A Christian View of War – Part II

  • The “Just War” tradition has been the dominant Christian viewpoint on war since the fourth century A.D. Two of the earliest Church fathers to formulate the Just War position were Ambrose of Milan and Augustine of Hippo (circa 300’s A.D.)
  • The Just War Tradition historically focuses on eight guiding principles for determining when human governments may rightly engage in warfare.
  • Just Cause – The only justifiable war is a defensive war. Wars of aggression, started for the purpose of gaining territory, promoting an ideology, or acquiring wealth are not considered just.
  • Just Intent – The objective of a defensive war must always be the restoration of peace and the defense of innocent human life.
  • Last Resort – All efforts at peace, negotiation, and compromise must have failed. Waging war should never be the first option.
  • Formal Declaration of War – Only a properly authorized authority can declare war and a formal declaration of war must be clearly stated.
  • Limited Objectives – Since peace is the ultimate goal of a just war, the unconditional surrender or total destruction of an enemy are not legitimate objectives.
  • Proportionate Means – The weaponry used in warfare and the degree of force must be limited to what is necessary to secure a just peace.
  • Noncombatant Immunity – The use of force should discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Civilians and prisoners of war should be guaranteed immunity.
  • Reasonable Hope for Success – A defensive war against aggression must have a reasonable hope of securing peace for it to be considered just.
  • The reality of warfare is one of the tragic consequences of living in a fallen and sinful world. However, God promises us that a day is coming when “Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4:3).
  • Until that day, however, in those sad chapters of human history when warfare and terror are thrust upon us, the Just War Tradition provides a moral compass that can guide our governmental leaders when considering the possibility of war.

For more information on this and other important cultural issues, please check out the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, available in our online store.