Warefare and the Word
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Freedom is Never Free
Often we hear that all war is wrong. Wrong for the defenders as well as for the aggressors. That war is wrong even when waged with the sincere purpose of defending the innocent and restraining evil. Yet much of the religious and political freedoms, which we take for granted today, were won through wars approved of by the churches of those days.
The Battle of Tours
If the people of Europe had not resisted the Islamic invasions of the Moors and the Turks, then Europe would have been conquered. What is today called Europe could be Eurabia. Islam would have replaced Christianity and the mission-sending base from where the Faith was communicated to us. Recent history would be completely unrecognizable had Charles Martel, the Hammer, not rallied the fighting men of Europe on the plains of Portiers in the Battle of Tours.
It was A.D. 732. In the century following the death of Muhammad Muslim hordes had massacred, looted and pillaged their way across the Middle East and North Africa. They had conquered Spain, crossed the Pyrenees and were threatening the heartland of Europe. Yet, by God’s grace, Charles Martel’s courageous Christian warriors stood firm and resisted six furious charges of the Muslim cavalry, routing them and sending them fleeing back across the Pyrenees mountains.
Had the leader of the Franks and every man able to bear arms, failed to repulse the Muslim invaders that day, Europe could have become Eurabia. There would have been no Christian Europe into which the Reformation could be born and from which the great missionary initiatives could have been launched.
If it had not been for the sacrifices and courageous achievements of Crusaders in seizing the initiative and throwing back the jihadist invaders onto the defensive, Europe would have fallen to Islam. At a critical time, the Crusades united a divided Europe and threw Muslim aggressors back, bringing a peace and security to Europe that it had not known for centuries. As a result of the tremendous sacrifices of the Crusaders, Christendom experienced Spiritual Revival and Biblical Reformation which inspired a great resurgence of learning, scientific experimentation, technological advancement and movements that led to greater prosperity and freedoms than had ever been known in all of history. Praise God for courageous Christian Crusaders such as Godfrey and Richard the Lionhearted who, against all odds, threw back the Muslim Turks and secured Christian lands from the encroachments of Muslim aggressors.
The Reconquista and Columbus
Before Christopher Columbus could be sent out to discover the New World, the Reconquista of Spain had to be completed with a final defeat of the Moors, the surrender of Grenada – the last stronghold of Islam in Western Europe - in 1492. As this completed the liberation of Spain from almost 800 years of Muslim occupation, Queen Isabella felt free to sponsor the exploratory sea voyage of Christopher Columbus – with such far-reaching consequences.
The Battle of Lepanto
The Battle of Lepanto (off the coast of Greece near Corinth) on 7 October 1571 was one of the most critical battles of naval history. Don John of Austria led the European forces. The Christian fleet was manned by almost 13,000 sailors, 43,000 rowers and 28,000 soldiers – mainly Spanish and German infantry. The larger Turkish fleet of 230 galleys and sixty galliots outnumbered the Christian forces, with 206 galleys and six galleasses. During this furious battle, which lasted for five hours, the Christian forces closed in for the fight in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Spanish and Germany infantry flowed onto the Turkish vessels and, in ferocious hand-to-hand combat, overwhelmed the Turks.
Over 240 of the Turkish ships were sunk, or captured, in this battle. The Turkish losses were estimated at over 30,000 dead and wounded and 15,000 prisoners. Among the Turkish dead was Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Commander. On their side, the Christians had lost 12 galleys and 9,000 men killed, or wounded. However, they had freed over 18,000 Christian prisoners who had been galley slaves for the Muslims.
Lepanto was a crushing defeat for the Turks who lost all but 50 of their ships. The Battle of Lepanto, following the Turkish defeat at the great siege of Malta in 1565, restricted Ottoman expansionism in the Mediterranean. It broke the threat of Muslim dominance at sea. Lepanto was one of the great turning points in history. It ended the fear of Turks that had threatened to overwhelm all of Europe. It stopped the Turkish advance. Church bells tolled throughout Europe as many prayers of thanksgiving were offered by millions of grateful Europeans. As historian, Otto Scott, observed: “Only God could have saved so divided a Europe against so determined and savage, rich and heavily armed a foe.” After Lepanto the Turks remained a menace, but not an unconquerable one. Lepanto was the last major naval battle between rowing vessels.
The Spanish Armada
Another major battle in world history that continues to benefit us to this day was the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Philip II, who had recently conquered Portugal, prepared to invade England with what the Spaniards call the Invincible Armada. The world had never before seen such a powerful naval force. With the Spanish having recently defeated the Turkish fleet, the tiny English navy was not perceived to be any significant obstacle to the Spanish Invasion and conquest of England. Philip looked forward to the destruction of the Protestants and the restoration of Catholicism in England. And with English support severed, it would be easy for him to finally crush the rebellion of the Protestants in what was then called the Spanish Netherlands.
