Does Just War Exist?

by Jon Kauffman

I am not convinced that it is possible for a Christian to fight a just war.

Aquinas’s conditions for a Just War – Jus Ad Bellum

  1. The war must have a just cause – eg against invasion, or for self-defence – and not to acquire wealth or power.
  2. The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, eg the state or ruler.
  3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.

Later conditions developed by other Christians – jus in bello

  1. The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed, eg negotiation.
  2. The war should be fought with ‘proportionality’, with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, ie civilians should be protected.
  3. The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.
An altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli (15th century)
Thomas Aquinas, PD

Reasons I question the possibility of Just War.

  • I do not see anything in the teachings of Jesus that allow for Just War of violence by Christians.
  • I do not see anything in the teachings of the church prior to St. Ambrose that states Christians may be involved in violence.
  • The prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah began teaching a way foreshadowing non-violence.
  • How does a Christian soldier stop fighting if he finds out he in an unjust situation?
  • How does a Christian stop a war that does not meet the just war criteria of Aquinas?
  • If a countries foreign policy does not have a system to test each military endeavor to determine if it is a just war, can a Christian fight in such a military?
  • How is a war determined to be just by the US government?
  • Christians in Germany and Christians in Great Britain both thought they were fighting a just war in World War one. If both sides claim to have Just cause can both sides be following Jesus when they declare Just War?
  • Are we arrogant when we claim our side is right and God is protecting our country when we attack other Christian nations who think they are fighting a just war?
  • Osama Bin Laden in his letter to America after 9/11 talked about the decades of bombing of innocent people in the Middle East by the US and it’s allies. If he was fighting an invading enemy and thought God was on his side and would help him win, was he fighting a just war?
  • Some Christians claim that any war the United States fights is a just war. If we allow the government to make moral decisions for us, are we worshiping the government?
  • If we allow the government to protect us instead of trusting God for protection, are we worshiping the government?
  • If we support a government fighting an unjust war are we endangering our souls?
  • What do we do with the teachings of Jesus that contradict Aquinas’ just war theology?
  • When I was young I was tempted to join the military. I did not. When I start thinking about the answers to the above questions, I cannot come up with good reasons how a Christian could violently support any empire that has ever existed while following the teachings of Jesus.

Making arguments Taking Scripture Out of Context

Some Christians take Biblical passages out of context to justify violence. A few examples:

Romans 13.

Romans 13 says we are to be subject to the ruling authorities, however, Paul never gives permission to Christians to disobey God in order to be subject to the ruling authorities.

Paul says we cannot rebel against the authority: Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:2.

Some Christians even use Romans 13 to justify wars such as the Revolutionary War. Paul was unjustly imprisoned by a repressive Roman government. The injustice of Great Britain against the American colonies was far less than the injustice St. Paul experienced from Rome. I believe the Revolutionary War was not just war in the eyes of St. Paul.

I am of the opinion we must read Romans 13 in the light of Romans 12. Is it possible to overcome evil with good when you are bombing innocent women and children?

Can a Christian fight in the military taking revenge for 9/11 and protecting America’s wealth and easy living and protecting oil wells owned by American companies?

I think we must also take these passages in context with Romans 8:28. God always brings about good for those who love him through the actions of evil men. We do not need to join in their evil activities.

For the first 3 centuries of Christianity, three times the Roman Empire tried to wipe out Christians like Hitler tried to wipe out Jews. These Christians remained faithful because God works for the good of those who love him through all things.

We can also compare the good that God brings when our enemies conquer us as compared to the good brought about through God using Babylon to bring about good for the Jews when they were taken captive and taken to Babylon.

God uses evil men to control the violence of evil men.

Matthew 8:5-13

Some Christians have mentioned to me that when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, he was demonstrating that violence by Christians is acceptable. The centurion was an enemy soldier. It is possible the centurion was one of the soldiers involved in killing Jews on crosses, as was common at that time.

Rather than demonstrating that violence was acceptable, Jesus was showing us how to treat our enemy. Jesus healing the centurion’s servant is like an American Christian supplying Osama bin Laden with a dialysis machine in 2002. Or an American doctor helping a close adviser of Hitler during World War Two.

