Lesson 2: The Christian Tradition (October 14, 1990)

Background Materials: Just War Criteria

Below are the most common criteria of a Christian "just war." Not all authorities adopt all criteria, and several of these are debatable.

Initiation of War

1. Legitimacy. The war must be initiated by a legitimate authority, usually meaning a duly constituted government.

2. Intent. The war must be initiated with a right intention, namely to promote peace. It is never permissible to wage war so as to promote or establish tyranny, oppression, or domination.

3. Exhaustion. War must be undertaken only as a last resort. No war can be condoned so long as there is any reasonable chance of resolving the conflict by discussion, negotiation, the employment of economic sanctions, or other means short of military action.

4. Potentiality. The war must have a reasonable chance of success. To do otherwise is the pointless loss of human life.

5. Reluctance. The war must be initiated with a profound sense of reluctance and regret, with a sadness of heart, realizing that, even if the lesser of all evils, war is an affront to God's wishes for mankind.

Conduct of War

6. Proportionality. The war must be waged using means proportionate to the ends to be accomplished. That is, there cannot be excessive destruction for the sake of minimally desirable ends. Stated another way, the good to be accomplished must be outweighed by the evil that will be exercised in bringing about that good.

7. Moderation. The war must be waged with all moderation possible. At the very least, violations of the treaties, codes, and standards of warfare are not permitted.

8. Discrimination. In using force, one must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants, and between combatants in different circumstances.

9. Restoration. Upon conclusion of the war, all steps must be taken to restore the vanquished, to dispense mercy and forgiveness, and to institute a just and lasting peace.

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