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What Luther Says

9/11 Through Martin Luther's Eyes: 'War May Be The Lesser of Two Evils'

Today marks 13 years since that dreadful morning on September 11th, 2001.

We all know exactly what we were doing and precisely where we were when our world changed forever as though it happened only yesterday.

As with most things related to any kind of retrospective on 9/11, including how our lives are still affected by the events of that sunny September morning even to this very day (as evidenced by last night's speech by the President of the United States), we're constantly fed the political perspective and perhaps rarely ever stop to consider the spiritual perspective.

As Christians, we know the reality of the situation though.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Behind earthly opponents stand demonic forces.

In the modern world, the spiritual dimension if often overlooked or ignored completely.

We view our problems -- and try to solve them -- in purely human terms too.

Take war, for instance. Is war ever justified? What is the proper Biblical view of war and those who take part in it? Can you be a soldier fighting in a war and still be a Christian?

I know that those are questions that have been asked and debated long before I was here and they are questions that will continue to be asked and debated long after I publish this piece too.

Still, I've always found it so strange that there is so much heated disagreement about this subject when God's Word seems pretty clear on the matter.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 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 tear, 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.

The Byrds
were right to remind us of God's Word, which says there's a time for everything...yes, even war.

With that in mind, and in remembrance of 9/11, today I'd like to share with you 13 different things (1 for each year since September 11th, 2001) that Martin Luther wrote about war from a Christian perspective and for the Christian.

Luther had a a remarkable ability to write profound truths (derived from holy Scripture, of course) so simply that anyone could understand what he was saying. I hope today's series of statements from him will provide comfort to your conscience.

In What Luther Says compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Plass writes...

IN LUTHER'S DAY there were those who questioned the right of waging war of any kind. In 1526 the Reformer ventilated this question in his little writing entitled Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved.

So, we see the same battle being waged within Christendom and the conscience back then as we do today. That should, hopefully, bring us some measure of comfort as we continue (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

WAR IS BAD, but some things are worse, Luther declares in the writing which discusses the morality of warring -- the writing from which we cited above. 
The very fact that God has instituted the sword to punish the evil, protect the good, and preserve peace (Romans 13, 1 Peter 3) proves strongly enough that waging war and slaying and whatever wartime and martial law bring with them have been instituted by God. What is war but the punishment of wrong and evil? Why is war waged but to maintain peace and obedience? Although slaying and robbing do not seem to be a work of love, and a simpleton, therefore, thinks it is not the Christian thing to do, yet in truth even this is a work of love. When a disease is so bad and great that a good physician must cut off a hand, foot, ear, or eye, or must let it decay, he removes the member in order to save the body. Considering only the member which he cuts off, he seems to be a cruel and merciless man. But considering the body which he intends to save by this removal, we find that in reality he is a fine and true man and performs a work which, so far as it goes, is genuinely Christian. In the same way, when I look at the office of a soldier, how he punishes the wicked, slays the unjust, and creates so much misery, he seems to be engaged in a very unchristian work and one entirely contrary to Christian love. But when I consider how he protects the good and keeps and preserves wife and child, house and home, property and honor and peace, then it appears how precious and godly this work is; and I realize that he, too, cuts off a leg or a hand that the whole body may not perish. For if the sword were not on guard to preserve peace, everything in the world would have to go to ruin because of bitter dissension. Therefore such a war is only a little, brief lack of peace that prevents an everlasting and immeasurable lack of peace, a small misfortune that prevents a great misfortune.

Controversial? Politically incorrect? Irrelevant? What do you think?

I know that in our post-modern age our knee-jerk reaction is to respond to any talk of a so-called "just war" with protest and scorn.

However, I encourage you to continue reading through this series of quotes today instead of just taking one or two of them in a vacuum, because they will have an order to them as Luther makes his case Biblically.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, hatred and death are found everywhere, and war does not last forever, nor does peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8). True peace is found only in the Lord, our Prince of Peace and Savior, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6) who overcame sin and death for us, for you (Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 2:17).

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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