Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Greater Love & Your Enemies

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies ...... Matthew 5:43

Both of these verses are very often quoted individually. I'd like to suggest that a deeper meaning could possibly be found by merging them together. Jesus said in the first verse that the greatest possible way to show love would be by laying down your life, dying for a friend. In the second verse Jesus says that we must not only love our neighbor/friend, but our enemy as well. So, if we are to love our enemy, what does that look like? What is the best possible way to love our enemies ? I think it is pretty clear. If Jesus says that our love is shown by dying for our friends/neighbors, and we are also required to love our enemies, would it not follow that the best way to love our enemy would also be by dying for him ? When we follow this line of thought, how then could it be logical to kill our enemy ? If we are called to love our enemy to the point of dying for him, what rationale could there EVER be to kill him. Jesus was willing to die on the cross not only for you and me, but for the very people who murdered him, His enemies. Later in the new testament, Paul tells us to be "imitators of Christ". As Christ layed his life down for His enemies, so should we. Again, if we are called to love our enemies to the point of death, how then could we ever justify killing them ?  

Just some food for thought, would love to hear your thoughts. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just War Theory: Biblical or Man-made?

     Just war theory (or Bellum iustum) has been defined as a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin. It has been studied for centuries by theologians and politicians alike. It has specifically been the dominant theory or justification for Christians throughout history to support, initiate, and participate in war.
     Before Emperor Constantine instituted Christianity as the "national religion" of the Roman Empire in roughly 313 A.D., the majority of Christians' held a  nonviolent stance. Many early church fathers interpreted the teachings of Jesus as advocating nonviolence. Several church fathers may be cited such as: Saint Maximilian, St. Martin of Tours, Athanasius, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, and another with the famous quote " Christ, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier."--Tertullian. After Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Empire, virtually requiring citizens to become a Christian or face execution, war and violence become much more accepted as a practice by Christians. How was this justified and how do Christians justify war today? Predominately the Just War Theory. This theory was supported by church fathers such as, Saints Augustine and Aquinas. The theory normally lists 7 principles or criteria for determining whether or not a war is just or not. If the war meets these criteria, it is pronounced "just" and permissible to initiate or be participated in by Christians.
     The seven criteria generally go as follows:

 Just cause
The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life. A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said: "Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations."
Comparative justice
While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to overcome the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other. Some theorists such as Brian Orend omit this term, seeing it as fertile ground for exploitation by bellicose regimes.
Competent authority
Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war. "A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice. Dictatorships (e.g. Hitler's Regime) or deceptive military actions (e.g. the 1968 US bombing of Cambodia) are typically considered as violations of this criterion. The importance of this condition is key. Plainly, we cannot have a genuine process of judging a just war within a system that represses the process of genuine justice. A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice".
Right intention
Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose—correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.
Probability of success
Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;
Last resort
Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical. It may be clear that the other side is using negotiations as a delaying tactic and will not make meaningful concessions.
The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. This principle is also known as the principle of macro-proportionality, so as to distinguish it from the jus in bello principle of proportionality.
There are several variations in the definitions or criteria but this is generally accepted as the 7 criteria.
I'm not going to insert my opinion on this matter in this post. Rather I want to throw this out there and see what opinions I get. My challenge is this: If this is the generally accepted justification for Christians to participate in war, should we not be able to find Biblical validation for it? Should we not be able to find verses in the Bible supporting these 7 criteria? If so, then we may pronounce such a theory as biblical. If not, should we base our life, spiritual beliefs, and actions off of a man-made theory?
If all this rambling has done is get your wheels turning, start a conversation, help you to question or strengthen your beliefs and values than I have done what I set out to do.
I look forward to hearing what you all have to say.