Would war against ISIS be just?

"Full application of just war principles does not only warrant airstrikes but a far more vigorous level of engagement as well"

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James K's picture

Just war is a myth.  We have allowed basic definitions of just and good to be manipulated into warmongering and madness.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

When definitions have been manipulated, the realities they represent are no longer the topic. So if someone argues that dogs have long trunks and weigh thousands of pounds and therefore make poor pets, we really are not talking about dogs anymore.

In the case of just war, there is a theological history of the concept. If it has been claimed but distorted beyond recognition, this has no bearing on whether the original idea is sound.

But really, it's even simpler than that. Unless we're prepared to claim that war is absolutely never justified under any circumstances, all alternatives to that are some kind of "just war" position.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Aaron wrote:
But really, it's even simpler than that. Unless we're prepared to claim that war is absolutely never justified under any circumstances, all alternatives to that are some kind of "just war" position.

I was wrong. Actually, there are a minimum of three basic categories:

  1. all war is wrong, period
  2. some war is justified according to principles
  3. ignoring morality entirely: i.e., leaders go to war simply if they can and want to

​Someone might suggest "4. leaders pretend to be acting on principle but really just can go to war and want to"... but this is really #3 in disguise.

 

Lee's picture

It is a product of sin and Satan, born in the pit of Hell, and foisted upon mankind in all its horrors since time immemorial.  Regardless of the cause or the action that triggered the war there is no such thing as a good war--the death and destruction, the raw utilization of power, etc., steal something from the soul of even the most dedicated follower of Jesus Christ.  That is just the way it is.

However, war will be around until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom of absolute peace.  Scripture makes it clear that, though war is an intrinsic evil it is also a (seemingly) necessary evil.  There is a need in any society for a warrior class that will self-sacrifice for "just" causes.  Ridding the world of Hitler's, Pol Pot's, Saddam Hussein's, etc., can very much be considered "just" causes.

War is evil because Satan is evil and it is Satan's idea.  It will be put to rest when Satan is put to rest (a time I am greatly looking forward to).  In the meantime, as with other evils, we will have to endure and occupy as those conformed to the image of Christ in a fallen world occupied by God-haters who "love death."

Avoid war if you can.  Fight smart and win if you can't.  Grieve for those who perish as those made in the image of God, but when the time comes show "no pity upon them", i.e.,  the evil ones (Dt. 7:16).

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think everyone agrees that war is an evil in the sense that in a sinless world, it would not exist, always has devastating results (along with whatever good results may have been the objective), and always includes some human beings doing detestable things (quite often contrary to orders). So in that sense, it's an evil like ebola is an evil.

But this is really not the question. The issue is the morality or immorality of making the choice to go to war under whatever conditions. To put it more concretely, is it ever right for a leader of a nation to declare war and call on citizens to engage in warfare? If so, what principles do we use to evaluate the right/wrongness of the choice.

So, in short, is it always an evil act to decide to go to war?

The distinction is important because in a society like ours, the public conversation and convictions of "the people" are influential in the policy choices leaders make.

 

Darrell Post's picture

When a citizen goes on a rampage, like the D.C. sniper several years ago now, society rightly 'goes to war' against that citizen to stop that citizen from killing more people. It would be absurd to suggest that because all war is evil, we must therefore avoid all war, and so we just let the D.C. sniper continue until he runs out of funds to buy ammo or dies of old age. There are all sorts of sizes and scales to wars, and some, if not many are no doubt are wrongly based, or partially wrongly based. But God did ordain human government as a check on sin, and part of this is to bring justice to the lawless.

Bert Perry's picture

What Darrell says, and I don't know that Augustine was that far from the Scriptures in his just war theory.  It really derives from the parable of counting the cost Jesus makes, as well as Romans 13.  The question with ISIS is whether we can destroy or contain them with an investment that's not bigger than the cost of leaving them alone.

