By In Politics

What is a Just War?-The Just War Tradition in Brief

This is the second in an ongoing series about the just war tradition. Here is the first post where I review Charles and Demy’s book on the just war tradition. They list three basic sets of rules for a just war: rules for going to war (jus ad bellum),  rules for conducting a war (jus in bello), and a third list of what the authors call “prudential” or “secondary” criteria that flow out of the first two. There are three rules for going to war, two for conducting the war, and five prudential criteria.  In subsequent posts I will address these different criteria. In this post I give several quotes from the authors’ introduction where they explain what a just war tradition is and what it is not. The goal is to give the reader an overview of the just-war tradition.

Just war thought in its classic expression…is not first and foremost about military tactics and strategy; nor is it about justifying military operations that already have been undertaken. Rather properly viewed, it is a morally guided approach to statecraft that (1) qualifies the administration of coercive force and (2) views peace as the result of justly ordered relationships. Not all use of force is just; frequently it is not. And not all use of force creates conditions for bringing about peace and justice.  Therefore, the use of force must be highly qualified. Peace is not to be understood as the absence of conflict; it is rather the fruit or by-product of a justly ordered society…The ordering of society-and the just maintenance of that order at its various levels-is the task of policy


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By In Books

What is a Just War?-Book Review

People talk about just war all the time, but rarely is it defined or described. What is a just war? Was Iraq a just war? What about World War II? How does one conduct a just war in the age of terrorism?  Does Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek mean we can never kill? Over the next several weeks I am going to do a series on just war. We will look at just war criteria for going to war and waging a war, the idea of justice and whether or not peace is an automatic indicator that a society is just. We will also consider the connection between Scripture and natural law when discussing just war, historical examples of the just war tradition, pacificism, and many other topics.

When I began studying just war I needed to get my bearings. Everything I knew about war came from talking heads. I investigated book options and found this gem; War, Peace, and Christianity: Questions and Answers from a Just War Perspective. I bought this book hoping for two things: First, I would get a basic understanding of just war theory.  Second, I would get a lot of footnotes that pointed me to other sources.  This book delivered on both counts. There are other books that will give you more depth on specific issues connected to just war theory.  But if you have never studied just war theory, Charles and Demy’s book is a great place to start.

The authors divide their book into six different sections Just War Tradition and the: Philosopher, Historian, Statesman, Theologian, Combatant, and Individual. They use a question and answer format to describe what just war is, what it is not, some questions that still need to be answered, and the history of just war. They rely heavily on Augustine, Aquinas, Grotius, Vitoria, and Suarez. (I hadn’t heard of the last three either.) They also use a lot of O’Donovan and a current just war writer named James Turner Johnson. They address terrorism, nuclear war, humanitarian intervention, the UN, post war development of countries, non-lethal weapons, “turn the other cheek,” does war violate the command to not kill, did Jesus change our approach to war, is just war only a Christian idea or it can it be found in non-Christian sources, Bonhoeffer’s attempt on Hitler’s life, Ghandi’s pacifism, C.S. Lewis’ writings on war, supreme emergency, the early church on war, including Roland Bainton’s pacifistic reading of the church fathers, criteria for going to war, criteria within a war, private military contractors, ethical development of weapons, Romans 13, etc. The value of this book is how much ground it covers. You will not get an in depth chapter length discussion of each facet of just war theory, but you will get the basic ideas on it. It is an excellent introduction to just war thought, though I doubt any reader will agree with all.

The questions and answers in various sections overlap with questions and answers in other sections thus there is some repetition.  Also, there are areas that I would like more precision and discussion, such as what makes an authority legitimate, but the sources cited should provide answers. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand how Christians and others have defined just war.

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Theology

Mere Sexuality

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the Nashville Statement this week. I have had more disagreements with the CBMW over the years. Initially, I was enthralled by them. But more reading, in particular, historical reading, has led me away from them. However, this statement is good. It lays out mere sexuality, as in basic, very basic, Biblical sexual ethics concerning marriage, sodomy, and transgenders. Initially, I thought the statement was too basic to be worthwhile. But the response by many progressive Christians has vindicated the need for it. Surprise, surprise many Christians are not as firm on the basics as they let on.  (more…)

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By In Culture, Politics

Unrelenting: A Prayer for Faithfulness

In their excellent book, Unchanging Witness, Professors Fortson and Grams spend a chapter recounting the capitulation of the numerous mainline denominations to the homosexual agenda, including the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church. But the account that caught my attention was the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA).

I am not an expert on the history of the PCUSA, but I believe there were serious issues, such as rejection of the authority of Scripture, rejection of the supernatural, and ordination of women, which preceded their acceptance of homosexuality. If true, their capitulation to the homosexuals was not a surprise. A denomination that ordains women is going to have a hard time barring the doors against homosexuals. Here is the timeline of how the PCUSA moved to accepting gays, gay ministers, and eventually same sex marriage (Fortson and Grams p. 157-158): (more…)

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By In Books, Scribblings

Recycled Protestant Liberalism

Here is a quote from Os Guinness’ book Fool’s Talk  about how the evangelical world is filled with theological liberalism:

Full blown revisionism was once the natural preserve of extreme Protestant liberalism, and its proponents still lead the field by miles. But they no longer run alone. “Emergent Evangelicals” have emerged and aged until now only nostalgia or denial allows them to claim that they are emergent. But as their emergent sell-by date has passed, they demonstrate the effects of being weaned on the diet of their day-postmodern uncertainties, a relentless rage for relevance and a burning desire to be always seen as “innovative” and “thinking outside the box.” Not surprisingly, the result in the extreme cases is an Evangelical revisionism that is a recycled Protestant liberalism with the same feeble hold on the Bible and truth, nonchalance about authority, a patronizing stance towards tradition and the church catholic, and a naive idea of their own importance as heralds of newer, fresher gospels, and an uncritical stance towards the future.

