The Beginnings of Christian Reform (46)

Christianity and International Relations (4)

Nations with Rival Covenants are Always at War- Alliances are not Covenants:

The fourth point of the covenant structure is judgment. God imposes dual sanctions in history: blessings and cursings.

Peace is therefore seen in the Bible as the ability militarily to wage war successfully, if necessary. But what about turning swords into plowshares? If peace really means preparation for war, how can swords be converted into plowshares? They cannot be, until the enemies of God have died on the field of battle, or else have retreated or surrendered. Christian international relations can seek military disarmament only if Christians affirm the legitimacy of, and work toward, national and international covenantal commitment to God. Only if nations as nations affirm the covenant of Christ can international relations progressively attain peace.[1]

The goal of godly foreign policy is to conduct the earthly war of God against enemy nations, but to do so if possible without resorting to armed conflict. The goal is long-term peace through the public covenantal surrender to God of all the nations that are presently enemies of God. Foreign policy is to seek out avenues of long-term peace, but on Christ’s terms: surrender. Only then can swords safely be beaten into ploughshares (HON, p.102-103).

Should Christians be peaceful people? Yes, for the Bible commands us to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps.34:14). But the previous part of the verse instructs us to “depart from evil and do good.” We also know that while Jesus Christ is “the Prince of Peace” (Isa.9:6), He is also “a warrior” (Ex.15:3). He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mat.10:34). Christians are involved in a spiritual conflict.

Our conflict is not primarily with people (Eph.6:10-12), but it does involve people. People who are at war with God (James 4:4), will generally be in conflict with God’s people, and sometimes this involves physical weapons. People outside Christ have a different understanding of “peace,” to what the Bible teaches. Furthermore, Christians must ensure that they do not unwittingly identify with humanistic schemes of pacifism, which will probably be disastrous.

Thus, Christians can and must claim peace as their goal, but only on God’s terms. It must be the product of covenantal faithfulness throughout the world. If armies are not to cross borders, there must be a covenantal peace offensive. This peace offensive is the preaching of the gospel. It must not be the false promised peace of perpetual coexistence with evil. It is the limited but growing peace that God grants to victors in the spiritual wars of life (HON, p.105).

Diplomatic Relations:

Diplomacy means working out differences. There is no way to work out differences between nations that are ideologically, officially, and continually engaged at war against each other. Only a nation led by fools or knaves maintains diplomatic relations with rival nations that openly intend to destroy them. The standard argument against breaking diplomatic relations goes along these lines:  “We cannot ignore the existence of a superpower like the Communist China.” Nonsense; diplomatic relations have nothing to do with the public acknowledgment of a nation’s existence. During a shooting war, nothing is clearer than a rival nation’s existence, but upon either nation’s declaration of war, diplomatic relations are mutually severed between them.

The issue is pure and simple: formal recognition of a nation means that another nation accepts it as being part of the “family of acceptable nations.”… The idea of permanent ideological warfare until one or the other culture is destroyed or conquered is foreign to those who seek the formal, visible, covenantal unity of mankind. Granting or continuing diplomatic recognition, like breaking recognition and recalling one’s ambassador and consulate officials, is a moral and judicial act, an acknowledgement of another nation’s moral and legal legitimacy among the community of free nations. It has meaning far beyond the mere acknowledgment of a nation’s existence or even its right to exist (HON, p.115-116).

There can never be peace in history outside of Christ. There can be temporary cease-fire agreements, but never a lasting peace. What Christians must understand is that peace is attained through the preaching of the gospel and the discipline of the nations. There is no other way. God will not permit peace on any other terms. War and peace are always covenantal concepts. As long as God and Satan are engaged in a spiritual, historical, and cosmic battle, so their covenanted disciples will be engaged in spiritual, historical, and earthly conflict. Foreign policy must be restructured in every Christian nation to reflect this struggle. It, too, must be reconstructed in terms of the Bible. The goal is international peace, but only on Christ’s terms (HON, p.118-119).

