Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Terminology Tuesday: Just War Theory

Just War Theory: The ethical theory that Christians may legitimately fight in wars, but only when certain conditions are met. Those conditions include the following: the cause must be just; the war must be waged by a legitimate government; the means used must be moral; the war must be a last resort; and there must be a reasonable chance of achieving the goals of the war. The just war theory has been the dominant view about participating in war among Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed theologians.1
1. C.Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 63-64.


  1. Seth August 17, 2010

    Another great Terminology Tuesday!

    I agree with the Just War theory. If there is a war for any other reason, what would make it legitimate?

  2. Brian August 17, 2010

    In a recent Straight Thinking Podcast, Christian Philosopher Ken Samples talks about Just War Theory and relates it to WW2 and the recent HBO series "The Pacific" – he has some interesting insights. You can listen to the MP3 here.

  3. Seth August 19, 2010

    Great! I'll give it a listen.

  4. pds August 19, 2010

    Good podcast. I love how Samples relates JWT to his own father's experience of war. He makes some very interesting points about how war corrupts good people, but understands that JWT, at its heart, is about doing the greater good.


  5. truthandfriction.com September 24, 2013

    I studied JWT for my Masters' Monograph and the tradition extends quite a bit farther than just theologians and Church leaders. In 1625 a Dutch jurist named Hugo Grotius wrote a book called The Law of War and Peace, which was a systematized form of JWT. This work became the foundation for international law following the peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War. In the Modern Era, JWT as an international moral code was less influential as states generally fought for limited national interests. However, Napoleon rallied an entire people to war, so other nations followed. Then technology advanced such that when entire nations went to war casualties were tremendous (e.g. WWI and WWII). Following WWII and the introduction of nuclear weapons, JWT was resurrected (in a sense) in the writings of Paul Ramsey, Michael Walzer, and James Turner Johnson (more recent authors include Jean-Bethge Ehlstain, David Fischer, and Brian Orend). Only a couple of these names are theologians. JWT is more than just the historical view of the church–it is the foundation of international law and it is still a guide by which states judge the actions of other states.

  6. janitorialmusings September 30, 2013


    You're confusing doing the greater good with doing the lesser evil. You also confuse Jesus instruction for personal ethics with the government. Notice that one of the conditions to a just war mentioned above is "must be waged by a legitimate government".

  7. Joe K September 30, 2013


    where does it say in Jesus' teachings of this such explanation. i understand Jesus is God so what was commanded to be done in the past is the same God that commanded us to love the enemy with His love in the present and future times. I understand that there are laws of war in the Mosaic law but i also know that the same ordinances that caused hostility and separated Jew from Greek have been abolished on the Cross in this present age nearing the future.that even though the U.S is allied with the Jews as we are Greeks are not doing what God commanded as Israel is under a partial hardening and only a remnant of both sides will be saved and Perfected in Gods Love not the worlds. which you and others are confused about as you condone the death of many through your corrupted governments that are conditional. we are to instill Gods morals where we can not join forces with the world and do what they do. why would anyone want to be a christian if the christian acts like they do in there hatred? there are atheists whom are ashamed of Christians because they themselves are living non-violent lives and expected the same out of Christians knowing what unconditional meant but still lack the trust to turn to God and truly live up to the words meaning towards God and humanity.I love you so much but i know there is great confusion in this area, i only hope you are not blinded in hatred. can you honestly say that putting in your heart and thoughts that if you take a life its telling them and the world you love them with Gods love? how can someone kill whom they love unconditionally. it is like putting your family in the shoes of the enemy and condoning the same action. would you feel the same way? we are impartial in our love towards humanity so even faced with death we humble our lives over if escape is inevitable. but to never put in our hearts to kill or harm to save ones skin or others. i find priscilla and aquila displayed this sacrificial love quite well.

