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September 26, 2006



I very much appreciate Caroline's comment that advocates of both pacifism and the just war theory have the same goal in mind - a world of peace and justice. I think it's interesting that in attempting to find a middle ground we seem to end up with more questions than answers. And I don't think this is a negative thing as I'm not really sure we ourselves can achieve world peace short of Jesus' return and establishment of the 'new Jerusalem' (however you believe that will come about).
Now, I'm not necessarily indifferent about which end of the perspective is ‘right’, but I guess in a sense I am - either way people end up dying so one view cannot claim to be more just than the other. Perhaps I’m really trying to say that I’m in this middle ground…

Nicolas Legler

To be honest, I don't really see the difference between your "middle-ground" - position and the "just war" - position. The JWT states that an engagement into a violent conflict has to be justifiable by certain criterias, making sure that there is an "ethically pure purpose" behind it. For Christians, these principles will always have the protection or restoration of justice and love as a goal. This is exactly what Christian JWT hold: the engagement in a armed conflict is permissible under these circumstances.

I think what you call the "middle ground" - position is rather a rediscussion and redefinition of the JWT - criterias. Are these criterias inline with our theology and still applicable to the ever - changing world conflict situation...? The original Augustinian' criterias are for sure not anymore...

This is the kind of discussion that we Christians should engage in today.

Anna B Chandra

I believe that justice and love goes hand in hand. We are called for love and compassion, and the fact is that pure love affects justice in one way or another. In the same way as we seek God’s will, we need to realize that God’s revelation and our present situation/reality belong together.

In regards to this I appreciate Quek’s comment on the “middle ground,” but as Legler questioned, what’s the difference concerning the JWT? JWT comes down to three conditions relating to the beginning, the conduct and the end of a war:

(1) Its cause must be righteous.
(2) Its means must be controlled.
(3) Its outcome must be predictable.

Once again we end up with more questions than answers. But as for Christians, love motivates the pursuit of justice, so what’s the contradiction?

Chris Morrison

I have a slight disagreement with Quek which while bordering on semantics does really make an iota of difference.

The issue concerns her assertion that the difference between the Just war theorists and pacifists is a different view of the depravity of mankind i instead would side with stephen wall and say that the issue is in fact a conflicting view of the depravity of self.

I can say first hand that pacifism does not rely on a high view of man it takes however a solemn view of oneself and as H richard niebuhr points out in "the wisdom of doing nothing" there is within me the capacity to be a monster also and recognizing that i can do nothing other, that does not risk additional wasted lives than pray, rely on God and protest non-violently human aggression.

In short the pacifist position is none other than one which sees the depravity and says, "there but for the grace of God go I"

Blake Nuto

The challenge for us as individuals and the Church today is how can we maintain a healthy balance and respond to issues of war in a way that is true to our understanding of God and our theology?

Caroline is write in asking this quetion. I feel the church has never been so far from a balance between love and justice. We will preach John 15:15, 'Jesus wants to be your friend!' But forget that obedience is the precursor to friendship. We will tell the sinner of the fareaching love of God, yet forget the terrible price of the cross that came before we could be made acceptable to God. Will we also forget the seeming 'atrocities' supported by God in order to achieve his purposes through Israel?

I do not believe that God wished to see these 'innocent' slaughtered at the hands of his childrens. But we are so free to use the term innocent, do we forget the awful consequences of the Fall. I do not believe that God wished to kill his Son if it did not have to happen, but it is what had to happen to achieve his purposes.

As Ray Charles sais, 'There's gnna be hard times', so Jesus said 'there will be many Wars'. In order to execute justice we must be careful in what we will label justice. So to must we always be willing to think of the other over ourselves. But the need for justice in a fallen world is inseperable from the call to love. We witness this on the hill of Golgotha, where God's love and justice meet.

