Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Theory of Just War Applied to Conversation

I know what you're thinking: you're thinking of making a joke based on the juxtaposition of the words "war" and "conversation." Fine, whatever.

This is something my pastor, Chris Hutchinson, wrote up and gave me permission to post. I've found it quite helpful when I hear what I believe to be error and have a desire to correct it.

Incidentally, here is a web page which explains the theory of just war.

JUST WAR – as applied to conversation when confronting someone else with error.

1. Just cause. This is clearly the most important rule; it sets the tone for everything which follows. A state may launch a war only for the right reason. The just causes most frequently mentioned include: self-defence from external attack; the defence of others from such; the protection of innocents from brutal, aggressive regimes; and punishment for a grievous wrongdoing which remains uncorrected. Vitoria suggested that all the just causes be subsumed under the one category of “a wrong received.” Walzer, and most modern just war theorists, speak of the one just cause for resorting to war being the resistance of aggression. Aggression is the use of armed force in violation of someone else's basic rights.

Your point must be correct. – truth – Ephesians 4:14; 29.

2. Right intention. A state must intend to fight the war only for the sake of its just cause. Having the right reason for launching a war is not enough: the actual motivation behind the resort to war must also be morally appropriate. Ulterior motives, such as a power or land grab, or irrational motives, such as revenge or ethnic hatred, are ruled out. The only right intention allowed is to see the just cause for resorting to war secured and consolidated. If another intention crowds in, moral corruption sets in. International law does not include this rule, probably because of the evidentiary difficulties involved in determining a state's intent.

You motive must be correct – love – Ephesians 4:14; I Corinthians 13:2.

3. Proper authority and public declaration. A state may go to war only if the decision has been made by the appropriate authorities, according to the proper process, and made public, notably to its own citizens and to the enemy state(s). The “appropriate authority” is usually specified in that country's constitution. States failing the requirements of minimal justice lack the legitimacy to go to war.

The listener must be within your realm of influence or authority.

4. Last Resort. A state may resort to war only if it has exhausted all plausible, peaceful alternatives to resolving the conflict in question, in particular diplomatic negotiation. One wants to make sure something as momentous and serious as war is declared only when it seems the last practical and reasonable shot at effectively resisting aggression.

This does not apply as easily except that one need not rush to correct. Proverbs 19:2; Matthew 7:1ff; James 1:19.

5. Probability of Success. A state may not resort to war if it can foresee that doing so will have no measurable impact on the situation. The aim here is to block mass violence which is going to be futile. International law does not include this requirement, as it is seen as biased against small, weaker states.

Your listener must be ready to be corrected or you make things worse. – Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 27:14.

6. Proportionality. A state must, prior to initiating a war, weigh the universal goods expected to result from it, such as securing the just cause, against the universal evils expected to result, notably casualties. Only if the benefits are proportional to, or “worth”, the costs may the war action proceed. (The universal must be stressed, since often in war states only tally their own expected benefits and costs, radically discounting those accruing to the enemy and to any innocent third parties.)

Speak so as to be understood without condescension – Ephesians 4:2; 29.

I hope you enjoyed this, and find such wisdom in it as will be helpful to your conversation.

In Christ.

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