Dichotomy of War and Peace

Everyone desires peace, and everyone participates in war. War itself has been attributed many causes including religion, social Darwinism, general human selfishness and various power struggles throughout the years. From the vicious land-grab of the Medieval Crusades to the battles of philosophy and science and religious ideals, humanity has always been at war with itself and the strive for peace only seems to enlarge the action of and the consequences of that war. What is the reason for this? Why does mankind contradictorily desire peace, while at the same time constantly wage war against itself?

The scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths[1] place that consequence in the idea of sin, while seemingly no other faith or set of scriptures attempt to answer it. According to Hindu thought, time is cyclical and history is constantly repeating itself. We have the positions we have and are subject to wars based on the accumulation of the evilness or goodness of our actions both in past lives and in this life. This claim is made in spite of Hindus having their own creation story based in and beginning with a single deity, Brahma, and despite these stories’ admission of a beginning in time.  Buddhists believe that enlightenment begins within the individual mind, claiming that goodness and kindness are achievable through the self-actualizing efforts of meditation and its ability to bring correct outward action, not realizing that kindness and goodness have been, and are still defined differently within different cultures and within different individual philosophies. Even within the confines of kindness and goodness, war can be justified. The Baha’i movement believes that all religions and philosophies can live side by side under a single political authority and is more of a political ‘world-peace’ movement rather than a religion in itself, but offers, itself, no real answers. Atheism, or secular humanism, must forward that the foundation of human selfishness, and thus the cause of war, is founded in Darwinian evolution and is somehow beneficial to the advancement of the species. Perhaps, for the atheist, war is nothing more than a phasing out of less evolved human beings. Even so, the atheist yearns for peace.

Even despite accusations that the problem of evil extinguishes the possibility for God’s existence, it seems that only the faith’s that claim this God offer any sort of true diagnosis concerning the fact that humanity both longs for peace, yet still participates in constant war. The below story is found in the first book of Moses, also called Genesis, and is regarded as Heavenly inspired by the Jew, the Christian and the Muslim.[2] [3] [4]

“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord. And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? He said, I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper? And the Lord said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. Cain said to the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. Then the Lord said to him, Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”[5]

Sin as the cause of human pride and selfishness

            Before this, in Genesis chapters one through three, we read the greatest horror story of all time. We read the story of a God who created all the world and who created mankind in His own image. The garden, where God placed mankind, was peaceful and mankind lived honorably in the presence of God. Then, mankind chose to seek knowledge for himself, not relying on God for that knowledge and thus separating himself from God. As a result, evil and shame befell mankind. This action against God, and any action that fails to honor God, is referred to as sin. It is sin that separates humanity from God and sin is the cause of human selfishness. Consequently, sin is also the reason for evil, and the only reason God seems to allow that evil to exist is because of His love for mankind and His want to redeem mankind. Nonetheless, sin is the cause of war and so long as sin exists, there will be war among men.

Cain as a dichotomist model of war and peace

            In the above story, Cain first brought an offering before the Lord and was followed by his brother, Abel. Abel’s offering was accepted because it was the finest offering that Abel could have given while Cain’s offering was not accepted because is was not the finest offering he could have given. Cain, being jealous of his brother, Abel, murdered him and was consequently punished by God for his action.

Cain’s yearning for acceptance parallel’s the yearning that every human being has for acceptance. This is especially noticeable within the growing pluralism of western society. Each human being yearns for the acceptance of other human beings and longs to be equal with them (or better than them). No person desires to fall behind or to be looked down upon or despised. People long for acceptance. In working to gain this acceptance, people will argue with one another and be political activists and forward civil rights and claim libertarian free will. Because equality, in this sense, is so important, the peace-making agenda of world-leaders and citizens worldwide can be heard. People want peace and people want acceptance, but just as Cain wanted acceptance on his own terms (via the sacrifice he brought before the Lord), so also most people want acceptance and peace on their own terms. The terms that Cain offered God did not honor God as God. When God did command Cain to overcome the sin that was crouching at his door, Cain refused, not even accepting God’s terms when they were given. Similarly, different people want peace on different terms. This, rather than relieving conflict, amplifies it. By fighting for peace, people usually bring war or perpetuate the already existing cycle of war.

