Aut Pax, Aut Bellum

There is a philosophy held by Evan B. Wilson that I have grown to see, understand and believe. This philosophy deals with the sum of all human desire. What is the sum of all human desire? This a heavy question that we do not feel comfortable about answering. We do not want to be seen as presumptuous. So we get answers from the shallow heathens of hedonism that say: The sum of all human desire is to get the most amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain. Whether that means we indulge twenty-four /seven, or if we moderate ourselves by working under pain to achieve more pleasure to make a more drastic ratio. This kind of thinking, even the most immoral people can agree, should be reprimanded as evil. And so we think highly of ourselves. But we have failed to come forth with an answer to the question: what is the sum of all human desire. The answer that Evan B. Wilson and I would give is that it is Peace. A simple explanation that does not raise opposition. If it does it is just for the sake of argument; everybody agrees to disagree with that answer. Peace is a nice thing to have; whether it is civil, social, political, personal or spiritual. In at least one or all of these categories of peace people will be looking for it. Even an anarchist who cooks up civil chaos is looking for personal peace. So we shall assume this as right for the sake of this essay.

Peace as the objective good must have an opposite that is an objective bad, right. Chaos would be the obvious opposite since God made the universe to have order. In other words, He made the universe to obey Him. It also may be said that another opposite would be War. From our middle class distance war is seen as horrible, cold, cruel, and demoralizing of a man. The point of war is to destroy things created buy the opponent. We, as the enlightened people we are, know that if we have the least amount of war and the most amount of peace, that will solve problems. Wait. That sounds familiar; kind of like the hedonist philosophy. We think war is inherently bad as though it were equivalent with chaos. And why should we not? Hatred flies around like bullets with envious hollow points. People die in war and make a very many unhappy with thoughts of depression. And war never seems to completely solve the problem since another one comes up every five years. So why do we keep doing it? The plain reason is because there is evil in the world.

Evil! Equate that with sin! Sin makes people go to war. If we were not sinful we would have no war. Therefore, if there were no sin, we would have no war. This is a valid train of thought, but it is misguided. The suggestion made implicitly in this modus ponens proof is that war is inherently evil. And need I remind you, we have not yet proven that. Since we have assumed that peace is the sum of all human desire and that the opposite of peace is chaos which can be found in war that must make it sinful. This is a classic informal fallacy where if you discover correlation that must make it causal. That is pure extract of presumption. Just because we find chaos in war does not mean that war encourages the chaos. In fact that disagrees with the sum of all human desire. War has for someone, somewhere given them peace that we may not be able to see. Peace that war encouraged. Why do people go to war? Selfish gain? Yes, but why are they out for their selfish gain anyway. To find that peace. One nation is creating a ruckus so the other nation being bothered by it, declares war on them. To what end? PEACE. Like the example of the anarchist I gave earlier, even though it appears to people to be chaos for chaos’ sake it is giving someone peace.

So we have discovered that war is not inherently evil. Do I have the Bible to back me up on this? Why yes, I do. Aside from all of the orders that God gave the Israelites to rape and pillage their enemies, here is a verse from Ecclesiastes, written by the wisest man that ever lived.

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

So how are to interpret this passage? Clearly the word “interpretation” is taboo amongst bible readers, but what else are we supposed to do than give it our best shot. Luckily, this kind of stuff needs little thought unless you are trying to avoid the clear answer it is giving. “For everything there is a season” says that depending on your categories for your desires, none of the objects of your desire are inherently evil. There is a time and place for all things that God has made. And then Solomon goes on to list a few examples of what he means. Some of them are nice, and some of them get a double take with disturbed analysis. There is a time for WAR, as well as a time for PEACE. What does this specific passage mean? It means not only does peace solve things in this world, but war also solves things in this world. Sometimes a fight needs to break out because someone is being a pest and they wont stop if they are asked nicely. If you slaughter their men they become demoralized and wont do it again. War makes people learn their lesson; the lesson of how far does their will extend. The lesson of who owns this land.

