Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thinking About Wars and Rumors of Wars

What should Christians think about war? Few questions are more relevant for the Christian today.

I've been intrigued about this topic ever since listening to Dr. D.A. Carson's audio sermon on Just War. It's rather long with a separate Q&A session but very worthwhile if you're interested in learning more about the topic. In it, he outlines the basic principles of Just War Theory.

1. The only just cause for going to war is defense against violent aggression.

2. The only just intention is to restore a just peace— to friend and foe alike.

3. Military force must be the last resort after negotiations and other efforts have been tried and have failed.

4. The decision to engage in such a just war must be made by the highest governmental authority.

5. The war must be for limited ends (principally to repel aggression and redress injustice).

6. The means of a just war must be limited by proportionality to the offense.

7. There must be no intentional and direct attack on noncombatants.

8. War should not be prolonged where there is no reasonable hope of success within these limits.

Dr. Carson believes that a distinctly Christian perspective on the Just War must include the governing principle of love. He maintains that it is love that compels us to enter into military conflict. In his book, Love in Hard Places, he writes the following:

“When just, war can be a form of love. Where an enemy is perpetuating its horrible holocaust, is it not an act of love that intervenes, even militarily, to prevent that holocaust if a nation has the power to do so? And is not restraint in such cases a display, not of loving pacifism, but of lack of love— of the unwillingness to sacrifice anything for the sake of others?"

While I agree with Dr. Carson's view, the challenge in all of this is the subjective analysis of what constitutes a just war. The guiding principles of Just War theory are helpful but many wars have been entered into with justice in mind that do not meet the criteria. For instance, the American Revolutionary War against the British Empire leading to the formation of the United States of America was waged on far less than what is implied in the Just War theory. Just think about that for a minute.

This is a topic which many orthodox Christians may have differing views but it's helpful to consider them all if we are to come a better understanding.

Is war ever justified from a Christian perspective?
What do you think of the criteria for a just war?

Does it offer appropriate guidance for a Christian?
Where does Christian love fit in?


alwyn said...

watched the TED-Prize winning presentation by journalist James Nachtwey, and one cannot but help being gripped by the horror of war.
check it out at

Whilst i've always been an arm-chair advocate of Just War, I've found that righteous/active peace-making is a far better response.

to quote Brian McLaren, the JW theory never PREVENTED a war, which I take him to mean that JW as a political position never stopped politicians from going to war eventually.

but yes it should be helpful to delineate exactly what we mean by a 'war', let alone a 'just' one.

Dave said...

Am reading Walter Wink's "Engaging The Powers", the alternative to just war is not weak kneed pacifism, there can be principled 'violent' nonviolence