There are many different Christian teachings on warfare, and all have a significant following. However, many of these either disagree or even directly contradict one another, and therefore it is impossible for them all to be included and endorsed in one leaflet. So what I will attempt is to decide which of these are biblically and morally correct according to the Christian church and could be included in any Christian booklet on warfare. The main teachings I am going to discuss are the “Just War Theory”, which discusses the morality of war and under what circumstances it can be justified.
Pacifism, the belief that all war is wrong, and the wilful taking of human life can never be justified. Multilateral and Unilateral disarmament, and what they entail, and liberation theology; which is a Christian theory utilising the belief that warfare can be justified to liberate the oppressed from the oppressors. I will also discuss the text in the Bible, and what it permits in war as just as well as situational ethics, when Christians attempt to decide in each situation what the loving thing to do is; what action can they take that they feel their religion would deem as morally just and right.
I will also look at some specific church views, such as the Quakers, who are a church that believes in pacifism and love. The just war theory was developed in the 17th century and was written to try to make it possible for a nation to defend itself against an opposing army or to conserve human life while still complying to Christian beliefs and teachings. It separates hostilities into two classes; an armed attack against a peaceful society and an injurious action taken against the same. The first class that resulted in an armed response would be conceived as a defensive war and required “no special moral justification”.
It was seen as an involuntary act forced upon a nation. The second class, an injurious action taken against a peaceful nation, would be classified as an aggressive war, which would need to be justified. An injurious action does not directly involve death or destruction so how is it possible for a Christian to wilfully choose war as a response? The problem arises that a true Christian should want love and peace, so how can one morally choose death and destruction as an answer? Therefore there are conditions laid out to justify an aggressive war using Christian moral views and values.
These involve never intentionally killing innocents, or destroying sacred places such as churches; unless they are being used as military bases etcetera. I do not see any serious problem with the first point, although Jesus said that when oneself is attacked one should turn the other cheek, he also, when the traders were in the temple, swindling money from the poor worshipers, resorted to physicality to remove them, therefore I think that the bible would justify defending another (the people of ones nation).
If all nations never attacked another, but only defended if another attacked, then there would be no war anyway. However, I do not see how it is possible to justify attacking another nation as a response to an injurious action. An injurious action does not involve death or destruction in these circumstances, so attacking, in the knowledge that it will result in loss of life, cannot be justified unless a greater number of people are being threatened, anywhere in the bible; wars justified by God in the bible are wars of defence or wars of fighting for freedom.
Then there is pacifism; which is the opposition to war and other violence, expressed either in an organized political movement or as an individual ideology. Pacifism varies from a form that is absolute and unconditional to a relative and more practical form. Absolute pacifists are against all wars and against violence in any form whatsoever; relative pacifists are selective of the wars and violence they oppose. Most absolute pacifists stress the immorality of the taking of one person’s life by another person and can turn to many passages in the Bible to justify their beliefs.
For example; the attitude expressed by Jesus in his sermon on the mount, “happy are the peaceable, because they will be called the sons of God” and the simple commandment “thou shalt not murder” . The philosophy of pacifism has been used throughout history by Christians who believed that this was the way God had wanted man to live, but the term itself, however, did not become popular until early in the 20th century.
Absolute pacifism, the belief that all war is morally wrong, was the teaching that Jesus propounded in his sermon on the mount and was successfully practiced by Christians until the church allied itself with the Romans in the 4th century, it is also used by certain churches in their moral views; the Quakers, for instance, believe that by setting a loving example to their aggressive neighbours they can influence them towards peace and away from war. The Old Testament is, however, rife with war that is often justified or encouraged by God when his people are oppressed or attacked.
It also is a very inflexible theory; if a pacifist walked home and saw his neighbour being mugged and beaten by a stranger he could do nothing but request that the oppressor stopped. On a larger scale if a pacifist countries peaceful neighbour and trading partner was brutally attacked by a larger nation due to its oil prospects; killing their civilians and treating them like animals, all that the neighbour could do is make a complaint to a league of nations such as the UN.
This is I think a view more sensible if choosing a form of pacifism from the bible is the idea of relative pacifism; less absolute pacifists choose other codes of behaviour. Some pacifists disagree with the use of force and urge moral persuasion but also encourage passive resistance to achieve their goals.
