A Time to Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism

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Aquinas believes a Christian king shall be directing all to the vision of good; thereby engaging and judging sins to end their enactment in society. War is the just right of the state to emulate divine judgment. Aquinas, like Augustine, sees that violence can be used to secure the better peace, "Be peaceful, therefore, in making war, so that, in vanquishing those against whom you fight, you may lead them to the benefit of peace.

Aquinas' views that as the king imitates God in ruling he also has the right to declare violence and use it for justice. And this also human justice imitates as far as it can; for it slays those who are dangerous to others, 40 Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae IaIIae In Aquinas' thought a just war may be the best option for leading others to peace. When it fulfills a just cause, correct authority, and right intention sinners may be stopped either by death or punishment and peace held and secured. What is particularly important is that Aquinas is able to hold these views because he holds the government in high regard as it rules Christendom.

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I believe Aquinas has an even higher view of monarchy then Augustine due to the extent of Christological verses he uses to approve of kingship, and to extol the ruler to shepherding the people. Particularly his entire teaching De Regimine Principum was used as a teaching for how a ruler was to become just, and rule justly in discipleship under God.

In this work Aquinas repeatedly extols the ruler to follow the examples of David and Solomon, as well as heed the advice of the prophets. Additionally he argues that the King can emulate Christ in secular government. Consequently a Christian government can exist and will emulate God's attributes. Hence war, while not to be carried out in vengeance, is not a negative; it stands as a ethically justifiable because it allows the justice of God to be poured out upon those who violate peace. Aquinas contends that God intends to use the rulers of the earth to judge and instill justice on his behalf.

As such Aquinas believes God uses the nation, and the nation and government are good and have the right to adjudicate world affairs and redeem violence and war. In this manner, I propose what I believe the Just War Theory entails, and how it does not provide the best Christian response to the challenge of state power, and coercive violence. Augustine and Aquinas are focused on how to rule and judge ethically as a Christian in power.

They recognize war is a fact of life.


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Further what is superlative about the use of the JWT in modern political ethics is that one cannot claim the JWT is filled with overtly optimistic positions on human acts, and international relationships. Augustine and Aquinas should be labeled realists from a current perspective as they looked at the government's responsibility to maintain justice and peace among a myriad of people and conflicts in the world around them.

They propose how an individual may respond to the threats that occur in our world, and how individuals who are working within government structures may respond to protect their nation against international threats, and work toward just retribution of wrongs. Stemming from my interacting with the two, I propose that used correctly the Just War Theory was a systematic means to stem the occurrence of both war and violence. Regardless of how it may currently be misused, the reason both Augustine and Aquinas gave such great attention to war was because of the Church's supreme value on the eternal peace of God.

No matter if political figures and nations may misunderstand the use today they still attempt to address the categories created in ways that fulfill their requirements. Even if political leaders attempts to bend the theory, "they feel compelled to employ the JWT criteria in making their case. The JWT's longevity exemplifies the Christian call to seek justice and call the state to make peace. Mary's Press, , More importantly, the JWT has continued to appeal to various governments as a means to justly govern their own nations, and to understand the important challenge of Romans 13 that the government "is God's servant for good.

Both Augustine and Aquinas indicated the foremost reason for war is to create a better peace between the attacked and the aggressor. As they disavowed a celebrity warrior class they also challenged Christian kings to war as a means to create a lasting peace that resolves injustice and oppression among the nations.

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The Just War Theory challenges the nations that if violence must be used then it must be used for a covenant peace not mere victory, spoils or expansion. In the era that the Just War Theory was born, or better Christianized, it challenged the culture to investigate and deliberate why it resulted to violence, and if violence was always the answer to conflict.

My point is this, the Just War Theory is not a priori an argument for war, and the righteousness of violence. It is at the foundation a Christian ethical reflection on how peace is made in a inaugurated but not fulfilled Kingdom. Biggar correctly states because of the focus of the JWT "the just warrior loves the unjust aggressor insofar as he withholds himself from vengeance, commits himself to benevolence, and so uses violence to punish him 'with a sort of kind harshness'.

