Christianity & War by Laurence Vance (Part 1)

“We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation”

~ George Bush


“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

~ James 4:1


“War is the health of the state”

~ Randolph Bourne


“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives”

~ U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler


“War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive forces in the general interest”

~ Ludwig von Mises


“I saw in the whole Christian world a license of fighting at which even barbarous nations might blush. Wars were begun on trifling pretexts or none at all, and carried on without any reference of law, Divine or human”

~ Hugo Grotius


“Our wars, for the most part, proceed either from ambition, from anger and malice, from the mere wantonness of unbridled power, or from some other mental distemper”

~ Desiderius Erasmus


That the ongoing undeclared “war” in Iraq is supported by apologists for what World War II general, and later president, Dwight Eisenhower, called the “military-industrial complex” is no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the present degree of Christian enthusiasm for war.

Our Christian forefathers thought differently, as will presently be seen.

“Just war theory,” although it has been misused by political leaders to encourage soldiers to needlessly fight, kill, bleed, and die, with the full support of the civilian populace, including many of its Christians, is nevertheless still relevant in this age of tanks, bombs, land mines, and “weapons of mass destruction.”

In his 1625 treatise De Jure Belli Ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), the famed Dutch Christian, Hugo Grotius (1538–1645), universally recognized as the “Father of International Law,” set forth six jus ad bellum (just recourse to war) conditions that limit a nation’s legitimate recourse to war: just cause (correct intention [self-defense] with an objective), proportionality (grave enough situation to warrant war), reasonable chance for success (obtainable objectives), public declaration (fair warning, opportunity for avoidance), declaration only by legitimate authority, and last resort (all other options eliminated).

Or, as the historian and economist, Murray Rothbard (1926–1995), said, in making his case that America has only had two just wars (1776 & 1861), “A just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them.”

Grotius also articulated three jus in bello (justice in the course of war) conditions that govern just and fair conduct in war: legitimate targets (only combatants, not civilians), proportionality (means may not exceed what is warranted by the cause), and treatment of prisoners (combatants are through capture rendered noncombatants).*

Grotius’ fellow Dutchman, Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536), was certainly no pacifist, yet he lamented: “War would be understandable among the beasts, for they lack natural reason; it is an aberration among men because the evil of war can be easily understood through the use of reason alone. War, however, is inconceivable among Christians because it is not only rationally objectionable but, even more important, ethically inadmissible.”



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