Guinness’ description is spot on. Much of what passes for evangelical today is nothing of the sort. The assumptions of many evangelicals line up nicely with those we saw during liberalism’s great day in the late 19th and early 20th century. In particular, their “feeble hold on the Bible and truth.” Evangelical denominations, conferences, seminaries, and publishing houses are full of those who shave Scripture to fit their agenda, deny Scripture’s inerrancy, or blatantly ignore the plain teaching of the Bible.  Evangelical pastors are not much better. And perhaps the worst part is we don’t even know we have been gutted. We walk along, whistling merrily, believing we are alive when we are just a carcass.

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By In Culture

Questions About Same Sex Attraction

A firestorm started with The Gospel Coalition’s recent posts on same sex attraction. They published two posts both focusing around Ed Shaw’s book Same Sex Attraction and the Church: The Surprising Plausibility of the Celibate Life. The first post, entitled “Godliness is not Heterosexuality” was an excerpt from the book. The second post was a glowing review of the book by Ron Citlau, who also written a book on how the church can minister to homosexuals. Tim Challies then posted another very positive review of the book.

In response, Rick Phillips gave four propositions on homosexual desire. Douglas Wilson entered the fray with two posts, here and here, expressing his concerns about the way the TGC articles approached the issue. Denny Burk added his voice, which gives some context to the TGC articles from Shaw’s book. Outside of these articles there have been quite a few other blog posts, as well discussions on social media. The issue is an important one and will have lasting consequences moving forward for the church and her members, including those who struggle with homosexual temptations.

I am firmly in the Wilson-Phillips camp. I find the arguments brought forth by the gay-celibate/SSA movement to be weak and in many cases dangerous. The TGC articles were no exception. Perhaps those articles put in the context of Shaw’s book would alleviate some of my fears.

There are several questions that need to be clearly answered in this debate and rarely are. By the way, I do not like the term SSA. But I use it in this post for charity’s sake. Also I focus on men not women because that is mainly who is writing on this subject. (more…)

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By In Scribblings

R.L. Dabney on Public Prayer

R.L. Dabney has a wonderful chapter on public prayer at the end of his book Evangelical Eloquence.  Public prayer is not something I was taught formally in seminary nor informally watching my ministers growing up.  Like the public reading of Scripture it is ignored. Samuel Miller also wrote a book on public prayer in 1849. But since the 1800’s the importance of prayer in the pulpit has been forgotten.

Dabney begins by saying, “I deem that the minister is as much bound to prepare himself for praying in public as for preaching.  The negligence with which many preachers leave their prayer to accident [chance], while they lay out all their strength on their sermons, is most painfully suggestive of unbelief toward God and indifference to the edification of their brethren.” For many years little thought went into my public prayers. What did I teach my congregation about approaching God when I prayed in a sloppy, poorly thought out manner?  He goes on to say, “The many blemishes which we hear in public prayers are to be traced to two sources: first, deficient piety, and second, deficient preparation.”  We are not holy enough, near enough to God in our daily lives and we do not think about our prayers beforehand.

Then Dabney gives six things we should remember about public prayer.  There is a lot of wisdom in this list.

1. The grace of prayer is to be secured only by a life of personal and private devotion. He who carries a cold heart into the pulpit betrays it not only to God, whose detection of it is inevitable, but almost surely to the hearers also.

2. The pastor should remember that he is praying on behalf of the people, therefore his language should be simple, his petitions corporate, not private and he should make sure he is praying, not preaching…the language of prayer must be wholly unambitious, unaffected, and simple…not such as is proper from a teacher to a congregation, but just such as is appropriate for an accepted sinner speaking to his God.

3. The leader of the church’s prayers shall present distinct and definite petitions, and these not too numerous….The leader of prayer should therefore speak as one who has an errand at the throne, a point to press to God. He should eschew loose generalities of petition, and all that stream of indefinite, goodish talk with which so many prayers are filled, which really expresses nothing save a slumbering faith and a heart void of desire.

4. He who leads the devotions of others must study appropriateness of matter.  He should ask himself what would be uppermost in the hearts of Christians at that time.

5. The language of prayer should be well-ordered and considerate. He who speaks to the Searcher of hearts should beware how he indulges any exaggeration of words, lest his tongue should be found to have outrun his mind and to have “offered the sacrifice of fools.”

6. Above all should the minister enrich his prayers with the language of Scripture. Besides its inimitable beauty and simplicity, it is hallowed and sweet to every pious heart by a thousand associations.  It satisfies the tastes of all; its use effectually protects us against improprieties; it was doubtless given by the Holy Spirit to be a model for our devotions.

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