Jesus forgave a solider. If Jesus forgave an alcoholic, does that mean it is acceptable for the alcoholic to continue breaking God’s laws and continue his alcoholic ways?

Ephesians 6

Amazingly some have suggested that because Paul compared Christian service to military service that this means it is acceptable for Christians to use violence. In verse 12 Paul clearly says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. And in 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says the weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.

Ephesians 6 is showing us that fighting evil like Jesus fights evil is dangerous and we will suffer losses. Fighting for Jesus is a real war. More real than any war fought by the Kingdoms of this world. But we have the resurrection on our side.

When we sign up to fight for Jesus, we experience true freedom. It is a freedom that does not need a government to pamper us in our faith. Perhaps a Christian can live under a government-run by Boka Horam and die by the sword a few days later and have greater freedom than a Christian living in the United States.

Today completes the seventh year that I’ve been posting a daily picture on Twitter; I have yet to grow tired of the beauty around me. Picture: Copyright © 2020 by Leon Kauffman

Matthew 4:8-10

Some Christians claim that we as Christians have the responsibility to use violence if we are in government. Jesus passed the test of government of using government to further his Kingdom in Matthew 4. If Jesus did not use government, why should we? Why are we different than Jesus?


God demonstrates in the crossing of the Red Sea that he will fight for his children.

Throughout history, many Christians have been miraculously delivered from evil men. More Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than throughout all history before that.

Living as a nonviolent Christian is not safe in this world. But I would like to suggest that it is safer to be killed by our enemies when we are loving them than it is to live in the temporary freedom and wealth earned by killing our enemies.

Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Greatest Heresy of All Time? Just War Doctrine?

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13

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Edited: 10/31/2021

Edited: 2/23/2022

How Jesus Fights Wars.

By Jon Kauffman

Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6 discusses spiritual warfare. In the spiritual war we Christians are called to fight, our spiritual battles make the physical warfare of World War II and the Cold War look like insignificant skirmishes.

Jesus used nonviolent warfare to defeat sin, disease and death on the cross. He asks us to take up our cross and follow him.

How did Jesus fight? Jesus used spiritual warfare.

Yes, Jesus fought spiritual warfare by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God. But Jesus also taught that through spiritual warfare we fight earthly violence and injustice through nonviolence by turning the other check.

Nonviolent Action

Ron Sider has shown that nonviolent action can defeat great armies, brutal dictators, and unjust governments. His book is “Nonviolent Action, What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried” By Ronald J. Sider, Brazo Books, 2015

Jesus witnessed nonviolent action defeating evil. Shortly before his ministry began Jesus saw Jews defeating Pilate nonviolently. Jesus certainly heard of this incident. It is possible that he witnessed the incident or perhaps he also participated.

Dr. Sider says, “In AD 26, Pontius Pilate, the new Roman governor of Judea, outraged the Jews by bringing into Jerusalem military standards emblazoned with the emperor’s image. Since the military standards with Caesar’s image violated Jewish teaching, the religious leaders begged Pilate to remove the ensigns from the holy city. What happened is best told by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus:

‘Hastening after Pilate to Caesarea, the Jews implored him to remove the standards from Jerusalem and to uphold the laws of their ancestors. When Pilate refused, they fell prostrate around his house and for five whole days and nights in the great stadium, and summoning the multitude, with apparent intention of answering them, gave the arranged signal to his armed soldiers to surround the Jews. Finding themselves in a ring of troops, three deep, the Jews were struck dumb at this unexpected sight. Pilate after threatening to cut them down, if they refused to admit Caesar’s images, signaled to the soldiers to draw their swords. Thereupon the Jews, as by concerted action, flung themselves in a body on the ground, extended their necks, and exclaimed that they were ready rather to die than to transgress the law. Overcome with astonishment at such intense religious zeal, Pilate gave orders for the immediate removal of the standards from Jerusalem.’” Sider, Page 4.

Examples of Nonviolent Action

Ron Sider gives example after example of nonviolence resistance defeating evil and tyranny.

One of the earliest examples of nonviolent resistance occurred in Egypt 3000 years ago. When pharaoh demanded the death of all baby boys, the midwives refused to follow orders.