Rachel Haynes

I appreciate that a common ground was initially established, for essentially all believers do agree that justice and peace are what we desire. Yes, ideally we would desire a world free from war and destruction, yet in honesty, war is inevitable.
I would agree that war may not be what God would desire yet we can’t get so caught up in fighting against war that we give no value to those suffering in the midst of that war.
To not fight back against that which takes freedom is freedom lost and that would be a great fault.
The use of a ‘just’ war is interesting, as I would imagine that you would be able to put that label on any war, for all around the world injustice is taking place and where there is war there are ample reasons of injustice to make war against.

james dunlop

It seems to me that the apparent need for, and our inability to find the middle ground is sentral to and goes a short way of defining the situation that we as redeemed (and fallen)humanity find ourselves situated in and it doesn't seem to be a position that looks like changing anytime soon. The dynamic between the Church with a mandate of love, to apply to a fallen world, with no constant factors, except its brokeness to attach our theology to seems to me to be the central factor to developing a theology between Christian love and real, tangible justice. How do we promote Justice and love at the same time?? blake's quote catches the problem in the slightest flash of the cross of calvery, that the seemingly paradox of love and justice merge in tremendous violence on the cross, the problem between love and justice is only a problem if we feel the need to let one of the options define our answer, perhaps the question will change if we embrace the paradox which is faith outworked


Throughout reading on the topic of ‘war and peace’, I understand a contradiction between a love command by Jesus and the battle done by Israelite in the OT. In terms of pacifism, Jesus will be the best example of a radical agapeic love and of redeemed life, opposing retribution and violence. However, the Gospels showed that Jesus drove out people in selling and overturned their tables as he reached Jerusalem and entered the court.(Mark 11:15) We cannot talk that Jesus was still calm and did no violence. Obviously, he was violently angry and so aggressive towards those who made a house of God as a den of robbers in a picture of this passage. (11:18) During Jesus’ ministry, he constantly blamed Pharisees and had attitude against them. He was not in defensible position towards injustice although he was so merciful and loved sinners.

On the other hands, JWT has also showed its weakness how we justify war. Although there are some conditions listed up by JWT to justify war, it seems to next to impossible to implement all conditions in terms of practice. It is like an armchair theory for me to present the conditions of a just war in the midst of the reality of people’s lives.

Now, as we look at ‘war and peace’ according to eschatological perspective and struggle to present the coming age in this age, we are still unsure about how to solve contradiction we see above. If war is consequence of the sin of humanity and peace is God's desire and expectation of presenting the coming kingdom in this age, we still have to consider how we solve both of them together and how we engage in the work of ministry which represents the coming kingdom in this age. I think there is no black and white answer this, or such a ethical question. As seeing this war & peace topic, I always think that it's kind of problem between human free will and sovereignty of God. From this point of view, it can be said that wars or battles in OT were ultimately conducted by God and different from today's war we have seen. I am not sure whether Christian should stand on pacifism or JWT, I understand God calls us to be in the Battle, which is not physical, but spiritual. (Eph 6:12) Although we need to participate in social ministry as part of pursuing the kingdom of God on earth, I personally do not believe that a just war is a part of that because it has never pursued peace in human history.

Cynthia Asante

The quote of Niebuhr gives a positive effect on war and peace. He made a good state by giving a distinction between justice and love. The fact that love involves justice is something that can give an understanding of why the need of war can be important. Even though I still don’t see and understand how war can bring peace to the nations, this description of Niebuhr has brought me to the point of looking for the middle ground. The possibility of looking from both sides by finding a way out how war can bring peace is something that the individual have to see for themselves.

Rochelle Randall

Can you really justify war? The Wikipedia encyclopaedia was a “Just war refers to the concept of warfare as being justified, typically in accordance with a particular situation, or scenario, and expanded or supported by reference to doctrine, politics, tradition, or historical commentary.” I would have to agree with Stephen’s stance and question about a just war.

