PCA HISTORICAL CENTER
Studies & Actions
of the General Assembly of
15th General Assembly (1987), p. 517, Appendix U
Christian Responsibility in the Nuclear Age
The horrors of nuclear warfare were disclosed to the world with the detonation of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945. The bomb was developed by the United States as a countermove to its potential development by Nazi Germany; it was completed and then used by the United States against Japan to avoid a protracted and bloody invasion and to provoke an “unconditional surrender”. The destructive power of a single device, with effects so different from any weapon that had been known before, meant that a new age had dawned in the history of human warfare. (See Appendix A, “Effects of Nuclear Weapons.”)
The generation since 1945 has been characterized
by escalation and proliferation of nuclear arsenals, but has mercifully been
spared their further actual use. What
is our responsibility as Christians now in the second generation of the nuclear
age? What are
Table of Contents
A. This Age in Theological Perspective
B. Discipleship and Citizenship
C. Theocratic Warfare
D. Nuclear Weapons
1. Nuclear Disarmament
a. The Ideal of Noncombatant Immunity
b. The Principle of Proportionate Means
2. Nuclear Deterrence
3. Anti-nuclear Defense
E. Intercession and Evangelism
Appendix A. Effects of Nuclear Weapons
2. Thermal Radiation
3. Initial Nuclear Radiation
4. Nuclear Winter
A. This Age in Theological Perspective
The momentous events of August 1945, for all their bearing on the subsequent affairs of men and nations, did not radically alter the course of this age. The truly decisive events are rather the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and his session at God’s right hand. These events, together with the next in the series, namely, the return of the Son of Man from heaven in power and glory, give us as Christians our fundamental perspective on the present. The “nuclear age”, with its undeniably profound challenges, nevertheless falls within the inter-adventual period; our thinking about it is governed by the even more profound perspective of the history of redemption.
As we contemplate the possibility of a nuclear holocaust in our generation, the words of Psalm 46 bear a special significance to us.
God is our refuge and strength
though its waters roar and foam
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
The LORD Almighty is with us,
Come and see the works of the LORD
he burns the shield with fire.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The Psalm expresses the quiet confidence of the people of God, whose transcendent hope is in the Most High God, the LORD Almighty, whose sovereign will is supreme. The Church’s primary responsibility is to offer this hope to the world, the hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Nuclear war may or may not be averted; but the wrath of God may be averted through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. This accounts for the confidence of believers; whatever happens, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
There is confidence, too, in the knowledge that ultimately God will be exalted among the nations, for he is sovereign over all the earth. Of particular relevance is the assurance that he makes wars cease to the ends of the earth (vs. 9). One of the most stirring visions of the prophets expresses this hope for the future.
In the last days
as chief among the mountains;
Many nations will come and say,
He will teach us his ways,
The law will go out from
and their spears into pruning hooks.
nor will they train for war anymore.
and under his own fig
The passage quoted is Micah 4:1-4; the same vision with slight variations appears also in Isaiah 2:2-4. The vivid image of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks is well-known; not so well-known are the preceding verses which are the basis for it. The Lord will make wars cease by drawing all nations to himself, teaching them his law, causing them to walk in his ways, and sovereignly ruling over them. Ideological differences between nations, and the need to defend against aggression or to rectify injustice by armed force, will have all passed away. Hopes for total disarmament and an end to war apart from such a context are bound to be disappointed.
The vision is “eschatological”; it belongs to a future that has not yet arrived, although it has been set in motion by the first coming of Christ. Through the missionary preaching of the gospel, God is presently taking from among the nations a people for his Name (Acts 15:14). In this way the nations have already begun to stream to the exalted mountain of the Lord’s temple, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22). In the carrying out of the Great Commission, the discipling of the nations has begun as God’s people are baptized and taught to observe Christ’s word (Mt. 28:19-20). But the full effect is yet to be realized.
This provokes a twofold question: When may we expect the prophetic vision of peace among the nations to be fulfilled, and what is our responsibility as Christ’s disciples with respect to war and peace in the meantime?