According to Edward Gibbon, Pope Leo the 1st confronted and defeated Attila the Hun. Leo the Great was involved in successful nonviolent negotiations with Attila the Hun.

Before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means.

In 1861, after a successful nonviolent campaign of Hungarian citizens against Austria, the London Times said, “Passive resistance can be so organized as to become more troublesome than armed rebellion.”

Leaders of nonviolent resistance include America’s Martin Luther King, Jr, India’s Mahatma Gandhi, Poland’s Lech Walesa, Philippines’ Cory Aquino, and Brazil’s Colonel Candido Rondon.

Professor Sider reviews the nonviolent revolution in India the changed the attitude of the people of India and 16 years later lead to the end of British rule in India.

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Sider discusses how Martin Luther King fought racism and bigotry to fight segregation, Jim Crow and injustice against the black community in America.

Many wanted to rebel violently but King continually preached nonviolence. When discussing the oppressed use of violence King said, ”The shores of History are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that chose violence.”

Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King

During World War II Norway, Sweden and Denmark used nonviolent resistance against Hitler.

Nonviolence toppled two dictators in Central America in 1944.

Mahatma Gandhi used nonviolence resistance over 15 years to give independence to India from Great Britain.

Witness for Peace Teams (WFP) accompanied poor Nicaraguans and reported torture and atrocities committed by the Contras in 1985. WFP volunteers worked attempting to bring about a peaceful resolution between Contras and Sandinistas and to stop the flow of arms to the country. WFP volunteers stayed in villages where the Contras were using American weopons to attack and torture citizens. The Contras would not attack when Americans were present for fear of losing the supply of weapons from the United States. When the Contras changed their strategy and began murdering farmers living in the countryside, WFP volunteers visited the sites, documented the violence, and sent reports to the American media.

Dr. Sider discusses many cases of nonviolent resistance by the citizens of Eastern Europe; Poland and East Germany, that helped bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union.

In Liberia the women of the country used nonviolent resistance to bring about the fall of a brutal dictator and bring an end to years of fighting.

Even Muslims know true followers of Jesus fight nonviolently. Christian nonviolent protesters fought side by side with Muslim nonviolent protesters in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

“The Muslim Brotherhood’s well-disciplined members and organizational structure helped to sustain the revolution. The most inspiring show of cooperation and national solidarity occurred between Christians and Muslims, who often have clashed in lethal violence. When security forces attacked Muslims with water cannons during prayer, Christians encircled them to protect them. An imam is reported as saying, ‘Look around you; do you see it is the Christians who are protecting us: Do you know why they do this? They are following the teaching of Jesus. It is because they have Jesus in their hearts.’ Muslims also protected Christians as they celebrated Mass in the square.” Sider, Page 137.

Fighting non-violently is not for fools or cowards. It can be very dangerous and many have died through non-violent resistance.

Several colleges are teaching tactics to win nonviolent battles. This education needs to greatly increase.

Peace Teams

Several organizations are sending out volunteers to fight nonviolently today.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is currently sending teams to Columbia accompanying farmers and miners caught in the crossfire of decades of war.

In Iraqi Kurdistan CPT is partnering with mountain village and shepherd communities that peacefully resist displacement and destruction caused by cross-border military operations.

CPT volunteers are supporting Palestinian-led, nonviolent, grassroots resistance to the Israeli occupation and the unjust structures that uphold it. Documenting human rights violations in occupied Palestine. Partnering with local Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers and educating the international community to help create a space for justice and peace.

Peace Brigades International is currently maintaining a presence of volunteers in Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia and Nepal.

Witness for Peace (WFP) works primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean countries with a mission to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas.

Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT) is a Muslim organized using Christian Peacemaker Teams as an example. They work especially in Iraq and seek to demonstrate nonviolence in practice by doing such things as physically interposing themselves between warring parties, but also by acting as intermediates and negotiators.

What if thousands nonviolent Christian volunteers showed up whenever violence and injustice take place?  What if 10,000,000 Christian volunteers were willing to go anywhere in the world and fight as Jesus fights? Anyone can use nonviolence to fight injustice. 10 year old children and 90 year old men can participate.

These peacemaking organisations are looking for volunteers to participate in peacemaking activities.

Christians, Muslims and Hindus can all work together to bring about peace and justice nonviolently.

