Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just War?: Background, Part 2

As Christianity gained prominence a shift, but not a break from the past, in just war theory came with the church father Ambrose. He saw the state as subject to the church. The state was charged with wielding the sword (Rom. 13), but the church was responsible for making sure they did it the right way. David was the prototypical just warrior, in Ambrose’s eyes.

Ambrose was a proponent of virtue lived out in the lives of believers, including why and how they fought wars. The pinnacle of virtue was charity (love) and soldiers lived this principle of charity because all they did was for the common good. In fact, abstaining from force in certain circumstances can be the wrong course of action and is, ultimately, unloving. Ambrose uses Moses’ rescue of the slave in Egypt as his example. For Moses to fail to act would have been a failure in character. In some cases love does not just allow for the use of force; it demands it. This is where Ambrose, according to Cole, expands the tradition handed down to him without going against it. It is not a break; it is a development.

Augustine advances the argument by noting it is the purpose of the state to restrain evil and chaos in order to have a tolerable society. Love for the common good is what drives them to do so – even if it means war. Peace is the ultimate common good, but sometimes force is required to get there. Words are preferable, but sometimes a sword is necessary. Cole emphasizes that war is not the lesser of two evils. Rather, it is a virtuous act if done for the love of the other, seeking the common good.

Now the background and foundation have been set. The next posts will look forward to the just war system built by Aquinas and Calvin.

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