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Christianity and War: Just War Theory

Ethics and War, Crusades, Holy War


Saint AugustineJust War Theory (jus bellum iustum)

The Just War Tradition is one of several approaches to the ethics of war. It has its origins in Western civilizations, but is not unique to the West. It was systematically developed by the Christian Church, but is not an exclusively Christian doctrine, nor is it universally held by Christians. It is often referred to as the Just War Theory, but it is not a scientifically proven and universally held set of propositions. How then should we describe Just War Theory? Put simply, the Just War Tradition recognizes that in times of war traditional ethics seem to be suspended in a certain sense, and yet there are still ethical guidelines that should be followed in times of war. Normally, killing other people is not allowed. Normally, destroying the property of others or taking it without remuneration is not allowed. Yet these actions are permitted in times of war. On the other hand, the Just War Tradition teaches that ethical standards are still binding in times of war. The Just War Tradition recognizes that war is a horrible tragedy and that terrible things are inevitable in armed conflict. The Just War Tradition attempts to mitigate these horrors of war by providing an ethical framework for nations to determine whether or not it is right to go to war and for nations to govern their actions during a conflict. The nature and makeup of this framework is something that ethicists debate and politicians and military leaders apply in different ways.

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