  8. Joe K September 30, 2013


    I'm not blinded by hatred,

    Where does Jesus talk about just war in the NT? when you decide in your heart to kill someone are you loving them with Christs' love? is not Gods love unconditional? where does Christ say to be conditional towards the enemy? when you kill someone based on a crime(sin) you are condemning them to death. when you hate another person your hatred is equivalent to a murderous heart which breaks exodus 20:13 because of Matthew 25:22 and 1 John 3:15. and sense God is not partial we are commanded not to be either, in fact it is a sin to be partial. so I will say this again sense we have only one love how is killing the enemy unconditional? Lets remember to leave our past behind, with all hatreds, hostility,malice, out bursts of anger. which is a flesh fruit in Galatians 5. and even Paul said something quite true

    Titus 3:3

    For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another

    Matthew 5:44
    But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

    in the original Greek context of this passage Matthew uses the word agapoa in place of the word love towards the enemy and according to the concordance #25 is the same meaning but the verb of agape unconditional love #26

    so you can not say that killing a sinner is just, no matter how legitimate a government is in my book all governments are immoral, unjust, unmerciful and seek peace by pursuing it with bigger and more destructive weapons, did you not know that Gods kingdom is not of this world otherwise if it were He would have had us fight to keep Him from being handed over to the Jews. this is saying a lot because sense our kingdom is not here Christ is not commanding us to fight physically against the enemy. this is one of the reasons why Peter was rebuked for trying to kill someone out of hatred. He had brotherly love towards Christ but obviously did not share the same love as Christ did towards the enemy until after Pentecost. Romans 13 is to only be followed if not Contrary to Gods morals,ethics and commands. we are to pursue peace not hostility Ephesians 2

  9. Joe K September 30, 2013

    How is the just war theory the greater Good? did not Apostle Paul teach to not do evil that good may come of it?

    Romans 3:8


    And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.

    why would most confused and even false followers call just wars the lesser evil? how is evil in itself lesser? when God sees evil as evil and sin as sin. God says in His word to shun what is evil and to cling to what is good Romans 12:9, This doctrine is far form Jesus' Heart and teachings as Christ rebuked hatred period but also when His disciples were displaying it towards people. example:James and John wanting to destroy an entire nation with fire from Heaven because they did not welcome nor accept Jesus Christ and also when they tried to keep the children from coming to Jesus but ultimately when Peter tried to kill whom Christ loved out of his conditional love for the enemy. where does Christ say to hate the enemy and just love your neighbor? where does it say to only love your spiritual family unconditionally and love your enemy conditionally? Do not have but One Love?

    Did not Christ say to love His love and to be rooted in it? Did not Christ say to imitate Him and be conformed to His image? where did Christ show such a mindset on condemning people to death? Did He not say that if you judge to condemn you will be condemned? Luke 6:37. Do people not condemn people everyday when they decide in there heart that the person is evil and must be punished to bring justice? is this not displayed in self-defense, defense of loved ones, wars and judicial systems? but where does God tell you to administer such justice? Did not God say instead to lay your life down for your friends john 15:13, that you putting yourself in harms way to protect was humble and selfless and showed Jesus' Love(Romans 16:3-4 and 1 John 3:16) but also to just judge the Church upon sin to rebuke and correct behavior and yes even enforce disciplinary actions by expulsion in hopes the action showed immense disapproval of the person actions that they would repent? 1 Cor 5:1-12 where does it say in Jesus' teaching to kill because someone is evil?

    We were all put and called out before God as sinners and could not cast that first stone to condemn because of it. Jesus being the only sinless person because He not only was not born into a fallen state but also never gave into temptation and yet did not cast that stone when the women according to Moses' Law did a crime(sin) that was punishable by death!. but His purpose sent was not to condemn but to bring reconciliation,save and set free. which is why i question all of you in the faith of your inner motives. there is but one Sin that leads to death that none of us have any right to Judge upon but God.1 john 5:16-17. the sin that leads to death is rejecting Gods salvation-The unforgivable and only God can judge upon this and give an verdict. so why are you deciding in yourself that these people have done such a thing and are playing the Judge of judges? re-examine yourself ,repent and ask God for mercy to walk you into all truth and love. I proclaim in the name of Jesus that the just war doctrine is demonic and False.