And speaking of the atrocities they've just committed, it would do my heart good to see one of their little stunts "adversely interrupted" by the Marines.  .50 Browning right through the head of the guy right as he lifts the knife and starts talking.....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bob Nutzhorn's picture

 Romans 13:1-4   Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

I am not sure that it would theologically correct to say that war is evil based on these verses. It would appear to me that war - the judgment of God upon bad conduct carried out by God's ordained bodies. Now the question would be, who gets to decide who has bad conduct and who is responsible for carrying out that judgment on the world stage. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

It seems like saying "Just war is a myth" has some implications for our doctrine of God. I had a class once with a person who said they couldn't believe in a God that would command the killing of the Canaanites.

James K's picture

Jim wrote:

 

James K wrote:

 

Just war is a myth.  We have allowed basic definitions of just and good to be manipulated into warmongering and madness.

 

 

?s for James K

1. Not a chance

2. Yes

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Larry wrote:

It seems like saying "Just war is a myth" has some implications for our doctrine of God. I had a class once with a person who said they couldn't believe in a God that would command the killing of the Canaanites.

Sigh.  Apparently rejecting augustinian nonsense is now on par with questioning the biblical revelation of God.  I need a nap.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

When a citizen goes on a rampage, like the D.C. sniper several years ago now, society rightly 'goes to war' against that citizen to stop that citizen from killing more people. It would be absurd to suggest that because all war is evil, we must therefore avoid all war, and so we just let the D.C. sniper continue until he runs out of funds to buy ammo or dies of old age. There are all sorts of sizes and scales to wars, and some, if not many are no doubt are wrongly based, or partially wrongly based. But God did ordain human government as a check on sin, and part of this is to bring justice to the lawless.

The NT makes provision for both self defense and a government protecting the innocent while punishing the guilty.

Warmongering is a sin specifically named in the NT.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Lee wrote:

It is a product of sin and Satan, born in the pit of Hell, and foisted upon mankind in all its horrors since time immemorial.  Regardless of the cause or the action that triggered the war there is no such thing as a good war--the death and destruction, the raw utilization of power, etc., steal something from the soul of even the most dedicated follower of Jesus Christ.  That is just the way it is.

However, war will be around until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom of absolute peace.  Scripture makes it clear that, though war is an intrinsic evil it is also a (seemingly) necessary evil.  There is a need in any society for a warrior class that will self-sacrifice for "just" causes.  Ridding the world of Hitler's, Pol Pot's, Saddam Hussein's, etc., can very much be considered "just" causes.

War is evil because Satan is evil and it is Satan's idea.  It will be put to rest when Satan is put to rest (a time I am greatly looking forward to).  In the meantime, as with other evils, we will have to endure and occupy as those conformed to the image of Christ in a fallen world occupied by God-haters who "love death."

Avoid war if you can.  Fight smart and win if you can't.  Grieve for those who perish as those made in the image of God, but when the time comes show "no pity upon them", i.e.,  the evil ones (Dt. 7:16).

I agree with the majority of this, but do not ever call our war efforts just.

God has in the past ordered war to be carried out by Israel.  God has called on other nations to punish Israel and then punished those nations for what they did.

Theory is fun, but let's not ignore the NT: James 1:20 - for man's anger does not accomplish God's righteousness.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Bert Perry's picture

James, what about "better than the alternative" instead of "just"?

That said, it's worth noting that Romans 13 notes that the "king" or human government does act in God's place to avenge the deeds of wicked men, which would imply that in certain cases, war is indeed just.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

James K wrote:

 

Darrell Post wrote:

 

When a citizen goes on a rampage, like the D.C. sniper several years ago now, society rightly 'goes to war' against that citizen to stop that citizen from killing more people. It would be absurd to suggest that because all war is evil, we must therefore avoid all war, and so we just let the D.C. sniper continue until he runs out of funds to buy ammo or dies of old age. There are all sorts of sizes and scales to wars, and some, if not many are no doubt are wrongly based, or partially wrongly based. But God did ordain human government as a check on sin, and part of this is to bring justice to the lawless.

 

 

The NT makes provision for both self defense and a government protecting the innocent while punishing the guilty.

Warmongering is a sin specifically named in the NT.