Today there is war happening all around us.. the question then asked should be, is its cause able to be justified as warfare. Is it about defending against an external attack, recapturing things that were taken, or even punishing people who have done wrong. When it comes down to it I think violence needs to be the last resort. Even though it is mans sinful nature that causes war.. we need to defend the helpless against injustice. We need to as Christians play our part in assisting justice being outworked.

At a US Catholic Conference in 1993 a statement was made saying: "Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations"

Because of our fallenness and living in an agae of the not yet not yet

I like what Blake said…

“A just war will never exist but a fight for justice must, by whatever selfless means necessary.”

Great intries people. I'm inspired.
Wow. There is nothing new under the sun. when I watched the documentary and read the article that Stephan Wall offered as links before his Just War article that talk about Chavez and the U.S. Government I laughed so hard! People are people...are people. I heard a few weeks ago that President Chavez spoke right after George Bush in a press conference and basically started his speech by saying he could still smell the sulfur of the Devil himself who was standing at the podium before him(meaning George Bush). Long story short: Chavez had increased the price of oil exported from his country as a revolutionary act against the unjust flow of revenue that benefited America instead of his people. But I couldn't help but hear the war woops and smell clean freshly openned tea as on the night of Dec 16, 1773 the Early American Revolutionists boarded the, what were his exact words again? Oh, yeah, "Evil empire's" ships in the Boston Harbour and threw out the crates of tea to make a clear statement: "No taxation without representation!" Sound familiar? To make it even more similar to the "evil" happening to Chavez's people, do you know how Lord North (go the pommies)responded to this "resistence"? In 1773 He put in place what he called "Coersion Acts" to literally force his business monopolly idea to work. This sparked even more resistence among American revolutionists and if 1776 means anything to you, the rest is history. It's EXACTLY the same as what's happening in Venezueala only they are now the angels and America is the "evil" and "greedy" empire. It's what I like to sum up with one word: People. When Jesus Christ died on the cross he did NOTHING to change the nature of the people he created. Thus solutions to keep peace like: "Seek to realize universal love through true concern for the well being of others, even enemies..." or a focus on "not physical but spiritual" does not deal with the reality of "people". To live by "peaceful" convictions and assume others will do the same might make you look good, but it doesn't bring peace to the world anymore than telling the whole world that speeding kills will replace the need for law enforcement on our roads. When Christ abolished the law, it was in how it affected salvation and what makes us justified to receive it. It did not, in any way, suddenly replace the need for law in the world. Not being bound to "the law" in how we receive salvation is totally different than abolishing the need for law and how it supports a "just" society. And what part Christians play in supporting what a government calls "just".
Thus when considering the question of how to find resolve between "War" and "Peace" I believe it's more to do with the Roman 13 issue that the early church needed reminding of than the question of how to love everyone and use nonviolence to handle unloving and violent people. It's like the unclimactic question that Caroline Quek brings up about the possibility of using nonviolence to stop Nazizm in 1939--before so much violence killed so many people. Could it be that both world domination AND freedom must be placed in the same category as costing too much in order to be possibly perceived as "just" or "in God's will"? Terrorism cost nothing. Freedom cost everything. Is the Freedom we are to live in Christ, therefore, to be completely separate from the "Freedom" a few Western Countries are said to enjoy at such a bloody and greedy cost? Interesting.

Therefore, the beauty and sweetness of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution is, perhaps, not a glimpse of what the world can be if it would suddenly grasp the Christ-like example of thousands of Christians who are actively showing the world that violence isn't the answer. It is simply the begginnings of the rize and eminent failure of "people" who are and will always succomb to the weakness of Humannature themselves or be nuked by the ones who just don't care. Look at history. How long before Chavez's government is corrupt? 20 years? 100 years?. Imperfect people trying to respond to imperfect people.

Matthew Straw

Paraphrasing Holmes, Caroline writes, ‘Love motivates the pursuit of justice[11].’ However I feel this whole argument needs to go a step further. I believe a more biblical and thorough statement would be, ‘Love motivates the pursuit of life’(John 3:16, Genesis 2:7), and as God has so faithfully demonstrated (especially through his son), if it requires justice then so be it.

