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The Observer

Can Christians to come to absolute moral terms over the invasion of Ukraine?

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on


It's Monday, April 25 2022. I'm Joshua Claycamp. And this is the Observer, a reflection upon the news from a biblical perspective, in order to help Christians understand how we need to think and feel about current events.

Elections have consequences as the old adage goes, and yesterday, France conducted a major national election, indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron, one with a comfortable margin after a closely fought campaign over Marine Le Pen, who was running on behalf of the reassembled women National Party. This result represents a success for the Republican front of voters from left to right, who are committed to supporting the relatively unpopular Mr. Macron as a way of blocking the anti immigrant Eurocentric nationalism of Miss Le Pen. This election has consequences. And we need to think carefully about these consequences. Of course, as we look at the French election, we understand that the worldview of the French people is on display. But when you understand that this, this election had consequences for France, that were particularly significant, every major election in France has consequences that are more significant, in fact, than probably elections in the United States or even Canada for that matter.

As we're thinking about the government of France, we now understand that the French Republic as it is known, the Fifth Republic is a far different form of government than what we experienced here in Canada, or what they have in the United States. And the United States, for example, the framers of the American Constitution had two concerns in mind as they were putting together the Constitution and the representative form of government by which the United States would be governed, there were two errors.

First off, the one error that they were concerned about was having an executive branch that was too weak. The framers of the American Constitution were concerned that in electing an American President, that that American president would lack the power or the authority to really hold the various competing states of the United States together. And so as they were thinking about how to compose these different branches of government, one of the things that they wanted to avoid, was defining a American executive, as a figurehead somebody that was just there to be seen, but really couldn't do anything. And so they wanted to entrust certain powers into the executive. But if one error is having an executive that is too weak, then there's its opposite error, which is having an executive that is too strong. So the founders of the American Constitution basically agreed that what they would do is they would define an energy within the executive branch, but they wanted that energy to be limited. And this led to the establishment of the two other branches of government that were to be considered as separate and distinct branches of government. And yet, nevertheless, they would be equal to that of the executive. And so within the American constitutional representative government, you have the executive branch, which is the President of the United States, and equal but separate to him is the congressional branch, which is made up of two different houses. You have the house of the Senate, and you have the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Senate sits for six years in the House, they run for re election every two years. But then you had a third, and that was the let the judicial branch, the executive branch with the President, you had the Congressional Representative branch, which is made up of Congress, the legislative power, and then you had the judicial, it's not entirely separate in that the the the judges and justices that are appointed to the Supreme Court must be nominated by the President of the United States, and then confirmed and approved by the Senate. It's not entirely separate. But nevertheless, once those justices are appointed, they are no longer accountable to the president, which appointed them, they're no longer accountable, really, to Congress, who approved of them. Nevertheless, their early judicial career as just as judges and justices needs to meet with enough favorable approval, having been reviewed by Congress having been initially nominated by the President, that they are capable of passing that confirmation process. None of this happens in France. In France, we have a very different system of government.

And even as we look at the Canadian system, we see that the Canadian system has more in common in this respect with the American system than it does with the French system. Looking at the Canadian system of government, what we have is we have essentially a parliament and their members that are elected to Parliament from the various districts throughout Canada, throughout the various writings as they're known, and these individuals are elected and at any point in time, the opposition can call for a vote of no confidence and if there is a majority of votes in the House to support to sustain that no confidence vote. We're headed right back to another election. chin. And so even though within the parliamentary system of government within Canada, we have essentially a party that is in power, and then a host of parties out of power, perhaps a large host of parties, where you might even have a minority government, that is a government that does not contain a majority of seats in parliament yet still is able to hold power. Because those who oppose the government, the opposition do not form a strong enough opposition in order to form a vote of no confidence. And so within Canada, we will have, such as we do now, a minority government, in this case overseen and led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and they will hold federal power.

However, that does not mean that they are capable of running roughshod over the rest, they will appoint justices to the Supreme Court, they will make judicial appointments. And indeed, for a lot of the legislative agenda, they get to set the agenda and they get to vote what pieces of legislation they want to see enacted into law. Of course, they can only do this to the extent that the opposition will allow them to. In other words, in Canada, we even have something more akin to what we see in the United States, not in the sense that within the Canadian form of government, we have separate but equal branches of government, we don't have anything like that, what we do have those we have an opposition party, oftentimes made up of multiple different political parties, whether you have the greens or the NDP, or, or the conservatives, forming a bloc that might oppose the will of the government that is then formed, if it's a minority government that puts that minority government in the hot seat, in the sense that in any given moment, the opposition, if they can cobble together enough votes, they can vote for a new election, they can essentially vote no confidence in the government, they can have the government disbanded. And all of this is headed back to the voters back to the electorate for a referendum for a decision for an election to be called none of this, whether you're looking at the American system, with its three distinct branches of government all separate, yet equal, or whether you're looking at the parliamentary system of government, which is what we have here in Canada, where you essentially just have Parliament formed by competing factions opposing political parties.