These answers, with just the last quoted here, seem to be at odds with your first post in this thread where you said:

James K wrote:
Just war is a myth.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Darrell Post's picture

"The NT makes provision for both self defense and a government protecting the innocent while punishing the guilty."

And this is very often labeled with the term "war."

Larry's picture

Moderator

Sigh.  Apparently rejecting augustinian nonsense is now on par with questioning the biblical revelation of God.  I need a nap.

Perhaps you just need to address the issue you created with your statement. If you think "Just war is a myth," then explain how OT wars commanded by God do not compromise God. Or if you think that the OT wars were just wars, then don't make a categorical statement that denies it. But whichever course you choose, don't blame others for your own failure to be clear in your communication.

It appears that you are not against the concept of just war. So it appears that your statement was an incorrect representation of your views.

James K's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

"The NT makes provision for both self defense and a government protecting the innocent while punishing the guilty."

And this is very often labeled with the term "war."

Darrell, I recognize that wars can be used to prevent a greater atrocity.  That doesn't make it just though.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

James, what about "better than the alternative" instead of "just"?

That said, it's worth noting that Romans 13 notes that the "king" or human government does act in God's place to avenge the deeds of wicked men, which would imply that in certain cases, war is indeed just.

Rom 13 does not state that the king or government acts justly.  Possession of the sword does not make just one's actions with it.

The focus here is on the concept of just, not the concept of war.  War is hell.  War is horrible.  War does not work out the righteousness (justness) of God.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Larry wrote:

Sigh.  Apparently rejecting augustinian nonsense is now on par with questioning the biblical revelation of God.  I need a nap.

Perhaps you just need to address the issue you created with your statement. If you think "Just war is a myth," then explain how OT wars commanded by God do not compromise God. Or if you think that the OT wars were just wars, then don't make a categorical statement that denies it. But whichever course you choose, don't blame others for your own failure to be clear in your communication.

It appears that you are not against the concept of just war. So it appears that your statement was an incorrect representation of your views.

Of course Larry, you jump to absurdity and it was my fault for not entertaining every possible interpretation you could come up with.

Doing what you are told to do does not make you just.

Driving the speed limit doesn't make you a just driver.  It means you aren't guilty.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Larry's picture

Moderator

James, I didn't jump to absurdity and I didn't come up with that interpretation. You may not be aware, but many people object to the OT (and indeed Christianity itself) on the basis of the Canaanite genocide being an unjust war. I disagree with that, and you probably do to. And that's why I brought it up. You made a categorical statement that denies the justice of God as presented in the OT. I don't think you intended that. Perhaps you simply didn't think through it as you made your statement. But It seems that one either has to agree with at least the concept of just war or say that God is unjust. I don't see a third option. Perhaps you know of one. In the end, one can argue that there has never been a just war in modern history (something that might be true), but a categorical case that "just war is a myth" is problematic.

Bert Perry's picture

James, if human government acts as God's agent, would we not assume that some of the times they bear the sword in war, it must be just?  If we do not concede this, we are not merely impugning national governments, but our Lord!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

James K's picture

Bert, God used the Assyrians in the OT to punish Israel.  They were his "agent" as you put it.  However, God also punished them for their acts against Israel.  Did God punish them for being just?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Larry wrote:

James, I didn't jump to absurdity and I didn't come up with that interpretation. You may not be aware, but many people object to the OT (and indeed Christianity itself) on the basis of the Canaanite genocide being an unjust war. I disagree with that, and you probably do to. And that's why I brought it up. You made a categorical statement that denies the justice of God as presented in the OT. I don't think you intended that. Perhaps you simply didn't think through it as you made your statement. But It seems that one either has to agree with at least the concept of just war or say that God is unjust. I don't see a third option. Perhaps you know of one. In the end, one can argue that there has never been a just war in modern history (something that might be true), but a categorical case that "just war is a myth" is problematic.

Okay Larry, I will play along.  The rejection of the just war theory does in fact have implications for our doctrine of God.  Moving right along...

I am very much aware of how people spin the OT record into all kinds of mad positions.

And here is your error

Quote:
You made a categorical statement that denies the justice of God as presented in the OT. I don't think you intended that. Perhaps you simply didn't think through it as you made your statement.

