Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just War Theory: What Christians Have Had to Say

Sunday night we discussed issues of war and the Christian worldview. I laid out the traditional Just War Theory. A general search for just war theory contains a lot of secular philosophy, but I am most interested in what Christians have had to say about it. The two leading thinkers on the subject are Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

Here are the tenants of Just War Theory:

1. Just Cause -“All aggression is condemned; only defensive war is legitimate.

2. Just Intention - “The only legitimate intention is to secure a just peace for all involved. Neither revenge nor conquest nor economic gain nor ideological supremacy is justified.”

3. Last Resort - “War may e entered upon only when all negotiations and compromise have been tried and failed.”

4. Formal Declaration - “Since the use of military force is the prerogative of governments, not of private individuals, a state of war must be officially declared by the highest authorities.”

5. Limited objectives - “If the purpose of peace, then unconditional surrender or the destruction of a nation’s economic or political institutions is an unwarranted objective.”

6. Proportionate Means - “The weaponry and the force used should be limited to what is needed to repel the aggression and deter future attacks, that is to say, to secure a just peace. Total or unlimited war is ruled out.

7. Noncombatant Immunity - “Since war is an official act of government, only those who are officially agents of government may fight, and individuals not actively contributing to the conflict (including POWs and casualties as well as civilian nonparticipants) should be immune from attack.”

These are all taken from McQuilkin, Introduction to Biblical Ethics, 337.

I also want to point you to a good article written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Christians and the Just War Theory.

Mohler - Is War Ever Justified? A Reality Check

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