I saw a question asked online the other day which I found to be quite compelling. I read Rex Butts’ blog post on “The Evangelistic Scandal,” which led me to Scot McKnight’s discussion of Lee Camp’s new book.
The interview refers to “Just War Theory.” If you’re not familiar with Just War Theory, the idea is that there should be a set of criteria to apply to any conflict to determine if it is just or not. Proponents argue that Christians may participate in a just war, but not an unjust one. As far as I know, Augustine borrowed the principles from some Roman philosophers, then Thomas Aquinas further refined Augustine’s work. (Someone please correct that in the comments if my history is wrong; this is off the top of my head)
The basic principles of just war, as commonly expressed, are:
- A just cause is basically defensive in posture, not aggressive.
- The intent must also be just—the objectives must be peace and the protection of innocent lives.
- War must be a matter of last resort when all attempts at reconciliation or peaceful resolution are exhausted.
- A just war must be accompanied by a formal declaration by a properly constituted and authorized body.
- The objectives must be limited. Unconditional surrender or total destruction are unjust means.
- Military action must be proportionate both in the weaponry employed and the troops deployed.
- Non-combatants must be protected and military operations must demonstrate the highest possible degree of discrimination.
- Without a reasonable hope for success, no military action should be launched.
There is nothing set in stone as THE Just War Theory, but those principles are widely used.
Or are they? The question that was asked in the comments section of the McKnight article was this:
Has there ever been a war that Christians were considering entering into, but applying the criteria for “just war” talked them out of?
That’s a great question. I can’t think of an example. Can you? Has “Just War Theory” ever been used for anything other than justifying participation in conflict?
Does Just War Theory bring peace or just war?