In France, we have something totally different. It's what's known as the Fifth Republic, when as you look at France, you might think that because France is such an old, old country, that their system of government must be really, really old as well. And that is simply not the case. The current French constitutional form of government is known as the Fifth Republic. And it's, it's only about 5060 years old, it goes back to 1958, Francis actually had five different constitutional eras, five different constitutional forms of government, the First Republic dating back to 1792. And it really didn't last all that long, then you jump all the way to 1848 for the Second Republic, and it only lasted for about four years, from 1848, to 1852. The Third Republic lasted from 1870 to 1940, which is to say that it has lasted longer than even the current Fifth Republic, the Republic that fell after World War Two came the Fourth Republic from 1946, to 1958. And that Republic faced a constitutional failure. And that's when Charles de Gaulle, the famous general of World War Two, and then the leader of France, called for France to reconstitute, reconstitute itself, with a very clear Fifth Republic and a fifth constitution.

And this fifth constitution basically created a government of experts that would be headed by an elected president, who would be without the separation of powers that we see in the United States, or without even the loyal type of opposition that we see here in Canada, which means, of course, that when it comes to national elections in France, well, the French are simply far more invested in this outcome, then many Canadians are here in Canada, because once you elect an a president of France, he can run pretty well unopposed for five years doing just about anything that he wants to do. Which is to say that when the French hold an election, we see quite clearly perhaps even more clearly and more transparently, what the predominant concerns and the driving worldview is at that time, of the people of France.

So as we look at this election in France, what is it that we see, the race revealed that there was a growing mainstream acceptance of Miss Le Pen brand of patriotism or nationalism. She had vowed during the race to ban the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public, which was a measure that Mr. Macron had said was contrary to French universalism and Mr. Macarons opinion would ignite a civil war. Additionally, Marine Le Pen promised a referendum on giving French national His priority in terms of housing and job opportunities over immigrants. So as far as Ms. Le Pen was concerned, she is very concerned about those who are historically French who are natively French, and she wanted to make sure that they were looked after first. Miss Mr. Macron obviously looked at a global ballistic picture. But the most important issue on the table concerned Russia's war against Ukraine. In the midst of this ongoing struggle, Marine Le Pen called for pulling France out of NATO's integrated military command, while urging Western are approximate with Mr. Putin. She wanted the West and France in particular, to make peace with Putin and with Russia. That of course became a liability during the campaign as Mr. Macron sought to portray her as a Kremlin puppet, even going so far as to highlighting the millions that her party borrowed from a Russian bank.

As polls remained tight following a first round of voting that sent the finalists back to a final runoff, which was decided yesterday, political leaders across the spectrum urge their supporters to back the incumbent as a barrage against Marine Le Pen former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy threw his support behind Mr. Macron, who was once a socialist economy minister and a leading environmentalist presidential candidate urged a strategic Macron vote, quote, without pleasure, but without hesitation, and quote, It was the third time in 20 years that the French had been called on to unite against a LePen presidency, and a fewer have been willing every time.

This election yesterday showed that there is a polarization happening within France. Although Emmanuel Macron walked away handily with 58% of the vote, Marine LePen, and her party took 42% of the vote. And it must be remembered that Marine Le Pen took 42% on her own, whereas Emmanuel Macron required to other political parties in addition to his own in order to garner 58%. If we were to splice this out in the initial election, Emmanuel Macron, only took 24% of the vote not enough not nearly enough to gain the presidency of France. But on her own Marine Le Pen in the runoff took 42%. That ought to tell us something, indeed, the worldview in France is shifting. And as we look at events with Russia, as we look at how France is responding, it is apparent that there are many within France, who no longer think that it is necessary to stand up to Russia. But also there are probably many within France, who look at the emigration of Islamic immigrants from from the Middle East, and who are deeply concerned about the erosion of culture of French culture and French values. And so as we look at this election that took place yesterday, there are a there is a growing divide taking place within France, elections have consequences. And one of the things we discover is that the elections that we're looking at here in France, reveal a shifting worldview.

