The scholar Michael Lienesch has credited Walton and others with articulating for evangelicals “a crusade theory of warfare.” This theory took precedence over the established just war tradition, which mandated that force be used for defensive purposes only. In the circumstances that existed after Vietnam, it would not do for God’s strategic agent to remain passive, waiting on events. According to Lienesch, conservative Christian analysts found scriptural sanctions for striking the first blow. As they saw it, “preventive war has biblical precedents.”God was literally on America’s side, and He had empowered Americans to act on His behalf.
In a pre-9/11 era, this seemed like a radical if not outlandish proposition, one completely at odds with American tradition—proof that when it came to national security strategy evangelicals tended to be slightly deranged. In fact, in their advocacy of preventive war, Christian conservatives were merely a little ahead of their time.