From the earliest pages of the Old Testament we see love that leads to life through the means of justice. In the beginning chapters of Leviticus, the love of God desires life in his people to such an extent that innocent animals are killed in place for the peoples sins. God’s love could only be expressed and life would only come through the means of death - justice for sin. God’s love for his people was so great that even the death of a part of his creation was justified in His sight, if it was to bring life.

Justice is not an end in itself. We do not act justly, and nor does God, in order to keep our conscience clear. Justice is not about us but about others. Justice serves a purpose, it is a means to an end. The end of love is life. Love always offers life. If it has to go through justice then by all means - it will.

Andrew Rumende

While we are still busy discussing on the topics of war in Iraq, the world are strike again with the newest nuclear test by North Korea’s military. It seems that creating a world of peace become lesser to be a reality, as “nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom” (Matt 24:7). The United States has condemned North Korea’s action in doing a test on nuclear weapon which could be a weapon for mass destruction. Will the US take an action in dealing this situation? Will they declare a war against North Korea just like what they did to Iraq?
This issue made me thinks on the problem of just war theory. Will the USA take an action towards North Korea in the name of just war? On this case it seems that this theory is really a narrowed down definition for a specific group only. Justice doesn’t seem to be the reason for one nation to rise against another nation, but rather it’s the matter of power and world domination. The Bible has warned us that at the last days, love towards other will fade and people will become selfish, justice will be strictly selfish. That is what happening nowadays!
So can love and justice go hand in hand? Yes but if it is only with God’s eternal love, unselfish love, pure love. Human being’s love is so fake and selfish, no community orientation will ever come out of it. What the world needs now is that pure love that comes from us as Christians.

Wee Kim Suan

Pacifism and the Iraq War
By Wee Kim Suan

Every major religion in the world today has ever but focused on the essence of peace, brotherhood and harmony. For Christianity, this should be no different.

Pacifism is the opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes. Often, it utilizes non-violent methods to achieve similar objectives, rather than killing others in the name of war, country or government.

It is essential for a Christian – for every Christian – to empathise for the casualties of war, rather than the purpose and motivation for such atrocities.

The Iraq War is one such case where women all around the world struggle for their voice of Pacifism to be heard. This feminist pacifism focuses on the female victims of war: the mothers, sisters, daughters and widowed wives of dead soldiers.

For the women thrown into the center of the war – particularly the Iraqi women – this will only compound the oppression and suffering by killing and maiming them and their families, leaving them with homes destroyed and the burden to rebuild their lives.

Other reasons for feminists to oppose the war is for the women’s liberation to be possibly despite the division of racism and nationalism.

There is always little mention of the Iraqi civilians that are killed in the war, let alone the 500,000 Iraqi children accounted in losses in what the government calls necessary ‘collateral damage’.

The Gospels tell of Jesus teaching about meekness, implying to the readiness to suffer unjustly. Christ taught us about the humble willingness to turn the other cheek when struck, the act of unselfish love and forgiveness to even our enemies.

The Law of Love is what the Old and New Testament ethics is about; a compassion love that works for justice and peace. We are position here for a reason. Our purpose in our Christian life is to stand for justice in a world filled with adversity, inequality and unfairness. It is indeed God’s ultimate purpose in human history for everyone – regardless of race, sex and nation – to live in Love and peace.

Love motivates justice; therefore we should use force as a last resort until all else fail; moral persuasion and negotiation. As rational beings we should settle disputes as peace loving being.

In conclusion, to work for peace is not just to protest against war. The true purpose of pacifism is to alleviate the injustices that stir conflict and to heal all those who suffered from the war, all in the end striving for the united love and harmony of all humanity.