Furthermore, this reveals to us that the prominent fight for equality is actually a fight for acceptance. The idea of acceptance connotes that there is actual acceptance to be had, and that some individuals must offer acceptance in order that others might have worth. In a sense, a fight for equality is actually an admission to the opinions of some controlling the worth of others. The equal rights movement, then, actually creates inequality among individuals because some are fighting for the acceptance of others. Equal rights does more to separate people than it does to bring them together and does more to cause war than it does to alleviate it. Furthermore, when people are focused on being accepted by one another, they are focused on achieving peace and acceptance on their own terms and ignoring entirely the fact that other terms for peace may exist with a higher authority than their own personal terms. These would be the terms that God has given. If God has given terms for peace, then there are universal guidelines for peace. If He did not, then there are no guidelines for peace and humanity is in an inescapable cycle of war against itself and against God. With grace, God has given terms for such a peace. The problem is that humanity wants not to accept those terms.

God’s terms: overcoming sin

God spoke to Cain, making it very clear that sin was crouching at his door. His command, His term, was that Cain overcome that sin. In order for Cain to overcome that sin and not give into his anger or declare war on his own brother, he would have had to deny himself. Instead, he chose to be more concerned with his own equality with or advancement over his brother. Had he been more concerned with keeping God’s terms, peace would have persisted, but Cain allowed sin to overcome him.

So it is in this current world. Sin has overcome humanity and, in many ways, defines human existence. We have chosen not to overcome sin. We have chosen to be more concerned with having our own terms than we have been with having God’s terms for us. We forget, ironically, that keeping God’s terms is the only way in which we can gain the favorable position that we so desperately desire.

Peace will be had

What, then, shall we say or do? Shall we continue to earn banishment by advancing our own terms for peace? Shall we continue to cause war? Or shall we accept the term that God has set before us, namely overcoming sin? Overcoming sin is simple, though difficult. It requires that we give up what we want in order to gain what God wants for us. We must be open-minded and we must admit our selfishness and our pride. Sin is always crouching at our door, and we must overcome it! No matter what, we must know that peace will be accomplished on God’s terms. God will restore the world to Himself and we can either have a place in God’s world on God’s terms, else be separated from Him forever in constant strife.[6]

Needless to say, the only way to God is by God. Isaiah prophesied of a messiah who would be born of a virgin and who would lay down his life for all of mankind.[7] This messiah was Jesus Christ, as described in the New Testament Gospels. The only way to be returned to God, to overcome sin, is to trust in God and in the one whom God has sent because sinful man cannot save sinful man, even in death. Romans 10:9 states that in order for anyone to be saved, he must declare with his mouth that Christ is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised Him from the dead. So, are you willing to give up your own terms, which will only earn you strife, in order to accept the terms that God has given, which will ultimately culminate in peace? Or will you continue to beg for peace on your own terms, thus perpetuating this world’s cycle of constant war?

[1] Judaism, Christianity and Islam are known as Abrahamic Faiths because they all claim the God of Abraham and the God of one of Abraham’s children.

[2] The passage is found in both Jewish and Christian scriptures and is accredited in the Koran (And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best, except for those who commit injustice among them, and say, “We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” [Koran 29:47])

[3] “Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah ] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah , and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers” (Koran 5:44).

[4] According to verses from the Koran quoted in footnotes 2 and 3, the Muslim who does not believe in the words of the Torah, or the 5 books of Moses, is a disbeliever because he has not believed in the words that Allah has revealed according to the Koran.

[5] Genesis 4:1-16 (ESV)

[6] Isaiah 24-25

[7] Isaiah 53

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