The letter calls for “the salvation and peace of the people of Israel and Palestine.” It distinguishes between the people of Palestine and Hamas. It also invokes Just War theory.
Here is Bob Smietana at Religion News Service:
Addressing policymakers at home and abroad, American evangelical Christian leaders responded Wednesday (Oct. 11) to the attacks on Israel by Hamas by issuing a letter calling for moral clarity, both supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and proclaiming the need to protect the lives of innocent civilians.
“In the wake of the evil and indefensible atrocities now committed against the people of Israel by Hamas, we, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn the violence against the vulnerable, fully support Israel’s right and duty to defend itself against further attack, and urgently call all Christians to pray for the salvation and peace of the people of Israel and Palestine,” the letter reads.
The letter, signed by 60 institutional leaders, will be delivered to the White House, Congress and leaders at the United Nations, said Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which helped organize the letter.
In a phone interview, Leatherwood said the letter was prompted by what he said were responses to attacks on Israel that drew “false equivalence” between the attacks by Hamas, a group identified by the United States as a terrorist group, and the actions of Israel’s military.
“It is time for clear-eyed thinking and moral certainty,” he said.
SBC officials are strongly represented among the signers, including the denomination’s president, Texas pastor Bart Barber, as well as SBC seminary presidents Al Mohler, Danny Akin, Jason Allen and David Dockery, and several SBC state convention leaders. Other signers are the president of Awana, a popular children’s ministry, and several Christian college presidents.
Two former ERLC presidents — Russell Moore, now editor of Christianity Today, and Richard Land, now executive editor of the Christian Post website, also signed the letter.
The letter draws on the Christian justification for war known as just war theory to support Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks.
Read the rest of Smietana’s article here.
Sometimes I wonder if there is still such a thing as a “just war” in this age of military technology. Doesn’t a “just war” require the protection of innocents? How can a war be “just” when more than 700 children are dead in Gaza? Augustine and Aquinas could never have imagined what is happening in the Middle East right now.
In the wake of the evil and indefensible atrocities now committed against the people of Israel by Hamas, we, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn the violence against the vulnerable, fully support Israel’s right and duty to defend itself against further attack, and urgently call all Christians to pray for the salvation and peace of the people of Israel and Palestine.
While our theological perspectives on Israel and the Church may vary, we are unified in calling attacks against Jewish people especially troubling as they have been often targeted by their neighbors since God called them as His people in the days of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).
Since the inception of the modern state of Israel in 1948, Israel has faced numerous attacks, incursions, and violations of its national sovereignty. The Jewish people have long endured genocidal attempts to eradicate them and to destroy the Jewish state. These antisemitic, deadly ideologies and terrorist actions must be opposed.
Israel stands as a rare example of democracy in a region dominated by authoritarian regimes. The tragic events of October 7th further underscore the importance of democracy in our world and stand as a sober reminder that supporting Israel’s right to exist is both urgent and needed.
In keeping with Christian Just War tradition, we also affirm the legitimacy of Israel’s right to respond against those who have initiated these attacks as Romans 13 grants governments the power to bear the sword against those who commit such evil acts against innocent life.
Furthermore, we recognize the dignity and personhood of all persons living in the Middle East and affirm God’s love for them as well as His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ to all people.
We also recognize the difficult ministry of Jewish and Palestinian believers who labor for the gospel. We pray for their protection and for God’s blessing on their gospel ministry.
Finally, we call on American policymakers to use their power to take all forms of terrorism seriously and call governments and civil authorities to confront evil work to prevent future attacks so that the innocent and vulnerable will be protected.
May God bring peace to the Middle East.
How is it possible to “recognize the dignity and personhood of all persons living in the Middle East and affirm God’s love for them…” while also endorsing blowing their land to smithereens? What is happening in the Middle East right now requires deep moral reflection by educated people who have studied this reason. The pontifications of people like Albert Mohler don’t get us very far.
Smietana mentioned some of the signers in his piece. Others include Daniel Darling (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Jack Graham (Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX) ; J.D. Greear (Summit Church–Raleigh/Durham NC); Hunter Baker (Union University); Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary); Eric Erickson (radio host); Tony Evans (Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas); Gene Fant (North Greenville University); Nathan Finn (North Greenville University); Greg Laurie (Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA); Miles Mullin (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church); Ray Ortlund (Renewal Ministries); Andrew Walker (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Robert Sloan (Houston Christian University), John Stonestreet (The Colson Center); Don Sweeting (Colorado Christian University); Mark Tooley (Institute on Religion and Democracy);
Instead of “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel,” the title of this document should read: “Southern Baptists and Friends Statement in Support of Israel.”
Notice representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, and the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities have not signed this document.
These kinds of statements are rarely helpful. And this particular statement does not capture the moral complexity of what is happening in the Middle East right now. But you know evangelicals–they LOVE their statements!