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It's Wednesday, April 6 2022. I'm Joshua Claycamp. And this is the observer a Kamloops Christians reflection upon the news from a biblical perspective in order to help Christians understand how we need to think and feel about current events.
Two days ago, news came out of Ukraine that indeed it appears Russian forces have committed such unspeakable atrocities as to rise to the level of war crimes. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told the United Nations Security Council yesterday on Tuesday that, quote, accountability must be inevitable unquote, for Russia, as he accused invading Russian troops of community of committing the most terrible war crimes since World War Two Zelinsky showed a short video yesterday of burned bloodied and mutilated bodies including children in urban America, Mariel poll and Boucher, where Ukraine accuses Russian troops of killing hundreds of civilians. Zelinsky, appearing via video from Ukraine said that civilians had been tortured, shot in the back of the head thrown down, wells blown up with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while attempting to flee in their cars.
They cut off limbs they cut their throats, women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them. Zelinsky said, recounting what he described as the worst atrocities since World War Two. Indeed, over the past few days, grisly images of what appeared to be civilian massacres, carried out by the Russian forces and booja, before they withdrew from the outskirts of Kiev, have caused a global outcry, and it's led Western nations to expel scores of Moscow's deployments and propose even further sanctions including a ban on coal imports from Russia. Zelensky has said that both those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders, quote must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in front of a tribunal similar to what was used in Post War. Germany.
Of course, Russia denies these claims Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily nebenzia, told them told the Security Council that Russian troops are not targeting civilians, dismissing accusations of abuse as lies and propaganda from the Ukrainian government. He said that while Boucher was under Russian control, not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence. Now, this statement in and of itself just defies credibility. There's absolutely no way in the midst of a war zone in which troops are fighting and battling against each other. blowing things up dropping bombs popping off missiles and mortars, there is simply no way for civilians who are living within that neighborhood or within that zone of combat. To avoid any kind of quote unquote, violence. Such a statement from Russia's UN Ambassador just defies credibility. It's smacks of outright hypocrisy. It is an obvious deception. It is in effect, Russia attempting to thumb its nose at the rest of the world.
But an interesting article came out in the New York Times by opinion columnist Thomas Friedman, in which he said we are living in the world's first "wired war." Again, these graphic images from Boucher and Ukraine are shocking the entire world. CNN shows the bodies of at least 20 dead men in the street and some of whom have had their arms bound behind their backs. NATO's chief described the reports as horrific and said that they represent a brutality against civilians that we quote, haven't seen in Europe in decades and quote, he also noted that the International Criminal Court has opened up an investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine. So those who are responsible will be held accountable. But the fact is that you and I are following this war so closely, because it is our first true World War, in the opinion of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, anyone with a smartphone, that's nearly half the planet's population can watch what is happening in Ukraine in near real time. And through social media, they are capable of expressing their opinions. In this sense, we are experiencing World War as we have never experienced it before. That's not to say that we have more nations involved in this conflict than in previous world wars. It is to say that there are more civilians capable of interacting with events on the ground in near record time, near real time, in fact, that and this is something that is relative. This is brand new to the history of world conflict to the history of warfare, modern warfare, we have never seen this before.
As Christians, you and I need to evaluate this from a biblical worldview. As we see these reports, as we observe this footage being released out of Ukraine that clearly shows civilians being executed summarily executed by by Russian troops, we have to ask ourselves the question, How are we to think about this, we've spoken here on the observer before about just WAR GODS criteria for when it is right, morally right, morally defensible, to go to war. And of course, we have considered all of the various calculations and considerations that need to be taken before entering into armed conflict. But in addition to these criteria for deciding whether or not a specific war is just advocates of just war theory, have also developed some moral restrictions on how a war should be fought. We find in fact that our Heavenly Father gives us instructions in terms of when it comes to waging war, how it is we are to go about waging that war, there is a limitation to the violence there is restraint placed upon those who would use force in terms of how much force they can use, and in what types of situations they can use it.
