Seeking Justice in the Midst of Terror

The Christian criteria for retribution

As the U.S. government contemplates its response against those who unleashed a reign of terror upon the United States, we must consider the ethics of war. From its earliest days, the church has debated when it is morally legitimate to wage war.

For many centuries, Christians have employed "just-war theory" as a framework for the discussion of issues of war and peace. This theory was adopted by early church leaders, particularly Augustine, to deal with the reality of war in a fallen, sinful world of empires and nations.

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There are two dimensions to just-war theory-one that weighs whether or not to engage in armed conflict

(jus ad bellum

) and the other that examines how to conduct the military exercises

(jus in bello).

The aim of any armed conflict should be to keep the peace and maintain justice.

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