But next we come to an interesting story regarding Ukrainian Christians being at odds with Russian Christians. Indeed, when Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February, perhaps without fully appreciating it, we understand at the current time that this action created a significant rift in the Brotherhood. Indeed, you have brothers and sisters cousins, in fact, not merely spiritual brothers and sisters, but even biological brothers and sisters, who find them on opposite sides of that border that Ukraine shares with Russia. And this is of particular interest to us here in the West as we are evaluating the morality of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine. Because as we look at this, we understand that Vladimir Putin's actions were categorically wrong in every respect. However, it is a conclusion that may not be shared by our brothers and sisters in Russia.

Indeed, when Vladimir Putin invaded Russia on the 24th of February, just two days later, Aleksey Novikov of the land of freedom Pentecostal church in Moscow preached, honor the Tsar quoting from First Peter to 17. While Novikov sermon was not explicitly pro war, it was certainly pro Russia. And Novocherkassk went on in the course of that sermon to preach that once a lawfully elected President has committed troops to the battlefield, it is a Christians duty to support them in obedience to the Word of God. Now, while Novocherkassk preached this sermon on February the 26th, it was not universally accepted amongst all Russian Just a month later, Mikhail Belyaev of the source of living water Baptist Church in Voronezh, Russia, asked the question of his congregation. Why are all the churches silent regarding Putin's invasion of Ukraine and quote, and none of this is to address the Ukrainian position, many Ukrainian evangelicals are fuming at their cross border colleagues for failing to speak out and condemn the war.

They also are citing the apostle Peter, but they're placing priority on that same apostles position earlier in the verse, in which the apostle Peter says, Love the family of believers. Now, as we're reflecting on all of this, it would behoove us just to read the verse in its entirety. So we can know what these different parties are talking about, as are all citing the exact same Bible passage to support either the position of Russia or the position of Ukraine to support either Russia's invasion of Ukraine or to support the Ukrainian rejection of Russian hostilities. So what does this Bible verse say? First Peter to 17 reads this way, honor everyone, Love the brotherhood, Fear God, honor the Emperor. So once again, honor everyone, Love the brotherhood, Fear God, honor the Emperor.

The Russian churches are taking this Bible verse to suggest that they owe allegiance and they owe support to the war in Ukraine that they are called here to honor the Emperor and that once a duly elected President has committed troops to the battlefield, they are obligated before God to support those troops. However, Ukrainian Christians are taking that exact same Bible verse and they're saying, well, whoa, whoa, you're not reading the very first part of it. It reads, honor everyone Love the brotherhood, then fear God honor the emperor that second part, but they're drawing attention to the love of the Brotherhood. And the Ukrainian Christians are saying, you cannot possibly support the actions of your president since he is coming into our country, dropping bombs on civilians, and attempting to kill us all. You cannot possibly obey this Bible verse and support that President, when the first part of this Bible verse emphasizes loving the Brotherhood, what Vladimir Putin is doing is most emphatically not loving us. This is what the Ukrainian Christians would say.

Now, as we evaluate this, and as we look at these two different positions, and the fact that both groups whether in support of Russia's invasion, or whether opposing Russians, Russia's invasion, both groups are taking the same Bible verse, but they're drawing radically different points of emphasis from it. As we evaluate this, it would behoove us to step back and to ponder the question, is it true that Vladimir Putin is entirely to blame for the massive amounts of loss of life and and for all of the casualties and all of the atrocities that are happening in Ukraine right now? Or does the West bear some responsibility in this? And is Vladimir Putin simply responding to pressures from the expansion of the NATO alliance? Is he simply acting out of the best interests on the concerns of his country? This is a question that was raised in the French election. That just happened yesterday, Marine Le Pen suggested that it was the result of the expansion of NATO that drove Putin to doing what he's doing, essentially making a poking the Russian bear argument. And so as we were reflecting on all this, we need to step back and ask ourselves as Christians, is it possible that we're evaluating this situation through Western lenses? Are we evaluating what's happening here through Western culture, Western values of democracy and diplomacy? And could it be the case that perhaps what Vladimir Putin is doing is morally justified?