We read in Deuteronomy chapter 20, verses 10 and following the Lord speaking to the nation of Israel, quote, when you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it, and if it responds to you, peaceably, and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do force labor for you, or they shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but it makes war against you, then you shall be seated. And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all of its men to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the livestock, everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take that as plunder for yourselves, and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies. Thus, you shall do to all of the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations that are here. This is the Lord's instructions, in terms of how war is to be waged, we find when we look at the scriptures, then that there is a principle of proportionality in the use of force. That is when war is determined to be justified according to biblical moral precepts. Then when that war is prosecuted, there is still a restraint that is to be exercised in terms of how that war is waged and how it is to be conducted. And we find that one of the principles that Scripture teaches is proportionality. We see this in verses 10, to 12 of Deuteronomy 20. When you draw near to a city, fight, to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it, the Lord says, try to establish peace first, see if they will surrender and if it will be peaceful. And he goes on to say in verses 11 and 12. If the city responds to you, peaceably, and it opens up to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do force labor, they shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but it makes war against you, then you shall be siege it. Now, in those verses right there, the instruction from the Lord is quite clear. There is a reason that the nation of Israel is at war, they are to subdue their enemies through the use of force. However, the Lord clearly instructs that before force is to be used, there should first be an offer of surrender, that is, the enemy should have the opportunity of laying down their arms. And of course, if they lay down their arms, their lives are to be spared, their their city is to be taken in terms of plunder, but they are not to be executed. And so within that teaching, we see right away that there is this principle of a proportionality of force, the use of force is to be proportionate to the level of resistance that your enemies are making on the battlefield. So if they're fighting against you with all that they have and seeking to destroy you with all that you have, then you are to respond with an equal and proportionate amount of force. But if they surrender, if they lay down their arms, that is, they have no longer be continued using force and their resistance, then you also are not to use force in the way that you subdue them.
The other principle we see in the same passage, Deuteronomy chapter 20, in verses 13 to 14, and we see again in 19 to 20, is that there is to be a discrimination between combatants and non combatants. In verses 13 to 14. It says, When the Lord your God gives the city that is the rebel city into your hand, you shall put all of its men to the sword that is, you are in fact to fully crush the opposition. There is instruction here that the men are to be executed. But it goes on to say the women and the little ones and the lie have stock and everything else in the city all of its spoil you shall take as plunder for yourselves, and it is not to be executed. In other words, the Lord is saying that it is the men who are waging war, they are understood as the combatants, the enemy soldiers. And of course, when you take the city, you're to execute the enemies, but you're not to execute the women and the children. In this we see a discrimination between those who are combatants, those who are waging and prosecuting the war, and those who are non combatants. We also see it again reiterated in verses 19 to 20. The fact that it's repeated in Scripture is significant. We read in verse 19, when you besieged a city for a long time making more against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees, by wielding an axe against them, you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down, are the trees in the field human that they should be besieged by you. Only the trees that you know are not trees for food, you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siege works against the city that makes war with you until it falls. Now, this is, in my opinion, an incredibly fascinating testimony to the goodness of God, even in something as horrific and tragic as warfare. The Lord is telling the nation of Israel when you go to war, when all those moral criteria that are given are satisfied, and it is determined that there is a just cause for pursuing war going to war against your enemies in order to defeat them. He says, don't cut down the fruit trees. Now why would the Lord command the nation of Israel, the armies of Israel not to cut down the fruit trees, but only to cut down those trees which don't bear fruit? And the answer is obvious. Anyone can eat the fruit of the fruit tree. The Lord is anticipating that the cities that are waging war against Israel will fall that the armies of Israel will be successful in in destroying their enemies. And as there are people who flee from that conflict, they're going to need something to eat. And if Israel has chopped down all of the fruit trees, there won't be any fruit laying around for them to eat. And so it is in fact for those who are losers in the conflict those who have suffered defeat in that war, that the Lord orders that fruit trees be spared. This leads us to the conclusion that God still has concern and regard for the life of those, even those who are enemies against the nation of Israel. And as such, we should have regard for their lives as well.
So the first principle in terms of prosecuting a just war is using proportionality in the use of force being proportionate in the amount of force that we employ against our enemies. But the second thing is making a discrimination between combatants and non combatants, and even going so far as not to destroy fruit trees that non combatants might need to eat of as they flee from the battlefield. That is, we're to make provision for those who are refugees to escape.
But we also come to a third principle, we must avoid the use of evil means when we go to war against our enemies. We don't find this taught explicitly in Deuteronomy, but we see it elsewhere in the scriptures, particularly in Psalm 34 And verse 14, turn away from evil, and do good, seek peace and pursue it, turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. The desire of war is not for endless war. The reason why a nation goes to war, is in order to come to a peaceful arrangement with the enemies that they are waging war against. And so this is indeed the pursuit, this needs to be the goal of the ultimate end of war, not conquest, not a de adding additional territory, but for arriving at a place of peace with your enemies.
