Random Musings: the concept of a ‘just war’

(1) from a Christian perspective war is objectively evil–which is simply to say that it is a depravation of or corruption of the good.  It is also to say that war is always evil no matter when it takes place, who is fighting in the battle, what society it occurs in, what reasons are behind it etc..  On the other hand, from a Christian perspective, war is for the time being, necessary.  This is a paradox.

(2) unlike Christians, secular humanists have no grounds for the belief that war is intrinsically evil.  The closest they might come to supporting the notion that war is objectively evil is to build some sort of utilitarian argument.  For instance, one might argue that war is evil because it does not bring about the greatest amount of pleasure/happiness (and the least amount of pain) for the greatest amount of people or for a society.  Clearly, however, this type of reasoning does not support the claim that war is intrinsically evil.  One can easily think of a multitude of ways in which war might benefit a society or group and, in many cases, bring about the greatest amount of pleasure/happiness (and the least amount of pain) for the masses.  In point of fact, a secular humanist should embrace war as being an natural outgrowth of evolution.  It is natures way of weeding out the weak and ensuring the survival of the strong; of building new societies and stronger cultures.

(3) a secular humanist is not in a position to claim that anything is objectively evil . . . let alone war!

(4) anyone who denies that war is evil is truly naive.  I implore you to spend a week in the trenches; to see, taste, and smell the death and mutilation of human flesh; to watch as innocent lives are ripped apart; to experience the destruction of homes, of art, of culture . . . even a just war is a tragedy.

(5) justice without mercy and grace is warped . . . it is nothing more than cold revenge.  Mercy and grace without justice is heartless and unloving.

(6) a just war, if it is truly just, is allowable only as a means of preservation.

(7) shall a good God allow entire societies to engage in and endorse horrendous evils without end?  Is a God who allows such societies to flourish good?  Shall the wicked prevail forever?

(8) if Christianity teaches that war is always evil, why does God sanction war in the Bible?  The answer: we live in a fallen world.  People are evil–the world is not as it should be.  In such circumstances, war becomes a necessary evil.  In a world containing free agents, willing evil and injustice, a just and loving God sanctions war in order to preserve mankind from utter destruction and to exact justice.  However, this is only a temporary solution.  God sent his Son, to die on the cross; to trample death by death; to abolish death and killing and murder forever!  Through Jesus the battle has been won; war shall be no more.  In this sense, Jesus is the most successful pacifist who ever lived.

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3 thoughts on “Random Musings: the concept of a ‘just war’

  1. Excellent observations, Josh. It is one thing to see war as a necessary evil and another entirely to revel in the opportunity for merciless justice, i.e. revenge.

    My problem recently has been not with the state’s right to wage war but the Christian’s place in it. Even if you can convince me that there is a national exigency that demands war, you still have not proven to me that Christians should take part in it. I cannot say that Christians are commanded NOT to take part in the military – neither Jesus nor Peter instructed the centurions they dealt with to leave their posts – but the very nature of war as an expression of sacrificial nationalism and as a willingness to kill on order (thereby without conscience or moral ability to decide otherwise) seems to me antithetical to following Christ. At the very least, there would have to be a radical separation between the attitude of the soldier in combat and the attitude of the Christian in his personal life. Even if I admit that such a thing can exist, I know that I certainly am not strong enough to maintain it, though I suppose some could. I would really appreciate your input on this, Josh. Sorry for hijacking your post. 🙂

    When Jesus comes back to battle his enemies with the sword that proceeds from his mouth, which is the Word, THAT will be a just war. Until then, the concept is a farce.

    • Cory! I miss you my friend!

      I recognize the tension between the life, and attitude, of a solider versus that of a Christian–and it bothers me just as much as it bothers you. Over the past couple of years these problems have starred me square in the face while working with the homeless. Often my job has been to maintain order and safety for both clients and volunteers, to ensure that rules are being followed, and to accomplish all of these tasks while attempting to exemplify what it means to be a godly man. In the midst of all of the chaos, there have been multiple times in which I found myself in the middle of physical violence–during these times I have had to make difficult choices. Choices in which my Christian desire for being a peacemaker and a lover of my neighbor have come into conflict with my Christian desire for justice, courage, standing against the wicked, and protecting the weak. I am certain that I have made bad choices (or, at least, imperfect) in these situations, in the name of some greater good, almost every time. I sometimes wonder if, in many circumstances, it is possible to make a choice free from any and all evil. I wonder if all we can do is aim for the greatest possible good and fall upon the grace and mercy of Christ to forgive us our mistakes. Some situations are so unnatural, so counter to the way God intends for things to be, the mere fact that you are involved with the situation is evil. I mean, there are some options that we should never be faced with in the first place–yet, here we are in a fallen and twisted world being placed in situations that ought not to occur and forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. I think this same dilemma faces the “Christian centurion” . . .

      Cory, I’m not sure if I’ve said anything enlightening or simply revealed the fact that I suffer from the same dilemma that you do 🙂

  2. Pingback: Evil « Earthpages.ca ~

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