Christ’s own perspective on this age between his first and second advent is set forth for us, so far as it has pleased him to make it known, in the portion of scripture commonly called the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24, Mk. 13, Lk. 21). Some of the details of the discourse are notoriously difficult of interpretation, but the gist is clear enough, Jesus tells his disciples not to be alarmed when they hear of wars and rumors of wars: “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” He thus prepares them for a period in which “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” Such events, along with famines and earthquakes in various places, are to be viewed as “the beginning of birth pangs,” from which a better world will in due course emerge. In the meantime, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt. 24:5-14).
From this it is natural to conclude that war will continue to be a liability until the return of Jesus Christ. Clearly the world in which we live is still a world in travail. It is as true for us as it was for the apostle Paul that “the whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22). We enjoy the first fruits of the Spirit now, but we are saved in the hope of a harvest yet to come.
It would be wrong, however, to conclude that no mitigation of the effects of the fall is possible in the sphere of international relationships. Just as Christians may work to limit the suffering caused by natural disasters, so they may work to limit the suffering caused by unjust and unnecessary wars.
B. Discipleship and Citizenship
Christians are called in this age to announce the good news of the coming kingdom of God and to exhibit its reality in their lives. The realm of politics is not excluded. So we must ask: As disciples of Christ, what are our political responsibilities with respect to the issues of war and peace in our time? Does Christ require his disciples to renounce all use of the sword for the sake of his kingdom, or are there at least some uses of the sword that he requires his disciples to maintain for the sake of His kingdom?
At first glance, many passages in the gospels seem to make renunciation of the sword a requirement of Christian discipleship. “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt. 6:39). “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Mt. 6:44-48). “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to Peter “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). But what is forbidden to the church as an institution, or to the individual Christian as an individual, is not necessarily forbidden to the state, or to the individual Christian as an agent of the state. Individuals may not avenge themselves (Rom. 12:19), but the civil magistrate is “God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” under appropriate circumstances (Rom. 13:4).
That soldiering is not in itself inconsistent with discipleship is evident from the gospel records themselves. The two groups singled out by name in the preaching of John the Baptist—tax collectors and soldiers—represent two of the most characteristic and necessary functions of civil government. John tells neither group to forsake their occupation; instead he calls for justice within their respective spheres of service. The tax-collectors are not to collect more than is required, and the soldiers are not to extort money or accuse people falsely (Lk. 3:12-14). The Christian church has long observed the positive attitude toward civil government and its legitimate coercive power implicit in these instructions.
The same is evident from the way in which both Jesus and the apostles relate to various centurions in the Gospels and Acts. Of one Jesus said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Lk. 7:9). Later Peter is sent, bearing “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all,” to the house of Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment (Acts 10:1, 36). While Peter was giving his message, the Holy Spirit came on Cornelius and the others, and they were then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. A gentile centurion was thus added to the church without being required to give up either his ethnic identity or his military vocation.
The involvement of God’s people in military affairs dates from the time of Abraham and the first armed conflict between kings recorded in the scriptures (Gen. 14:lff). Abraham we know “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). At the same time, he entered into a political alliance with Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre the Amorite, near whose great trees at Hebron Abraham had come to dwell. When four kings engaged in a war of conquest under the leadership of Kedorlaomer, king of Elam. defeated the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies, carrying off Lot and his possessions in the process, Abraham moved into action with his 318 trained men. With his allies he pursued and defeated the forces of Kedorlaomer, recovering all the goods and captives, including Lot.
On his return from defeating the four kings, Abraham is met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, who blesses Abraham with these words: Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.
The blessing constitutes divine approval of Abraham’s course of action in that situation. With respect to Melchizedek, the writer of Hebrews points out, “First, his name means ‘king of righteousness’; then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace’ ” (Heb. 7:2). What Abraham did in rescuing Lot by military force was consistent with the demands both of righteousness and of peace. The cause was manifestly just: defense of life and property against unwarranted aggression. It was conducted by competent civil authority, rather than being simply the improvisation of an aggrieved relative. The goal was the restoration of peace; Abraham rejected the “spoils of war” offered by the king of Sodom, refusing to take so much as a thread or a sandal thong beyond the expenses of his men in the field. This limited use of armed force to restrain aggression when necessary God approves, lest the earth again be overrun with violence as it was before the flood (Gen. 6:11).