And therefore, we come to the fourth principle of how to prosecute a just war, and it must be prosecuted in good faith. In other words, there must be a genuine desire for the restoration of peace. And eventually there must there must be the desire and there must be the goal for eventually living in harmony with the attacking nation. Jesus teaches this quite clearly in Matthew chapter five, you have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And we see it again in Romans chapter 12 And verse 18, if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. As we reflect upon these atrocities that have been committed by Russia and Ukraine. We cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that Russia has acted immorally the troops have violated God's moral standard. And as a result of that they're missing must be a reckoning, there must be justice because even though war is terrible, and even though the use of force that is employed in prosecuting Wars is absolutely terrific, and it is dreadful, there is still, according to Scripture, a moral responsibility for those who would wage war however, that war was justified, there is still a moral responsibility for those who wage war, not to engage in what are referred to today as so called war crimes. That is, there should never be an attack on non combatants. There should never be excessive use of force, there should never be the employment of evil means and war should always be conducted with a genuine desire for the restoration of peace. And it should always be conducted with the pursuit of living in harmony with your enemies. We see none of these things in Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And as a result, Russia must be held accountable as Christians. We are called from a biblical worldview to agree with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in calling Russia and specifically Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia to account for these atrocities.
Turning now to matters closer to home. We learned yesterday that a here in British Columbia as of Friday April the eighth British Columbians will no longer be required to show proof of COVID-19 immunization in order to attend a concert, eat at a restaurant go to the gym, or nearly any other public social activity. Undoubtedly a number of Christians are praising the Lord and giving thanks to God for this lifting of restrictions. And it happened yesterday afternoon Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer announced that there would be the lifting of nearly all remaining major COVID-19 Public Health restrictions. However, she was quick to go on to say the businesses can still decide if they will require a vaccine card for entry. This comes as independent modelers warn of a sixth wave of COVID-19 plaguing the province. But despite this, Henry was quick to point out that even though cases may be on the rise, hospitalizations and intensive care visits linked to COVID-19 continue to remain manageable. She went on to say quote,
"We believe we can remove the restrictions weighing against the risk. We know some businesses will still decide to use the vaccine card based on their clientele. However, rates remain very low for most younger people. And even for those in the 60 and 70 years age range. It is very clear that having a booster is highly protective, and the province will be getting rid of COVID-19 specific safety plans on Friday as well."
Those plans will be replaced by communicable communicable disease plans, it remains to be seen exactly what that entails. But post secondary residents vaccine requirement will be lifted on Friday as well. So individuals be able to go to university without needing to show proof of vaccination. The province will also move to weekly COVID-19 data reporting starting on Thursday, the weekly report will include cases, hospitalizations, deaths and other virus related data. All of this in lieu of the near daily reports that were given. Up until yesterday, in announcing the changes the province presented the latest modeling health officials are working on certain assumptions that around 50% of the entire population have already had COVID-19 At some point during the pandemic. And as a result of all of that they are under the assumption that they can continue to expect daily hospitalizations to remain the same or perhaps, to diminish. The peak came in January, when around when there were around 115 to 125 new admissions every single day.
However, Dr. Henry went on to say, quote, we have higher potential levels of protection in our community than we've ever had before. And we are seeing the zero to four population who do not have access to the vaccine have substantial protection, around 60% of them are immune against the virus due to their parents having an infection and quote so all of this to say that it is the assumption of the health authorities at this point that we are able to manage this virus in terms of an endemic approach rather than a reactionary approach.
As Christians we meet this news with a bit of grief and lament but also with praise. Indeed, here in British Columbia, we experienced some of the harshest restrictions, some of the most authoritarian lockdowns seen anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. As we look back at what transpired over the last year. We understand that the government imposed restrictions upon us that we're not seen anywhere else in terms of offenses to religious freedom. Generally Christians should honor and obey their government leaders. This is clearly taught by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 13. And it's also reiterated by the apostle Peter and First Peter to, and indeed, pastors and religious leaders all around the province. And of course, all across Canada struggled with this. However, it became clear as we worked our way through the Scriptures, that it was not appropriate to discontinue with the worship of God in honor of the government. When confronted with a choice between those two, we all understood that God had established the government in order to restrain evil and to do good for the nation. And we all understood that citizens should, in general, be subject to the government and obey its laws for the greater good of society and for the flourishing of our communities in our culture.
Indeed, that is exactly what Paul is writing in Romans 13, verses one into let every person be subject to the governing authorities, he says, For there is no authority except that which comes from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.