While churches throughout England held extraordinary prayer meetings, a devastating storm wrecked the Spanish plans. Dutch action prevented the Duke of Palmer’s invasion barges in Holland from being used. The English tactics of setting fire ships among the huge Spanish galleons created huge confusion. Courageous action by English seamen, and continuing storms, decimated and broke up the great Spanish Armada. Much of what was left of Phillip’s fleet was devastated by more storms off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Only a miserable remnant of the once proud Armada limped back into the ports of Spain. 51 Spanish ships and 20,000 men had been lost. The English Navy had not lost even one ship!
The greatest superpower of Europe at that time had suffered a crippling blow. The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 marked a great watershed in history. It signaled the decline of Spain and the rise of England. Commemorative medals were struck with the inscription: “God blew and they were scattered!” and “Man proposes, God disposes.”
Before 1588, the world powers were Spain and Portugal. These Roman Catholic empires dominated the seas and the overseas possessions of Europe. Only after the English defeated the Spanish Armada did the possibility arise of Protestant missionaries crossing the seas. As the Dutch and British grew in military and naval strength, they were able to challenge the Catholic dominance of the seas and of the new continents. Foreign missions then became a distinct possibility.
Had the Armada succeeded, recent history would be unrecognizable. In the 16th Century, Spain led the Catholic cause, England the Protestant. All of Europe feared Spain. It had defeated all its adversaries, even the Turks. The Catholic nations of Europe had every expectation that Spain would succeed in crushing the Protestant Faith by conquering England and Holland. When the Armada failed, the mystique of Spanish invincibility was destroyed. With the defeat of Catholic Spain the Vatican cause floundered. North America and South Africa were then firmly established as Protestant nations.
Similarly, we should consider what would have happened had not Gustav Adolphus and the Swedish army rallied to the support of Protestant Germany during the Thirty Years War? Gustav Adolphus, the young King of Sweden, with his military innovations and dramatic victories in battle turned the tide in the Thirty Years War and saved Protestant Germany from annihilation at the hands of Catholic Austria. His timely intervention stopped the onward march and devastation caused by the Catholic League and the Austrian Empire. There is no doubt that Gustav Adolphus and his Swedish soldiers helped changed the course of human history.
And if the English Puritans had not fought under Oliver Cromwell to establish the first parliamentary state – then from where would the cause of freedom have received its first example of the Rule of Law, Lex Rex?
Oliver Cromwell was one of the greatest leaders ever to rule England. He was a dedicated Puritan, deeply and fervently committed to carrying out the will of God. He was relentless in battle, brilliant in organisation, and with a genius for cavalry warfare. With a Psalm on his lips and a sword in his hand he led his Ironsides to victory after victory, first against the Royalists in England, then against the Catholics in Ireland and finally against the rebellious Scots.
Oliver Cromwell pursued religious toleration which helped to stabilize the fragile country. His firm policies in support of beleaguered Protestants in Europe and against Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean, were successful and established English supremacy of the seas.
Oliver Cromwell pioneered the New Model Army, created the world’s first global sea power, preserved the Common Law and laid foundations for both the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire.
The American War for Independence
Oliver Cromwell’s foundational work in establishing checks and balances for the Rule of Law triumphed in the United States of America. People inspired by his example instituted many of the same principles of government and restrictions of power in the USA as Cromwell had worked so hard to achieve in England. If the American colonists had not fought for the Rule of Law and a constitutionally limited government, then there would have been no United States of America.
If Andreas Pretorius’s Wencommando had not made the Covenant with Almighty God and ridden out to confront Dingaan’s Impis in the Battle of Blood River in 1838, the history of Southern African would be unrecognizable.
We should remember Lieutenant Chard’s men at the Battle of Rorkes Drift, 22 January 1879, the courageous Boer commandos in the Battle of Majuba in 1881, Major Alan Wilson’s Shangani Patrol in the Matebele War of 1893, the courageous examples and achievements of General De La Rey, General Christiaan De Wet and General James Barry Herzog during the Anglo-Boer War.
Distinguishing Between Just Defence and Unjust Aggression
Of course, in most wars, both sides shared the guilt and there have been many senseless and unnecessary wars in which neither side was at all concerned with righteousness.
Freedom is Never Free
Nevertheless freedom is never free – it has to be bought with sacrifice and suffering. “You have never lived until you have almost died, for those who fight for it, life has a flavour the protected will never know.”