Critics of this view contend that even passive resistance provokes frustration, resentment, and further oppression on the part of an aggressor, relative pacifists, If faced with the situation involving a weak nation being attacked by a larger nation out of greed could choose, as the morally just thing to do, to defend the weaker nations people and stop the stronger nation from overrunning them, a good example of this theory of theory is that, although Jesus said if you are hit you should present your other cheek rather than strike back; he was willing to defend the interests of the poor, and of his own father; by physically sending the swindling tradesmen out of the temple he went to worship in, he showed that he was willing to defend others; likewise relative pacifism, a Christian could defend the people in his country against an attacker and still be justified according to Jesus` own teaching.
Liberation Theology is another theory utilised by some Christians that believes that he Christian Gospel has “a preferential option for the poor, and that the church should be involved in the struggle for economic and political justice in the contemporary world-particularly in the Third World”. It basically means that a nation whose people have an oppressive government can rise up to promote equality and a fairer life. In the Bible God tells Moses to help the Israelite slaves rise up against the oppressive Egyptians; and God released the increasingly damaging plagues as the Pharaoh refused to release them, ending in the violence; the death of each first born son. This is a very clear example of the Bible justifying such an example of liberation theology.
However, since the 1980`s the church hierarchy has criticised the Liberation Theology for wrongly supporting violent revolution and Marxist class struggle, although it is possible for liberation theology to be supported using relative pacifism or even the just war theory in the correct circumstances. I believe that the bible has justified liberation theory and that it is supported by the strongest Christian teachings on warfare in correct circumstances; obviously the degree of oppression must be taken into account, as well as the action taken against the aggressor, but I believe that a Christian can justify liberation theology, whether as a form of passive or violent resistance, under terrible oppression.
Multilateral and Unilateral disarmament are to processes of disarmament, multilateral being when countries disarm together, at the same rate and Unilateral being when a single country disarms to set an example and to show it is peace-loving. There has been much debate on which of these should be employed, and the catholic church has consistently criticized unilateral disarmament and endorsed multilateral; however, I believe both are perfectly just ways of disarming, both setting an example and a desire for peace, and as Isaiah 2:4 states “And he [God] will certainly render judgement among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into ploughshares”, this could be considered as a direct order to disarm, as well as a total objection to war, and it doesn’t prefer either multi, nor unilateral disarmament.
Therefore I think I could include both in my leaflet as just ways to remove ones weapons. Situational Ethics was created during the 1960`s by a man named Joseph Fletcher. It revolves around a Christian going into every situation trying to do the most “loving” thing; this sounds simple, but what the loving thing actually is can be very varied, and needs a great deal of thought. Here is an example: A Jewish mother smothers her own crying baby in order to stop a group of hidden people being discovered by German soldiers. I feel the problem with this theory however, is that it can be the exact opposite to loving in the situations it intends to be in and decisions made are devoid of compassion or love.
If the mother had not smothered her child, it may have survived along with the group if perhaps it had become quiet; there is no certainty the soldiers would have heard it anyway and perhaps they could have escaped them if caught. However, the child died because there was a possibility that if he had continued to cry they would all become harmed. The baby was murdered. I believe situational ethics can promote a way of thinking the exact opposite to the one it strives to create, and although the bible promotes trying to be loving in each situation, I think it goes against the commandments of the bible in many situations, and there are other laws for Christians to abide by that situational ethics could contradict.. I would not put it in my leaflet.
In conclusion to what I have already written and discussed, I would include several teachings in my leaflet; relative pacifism; the desire for peace, while still being able to actively defend oneself or ones peaceful neighbour if unjustly attacked. Liberation theology, where a people, oppressed by a harsh government who use its subjects as pawns for their own pocket, whether they wither or starve, can rise up, to strive for peace and the prosperity of their citizens, and for a lasting peace between them and other countries, as a last resort. I would include both multi and unilateral forms of disarmament, as a way to move towards lasting peace, and set a peace-loving example to other nations.
What I am would like my leaflet to express is Christian a society in which a country can defend oneself against an aggressor, while still wanting peace and not being an aggressor themselves and be able to justify their actions using the Bible and Gods teachings. If all nations observed this anyway, there would be no war in the first place. I feel it is plain that if I agreed with the theory of absolute pacifism then; even if each nation but one complied, it is possible that the entire world would end ruled by the one who refused to join this peaceful society, and the entire planet would finish in a position exactly the opposite to the one originally intended. I feel a Christian booklet incorporating these theories could be satisfactorily justified by the bible in all situations and still create a safe world for everybody inhabiting it.