Why would Christians use Violence?

Why would any Christian fight in a US military that killed 1.2 million innocent Japanese in World War II and used drones to kill children in Pakistan during the war on terror? Especially when nonviolent battle to bring about peace and justice is much more effective and much less expensive in life and coin?

Why would Christians use the world’s violent ways when Jesus taught a way of peace and nonviolence?

Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:25 and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9.

Purchase Ron Sider’s Book, “Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried.

What About Hitler?

Hiroshima and Mass Murder?

“Neutering Male Courage.”

See reasons that others have given to support violence by Christians: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

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Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17

The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17

By Jon Kauffman

Some Christians claim that because Paul used military language in Ephesians 6, then that means Paul is condoning military service for Christians. Is that true?

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6:11-17 NIV

In verse 12 Paul distinctly says that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our mission is to fight against “the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” The mission of the human military is to kill and control human beings through violence. Why would someone say that Paul is condoning human military service if military service is not addressing our real mission?

However, using military language to explain our real mission is very appropriate. We are at war. Our battle is against the evil one and his rulers, authorities, and powers in the dark spiritual world. And how does Ephesians 6 say we defeat the evil one?

First: We need the belt of truth: If we are lying to ourselves about our real mission, how can we even begin to address our mission?

Second: the breastplate of righteousness. If we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we see the actions of the righteous. Let us look at a few actions Jesus says that the righteous do:

  • If someone is righteous, he will not murder. Matthew 5:21-36. We shouldn’t even offer our gift to God when a brother or sister in Christ has something against us. Christians live in every country in the world. In the United States, our enemies in military battles always include Christians. If we kill a Christian in our war-making, haven’t we done great harm to our brother or sister in Christ? How can we make things right with the one we harm when we have killed them?

  • If someone is righteous, he will be faithful in marriage: Matthew 5:27-32. It is wrong for us to even look lustfully on another woman or we could end up in hell.

  • If someone is righteous, he will turn the other cheek and go the extra mile: Matthew 5:38-42. In the time of Jesus, going the extra mile referred to the Roman legal privilege for a soldier who could require a citizen to carry his bag for him for a mile whenever the soldier wanted. If you are going the extra mile to help the enemy soldier, it is difficult to kill him. But if you do go the extra mile, perhaps you will become friends with your enemy? Perhaps your enemy will become your brother in Christ?

When someone goes the extra mile for his enemy, he may die. In the
Sixteenth Century at least 1500 Anabaptists were tortured and killed
because they insisted on living by the teachings of Jesus. An
Anabaptist, Dirk Willem was imprisoned to be killed.

He escaped prison and was fleeing for his life. He crossed a pond
covered by a thin layer of ice. His pursuer fell through the ice. Dirk
turned back and saved his enemy from drowning. The man he saved,
grabbed him and held him for arrest. On May 16, 1569, Dirk Willem
was executed by fire.

  • If someone is righteous, he will love his enemies: Matthew 5:43-48. It is doubtful that it is possible to love someone and kill them at the same time.

Third, our feet must be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He laid down his life on the cross. He did not kill his enemies when they were killing him. Jesus had the ability come down from the cross and kill them. Jesus said we are to take up the cross and follow him. If we follow his example, we cannot kill our enemies.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus explained his mission with a quote from Isaiah. This is also our mission. In Luke 4:18 & 19 Jesus quoted Isaiah.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

Luke 4: 18 & 19 NIV

It is interesting to notice that Jesus did not finish Isaiah’s quote. “…..and the day of vengeance of our God,” in Isaiah 61:2. NIV. Did Jesus ignore this passage because he is the Prince of Peace and because he came to bring reconciliation? Did Jesus ignore the passage because his mission is not violence and revenge? Is our real mission to bring peace and reconciliation?

It appears to me that Ephesians 6 completely fails to give a Christian ethical support to use violence against his enemies. Christians who would like to live a life following the teachings of Jesus while using violence cannot find ammunition for violence in this scriptural passage.

Many of us have used violence or supported the use of violence against our enemies. If we are to follow the Prince of Peace, we may need to change our thinking. We may need to admit we have been mistaken in the past.

Reasons why other Christians participate in violence: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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