Pacifism is Unbiblical
Pacifists claim that non-resistance and passive inactivity will break the cycle of violence. They say that refusal to defend oneself will prevent wars and that non-violence will result in peace. However, pacifism is an unbiblical position. Although being able to appeal to superficial arguments of conscience and quote the odd verse out of context – the whole spirit and thrust of pacifism is anti-Christian. Pacifists may be sincere – but they are sincerely wrong.
A Christian, by definition, must be active – with his or her sleeves rolled up, willing to get his hands dirty protecting the innocent, defending the defenseless and saving lives from unprovoked aggression. Christian love is not mere words and sentiments. True love shows itself in action (1 John 3:18).
If all the people with a conscience refuse to fight – then it will leave the battlefields in the hands of men without a conscience.
A False Idea of Man
Pacifism finds its roots in humanism. Despite some impressive, but superficial, Christian pretensions, pacifism is humanism. In common with humanism, pacifism shares a false idea of man. It sees man as basically good. To the pacifist all people are just too good to kill. In the view of the pacifist, neither rapists, murderers, nor terrorists deserve to be stopped. In contrast to this notion of the basic goodness of man, the Bible teaches human depravity, that: “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:15-18
A False Idea of God
Pacifism not only has a false idea of man, it also has a false idea of God. It fails to understand the holiness and justice of God. It ignores the wrath of Almighty God against sin. The pacifist seems to fail to understand the nature of God. Perhaps they see God as a pleasant, amoral softy – either too blind to see sinful man for what they are, or too gentle to actually punish evil. What kind of God would be unmoved by ruthless sadist, torturing Christians in concentration camps? Do you really think that God will not punish those who kill and cripple the innocent through car bombs, limpet mines and land mines? Do we really believe that God does not require us to stop murder – whether by abortion or arson, whether by muggers or Marxists?
Pacifists often display more concern for the aggressor than for the defender, more sympathy for the criminal than for his victim.
An Unrealistic View of Society
Pacifism also has an unrealistic view of society. The reality of this world is that it is a fallen world, inhabited by sinful mankind, in rebellion against the Creator. Idealistic fantasies about a world of peace and utopia without war are cruelly false and dangerously deceptive. In the Bible we are warned that those who cry: “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace, are loathsome false prophets (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us that wars and revolutions would increase (Matthew 24:6,7; Luke 21:9-10). We are warned in the Scriptures that “When they say, ‘Peace and Safety!’ Then sudden destruction comes upon them…” 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
Peace seems to have become a modern idol. There is an irrational deifying of peace. This materialistic, self-centered age has made an idol out of peace at any price – which inevitably leads to tyranny and destruction, the peace of a graveyard.
Worse Than War
Some people have said that war is hell. But often peace has proved to be worse. More people died in the peace following the revolution in Cambodia than died in the entire war before it. Three million Cambodians (40% of the population) were slaughtered by Pol Pot’s Marxist Khmer Rouge in the peace following 1975. In fact, many more people have been tortured, maimed and massacred in times of peace than in times of war during the 20th Century.
Have we become so soft, decadent and self-seeking that we are no longer willing to risk our lives for anything? Is nothing worth fighting for? Do you have nothing worth defending? Do we care so little about others that we are unwilling to risk anything for their protection? Are we so engrossed in computer games, Face Book and My Space that we can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong? Or don’t we even care?
A Heritage of Freedom
For many centuries Christians have believed that there were worse things than war. For our ancestors death in battle was not the worst thing that could happen to them. An eternity in hell was. They did not fear death as much as they feared God. They realised that death for the Christian is not fatal. They declared their belief in eternal life. Principles were more important than personal safety. Duty, honour, country, family and God meant far more to them than selfish desires for peace and safety. And thank God for that, because the faith and freedoms that we enjoy today were won and preserved by their blood, sweat and sacrifices.
The wise Christian does not seek to selfishly avoid the problems of this world, but courageously steps out in faith to be part of the solution. We should recognise that sinful man needs to be restrained by laws and by force. Liberty needs to be defended. Our freedoms come through, and often need to be maintained by, hard fighting.
The Folly of Pacifism
If all Christians became pacifists, would all the jihadists, atheists and communists also become pacifists?
It should concern us that the anti-defence, ban the bomb, end conscription, draft dodgers and pacifists often demonstrate in London, Washington, Berlin and Cape Town, but seemingly never in Havana, Tripoli, Tehran, Harare, or Beijing.
It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism – while the wolf remains of a different opinion.
May God find us faithful to His Word and may we be prepared to defend the defenseless and to rescue the innocent.
When we have to fight may God grant that we will be fast and accurate.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13.
Dr. Peter Hammond
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