Thinking Theologically about the Russia-Ukraine War
The entire world is watching the crisis unfold in Ukraine. The horrors of war come to us via TV and the mass media 24/7. We hear reports from the field, see videos of the action, and listen to pundits interpret the war. How should we Christians think about this war from a theological perspective? Here are a few starters for theological reflection.
One key question for every war is simply this: Is this a just war? Going back to Aquinas, theologians and ethicists have identified certain criteria for a just war. Does it have a just cause, being strictly a defensive war? Is it a last resort? Is the goal a just peace? Are the costs and measures being taken appropriate? Is it authorized by a recognized authority? When evaluated by these criteria, the conclusion is about as obvious as is possible when considering the messiness of war. Russia’s war against Ukraine is most certainly not a just war.
The adage is true: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That was precisely the reasoning behind God’s dividing humanity into many tongues and nations at the Tower of Babel. The Creator saw the unbridled arrogance of humanity and said: “‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD [Yahweh] scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city” (Gn11:6–8, NASB). Given the potential for monstrous evil of all sinners working together in unity on one project, the Creator dispersed them into different lands and with different languages. That way the power would be divided. Given original sin, the idea of one global government is a bad idea. Nations should function as checks-and-balances toward each other.
Every war is a reminder of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In Revelation 6 John sees four horses with their horsemen: a white horse with a horseman that represents conquering tyranny; a red horse with a horseman that represents war; a black horse with a horseman that represents famine; and a pale horse with a horseman that represents death. But the victorious Lamb is the Lord over all, the crucified, risen, and exalted Lord who reigns over human history and the four horsemen, and all to the ultimate benefit of his church. The war in eastern Europe shows us again the evils of war.
Yet we take confidence in the exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And we pray: Lord Jesus, you rule over all things. Restrain the forces of tyranny, war, famine, and death. Establish external peace in eastern Europe and Russia. Promote civil righteousness in every nation. Open up paths for your blessed gospel to spread into every land and to every people. For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Those are some initial thoughts. What thoughts do you have?
Paul R. Raabe