Just War Theory was created centuries ago to create moral guidelines for nation-states and leaders to determine when the use of war is justified in pursuit of a nation’s interests. Recently, the U.S. pursued a preemptive war in Iraq based on the alleged Iraqi acquisition of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Essay on Peace: Need and Importance of Peace The issue of war and peace has always been a focal issue in all periods of history and at all to formulate and follow the principles and devices needed Is War Necessary For Peace Essay for securing this primary objective.
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Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and troops on both sides stood down, but the dangers of believing that a preemptive strike might be allowed under the Just War Theory should be obvious.
This biblical picture basically supports the just war theory. But not all Christians will agree with this picture for two reasons. First, because of disagreement over the relationship between Old and New Testaments. Generally, the Christian pacifist appeals to the New, which in his view takes us beyond the precept and example of the Old to a law of love. The just war theorist, however, is apt to see the law of love in the Old as well as the New, so that the New fulfills, reinforces and interprets the Old rather than superseding it. The law of love is a reaffirmation of the underlying spirit of the Old Testament Law, at one with the spirit of justice rather than in conflict with it. Love as well as justice requires action to protect the innocent and to repel and deter aggression.
Gratian in the twelfth century, for example, added his ideas (culled from earlier sources) that war should be formally declared and that noncombatants should be spared.
Third, the just war theory does not try to justify war. Rather it tries to bring war under the control of justice so that, if consistently practiced by all parties to a dispute, it would eliminate war altogether. It insists that the only just cause for going to war is defense against aggression. If all parties adhered to this rule, then nobody would ever be an aggressor and no war would ever occur. The basic intention of the just war theory, then, is to condemn war and to prevent it by moral persuasion. But since people will sometimes not be so persuaded, it proceeds to limit war – its occasion, its goals, its weaponry and methods – so as to reduce the evils that have not been altogether prevented.
Augustine's formulation continued to be the classic statement of the theory, though medieval writers tended to stress that Just Wars should be wars of defense.
Since then, other criteria have been advocated, including that a war that is launched should have a likelihood of success and that the means used in war must be proportionate to the ends.
As with any ethic, the just war ideal is intended to be universally binding. The Christian does not have a double standard – one for Christians and one for others. God’s moral law applies to all people everywhere, and all are held accountable (Rom. 1-3). The question, then, is not whether a Christian may fight, but whether anybody at all may fight. Of course, the Christian may still choose to go a second mile beyond what is obligatory, as is done by “vocational pacifists” who claim that Christians have a calling different from others in regard to political and military involvement. But that is a vocational claim not an ethical one, and the person called thereby to nonviolence cannot label all soldiering as ethically wrong.
Some Christian groups, most notably the Anabaptists and Quakers, adopted a pacifist position, rejecting entirely the notion that a war could be just.
Though pacifism has always been a minority position (at least since the time of Constantine), it has been generally respected even by Christians who hold to Just War doctrine.
Fourth, the just war theory insists that private individuals have no right to use force. That prerogative is rather entrusted to governments in the needful exercise of their duty to preserve peace and maintain a just order. The question to be faced, then, is strictly speaking not whether an individual, Christian or otherwise, may fight, rather it is whether government ever has the right to engage in armed conflict and whether one should participate as an agent of government in such conflicts. The answer will depend in part on how one views the political responsibilities of Christians. If Christians may properly participate in governmental tasks, and if limited uses of force are legitimate for governments, then prima facie it is right for the Christian to participate in such uses of force.