Caroline Quek

Thank you everyone for the posts. It has been really enriching learning the wide variety of opinions regarding this topic. Gathering the thoughts, I would say that most (if not all) Christians return to the idea of the amazing and incomprehensive love of our Almighty God.

Relating what we know to what is happening in our world today, how should we, as Christians/the church respond to the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea? Is the most loving thing to approach North Korea by force, or to negotiate and to pray for them hoping for the best to happen?

"The Catholic Church in Korea firmly refuses any form of violence" while other churches respond in a way that avoids criticizing the communist governments by emphasizing on environmental issues, more so now since Russia has detected radioactivity in the air of North Korea. (

Would complete non-violence be the most effective way to handle this situation as Kim Jong II parades his defiance openly? On the other hand, do all these reasons satisfy the criterias that enable us to engage in a just war?

Doreen van der Spek

The reason I am challenged in supporting either one of the viewpoints is for this reason: "Do pacifists place a higher value on the purity of conscience than on saving other’s life?" Yes, I am 'anti' war, but at the same time I am so for saving someone else's life. So what are my options then? A middle ground I guess. I am not sure what that looks like though, and whilst being provided with arguments for and against both viewpoints, I am still not sure what the middle ground will practically look like.

David McAuley

I agree with Caroline when she says “Christians do not all agree about the practical consequences of Christ’s teaching regarding war, but no Christian disagrees about Christ’s longing for a world committed to peace and justice.” Unfortunately we live in a fallen world, a world where peace and justice do not always prevail, so what should we do when we realize that people are suffering from war and injustice, again Caroline is correct to say “telling people who are trying to stay alive in the midst of war today, the ideal of love, may not be very practical,” but invading their country and placing troops with all their war machinery can be just as impractical and dangerous, (If not more so). I am against violence and war, but if push came to shove, and people under my care came under threat, then I know which one I would choose (the war machine).

Pacifism can be active and at time very successful, but one of the problems with it, as Chris points out, (and I think I can align myself with this), “pacifism does not rely on a high view of man it takes however a solemn view of oneself,” I don’t agree with the statement he makes when defining the pacifist position. “Pacifist position is none other than one which sees the depravity and says, "There but for the grace of God go I." Pacifism can be a powerful tool if used correctly, and as history has shown, it can bring down empires. However, when pacifism comes up against extremely evil and deadly situations, it’s not hard to defeat. In an ideal world, free from sin and evil and connected to God, then pacifism would work every time, but we don’t live in this environment and therefore we need to find a solution that allows us to deal with war.

The problem I have with Caroline’s comment on the church supporting the state is that you have to believe the state is telling the truth. Caroline goes on to comment on the 1991 Gulf war and its reasoning. However as the 2004 gulf war has shown, the state clearly lied to its citizens, as no weapons of mass destruction were found. I myself have travelled extensively around Europe and the US and have seen first hand the propaganda that is being fed to the citizens of all these countries. So should Christians fight when the state is clearly spinning the truth, or should we challenge our governments, to find out what the truth really looks like?

Finally, the problem with JWT is that it is seen to be permissible if it meets the three criteria’s. However, it is totally impossible to enter into a war and say categorically that these criteria’s can be met, (without hindsight or prophetic word) so what do we (Christians) do? Is there another option? As Blake says “a just war will never exist but a fight for justice must, by whatever selfless means necessary.” For to stand by and do nothing is “not to love”, but as Blake says, “we must be careful of what we label justice”. In applying it we must never forget our reason for doing it (true love)

I don’t know where the middle ground is, or what it looks like but from a personal perspective, I tend to examine my own conscience and have learned to live with my decisions (no matter what). I think education could help us a lot in our quest to find the answers. When it comes to foreign countries, cultures, their people and their problems, we are grossly ignorant and maybe, just maybe, if we took the time to understand the culture and problems these people face, we could find an alternative to invasion. War is complex, and it is fought on many levels and for many differing reasons, (Greed, poverty, hunger, freedom, etc.) maybe if we just took a little time and attempted to understand the reasons we may find an alternative to war.


