Monday, June 23, 2008

War or 24?

So I’m not saying I have a concrete answer on this one, but on the surface I’d have to say that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ended with the defeats of the Taliban and Saddam, respectively. What we see today is counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism. It’s less like war and more like 24.

Okay, part of me says: if we’re using tanks, artillery and combat aircraft, then it’s a war. But at the same time, wars are fought against nation-states not terrorist groups. So again I’m thinking it’s what 24 would be if Jack Bauer was given bunker busters (gee, I hope they do that in season seven!).

Now as it comes to capturing terrorists and placing them in Guantanamo, I would think they should be turned over to the governing state in which they were caught, tried, and imprisoned. Isn’t that what we’d do if we caught a person planning to attack another country? Or would the terrorist be extradited to the country he planned to attack? In either case, he would face some sort of trial and then imprisonment or freedom. In any case, it comes down to definition. What are we in: a counter-terrorism effort or full scale war?

The same thing goes when talking about theology.

Many arguments blow up when people misunderstand each other. Luther’s definition of faith was a combination of the Catholic Church’s definitions for faith, hope, and love. So when Catholicism preached the necessity of faith, hope, and love – they largely agreed with Luther’s faith alone idea.

Sometimes, however, there is full understanding and still legitimate disagreement. Continuing with the Luther-Catholic example, Luther taught that saved souls are merely covered by grace outside the soul while Catholics believe that grace actually enters the soul and totally cleanses it from sin. Hence, while Luther said one who is saved is just a “dunghill covered in snow” (that is, a sinful soul covered in grace), Catholics talk about the glory of the saints and the need for purgatory to cleanse one after death.

Advances in dialogue are now taking place between Lutherans and Catholics – but it’s only because terms are being clearly defined. So I may not have all the answers but I think I have a good idea: let’s start making definitions and first principles, laying a foundation for real dialogue and real solutions.

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