Theology faculty offers Christian view of war

A tattered Ukrainian flag flies above the rubble of a bombed-out building.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, many people prayed and followed the news religiously.

Dr. Jacob Hicks was among them. But he decided to take it a big step further.

Dr. Jacob Hicks

“I just felt like, ‘This isn’t enough. Of course, praying is great, but I need to do more somehow,’” he said. “It got laid on my heart that, ‘Why don’t you do some sort of teaching from the Christian worldview?’ People don’t talk about war in any sort of coherent, responsible way.”

Fortunately, Hicks is an instructor in the College of Theology (COT) at Grand Canyon University, which means he has access to other resources – the expertise of numerous faculty members, the expansive Theology Commons website, the state-of-the-art GCU Recording Lab …

… And a dean, Dr. Jason Hiles, who loved the idea.

"Over the last year, I began to encourage COT’s faculty to become more intentional about discussing pressing topics in public ways, especially topics that would benefit from a clear, Christian perspective," Hiles said. "Sometimes the cultural dialogue can spiral downward quickly, but I have heard members of our faculty share incredible insights in private that I know would be of benefit to others.

"Dr. Hicks was among the first to respond to my challenge to serve others with the gifts God has given him, and his timing with respect to the conflict in Ukraine was impeccable. I couldn’t be more encouraged by what he and his colleagues were able to do together through this series."

When Hiles responded enthusiastically, Hicks emailed his peers. Before long, he had enough input for “War and the Christian Worldview,” a series of COT faculty videos divided into these seven parts:

The series also is available in the Living Faith blogs.

It still has plenty of relevance as the Ukraine war enters its seventh month and more than two dozen other conflicts rage across the world, mostly in Africa.

Whenever you have an issue that grips the world, like the war in Ukraine, are we just going to stay silent? Or, as the church, do we need to say, 'No, this is how Christians should think about this issue -- this is how we should act'?

Dr. Jacob Hicks

“We hear all the time in churches about how we should give or go out and evangelize to others,” Hicks said. “All those things are well and good – we need to do that. But whenever you have an issue that grips the world, like the war in Ukraine, are we just going to stay silent? Or, as the church, do we need to say, ‘No, this is how Christians should think about this issue – this is how we should act’?"

Hicks likens his approach to what Paul or James did when they wrote letters to churches in various countries, addressing the issues of the day and how Christians should view them.

“Certainly, we’re not equal to the apostles, but I think we have a responsibility to lead and guide and instruct other believers about what it means to think and to be a Christian whenever something like a major international war occurs,” Hicks said.

“Fortunately, in the Christian tradition, we’ve been very blessed with previous thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas and others who have thought about this as well. So we have a lot of rich resources to draw from.”

That also is true at GCU. Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson was eager to assist with the project – besides having all the audio facilities Hicks would need, Johnson was a professional photographer before becoming an audio engineer and was able to utilize his video equipment.

The fact that it was about such an important, sensitive topic made it that much more critical to get it right.

“That, to me, elevated the story to something more than just a Loom video where you would record it at your desk,” Johnson said.

Even though the Recording Studio was in full production mode for the Canyon Worship 2022 album, Johnson checked out other universities’ websites to see how they handled theological presentations. This is Ph.D.-level material that scholars can cite in their research, and Johnson was on board with Hicks’ aim to get it just right.

“When we think about our relationship with Christ and who we are as Christians and who we are as a Christian university, people will ask questions like, ‘So, what do Christians think about this war, exactly?’” Johnson said. “And we should be able to respond with some authority.”

Sadly, “War and the Christian Worldview” didn’t need the Ukraine invasion to be relevant. In any year, there are more than a few disagreements that get the military involved.

“It’s all rooted in an understanding of how fickle human nature really is,” Hicks said. “People always want some sort of land or property or possessions or something, and they’re willing to go to extremely violent measures to make that happen.”

Thanks to “War and the Christian Worldview,” Christians have a video series to help them understand how to feel about that – as they continue, like Hicks, to pray and follow the news religiously.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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