Christian Just War Doctrine

Bill Hitchcock September 3, 2013 0
Christian Just War Doctrine

Just war. When is war justified? How can it be determined when to enter in to war? Does going to war or being a soldier conflict with being a Christian? These questions and more have been debated and argued for centuries.

Evils of War

“Tertullian, the second century Christian author, “was quite adamant in his advocacy of pacifism, claiming force was entirely out of place for the Christian,” writes Michael McKenzie with CRI

Saint Augustine, the fourth century theologian believed, “The real evils in war are love of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power”.

But over time a methodology has been developed to determine when war is a just war.

“The just war tradition is based on a series of arguments to be tested before using force against another population. Legitimate and competent authorities must logically argue that the use of force will end or limit the suffering of a people and these forceful actions are the last options after all diplomatic, social, political, and economic measures have been exhausted,” writes Yonat Shimron of the Huffington Post.

warJust War Tradition

In a wonderful article entitled, “Just War Tradition” Michael McKenzie details the decision process on whether or not war is justified. A summary of the key points are listed below.

“Just War Tradition has developed five criteria which ought to be satisfied before troops are sent into an arena of potential conflict. Called the jus ad bellum (justice for war), these criteria serve to frame the discussion surrounding any potential war.

Just Cause: Wars designed for aggression against a neighbor, or those designed simply to increase a country’s wealth or prestige cannot be justified.

Right Authority: This category is designed to insure that the proper authorities are calling for the war. Just wars are not private revolutions. In the United States, the Congress has the power to declare war.

Proportionality: Any potential conflict must be evaluated as to the cost and benefits. Are the potential gains worth the possible costs and sacrifice — both with regard to finances and human lives?

The Goal of Peace: This criterion requires that just wars be fought with the final, realizable goal of peace in mind. Not only should there be a strategy to win; there should be a peace that can be achieved.

War as the Last Resort: Nonviolent means of persuasion should always be attempted for a reasonable amount of time before resorting to war.

Read the entire article “Just War Tradition” by Michael McKenzie

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