The sanction for the use of the sword to the extent of taking human life in retributive justice for human life sinfully taken is found in connection with God’s covenant with Noah: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” The ground for such an extreme measure immediately follows: “For in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6). It is the supreme value of human life as belonging to creatures made in God’s image that, paradoxically to some, is enhanced and guarded by the institution of capital punishment for murder.
The authority to carry out this mandate has been given, not to individuals, but to the civil government, as is explicitly stated in Romans: “For he is God’s servant to do you good . . . he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, and agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4). When a Christian magistrate, or agent of the civil government, carries out this God-ordained function, he or she does not violate the law of love, as the late John Murray, following Augustine argued in his Principles of Conduct (1957).
The demand of love, unrelenting and all-pervasive as it is, does not abrogate the demand of justice. Love is not inconsistent with the infliction of punishment for wrong. Love is first of all love to God, and therefore love of justice. Hence, when we view the demand of love in its broader proportions, the demand of love and the demand of justice are really one. A just war is simply war undertaken and conducted in the defense and promotion of the dictates of justice; there can be no incompatibility between the demands of love and the conduct of such a war. The wounding and killing involved are the use of the sword which God has put into the hand of the civil magistrate as the instrument of maintaining justice and punishing evildoers. The sword is never intrinsically, and should never be in practice, the instrument of vindictive and malicious hate. Whenever a nation, or even a soldier on the field of battle, uses the weapons of war as the instruments of vindictive revenge rather than as the instruments of retributive justice, then the dictates of both justice and love are desecrated. It is hate that contradicts the love, and it always does. But war in the protection and vindication of justice is not prompted by hate but by the love of justice, and such love never contradicts the love of our enemies which the Lord himself always and unequivocally demands (p. 179).footnote 1
The purposes for which God has ordained the state and armed it with coercive power are set forth in Psalm 82:1-4.
God presides in the great assembly;
He gives judgment among the ‘gods’:
How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless,
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
It is the function of civil government in a fallen world to maintain justice and peace, and especially to defend those under its jurisdiction who otherwise would be trampled upon by the wicked. In pursuit of these ends, which Augustine rightly understood to be a social dimension of love for our neighbor, Christians “may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion” (Westminster Confession of Faith, XXIII, ii).
The right of the civil magistrate to wage war (jus ad
bellum) in order to maintain justice and peace is subject to a twofold
limitation: lawful wars must be just and necessary. Inasmuch as the state has been ordained
by God to protect human life, to secure human rights, and to promote human
values, its use of the sword must be
C. Theocratic Warfare
In developing a biblico-ethical approach to modern warfare, it is crucial to recognize the distinctiveness of ancient Israel and her unique function in the history of redemption.2 Israel as a nation-state was the people of God. In fulfillment of His covenanted promise to Abraham, God redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt; at the exodus “they were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Cor. 10:2); at Sinai they were constituted a theocracy through the covenant God made with them there, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Later on, in a prayer of response to a further covenant establishing his dynasty, King David reflects on the uniqueness of Israel in these words:
And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for Himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt. You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you , O LORD, have become their God. (2 Sam. 7:23-24).
When God made His covenant with Abraham and promised his descendants possession of the land, it was with this word concerning the current inhabitants: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16). When in God’s eyes it reached its full measure, he summoned his servant Israel to execute his wrath. “Even the land was defiled: so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25). This provides the rationale for the warfare of utter destruction (herem) prescribed for Israel in such passages as Deuteronomy 7:1-6.
When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations ... and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy . . . For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Because of Israel’s unique national calling as the people of God, and God’s purpose in that stage of history of redemption, the conquest of the land of Canaan does not provide a model for the conduct of warfare in general. It was a special manifestation of God’s retributive justice, which in its severity and totality was a prefiguration of hell. Israel’s use of the sword at the Lord’s command in herem warfare goes beyond the restraint of evil mandated to other nation-states; it is the prototype of the judgment of the Lord himself at the last day.
Although not all of the wars of Israel feature the strict requirements of the herem, they are all holy wars—the military records are called “the Book of the Wars of the LORD” (Num. 21:14)—and thus bear a typological significance. Various elements are distinctive. A campaign against an enemy with superior forces (horses, chariots, a larger army) is undertaken in the assurance that the Lord will be with his people whom he brought out of Egypt (Dt. 20:1). As the battle is joined, the priest addresses the army in these words:
Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. (Dt. 20:3-4).
