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Just War Theory

             For more than a thousand years Christian ethicists and theologians have used the language of just war theory to determine when it is morally acceptable for a Christian to go to war. The theory has been flexible enough to accommodate political, military, and social change, and still retain its relevance. There is no doubt in the minds of many that the issue of war and the Christian conscience has been a long-standing problem. When asked about war some would allude to the Just War Theory. Just war theorists trace the beginnings of the theory to Augustine's idea of normative political order. His dualistic philosophy imagined two worlds, the civitas terrenae and the civitas dei, the City of Earth and the City of God. The former, flawed by human weakness and characterized by disorder and strife, is organized around cupiditas, or egoistic love. The latter, the ideal civitas dei, is achieved through the transformation of cupiditas into caritas, which is love directed toward God. The goal of history, according to Augustine, is the realization of this ideal state of being characterized by Christian love.1. This process of personal transformation toward caritas, begun in Augustine's thinking by the sacrifice of Jesus, will manifest itself in individuals through what Johnson calls "self-giving toward the needy neighbor."1 This charitable impulse requires a Christian to intervene to protect the innocent from evil in this flawed world. Moreover, the Christian must also love the aggressor even as he may be killing him. For Augustine and those who have followed him in their thinking about just war, killing the aggressor is a form of "loving punishment."3 During the time of Aquinas, the emphasis of theologians had shifted from helping individuals achieve a state of grace (as in Augustine) to defining "the actual society grace would produce and the normative behavior to be expected of people in whom grace was at work.

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