One of Caroline's most interesting comments was to me the issue of maintaining Pacificm and "Relevance to society today. Telling people who are trying to stay alive in the midst of war today, the ideal of love, may not be very practical"
I truly aggree. The church has to speak into society, but does that mean that we accept a just war theory instead of holding to a higher ideal of love?
I appreciate the attempt to find a middle ground. While of course it does closely resemble Just War Theory I find the ideal of this middle ground intruiging.
Does it exist? I'm not sure? Does it matter? I guess.
Just War theory also states that War is only to be the final step, it is sometimes a necessary evil. To say that war is ever 'good' I think presses the issue to far. To maintain that while bad it is necessary, is another story.
David Macauly wrote,
"maybe if we just took a little time and attempted to understand the reasons we may find an alternative to war."
Yet I think that many times alternatives are tried and fail.
Perhaps if Britian and the US had quit stalling and negotiating with dishonest dictators WW2 could have finished before it involved the entire world?
I guess I do take the just war position. Yet I would hate to see war, I would hate to watch my brother (who wants to enlist next year) be sent to die... My ideal is peace but I don't think this world can experience it.
If we are to accept the just war theory, does this immediately put the responsibility upon us to be the first to stand up and fight for what we believe. If we believe that war is right in the situation, do we then send other people off to fight for what we believe in while we stay piously praying in church? Ok it is a question for the next post but it intruiges me.

David McAuley


I agree that many times alternatives are tried, and many times they fail, but does that mean we stop trying. My actual quote said “When it comes to foreign countries, cultures, their people and their problems, we are grossly ignorant and maybe, just maybe, if we took the time to understand the culture and problems these people face, we could find an alternative to invasion. War is complex, and it is fought on many levels and for many differing reasons, (Greed, poverty, hunger, freedom, etc.) maybe if we just took a little time and attempted to understand the reasons we may find an alternative to war.”

I don’t believe that Mr Bush understood anything about the culture and/or problems of the Iraqi people, nor did he want to. As for the outcome, the Iraqi people live in a more frightening situation today than they ever did under the old regime. If we are going to put up an argument for “Just War” then let’s look carefully at the criteria. If we do this we can see that it is almost, if not totally impossible, to follow.

I still believe (sadly) that war can sometimes be justified, when all else fails. WW2 is a bad example, if my memory serves me right, the British Prime Minister (Chamberlain) was hoodwinked by Hitler in Munich 1938, as for America well they only entered the war after Pearl Harbour 8th Dec 1941, and The US 8th Army Air force only began to arrive in the United Kingdom during the late Spring/early Summer of 1942 and the US Army began to arrive later. I don’t know who the USA was negotiating with, but it wasn’t Hitler. I do agree that had Chamberlain and Roosevelt shown a determined and strong leadership in 1938/9 things could have been different, possibly a shorter WW2 or maybe none at all. Maybe if more people piously prayed, more often, things could be different. Maybe if greed was preached about more often, and prosperity less, then the western world (and church) could come to understand how much our wealth, justifies and drives our thinking. (Just a thought)

jared shaw

i appreciate the efforts to pursue or explore the idea of a middle ground. it would seem that balance in this life is essential. the question i raise is not whether or not one end of this debate is the right one, but whether in attempting to find a middle ground, we are only trying to please others and/or uncomplicate things. perhaps a middle ground can be found, but our motives for finding it are suspicious indeed. finding this middle ground is almost a pacivist approach in its desire not to take a stand at either end of the spectrum but only sit on the fence. perhaps that is lukewarmness? or perhaps it really is wisdom? personally i appreciate this quest for a middle ground.. but i realise (UNFORTUNATELY) my first motive for doing so is out of my pacifist nature.. i do not desire to offend people.. and in doing so i may miss out on helping people too... either way, great article.

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