by Stephen Wall
First of all, before I begin, I would like to convey my initial thought on the phrase “A Just War”. A question arises when I hear the phrase spoken. Can war actually be just? As humanity, are we capable of making a just judgement completely free of any kind of bias towards our own end? It is my opinion that this simply is not possible – every war that has ever been fought has its own agenda in sight, for it is humanity’s sinful nature that causes war. It is then my proposition that one cannot have a truly “just war”, however I do believe that war may be justified if it meets various principles or scenarios and these need to be met before a nation can engage in it.
Below is a link to a clip I watched that some might be interested in. I found it fascinating as it told a story that was not told in mainline news and it forced me to ask the question. How can we make a correct judgement to what is right in going to war if we are fed lies and political propaganda?
Scenario – justice in the playground:
You are in the park looking after your child; she is playing on the climbing frame, shouting at the top of her voice and living as if she has not a care in the world, as kids do when having fun. You see a man walk into the park from the house opposite. As he approaches he looks annoyed and starts yelling at her. Would you get involved or remain passive? Think about it. Your child is scared and looks to you with fear-filled eyes. The man draws closer, the anger increases and still you do nothing, you remain passive. He steps closer, grabs your child by the arm and tells her that she is an inconsiderate idiot and that she should shut up. Now would you get involved or still remain passive? In fact, if you were a good parent I know you would have already done something. Would you be classed a “good parent” if you refused to act in this situation, either to bring peace through dialogue, or to remove of your child to a safer place. If the man still went to attack your child would you use necessary force to make sure your child was not harmed?
A few more questions: Could you reprimand the man because he walked into the park and sat on the park bench watching your child but did nothing else? No, you may keep a watchful eye on him but he has every right to do so. Could you randomly go into that person’s house because they live near the park and beat him up just in case he comes over one day and harms your child? No, this would be wrong. Can intervention be justified under circumstances were wrong is being done like in this one where your daughter is at risk? I must add that each situation must be taken into account on individual basis and valuated separately?
Right action, right timing, and right reasons. There must always be a valid reason for action and everything must be done to limit unnecessary tragedy and confrontation. In this playground scenario, an angry man has the potential of harming your daughter and needs to be stopped. Some may say the parent is to blame, they should not allow the child to scream when in public or that the situation should not have escalated this far. The list of opinions is huge, and though war is not a playground I ask if you can apply some of the principles from this scenario to a reason for war. Can it be seen in a similar light? I know war is on a much wider scale and will incur a much deeper hurt, pain and suffering, including many innocents. Yet, do we stand by and watch as dictators oppress, or despots claim the lives of innocent millions, as in Ruwanda, because of their selfish and wicked actions? I know war is terribly evil in its causes, conduct and consequences, yet because violent aggression is so unjust, it must be resisted, and according to Apostle Paul, God has entrusted to governments limited uses of force in maintaining a just peace. If such a task, however sickening and tragic, is divinely ordained, then should Christians be willing to participate.
The Just War Theory
The JWT deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical. The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and forms of warfare. The historical aspect, or the “just war tradition” deals with the historical body of rules or agreements applied (or at least existing) in various wars across the ages.
The JWT is a set of criteria that are used to judge whether a war is morally justifiable. It was St Augustine in the third century that formulated the Just War theory, and was formalised 10 centuries later by Thomas Aquinas. The Just War Theory - is NOT a philosophical "method" for determining whether a war can be justified. The aim of the JWT is to provide a way of showing that fighting a war can be morally superior to overlooking it. The basis of the just war is that justice and fairness are important virtues and that to protect your family, your country, and the weak and innocent from suffering are causes worth fighting for. This however is qualified by stating that war should be fought within certain rules to ensure that it is fought not only for sound moral reasons but also that it is fought in a morally defensible way. These are seven criteria by which a war can be judged to be just:
- having just cause,
- a good reason for going to war,
- being formally declared by a proper authority,
- possessing right intention,
- it has to be the last resort and all other alternatives must be exhausted
- having a reasonable chance of success,
- and the end being proportional to the means used.
The JWT refers to modern political doctrines, which promote the view that war is "just" (ie. justice), given satisfactory conditions. “Conditions" have a propensity to be variable, open to murky analysis, and otherwise subject to political deflection, the concept of JW itself, even apart from any precise doctrines, is controversial, although at times necessary.
But the JWT also has a lengthy history reaching back into ancient texts. Sections of the OT scriptures hint at ethical behaviour in war and JW Theorists use these passages for reasons to go to war. It is interesting to note that in their wars with The Canaan occupation the OT Jews were “told” by God to completely destroy everything, that is men, women and children and to show no mercy. However this was spoken only of the seven nations within the ‘promised’ land. Of the rest they were told make a treaty with them, and only if cooperation could not be obtained, then they should go to war. Only the men were to be killed.
It is important to understand, when looking at the OT and the NT texts on war or fighting, that there is a difference between the two. (One is of a national, geographical kingdom that must fight for their existence and the other is a spiritual kingdom that we fight for in other ways). In the OT, Israel was fighting as a nation under God in order to establish itself in a land that had been promised; In the NT, we do not have a geographical kingdom but are part of a spiritual one and there is no need to physically fight for it. Yet we are still part of a geographical kingdom and if necessary we may need to fight for that kingdom.
Jesus on war
Jesus is especially quiet on this subject. He neither really condemns war, nor does he promote it – he does condemn individual violence, acts of aggression when persecuted for the gospel. He says to turn the other cheek, and to love your enemy. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away, saying, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”. However, Peter used that sword to protect Jesus and not in fighting a war. He had that sword because Jesus told the disciples to buy swords for themselves, not good if you believe Jesus was totally against war or protecting oneself, this command of Jesus would not make sense. He did not condemn the soldier who came to Jesus to heal his son, neither does he tell him to leave his post in the armed forces, but only commends him for his superior faith. When Jesus felt he needed to say something was he quiet about it? When Jesus walked this earth, he was definitely a peacemaker, and so should we all, but His mission, as the suffering servant was not to be a World ruler, nor to fight for position of kingship at that time but to die for humanity. Jesus had come to make peace and not to set up an earthly kingdom therefore it was not necessary for anyone to fight for him. That kingdom will come later, one that he will rule with a rod of iron, but before that there will be a war where blood will flow up to the height of a horses’ bridle – even if taken figuratively it is still a violent picture of death to millions. I think we forget the apocalyptic war that is to come. Armageddon for me, is not a picture of a “pacifist” Jesus as he comes to bring and end to evil. The good end justifies the means of evil. I know it is very consequential view, but does the defeat of the enemies of God and the annihilation of millions or eternal punishment on those who follow their world leader against Christ justify this action if Christ is all about peace. Just a thought?
To conclude, a just war is the last and final action that is to be taken. I hate war and would not subject anyone to it, however if it meant freedom and liberty for many then I personally would not object. My preferred way was that all humanity could get on without having to war, but until sin and selfishness is removed then I am not sure this is possible.
 James 4:1
 Romans 13:1-3
 1 Samuel 15:14, Joshua 5:13 (Captain of the Hosts) Exodus 15:3 (The LORD is a Man of War)
 Deuteronomy 7:1 & 2, Deuteronomy 20:10-15, 16-17 Outside the area of Canaan, keeping the women and children was no problem. Within Canaan – if it breathes, God said put it to death!
 Luke 14:31,
 Luke 22:38
 Psalms 2:9, Rev 2:27, Rev 12:5, Rev 19:15,
 Rev 14:14-20