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Just War. Development of the Doctrine . At different times there have been three main attitudes: Pacifism Non-violent struggle to achieve Christian goals Holy War The belief that war can advance God’s Will Just War

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Just War

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just war

Just War

Development of the Doctrine

christian attitudes to war
At different times there have been three main attitudes:


Non-violent struggle to achieve Christian goals

Holy War

The belief that war can advance God’s Will

Just War

War is at best a necessary recourse whose conduct should be governed by rules

Christian Attitudes to War

Historically linked with early Christianity

Still a major strand in Christian thought e.g. Quakers

Historically linked with Crusades

Has no credibility among Christians today

Historically linked with the rise of Christendom

Still a major strand in Christian thought

just war origins of thought
St Augustine of Hippo (4th C.) distinguished between

Private retaliation (not justified in Christianity)

War pursued against those who are a threat to peace (sometimes justified)

His time saw the birth of a brand new notion: Christendom

Christendom=Christ’s domains

The notion of a greater whole that was sacred and may be threatened internally or externally

Just War: Origins of Thought

St Augustine of Hippo, 354-430. He lived right at the end of the Roman Empire in the West.

just war origins in christianity
St Thomas of Aquinas (13th C.) developed the Christian doctrine of Just War

He laid out the following conditions:

Declared by the sovereign

Just cause – those attacked should deserve this

Right intention – the advancement of good or avoidance of evil

Aquinas lived at a time when numerous small wars between city states were common

… not long after the reconquest of Sicily from Muslim rule

Just War: Origins in Christianity

St Thomas Aquinas, 1225 – 1274. He was a Dominican priest and scholar of first rank.

just war criteria
Other thinkers developed the concept of Just War…

Just cause

Declared by lawful authority.

Right intention

Last resort

Reasonable chance of success

Innocents should not be harmed

Only appropriate force should be used

Just War criteria

These are sometimes called the ‘Ius ad Bellum’ criteria – criteria to be in place before war is prosecuted

These are sometimes called the ‘Ius in Bello’ criteria – criteria for moral conduct of the war once started

criteria explained
Declared by lawful authority…

… since only a lawful authority can act on behalf of the whole people

Restricts the number of groups that can ethically wage war

For example, it stops wars declared by rebels who've overthrown a legal government being considered ethical

Criteria explained

President Roosevelt signs the Declaration of War against Japan, 1941

hiroshima nagasaki
Hiroshima & Nagasaki
  • In the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, a B-29 bomber named Enola Gay was headed north by northwest toward Hiroshima, Japan.
  • The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima contained a mass of uranium about the size of a cricket ball.
  • The explosion it unleashed was the equivalent of that of 20,000 tons of TNT.
  • The devastation was horrific, but Japan refused to surrender.
us warning leaflet nagasaki
US Warning Leaflet Nagasaki
  • America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet.
  • We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.
  • We have just begun to use this weapon against your homeland.

President Truman took the decision to drop the bombs

the death toll
The Death Toll
  • No one will ever know for certain how many died as a result of the attack on Hiroshima. 
  • Some 70,000 people probably died as a result of initial blast, heat, and radiation effects. 
  • The five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000, as cancer and other long-term effects took hold.
  • The same grim picture unfolded in Nagasaki, the second city to be bombed.
  • After this, The Emperor of Japan overruled the military and ordered the government to surrender to the Allied Forces.
an eyewitness
An eyewitness…
  • I threw myself into a frantic search for my family, casting about in the still-hot rubble. Before long, the tips of my shoes were burned so that my toes stuck out, and my hands became swollen with blisters. Looking along the road, near a neighbour's house, I found a charred copse that seemed to be my wife. The dead baby on her back I took to be our one-year-old daughter Takako. However, I never was able to find our eight-year-old son Tateki, or our elder daughter Makiko.
  • Tsuneo Tomimatsu, Nagasaki.
an eyewitness11
An eyewitness…
  • Houses and trees were levelled as far as the eye could see, and fires began breaking out in the ruins. At the roadside I saw the corpse of a man who had been leading a horse cart, still on his feet, with his hair standing on end like wire…. The river was filled with the dead and half-dead; burned children were screaming, ‘Mommy! Mommy!’ and mothers searched for their children, calling their names in faltering voices.
  • Ms. Hide Kurokawa, Nagasaki
  • Was President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs justified?
  • Refer to Christian Teaching (Just War Theory, Scripture,…) in your answer.
sermon on the mount matt 5
Sermon on the Mount Matt. 5

You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.‘ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God


Context – new Kingdom values fulfilling the OT teachings

Peacemaking ≠ peacekeeping

Focus more on personal living rather than on war

Discussion Points

Is there such a thing as ‘harmless gossip’?

Do any of these two passages shed any light on morality in war situations?


Again, focus more on personal living rather than on war

The passage doesn’t say: If someone stabs you on the right of the chest…


In war: Conscientious objectors or medical staff

Founded in 17th C. by George Fox and friends

Anti-gossip… Is it true? Is it hurtful? Is it necessary?

Persecuted by English Church

Society of Friends


Dedicated to simplicity and peace

cycle of violence matt 26
Cycle of Violence Matt 26

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”


Quite obvious – (unjustified?) violence leads to more violence

Has a message for both personal conflict and for national conflict

case study mikhail kalashnikov
Case Study: Mikhail Kalashnikov

will inflict a fatal wound at 300 yards

This the man who designed a rifle that...

will spray thirty bullets in three seconds

can be bought for as little as $100 on the world's black markets

fires 'tumbling' bullets which make a small entry hole into flesh and yet tear out a massive exit;

will function even if dirty, wet or unoiled

is light enough to be carried by a child

has been used to kill most of the fifty million or so people in small wars since 1945

is the weapon of choice for many small armies & terrorist organisations (some 70 million have been sold);

case study
Case Study…

Name: Automatic Kalashnikov assault rifle, first made in 1947 - hence, AK-47

Inventor: Mikhail Kalashnikov, born 1919

What Kalashnikov says when asked about his invention...

'When Germany invaded, I saw my comrades in pain. They were being wheeled into hospital, injured in defence of their Motherland against the Fascists. Courage was not enough. The Nazis had superior armoury. I wanted to redress the balance.'

'My life's not been easy. I wanted my invention to serve peace. I didn't want it to make war easier … If it was not guns, it would be knives or axes. Guns are not guilty. People are guilty.

case study20
Case Study…

Mikhail Kalashnikov has hardly made a penny from his invention. In 1990 he met Eugene Stoner, who designed the M-16 (the closest thing to an American equivalent of the AK-47), and was shocked by the fact that Stoner had his own jet whilst he himself could not afford the price of a plane ticket to Washington.

If you were to sit in judgement of Kalashnikov, of what, if anything, would you accuse him?

Give reasons for your answer.