But the question remains, how far does obedience to the government extend? Nobody was ever denying that the Scriptures teach in general, that we should be obedient to the governing authorities, everyone in church leadership understood it and fully acknowledged it. But surely when the Lord tells us that we should, in general be obedient to the governing authorities, surely this exhortation has its limitations. Surely, the Scriptures do not mean to tell us that we ought to do whatever the government says, Without question without careful examination, without placing all of these matters before the Lord. Surely there must have been more to it than this. It is a great stumbling block that so many simply refer to Romans 13. And First Peter to without further exegesis of the remaining passages. Indeed, this has resulted in a great rift within the church. And as Christians, we should look upon that with heartbreak, and it should grieve us that so many within the household of faith disagreed with each other over what is very clear within the Word of God.
The questions that everyone should have been asking themselves is this. What do we owe the government? And what do we owe to God? Where does obedience to government end and faithfulness to Lord continue? In one dramatic encounter? Jesus opponents tried to trap him with the question, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? We read of this in Matthew chapter 22, of course, to say yes, to Roman taxes ran the risk of appearing to support the hated Roman government. But to say no to Roman taxes would have made Jesus sound like a dangerous revolutionary against Rome's power. Taking his opponents by surprise, Jesus said, Show me the coin for the tax and they brought him the denarius. After that, here is how the teaching unfolded.
And Jesus said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this, and they said, Caesars, then he said to them, therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God, the things that are gods. This is a remarkable statement, because Jesus shows and teaches that there are to be two different spheres of influence, one for the government, and one for the religious life of the people of God. Some things such as taxes belong to the civil government, these are the things that are called Caesars. And this implies that the church shouldn't try to control these things. But on the other hand, some things belong to people's spiritual life. That is the things that are of gods. And this implies that the civil government should never try to control those things. And Jesus statement about God and Caesar, he established the broad outline of a new order in which the things that are God's are not to be under the control of the civil government.
Such a system is far different from the Old Testament theocracy that we see in Israel. Jesus new teaching implies that all civil governments even today, even within British Columbia, should give people freedom regarding religious the religious faith that they choose to follow, and that freedom must extend to the decision of whether or not they will gather themselves together in order to worship God Caesar, or in this case, the government of British Columbia should never have attempted to impose controls or restrictions on those things. Would it have endangered people? Would it have contributed to the spread of COVID 19. Indeed, it would have. However, in a free society, there are some things which are more important. There are certain freedoms and certain liberties, which are of greater significance than public health. And if Certain liberties are to be overthrown in the name of public health, then we are living in a far different society than the one that was initially established by the founding fathers here in Canada hundreds of years ago.
Coming up later this week, we expect the federal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to table the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will unveil the 2022 federal budget on Thursday, April the seventh, which would make it the first budget announcement since the 2021 federal election. Now, as we consider this news, which is approaching us later in this week, it's important as Christians, we all step back and realize that budgets are intensely theological documents. Of course, it's not nearly the same thing as a statement of faith or a confession or a creed. Nevertheless, we understand that where an individual's money goes, that's where his heart is. This is exactly what Jesus in in fact, teaches. He says, Where your treasure is there, your heart will be also, of course, he gives us the exhortation to lay up our treasures in heaven, so that our hearts will be in heaven with the Heavenly Father. All of this points to the fact though that when it comes to budgets, they are indeed theologically accurate statements of what an individual believes what an individual worships. And so a budget is a theological document, in many ways, more telling than the statements of faith that we adopt. And so the federal government is going to be tabling its budget on Thursday at the hands of finance minister Chrystia Freeland, and it is going to be a theological document that tells you what it is that this federal government believes in what it is that they worship, what can we expect as Christians, government officials and economists told the Globe and Mail that it will likely be informed by the liberal government's spending promises from the election, as well as the new spending promises inherited through the supply and confidence agreement that they arranged with the NDP. All of this leads to a projected increase in spending over and above revenues. This should, of course greatly alarm all of us because that tells us quite a bit about their worldview in and of itself. We'll tackle this and everything else coming on later in the week, and we look forward to the discussion.
We just want to say thank you once again, for listening to the observer. I'm Joshua Claycamp. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com forward slash 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 first Baptist Kamloops dot O R G. Or for more information on first Baptist classical Academy where we strive to educate students according to a Christian worldview. Just go to first Baptist classical dot o RG now I'll meet you again tomorrow for more of the observer.