Statesboro, GA, USA
I think the best way to describe it for me is thus:
God is just and merciful. And since there is (or may be) an element of justice involved in war, there is also something about it which may be approved of God. However, since war is not expressive of mercy, it is provisional and imperfect in its purposes. That's why from God's perspective, the greatest glory is when the world's nations "... shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks ... Neither shall they learn war anymore." (Micah 4:3). And such a marvel is promised to war-weary eyes at the restoration of all things.
Some may wonder why the Old Testament approach seemed so much more bellicose than the New Testament. The Jewish Patriot seems so at odds with the Christian Martyr. And the God who commanded Israel to war against the Canaanites, so very different than the Jesus who scolded Peter for taking up his sword against the Romans.
I really like Ron's explanation of God's allowance of war, as a preservation of his gift of human freewill. (a freewill which God-blamers also partake of and enjoy, and would never want rescinded for themselves). But that really only explains God's passive allowance of war, rather than his active commands and endorsements of war that we sometimes see in the Old Testament.
Only the concept of “Just War” as a possibility would explain God’s association with war. (This doesn’t mean that all wars are just, only that they may be) The Old Testament, we are told, is itself a partial revelation and incomplete. The book of Hebrews calls the entire Old Covenant as something which is “... obsolete and aging and soon to disappear”. And Paul in the book of Romans told us that in light of grace, the Jewish system of Law is “weak”. Revelation of God’s character is progressive, and was partial in the Old Testament. Holiness and justice were the attributes of God which were focused upon. Mercy was more peripheral until it came to the forefront in Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons I believe that Justice was such a focus in the Old Testament dispensation, is that it offered us not only a revelation of a very important aspect of God’s Character (Justice), but also a self-revelation of our own sinfulness and need. A premature revelation of mercy would have only helped to bring about an unhumbled theology of humanism, rather than a true understanding of ourselves and God.
So, as long as mankind is under the “law”, war is a part of God’s dispensation, and an instrument of judgement. When man is under grace, we find a whole different prescription. There is much more talk of loving one’s enemy and turning the other cheek.
What happens though, when all do not come under the “grace” of the gospel? War is still active and is still a part of God’s judgement in this world. The death and destruction seen in this world due to war (and other things) are a part of being under the law in a sinful communal existence. That’s why Paul says in the book of Romans that the State is “given the sword” by God. He is talking about worldly powers and governments. However, he makes a clear distinction between the worldly government and the Church. Christians are to pray for their enemies ... to love their enemies even. Governments will do what they feel they have to do in this present age, using hellish weapons of destruction, but Christians are called to a priestly role of intercession and mercy? Why? Because they have seen a side of God, unseen under the law of the Old covenant ... overbounding mercy.
But just as Mercy was peripheral in the Old Testament, Justice is not forsaken in the New. Justice is fulfilled for those under grace through the cross of Jesus Christ, and for those who remain under the law, through a continuation of the Law's judgements.
1) God is perfect justice and mercy
2) War involves an element of justice, but lacks mercy, and is therefore imperfect and provisional.
4) The only way to receive that which is perfect, is through the gospel of grace
5) The world apart from Christ, is still under the imperfect and provisional system of law
6) Therefore war is still an instrument of judgement in the world, under a dispensation of law.
7) God’s promise is that the imperfect will pass away, and thus war along with it.
If anyone would reply that God must be cruel to utilize war as judgement, they should remember that war is enacted by humanity out of their own passions. Therefore even the judgement is passive on God’s part, only giving us what we ourselves have chosen.
But the ulitmate truth, and will of God, is to banish war from Earth forever, along with the heart-condition which gave rise to such wars.
Not a simple "yes or no" answer from the perspective of the Bible. We all know that complexity can be a sure sign of sophistry, but it can also be true to life by avoiding the too-simple.