For forty-five years I have been saying that Christian Just War Theory (CJWT) owes nothing to anything Jesus ever said or did. Jesus was Nonviolent and taught a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, as His Way, as God’s Way and as the Way that His disciples were to follow Him. Over those forty-five years I have checked-out whether this is the truth of the Jesus of the Gospels along any avenue of investigation which came to my attention. Every check, and there have probably been thousands of them, not only confirmed that the Jesus of the Gospels was Nonviolent and taught by word and deed a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, but also ever more deeply confirmed that this was the historical Jesus and that this was what He taught—and that there was no way to get around it. Every apparent loophole, ambiguity and inadequacy that appeared at first to be a way of escaping from this teaching of Jesus wound up demonstrating and supporting the historical accurateness and the spiritual seriousness of the Nonviolent Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love in the Gospels and in the Apostolic Tradition.
So, if it is the truth that CJWT owes nothing to anything Jesus ever said or did, and if de facto CJWT morally permits followers of Jesus to engage in acts that He expressly forbids His disciples to engage in, how did it get into the Churches as a moral teaching on par with, if not superior to, the teaching of Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God, God, Incarnate? What is the rational, logical process, the evience by which the Churches and Christians are permitted to substitute a moral standard and option that are antithetical to the explicit moral commands of Jesus to His followers? The Catholic Biblical scholar, the late Rev. John L. McKenzie, writes, “We have tried to produce a form of Christianity that will be tolerable to those who believe that the best way to deal with your enemies is to beat their heads in. And, we have done this. We have produced the Christian ethic of the just war. This is not the New Testament and every theologian knows it.” Fine. But, how in the name of God is it possible for Churches or Christians to rationally and reasonably get to CJWT as a Way of following Jesus, as a Way that is consistent with His Way of Eternal Salvation? It is not possible.
The whole CJWT fiasco is the product of the fallacy of “proof by assertion” or “proof by repeated assertion.” There is no evidence in the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospels that rationally permits the substitution of CJWT as an alternative Way of following Jesus. On the contrary, the Gospels beyond a shadow of intellectual and moral doubt make such an alternative logically impossible. Yet, for 1700 years Constantinian Christians have attempted to trump every presentation, that lays out a conclusively, based on grammar, rhetoric and logic, that there is nothing in the words and deeds of Jesus to support CJWT, with “But my Church has a just war theory.” Yes, it has a Christian just war theory, but how does it validate having such a spiritual and moral monstrosity as consistent with the teaching of Jesus on violence and enmity?
“Proof by assertion” or “proof by repeated assertion” is a logical fallacy in which a proposition is repeatedly stated as true regardless of contradictions and without offering supporting evidence. Its repetition and longevity are then taken as evidence of its truth in place of the authentic evidence that was never presented because it was not there to present. It is what Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, meant when he said, “If you repeat a falsehood long enough, it becomes the truth.” Mass media spin-d-d—– octors, advertisers, public relation firms, propagandists and con artists of every ilk are well aware of the gimmick and employ it ceaselessly. Indeed, it is so commonly employed that a large percentage of the population prefers to live in a world of repeated sound-bite assertions rather than in a world of rationally-rrooted evidence. “But my Church has a just war theory,” is such a sound-bite proof by assertion that Christians universally fall back on when their so-called “proof texts,” e.g. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” “I come not to bring peace but the sword,” etc., are rendered nugatory by Biblical scholarship as justifications for Christians killing people for the state or for any other reason.
Some of the more educated Christians know that the answer, “My Church has a just war theory,” does not answer the question of how one’s Church can have a just war theory, if Jesus not only does not teach such a morality but also teaches explicitly what would make having such a morality impossible, e.g., “Love your enemies,” “Love one another as I have loved you,” “Put up your sword,” etc. Across the 1700 years of Baptized Christians engaging in the human slaughter and carnage of war, these Christians and Churches have run for cover to some interpretation or another of Natural Law philosophy.
But, there is no help to be found here for the Church or Christian who wants Jesus’ blessing and support in going to war against other sons and daughters of the “Father of all.” As a way of making CJWT a morally acceptable Christian activity Natural Law is a dud. Why—because, the ultimate Source, Author and Communicator of the genuine content of the Natural Law, the Law of God placed in the human being at conception, is the Eternal Word (Logos) of God. And who is Jesus? Jesus is the Eternal Word (Logos) of God “made flesh who dwelt among us.”
Unless God and His Logos (Word) are illogical—and Benedict XVI went to great lengths in his 2006 lecture at the University of Regensburg and took a tremendous public relations hit in order to maximally communicate that such was not the case with God revealed in Jesus—then nothing in Natural Law morality can contradict the morality proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount. For, it is the same Person, the same Word (Logos) of God, who speaks to humanity in both. If an interpretation of the Natural Law by a Christian, who has but a very limited and concupiscence-aaafflicted human mind, morally permits the Christian to engage in war and the acts war requires, then that interpretation cannot be a correct interpretation of Natural Law by a Christian or Church, for it contradicts what the Word (Logos) of God proclaimed as the will of the Father in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Gospels—and in the Sermon on the Cross. The mere assertion and/or ceaselessly repeated assertion that the Natural Law permits the Christian to engage in the heinous human activity called war is not proof that a Christian can participate in war under the auspices of Natural Law of which Jesus is the Author and the definitive Interpreter.
There are many moral problems that Jesus does not expressly address. But, violence and enmity He does expressly, unambiguously and unequivocally address by His words and deeds. He rejects them and commands their rejection universally and without reserve by those He chooses to be His disciple. Remembering who the Christian says Jesus is—God Incarnate—how does a Christian or a Church justify replacing Jesus’ teaching that rejects violence and enmity, retaliation and revenge with, or giving equal moral and redemptive status to, the teaching of a Stoic pagan philosopher, Cicero, who via his interpretation of Natural Law, written in his last treatise, De Officiis (44 B.C.), justifies war, enmity, retaliation and revenge? Where do Ambrose and Augustine, both of whom were aficionados of Cicero’s thought, get the right to assert that a moral teaching that is incontestably in direct contradiction to the teaching of Jesus is consistent with the Way taught by Jesus? Where do all those who have come after them, and who have assert what Ambrose and Augustine asserted about Christian participation in war, get their right to do this in light of the explicitness of the Word of God Incarnate’s teaching on violence and enmity, revenge and retaliation. Jesus outright rejected them.
The mere assertion and repeated assertion that one has a right to do something and that it is good and true is irrelevant in the discernment of whether there is such a right and is good and is true. Where is the evidence to support the right to teach the opposite of what Jesus taught in the name of Jesus? Where is the evidence, in Light of the teaching of Jesus, to support the goodness and truth of the assertion that CJWT is in conformity with the will of God as taught by the Word (Logos) of God through whom all things were made and who for us and our salvation was made flesh and dwelt among us? Where? It does not exists in the teaching of Jesus, it does not exists in Natural Law that possibly is referred to in Romans 2:14-15, it does not exists in the Gospels, it does not exists in the Apostolic Tradition.
“Like all my contemporaries on seminary faculties, I had been reared on the Christian ethics of the just war. It is phony morality.” Rev. John L.McKenzie
How long, O Lord, how long?