I did no such thing.  The rejection of the just war theory, advanced by augustine, is not the same as denying the justice of God in the OT.  Sigh.  I don't think you intended on making such a logical fallacy into absurdity.  Perhaps you simply didn't think through it as you made your statement.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Bert Perry's picture

James K wrote:

Bert, God used the Assyrians in the OT to punish Israel.  They were his "agent" as you put it.  However, God also punished them for their acts against Israel.  Did God punish them for being just?

As I read the prophets, Assyria and Babylon were not punished for invading Israel, but for idolatry and barbarous cruelty forbidden as conduct of war in the Torah.   

Really, if we are to claim that there is no such thing as just war, we have to assume God was wrong to tell Israel to destroy the Amalekites, Ai, Jericho, and the rest of the Canaanites, Hivites, Amorites, and such in the conquest of Israel.    Not buying it, James.  National governments can be God's agents to wage a just war--the question is not whether there is such a thing as just war, but whether the war as it is is conducted in a just way.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

James K wrote:

 

Bert, God used the Assyrians in the OT to punish Israel.  They were his "agent" as you put it.  However, God also punished them for their acts against Israel.  Did God punish them for being just?

 

 

As I read the prophets, Assyria and Babylon were not punished for invading Israel, but for idolatry and barbarous cruelty forbidden as conduct of war in the Torah.   

Really, if we are to claim that there is no such thing as just war, we have to assume God was wrong to tell Israel to destroy the Amalekites, Ai, Jericho, and the rest of the Canaanites, Hivites, Amorites, and such in the conquest of Israel.    Not buying it, James.  National governments can be God's agents to wage a just war--the question is not whether there is such a thing as just war, but whether the war as it is is conducted in a just way.

Not to mention the supposed error in God's decision to return one day to wage the final war.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
And here is your error
Where's the error?

You said categorically, "Just war is a myth." You did not present any qualifications to it. Here's the simple case against your statement.

  • All war is unjust (the denial of just war; the converse construction of "Just war is a myth").
  • God commanded Israel to go to war against Canaan.
  • Therefore God commanded unjust war.

If that is true that just war is a myth, then Israelite wars against Canaanites were unjust, and since they were commanded by God, God commanded something unjust. I think there are some implications there for the doctrine of God, and you seem to agree in your reply to me. So I don't think I made a logical fallacy or an absurdity, and you don't seem to think so either since you seem to agree with me. The logic is sound. You would have to dispute one of the premises.

In your original statement, youu said, "We have allowed basic definitions of just and good to be manipulated into warmongering and madness." This is the very thing that the just war theory, in principle, prevents. The just war theory is not ironclad if for no other reason it is always used (or abused) by sinful men. And your statement appeals to that, namely, that "just war" claims are not truly just; they are are warmongering and madness at times. Nonetheless, the state that "just war is a myth" is inaccurate. The debate is, or at least should be, about the particulars of just war, and how they apply to a given situation.

James K's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

 

James K wrote:

 

Bert, God used the Assyrians in the OT to punish Israel.  They were his "agent" as you put it.  However, God also punished them for their acts against Israel.  Did God punish them for being just?

 

 

As I read the prophets, Assyria and Babylon were not punished for invading Israel, but for idolatry and barbarous cruelty forbidden as conduct of war in the Torah.   

Really, if we are to claim that there is no such thing as just war, we have to assume God was wrong to tell Israel to destroy the Amalekites, Ai, Jericho, and the rest of the Canaanites, Hivites, Amorites, and such in the conquest of Israel.    Not buying it, James.  National governments can be God's agents to wage a just war--the question is not whether there is such a thing as just war, but whether the war as it is is conducted in a just way.

Bert, there is more to the story than what you put.  God punished the agent nations for coming against Israel, when he commanded they come against Israel.

The government has the authority of the sword.  Governments are not absolved from the guilt of murder and warmongering simply because they have the right of the sword.  A parent is not absolved from child abuse simply because he has the God given right to discipline.  Many, many government leaders will be held to account for murder and warmongering.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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