Following this promise of victory,
the officers send home any whose lives are as yet unfulfilled in significant
respects (house, vineyard, wife), as well as all who are
Promises of victory, of course, were made with the condition of faithfulness to the covenant. This entailed ritual cleanness of the military camp, another distinctive feature of theocratic warfare (Dt. 23:9-14). The camp had to be holy, “For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you” (vs. 14).
In light of the overall context, the conduct of warfare
described in Deuteronomy 20:10-15, while not involving the herem (as in
verses 16-17), should nevertheless be
Blessed are you, O Israel!
Who is like you,
a people saved by the LORD?
He is your shield and helper
and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you,
and you will trample down their high places.
This being the case, reliance on certain types of armaments, specifically horses and chariots, is incompatible with theocratic trust (Dt. 17:16, Is. 31:1), partly because the source of these weapons is Egypt. Why should the redeemed people of God look to their former oppressors for deliverance? To show that he would always be their deliverer, instead of providing his people with chariots of iron God commissioned trumpets of hammered silver.
The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. (Num. 10:8-9).
In due course, theocratic Israel is succeeded in the history of redemption by the Christian church, the new form of the people of God. With the full accomplishment of redemption in the Person and work of Christ, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12).
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12).
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we live with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (I Cor. 10:3-5).
The promise of divine victory attaches now to this warfare (Mt. 16:18; 1 John 4:4, 5:4), and not to military engagements even on just and necessary occasion. The purpose of the Book of the Wars of the Lord is theological, written for the instruction of the church in its warfare, and not as a basis today for any nation presuming to make a “holy war” against its enemies.
This is not to say that the Old
Testament contains no principles that are relevant to national policy on
military affairs. For one thing, for
all its evident non-pacificism,
Another thing to observe in the biblical record is the principle of the solidarity of human societies. Wars are between nations; kings in making war put their people as well as their armies at risk. Siege warfare in particular inflicted great suffering upon the civilian population. This is indeed tragic, but the solidarity of a people means that in warfare an absolute distinction between combatant and noncombatant cannot be maintained. On the other hand, the opening oracles of the book of Amos condemn all unnecessary acts of violence in war, whether directed against soldiers or civilians (cf. Amos l:3,1:6,1:11,1:13,2:2).
Finally, all nations should recognize the limitations of military prowess. To make adequate provision for the common defense is a necessary governmental obligation in a fallen world, but the security of a nation is ultimately in the hands of the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, “the One who gives victory to kings” (Ps. 144:10).
D. Nuclear Weapons in Moral Perspective
The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt
not kill,” requires “all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the
life of ourselves and others,” and forbids “all taking
1. Nuclear Disarmament
The case for nuclear disarmament is argued on two
grounds: (1) that any use of nuclear weapons, including their threatened use as
a deterrent, is immoral per se, and
(1) Immoral per se
Nuclear weapons are said to be immoral because they are necessarily indiscriminate, threatening civilian populations as much more than legitimate military targets, and because any use of them would be disproportionate, running the risk of escalation to a “holocaust” that could destroy the earth. Nuclear weapons thus fail on both counts to meet the moral criteria for just conduct in warfare (jus in bello) necessitating a stance of nuclear pacifism. The two reasons require separate discussion.
a. The Ideal for Noncombatant Immunity
Is the immunity of noncombatants from direct attack a moral absolute according to biblical principles of justice?
Clearly, the Bible forbids and condemns all unnecessary killing. The circumstances under which human life may be taken are always exceptional; the burden of proof falls upon those who kill another human being to show that it is morally justifiable as an instance of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense. Otherwise killing is murder, and pits one against God on the side of the devil, “who was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44).
