Posted by: jobelenus | December 1, 2007

CS Lewis on War

These quotes are all from Mere Christianity

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment – even to death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace. pg 118

I imagine somebody will say, ‘Well, if one is allowed to condemn the enemy’s acts, and punish him, and kill him, what difference is left between Christian morality and the ordinary view?’ All the difference in the world. Remember, we Christians think man lives for ever. Therefore, what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it… Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not so bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. This is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not. pg 119, 120


  1. C.S. Lewis is advocating self delusion. He says that we “are to wish his [our enemy’s] good” but then we should also kill him if he is bad! Killing someone is nothing like punishing a child. It is not corrective whatsoever. It is permanent. And who made you the judge anyhow? Who is to say this person is bad just because you come to meet him on the battlefield? Is this not hypocrisy when we think one thing but then do in practice the opposite? For example if I internally wish you bad because I despise you, yet I do you good whenever I see you, who would not say that I am a hypocrite? Yet this is the exact same thing that is being done here (only in this case one loves their enemy internally yet commits against him the most heinous of crimes–murder). One is to love him in mind but not in deed. Killing someone is the most unloving thing someone could ever do because of its permanence. This is multiplied by a thousand in the case of a non-Christian because death prevents him from ever hearing the gospel again and in affect seals his fate to hell. Apparently Jesus was not in favor of this (cf. Beattitudes) and neither was Paul (see below).

    Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good…Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Romans 12:17-21 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  2. Lewis is right. You quote from Romans 12 and you use various teachings which tell us to be pacifistic in our personal lives. But “turning the other check” is a personal obligation not a foreign policy. Paul goes on to teach in the next chapter that wrath isn’t just God’s duty but one he also extended to government.

    Rom 13:1-7 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (3) For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; (4) for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (5) Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. (6) For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. (7) Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

    It wasn’t wrong for Cornelius to serve nor is it wrong for a Christian today to serve in the military of their country. This is a consistent way of viewing scripture. King David was a warrior after God’s own heart and now you people twist God’s word into saying Christians have to allow themselves to be defeated by anyone who would do themselves or other innocent people bodily harm.

    • Neverthless man’s law never supercides GOD’s law, so if our goverment says abortion is legal and just, does that make it right? Likewise with war this still don’t make it right.

  3. “King David was a warrior after God’s own heart…” That is not what the Bible says. What it does say about David as a warrior is that he is forbidden to build the Temple because he has been a warrior and has shed much blood.

    Re: Rom. 13
    Paul wrote a letter not chapters [chapter numbers did not exist for over one thousand years]. Read it in the historical and scriptural context.

    586 BC Solomon’s Temple destroyed
    After the Babylonian captivity ended, Judea survived under the succeeding Empires.

    323 BC Death of Alexander the Great. Kingdom divided among the generals.
    Judea comes under the Ptolemies, who also rule Eygpt

    198 BC Judea annexed by the Seleucids, under Antiochus III, who rules Syria

    During this period, Jews were under no government edicts to change customs [though many fell under the spell of the Hellenistic spirit of the times]. Antiochus strengthened the High Priesthood, made Torah official law for Jews and exempted Jews from taxes.

    Judea was still a theocratic/Temple State.

    Internal strife precipitated a crisis under the next king, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes. High Priestly faction, the House of Zaddock, was pro-Ptolemaic.

    Another artistocratic family, the Tobiads, was pro-Seleucid.

    Complaints against High Priest Onias III led to removal. Office was sold to his brother, Jason, who received permission from Antiochus “to transform Jerusalem into a Greek polis…” “For the first time in Jewish History, the office of high priest had changed from heritage to a privileged position…” to be bought.

    Later, Jason refused to surrender that office. Civil war broke out. Besides the political factions, the scribal class, to whom the common people looked, produced the Hassidim who attacked Jews who were Hellenizers.

    168 BC Antiochus Intervenes in Jewish civil war.

    This led to the events described in Maccabees: Desecration of the Temple; the Abomination of Desolation.

    This then led to Revolt of the Maccabees, joined by the Hassidim

    164 BC “On December 25…Temple was purified and rededicated to Yahweh.”

    Annual observance—Hanukkah, Festival of Lights

    Judea gains autonomy. Simon, one of the Maccabees, rules from 140-135. Holds Offices of High Priest [first of the Hasmonean Dynasty], Ethnarch, military and civil Governor.

    Intervening Years till reign of Herod.

    Battles continue between factions and enemies.

    63 BC Pompey Captures Jerusalem.
    Antipater, father of Herod, honored by Julius Caesar.

    40 BC After Rome’s Civil War, under Octavian Caesar, Antony and Roman Senate confer title on Herod: “King of the Jews”

    4 BC Death of Herod The Great
    Revolts put down
    Kingdom divided among sons

    Archelaus rules over Judea…strife continues
    Jewish delegation to Rome: complaints about Archelaus’ rule; asks for Roman rule

    AD 6 Archelaus’ rule ends. Judea Becomes Roman Province

    Change in government calls for census—taken for purpose of taxation. To devout Jews, this was a symbol of subjugation to Rome, a foreign, pagan power

    Judas the Galilean [Acts 5:37], with Zadock the Pharisee, leads Revolt

    Judas recruits his band around Sepphoris, the capitol [a short distance from Nazareth]

    Three Roman Legions under Varus crush revolt.

    2000 Jews Crucified [Josephus, Ant.17:295]

    [From this period until the outbreak of the final Jewish War in AD 66, Zealots and assassins would continue to foment rebellion and violent outbreaks. Josephus, The Jewish War, is great background reading for understanding NT times.]

    c. AD 29 “Barrabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.” [Mark 15]

    AD 46-48 Insurrections: Two Sons of Judas the Galilean executed by Rome

    c.AD 49 Edict of Claudius
    Jews expelled from Rome for disturbances [Acts 18:2]

    AD 54 Claudius Dies
    Jews begin return to Rome

    AD 57 Paul Writes Letter to Romans

    AD 66 Jewish War begins. Temple Destroyed in 70

    Read IN CONTEXT: Rom 12-13
    [Note: Paul wrote a letter, not chapters. New Testament Had NO Chapter numbers for over 1000 years.]

    I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect…

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    • The most convincing argument regarding just killing is the faith of the Centurion. A centurion is the equivalent of a Company Commander in the U.S. Army, in the Roman army, no doubt a man accustomed to killing, and while mediums, spiritists, and shrine prostitutes stood condemned, not so the occupation of soldering, which is the art of killing the other guy, as a profession. The faith of the centurion in having his slave healed was notable, and we are to admire such man. It would stand to reason if his occupation was objectionable to the gospel writer, it would have been raised as an issue, such for example, was done with tax collecting!

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