90. Is it justified to go to war to advance religion?

The European war against Muslim expansion was recognised as a ‘religious war’. The early modern wars against the Ottoman Empire were seen as a continuation of this conflict by contemporaries. The term ‘religious war’ was used to describe, controversially at the time, what are now known as the European wars of religion, and especially the then-ongoing Seven Years’ War, from at least the mid- 18th century.

In their Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod attempt a comprehensive listing of wars in history. They document 1763 wars overall, of which some have identified and listed that only 123 (7%) were primarily religiously motivated. The Encyclopedia of Wars identifies 420 as being religious in nature, being a quarter of the total number, and of those religious wars, Christianity and Islâm both feature in well over half of them. Christianity and Islâm have been involved in over 85% of the religious wars. Analysis of the wars documented in the Encyclopedia, reveals that since the Christian era, there have only been 440 years without a religious war; and the last year without a religious war was 1080.

The history of Judaism, Christianity and Islâm is littered with war. In some cases God helped the religious subjects in their war and gave them victory. This endorsement of war by God has caused many adherents to these three religions to believe that war is justified. Underlying the reasons for most wars are political, territorial, racial, wealth and power motivations for the war. God has permitted wars to purge evil practices, such as child sacrifice, from pagan worshippers who were unrepentant. This is understandable.

Ecclesiastes 9 verse 18 states that ‘wisdom is better than weapons.’ In Jeremiah 21 verses 4-6: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will make your weapons useless against the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside your walls attacking you. In fact, I will bring your enemies right into the heart of this city. I myself will fight against you with a strong hand and a powerful arm, for I am very angry. You have made me furious! I will send a terrible plague upon this city, and both people and animals will die.’ In Ezekiel 32 verse 27 it states: ‘They are not buried in honour like their fallen heroes, who went down to the grave with their weapons—their shields covering their bodies and their swords beneath their heads. Their guilt rests upon them because they brought terror to everyone while they were still alive.’ God will intervene supernaturally, when evil people become terrorists, and kill for wanton destruction with no respect for human life.

Finally, the Apostle Paul divinely inspired in his writing to the people of Corinth stated: ‘for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely inspired for the destruction of fortresses (spiritual strongholds).’ (NASB). Paul advocated for spiritual warfare to be carried out, not with a sword, but with prayer and spiritual power given by God.