Baptizing and reframing the work of Cicero provided a political framework for Christian rulers as they 45 Romans Both Augustine and Aquinas believed that if war was undertaken in a just means that even the soldier could be challenged to act in a way that restrains the enemy and causes the nation to repent and look toward peace. Aquinas himself elaborates on this by his commentary on the very act of killing a sinner in the Summa. He writes, "the Lord teaches that it is better that the wicked be suffered to live and vengeance reserved to the Final Judgment than that the good be slain together with the wicked.

When, however, the good incur no peril, but rather are protected and saved by the slaying of the wicked, then the latter may lawfully be slain. What we find in the JWT is secondarily a protection of human life because of the respect for the Imago Dei. It is better to suffer injustice than to harm the innocent. The Just War Theory demands that all attacks must be measured, proportionate, and avoid unnecessary killing. While the acts may be terrible and cause death, the war must be carried out to preserve the life of the innocent and bring a quick end to secure peace. Because of their respect for the dignity of human life, and the peace of God Augustine and Aquinas provide that war when prosecuted justly should not create a cyclical pattern of violence.

If war is carried out for a just cause, with peace in mind, and seeks to preserve the life of the innocent then war rightly judges the unjust, makes retributions, and ends the threat securing a better peace than in the previous condition. A just war should be carried out that both sides acknowledge the wrongs, and when they are remitted the two parties should come to an amicable peace treaty and live as caring 48 Ibid. At last, Augustine and Aquinas both understood that government is needed for the well-being of humanity, they even believed it to be a reflection of the government of God and thus they spent great energy engaging with a Christian's role within it.

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Both men understood that sin has devastated our human condition, and our human relationships. Further they understood that not all people were members of the Church and fought against it. As such I believe the Just War Theory is an optimistic attempt to use Christian teaching to lead governments back to better reflecting God's justice.


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Aquinas even taught that the earthly government and church could exist in a more unified way than Augustine's division of heavenly and earthly. It was Aquinas belief that the government could be a holy tool if it was theocratic and sought to emulate God's goodness in society. I believe neither Aquinas nor Augustine, nor any theologian is in favor of war or violence. As realists they understood injustice and war would occur.

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They thus provide us with a tool for how we may engage the world and secure peace even when war and violence are needed. The use of war and violence are not to be celebrated but used to quickly judge and restore peace in a fallen world while we await true peace and justice from the return of Christ. The state is God's political ruling structure as such they bear the sword for His purposes and the Church must accept that in both men's theological perspective. Primarily Augustine and Aquinas aimed for peace. They elevated peace throughout their writings yet also maintain war is "a moral possibility, and even a duty, for Christians.

Dyson Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, , xxv-xxvii. Yoder sums up this critique in his work When War is Unjust by addressing the context of the theory versus the circumstances of the present. He reminds us that the prohibitions and the applications of the theory were addressed to rulers, and those directly under their command.

Further, we are reminded standing armies were small and in general most people were excluded from participating in war. The majority was still taught to "renounce bloodshed and to accept suffering as part of the Christian way. War is much more a fact of life then a dreaded result of international conflicts. Further, Aquinas and Augustine challenged the American ideal of self-defense for a Christian that also played into the deliberation of if war should be waged. The majority of Christians who were taught under the writings of Augustine and Aquinas were inclined to continually turn the other cheek, whereas in American politics the right to self-defense is a security for the individual Christian to use violence upheld within the court structure.

The Just War Theory is correctly linked to the protection of innocent life.

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Yet, it is now wedded to the protection of self and nation. Following Thomas Hobbes political ethics have determined that we are naturally in a state of violence, and are also willing to engage in violence much quicker.

I believe this shift in thought and the belief that we are naturally opposed to one another leads to a faster resort to violence and less deliberation on causes, means and good faith between both sides to ensure a realistic peace. If the average Christian now believes he has a right to violence as self-defense even against the prohibitions listed by Aquinas and others, how can he also be expected to not preemptively and unjustly lash out at a perceived enemy?

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What has proactively changed in the theological outlook of many is that violence itself can be just, and as such it can distort our deliberation and actions. They did not envision a society that started with violence to secure peace against another nation, or to stockpile weapons to inspire fear in other nations.

Violence has been given a status of ontological significance that mars the use of just means for many.