As the United States considers the appropriate response to the reign of terror unleashed upon the nation earlier this week, it is of value to consider the ethics of war. From its earliest days, the church has debated when it is morally legitimate to respond with force against an enemy. Even though we cannot strike and punish a particular nation, these attacks were a "declaration of war." We have a duty to answer these terrorist assaults.

There is no question that we must act, and we must act now to at least disrupt the activities of these zealots. If we do not, future generations will curse our lack of discernment, or courage, or both, as they suffer the barbaric consequences of our failure to respond. Sadly, the resort to armed conflict is the price human beings must periodically pay for the right to live in a moral universe.

The Bible makes it clear that God ordained the secular state to reward good and to punish evil (Romans 13:4). God established the state to "bear the sword," that is, to use lethal force to keep the peace and maintain justice. This limits the use of force and insists that peace, not vengeance, should always be the object of any military action.

We must be eternally diligent to minimize these horrible occurrences and to bring the perpetrators to justice. I salute President Bush for his determination to conduct an all-out campaign, as he said, "to rout out and whip terrorism."

In the face of the unrefined evil that is terrorism in the 21st century, it is the only just thing to do.
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