The Old Testament prohibition against covenants with foreign nations referred specifically to covenants between the Israelites and the nations of Canaan: “You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods” (Ex.23:32). By implication, it now prohibits any formally covenanted Christian nation from establishing a covenant with any non-Christian nation (HON, p.197).

The Bible specifically says that Abram’s relationship with his neighbours, was one as with “allies” (Gen.14:13). Why is this an important difference? Firstly, they were his local acquaintances; they were locals, so they shared the legitimate common interests of neighbours. A peaceful locality was in their interests, and Abram was prepared to go along with them to war, if the occasion required it (Gen.14:13-24).

So at different times, it would be practical for them as locals to work together for a specific goal. When Abram went to rescue Lot, and Aner, Eshcol and Aner accompanied him, Abram saw to it that they were reimbursed for their trouble. So, they had a limited but important level of relationship, which meant they could accomplish certain goals together.

The limitations on Abram’s relationship with these men were almost certainly based on the fact that they were not of the same faith of Abraham; thus they were clearly not linked covenantally. Even with Sodom, Abram was prepared to have a temporary defensive alliance, for a specific goal (the release of Lot).

Abram’s godly and practical relationship with his neighbours, is in stark contrast with Jehoshaphat’s foolish relationship with Ahab. Having already allied himself in an evil and destructive alliance by marriage with Ahab’s daughter, Ahab seeks to take this one step further. He puts on a feast for Jehoshaphat, and invites him to join him in making aggressive war against Ramoth-gilead (II Chron.18:1-3). Jehoshaphat’s reply is most illuminating: “I am as you are, and my people as your people, and we will be with you in the battle.”

This is the language of covenant and of marriage, reflected in Adam’s initial description of his relationship with Eve (Gen.2:23-24) and in Ruth’s commitment to Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). Jehoshaphat is only saved from battlefield death by a miracle (II Chron.18:30-31), and earns himself a rebuke from the prophet (II Chron.19:1-4). Strangely, Jehoshaphat does not learn from this mistake, but repeats it, and earns another prophet’s rebuke (II Chron.20:35-37). Paul warns us, “do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (II Cor.6:14)

Every aspect of life must come under the public rule of Christ (I Cor.15:24-25). This is why the basis of progressive public peace (though never perfect peace on sinful earth) is the successful waging of spiritual warfare by Christians. Public peace can only be established in history through public covenantal (representative) conquest by Christ the King. All other forms of peace are either temporary cease-fire agreements or deceptions by the enemies of Christ. International relations must be governed by this fundamental Biblical principle of history (HON, p.202).

It is our job as Christians to work constantly to plunder Satan’s house, in every area of life. This is what dominion means. This is what serving as the leaven of God’s kingdom means (Mat. 13:33). It is what it means to be an ambassador for Christ, a disciple of Christ, disciplining the nations. This involves pitting Satan’s less consistent followers against his more consistent followers. In foreign relations, this is the equivalent of exorcising demons. But it necessarily involves exercising good judgment. We must distinguish between friend and foe. This is what the foreign policy of the West, and especially the United States, has failed to do for over two generations (HON, p.210).

Alliances to Spoil Satan’s House:

A Christian nation should distinguish between six types of nations: 1) Christian nations that are covenanted with each other; 2) Christian nations that for some reason are outside the covenanted group or groups; 3) pagan allies that are nonetheless on the side of God’s representative nation or nations if war with pagan empires breaks out; 4) pagan neutral nations that are sitting on the fence, weighing costs and benefits of choosing one side or the other; 5) pagan nations that are aligned with the empire; and 6) pagan empires that are determined to serve as international satanic leaven (HON, p.207).

The Christian nations must be prepared to strengthen their allies in order to weaken our enemies. The principle of “divide and conquer” is Biblical (see Mat.12:24-26, 29). It has been said that “nothing succeeds like success,” but it can also be said that nations like people, are more easily persuaded by success than by shouting. Evangelism by visible success has a clear Biblical precedent (Joshua 2:8-12; 9:22-24; I Kings 10:1-9; Acts 3:9-10) which Christians should be awake to.


[1] North, “Healer of the Nations,” p.125.