It follows that killing as an act
of personal retaliation, making war on other than just and necessary occasion,
and killing that is not strictly necessary in defense of
In a war undertaken in the just and
necessary defense of a nation, enemy soldiers may lawfully be attacked and
killed, so long as they represent a threat. But having been wounded, taken prisoner, or surrendered, their situation
changes; it is no longer
The principle of noncombatant immunity does not rule out
their being killed as the foreseeable, unavoidable, and collateral result of a
necessary attack on an enemy’s military forces or war-making capabilities. Whether or not an attack is a “military
necessity” is a relative judgment, dependent upon the degree of threat and the
b. The Principle of Proportionate Means
It is a settled principle of justice in warfare that the means must be proportionate to the end; that is, that the harm done must be commensurate with the values being defended and maintained. Among other things, this follows from the lex talionis (law of retaliation) found in Scripture (e.g., Exod. 21:23-25), which limited harm by requiring punishment to fit the crime.
Are nuclear weapons necessarily disproportionate, so that any use of them is immoral on the grounds that they will do more harm than good?
Other things being equal, nuclear disarmament is desirable as a means of reducing the risk of nuclear war; but it is not in itself a moral absolute. One must consider not only how to avert a nuclear holocaust, but also how to prevent the loss of freedom of entire peoples.3 Given the dilemma of possible escalation to an all-out nuclear war, on the one hand, and the near certainty of enslavement to a totalitarian power, on the other, it is not clear that the nonuse of nuclear weapons is an absolute moral obligation. The degree of risk must be weighed against the degree of threat; it is not certain that any use of nuclear weapons would lead inevitably to a holocaust that would destroy the earth.
These considerations apply to “first strike” as well as to retaliatory use to nuclear weapons. An absolute commitment to a policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. An absolute commitment to a policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons no matter what the circumstances may be, is in effect a form of unilateral disarmament, entailing surrender to an aggressor equipped with superior conventional forces. “First strike pacifism,” in distinction from nuclear pacifism as such, is an untenable ethical position; if it is morally wrong to strike first because of the risk of escalation, it is morally wrong to strike second for the same reason.
So far we have been discussing the
case for nuclear disarmament as an absolute moral imperative. Our conclusion is that while noncombatant
immunity and proportionality are profound concerns in dealing with nuclear
weapons, they do not necessarily and absolutely rule out any possible use,
though they do place tremendous burden of justification upon the user. We turn now from the strictly moral argument
The problem with unilateral disarmament may be concisely
stated in the words of the psalmist: “I am a man of peace; but when I speak,
they are of war” (Psa. 120:7).
3 The two dangers were
highlighted by Pope John Paul II in his UN statement (June 11,1982). As noted by
Cardinal Casaroli in his memorandum to the American bishops working on the
draft of their
Multilateral agreements on arms
control are difficult to achieve, let alone verify and enforce, when nations
are at war on the level of ideology. The current “arms race” between the United States and the Soviet Union
is due to radically opposed
Arms negotiations that genuinely offer promise of a more
secure and just peace should be supported by Christians and all persons of good
will. Specific proposals,
2. Nuclear Deterrence
Deterrence is a strategy designed to discourage and prevent an enemy from taking certain actions by posing unacceptable risks as a consequence. In one of Jesus’ illustrations on counting the cost of discipleship, superior military force acts as a deterrent by reducing the prospects of success.
Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. (Lk. 14:31-32)
It should be noted that deterrence depends upon rational calculation of an enemy’s military might and the will to use it. Also, it provides no guard against fanaticism for which no risks are unacceptable.
Aside from these problems, there is the question of the moral status of threats of nuclear retaliation. For a threat to be credible, it must be capable of being carried out. This means that the threatened action must be both militarily feasible and morally justifiable.
The mere possession of nuclear weapons without some clear
policy regarding their use would be an unstable deterrent. In determining policy, the key question is
whether the threat of nuclear retaliation is morally justifiable as a
deterrent. In determining policy, the
key question is whether the threat of nuclear retaliation is
Countervalue strategy targets cities, threatening massive retaliation to the industrial base, cultural achievements, and civilian population of an enemy nation. It is currently based on the idea that “mutual assured destruction” (MAD) is the best way of preventing a nuclear war between the superpowers; the risk of annihilation acts as a deterrent.
Counterforce strategy targets military installations,
threatening sufficient collateral harm to civilians and society to deter an
enemy from a nuclear first strike.
