hands and whine about the collateral damage as brave Allied troops were fighting their enemy for them.

3. Selbrede implies that if the US were a covenant-keeping nation, it would be impervious to foreign aggression. Where does the Bible promise that a Christian nation will enjoy such immunity? This appears to assume that the land-promises somehow apply to the US. That involves an oddly hybrid position, part Dispensational, part amillennial, part Anglo-Israelite.

4. The US government should be investing huge amounts of money in national defense. The fact that the US government sinks a lot of money into programs and agencies and foreign aid that exceed the proper role of government is no argument against the financing of what is a genuine prerogative of government.

5. Despite his supposedly Scriptural orientation, when Selbrede complains about America prosecuting the war effort irrespective of national boundaries, his complaint is conditioned by modern diplomatic fictions like national sovereignty. This is the way the UN reasons, not the way the Word of God reasons.

Yours in Christ,

Steve Hays


  • Stephen Hays

Stephen Hays doubled-majored in history and classics at Seattle Pacific University and is currently both a student and teacher's assistant at Reformed Theological Seminary. He resides in Charleston, SC.

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