As we reflect on all of this, I'm reminded of the premier of France, George Clemenceau, who was the premier of France from 1917 to 1920. Those fateful years in which world war one came to an end, and musing on the origins of World War One, George Clemenceau said, we can say all kinds of things about the causes of the Great War of 1914. But one thing we can never say, is that Belgium invaded Germany and quote, indeed, Germany invaded and attacked. And while it is possible that Belgium contributed to all manner of irritations and tensions that ultimately led to Germany invading it is still and ultimately the case that while we can say all kinds of things about the causes of that great war, those things those circumstances which led to the commencement of Haas facilities in 1914. While we can reflect and say all kinds of things about the causes of that war, one thing that we will never be able to say is that Belgium invaded Germany, which is to say, ultimately, the aggressor here was that Germany was the one that made the decision to invade and to go to war against her neighboring countries.

Indeed, the question of causality, of course, is this backdrop with which we need to wrestle. What do the Scriptures say about all of this? We all recognize that we live in a world that is plagued by all kinds of circumstances and all kinds of temptations and that as we walk through this world, we cannot help but succumbing to those temptations. And we cannot help but noticing the overwhelming power that certain circumstances exert upon us. But does that mean that we're ultimately not responsible for the decisions that we make to sin?

We should go back to the garden, Genesis, Adam, when he was confronted by God about his decision to sin, try blaming Eve, and surely she was at fault. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Adam was off the hook. And indeed, God punished Adam, Adam suffered the consequences. When God turned his attention to Eve. Well, she pointed to the serpent. And of course, God did indeed punish that crafty snake, but he also punished the woman.

And as we look at other characters within the Bible, who can deny that Moses was pushed to the limit by the daily drip, drip dripping of Israelite recalcitrance when he struck the rock, rather than obeying God's explicit command to speak to the rock and Deuteronomy. But even though he struck the rock and even though the Scripture is acknowledged that he was driven to a point of absolute irritation, by the stubborn recalcitrance of the people, he was attempting to lead into the promised land. Numbers chapter 20 And verse 12, makes it clear that Moses was still very much so at fault. In fact, because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it. God denied Moses the privilege and the blessing of entering into the promised land.

In fact, look at the care with which the spirit phrases in Psalm 106, verses 32 to 33. They referencing the Israelites angered him, Moses, they angered him at the waters of Mareeba. And it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rationally with his lips. Human reason always wants a less ambiguous verdict. We're looking, of course for a clear cut acquittal of one party and the absolute condemnation of the other. But we're rarely given that satisfaction within the scriptures.

The scriptures absolutely point to the fact that we live in a very complicated and complex world. And indeed, God acknowledges that there are pressures and temptations which play a role in all of our decisions. Jesus teaches in Luke chapter 17, verses one to two temptations are to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come. Indeed, it would have been better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones who believes in me to sin. And so the Scriptures tell us and present it to us quite clearly, that creating temptations and contributing to circumstances that would pressure a man into doing something wicked, those individuals who create those circumstances, they bear some responsibility for having led to that temptation.

But even with that said, a nuanced position, looking at all of the causes that would lead to someone stumbling into sin, still call the individual who stumbles into sin, the sinner. This is to say that it does not ultimately matter the circumstances are the temptations that may have contributed to our decision making ultimate responsibility for all decisions to evil lies with the individual who exercises those choices. This applies across every area of life.

We look at individuals on the streets who are choosing to use drugs, and indeed much of the national conversation circles around the circumstances which led to them being on the streets, did they come from broken homes, that they experienced setbacks in life? Did they struggle with abuse, perhaps they were abused as children and we look at all of these extenuating factors. And we come now to the decision that many of these individuals make on the streets, which is to engage in crime in order to steal in order to come up with money in order to support their drug habit. And even though we can have compassion for all of the circumstances, which may have led to them being on the streets, it never the less is still the case that the decisions to engage in crime are ultimately wrong. On and the individual who made those decisions bears responsibility. This applies not only with individuals committing crimes on the street, it is the same at the national and international level when one country chooses to invade another, it could be the case that the expansion of NATO pressured Putin into making a horrific choice. Nevertheless, that horrific choice and the responsibility for it, and ultimately, God's judgment, all lies on Vladimir Putin.

Thanks for listening to the observer. I'm Joshua Claycamp. And you can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/Joshua Claycamp. The Observer is a ministry of First Baptist Church where Christians seek to discern the news differently. For more information on First Baptist Church of Kamloops just go to FirstBaptistKamloops.org. Or for more information on first Baptist classical Academy, a private school where students are educated according to a Christian worldview. Just go to firstbaptistclassical.org. and I'll see you again tomorrow for more of the observer.

Tags: power, election, government, christians, led, french, vote, temptations, decision, ukraine, united states, russia, france, russian, invaded, ukrainian, putin, marine lepen, macron, vladimir putin