Both strategies are intended to prevent the use of
nuclear weapons by deterring the first strike; both are prepared to use nuclear
weapons in a retaliatory second strike should deterrence fail. Does the law of retaliation (lex talionis) allow “a strike for a
The law of retaliation is severely strained in its
application to the use of nuclear weapons. The thought of killing masses of helpless people who are themselves at
the mercy of their own government is abhorrent. Only if there were no other way to
If deterrence through threat of retaliation is not ruled
out in principle, and there
Counterforce strategy has the advantage in that it does
not target an enemy population as such, and attempts to show a greater respect
for the preservation of
The disadvantage of counterforce targeting is the
liability of its being perceived as preemptive, rather than retaliatory, in
intent, making nuclear war more likely by inviting a first strike in a moment
of crisis. There seems to be no way to
negate this liability inasmuch as counterforce strategy contains an inherent
ambiguity in that
3. Anti-nuclear Defense
Should deterrence fail there is at present no defense against nuclear weapons, with which the superpowers are heavily armed. If total nuclear disarmament is an unrealistic and unachievable goal, should support be given to the development of an anti-nuclear defense as an alternative to the present policy of deterrence?
A strategy of defense is morally superior to strategies
of deterrence on two counts: it does not concede in principle a first strike
against one’s own people and
E. Intercession and Evangelism
Christians, according to their gifts and opportunities, are called to political service, and the church should teach this as an area of discipleship that follows from the Lordship of Christ over all of life. The church itself has been given the ministry of intercession and evangelism, and this is highly relevant to the topic of Christian responsibility in the nuclear age.
Christians should seek to influence policy that promises
to make the world a more secure place to live; but in a world of oppression,
aggression, paranoia, hysteria,
Jeremiah 29:7 encourages intercession for peace: “Seek
the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and
pray unto the Lord for it: for
1 Timothy 2:1-4 coordinates intercession for rulers and evangelism:
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
The primary task of the church in this age is the
preaching of the gospel to all nations; since God controls the circumstances
that are conducive to the fulfillment of
RE David Coffin, Jr. RE David W. Forslund
TE David C. Jones TE D. James Kennedy
TE Robert B. Needham RE Kenneth L. Ryskamp
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
This discussion is meant only to
highlight some of the important differences between nuclear weapons and
conventional weapons. It is not meant
to be a comprehensive discussion of modern warfare. Much of the discussion is based on the book The Effects of
Nuclear Weapons by Glasstone and Dolan, Third Edition, 1977. Contrary to
popular opinion, there is a considerable base of information on nuclear
explosions and their effects on the surrounding environment. It is our hope that a better understanding
of the properties of a nuclear weapons will allow a more reasoned
Although the explosion of a nuclear weapon is in many
ways similar to a conventional or high-explosive weapon, there are five major
differences. First nuclear weapons can
be many thousands or millions of times more powerful than the largest of
high-explosive detonations. Second, the
mass of a nuclear explosive is much less than a high explosive for a similar
amount of energy released. Third, the
The difference in explosive power of a nuclear weapon as
compared with a conventional weapon can be seen if we realize that the
explosive potential of 1 pound of uranium is as much as 8000 tons of TNT, and 1
pound of Deuterium is as much as
For many years the greatest concern of people has been
the large and extensive “fallout” of radioactive debris from a nuclear weapon
which can cover a much greater
2. Thermal Radiation
The bright thermal emission from a nuclear device comes
in two pulses. The first is about a
tenth of a second long and is mostly in the form of ultraviolet radiation. Except for damage to the eyes, the second
pulse which lasts for up to 10 seconds is a
3. Initial Nuclear Radiation
The nuclear radiation emitted from the fireball and the
radioactive cloud during the first minutes is called the initial nuclear
radiation. It includes neutrons and
gamma rays emitted directly from the device and gammas rays emitted by the
A variety of other less important phenomena have been
observed in the series of nuclear tests done during the 50’s and 60’s in which
nuclear devices were tested underwater, at high altitude and at various depths
underground. The phenomena are
4. Nuclear Winter
An additional effect which was not fully appreciated even
at the time of above- ground nuclear testing was the potential ejection of
smoke from primary or secondary
It should be noted that the “nuclear winter” effect
occurs because of the burning of a large number of cities, each of which may be
comparable to the firestorming of