To be quite frank, war is the last thing that we should be emotionally invested in. That is not to say that military families should ignore the possibility of there loved one dying in battle, but there should be a recognition that their loved one is voluntarily gambling their life for their country. Nor am I saying you should not mourn for the death of a loved one, since that is covered in that same part of Ecclesiastes. But going to war is all about denying oneself for the sake of others; whether it is your families well being, your nation or for people you have no connection to other than by your fighting you will benefit them. It is not our place to complain about the quality of our lives being less than ideal, because of the war. That war is a step in the direction of better quality of living for more people.

Another question arises. What are the moral implications found in war time? Killing another human being usually involves envy, malice and hatred for the person. Last time I checked those are bad things. What makes the killing that a government does fine by God? Here is a verse out of Romans, that speaks to the issue directly.

for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:4

God uses the government as a force to destroy the wrongdoers. But still, you say there is still one person killing another; why is that not an evil action? A distinction must now be made. Why are we told by God not to murder? Is it because it is taking another persons life too early, which is a horrible atrocity? No, I would think not, since we have always deserved to be cast into the lake of fire for eternity. We really don’t deserve any better of treatment than that. So what is the distinction here? What separates the executioner from the murderer? Simply, the murderer acts in selfish desire. They commit the act of killing with a hot blooded vengeance, because they are all about themselves. That is why murder is wrong. The executioner, on the other hand, is flipping the electrical chair switch with cold blooded justice. He does it because he was ordered to. He obeys his authorities. He does not get a jolly out of seeing someone die before him, since he is emotionally detached from the death. The soldier killing terrorists should not be killing with any hatred, but killing as his duty. It was his responsibility given him and he must follow through with it. But say if the orders to kill a man from the soldier’s commander were given with hot blooded vengeance. What then? Would not the soldier be held accountable for killing the man since he is an extension of his commander’s will? Actually quite the opposite. It is not the soldier’s duty to know his commanding officer’s intention. He is only there to obey orders. Only the commander is held responsible for the murder of a man if he did it with malice.

Keep the king's command, and because of your sacred oath be not dismayed; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, "What are you doing?" He who obeys a command will meet no harm, and the mind of a wise man will know the time and way. Ecclesiastes 8:2-5

Again, it is none of our business to know what the king is up to. I would also not suggest that we interpret this passage as only applying to monarchical kings. It speaks of any authority that has a divine right and is recommended to any authority that is merely contractual. It is the malice for your neighbor that is the real murder. As it says in 1 John 3:15 that any man who hates his brother has murdered his brother in his heart.

War is hell. But what, in this world we live in, isn’t perverted by man into a hell of it’s own? Who are we to think that war is the worst thing for a man to experience. War has attained a bad reputation that it does not deserve. In our wealthy and successful culture of today not many of us actually have to go to war, and those that do usually make a clean sweep of the enemy and it is quickly done with. With these comfortable circumstances we start to think that we have an entitlement to this life; we resemble Athens during the time when Demosthenes was giving his Philipics. We as a people group have gotten lazy about our inter-national affairs where we think that all we have to do is suggest that we all get along. The reality is that nobody is ever going to get along because everybody always thinks that they are better than the next guy. And so for many a people today it is hard for them to grasp that war can be a great thing. The honor and nobility that an individual can achieve and the expansion of a nation’s borders are just some of the many things that war can bring.

This all stemmed from the idea that to take a life is the single most horrible thing to ever happen. This is an idea encouraged if a man does not believe in a god. Consequently, it is a incredibly sad existence since everyday people all around the world are dying whether it is from old age, poverty, poor health or a sudden accident. In all honesty, do we really think war is doing anything different than what life already does to us? We may have a precious gem that is our life, but a life subjected to futility, that will eventually be taken away from us, with no hope of there being another is a very poor world view. And still, we complain and moan that we wont get to keep it for eternity; creating definitions of heaven that only incorporate worldly images.

What are left with at this point? Life is too short, unless you think that there is more than this earth. An after life that makes a judgment of you which might encourage you to do great things. Becoming great is no equation, but always entails how far your will extends from you. How far do your borders go? Not far enough. Since we have discovered that life is not apart of the rights of man how are we to judge war as right or wrong? We cannot, but the timing of war and peace are crucial; timing is everything. The Gunn of Kilernan Clan motto says, “Aut Pax, Aut Bellum.”

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