Tag Archives: Augustine

Scott Morizot on just war and the orthodox view on killing humans

Scott Morizot is one of those people I wish would write a book. He blogs about faith, and sometimes about gluten-free diet -which is also interesting to me, since my wife can’t eat wheat due to a mild gluten intolerance…- and when he writes about something, there’s a big chance that it’s worth reading.  (I’m not reading all his links about American politics though, I don’t want to get too frustrated about a continent that’s not mine…) He’s very interesting because he writes from a perspective that I’d call ‘classical christianity’, which is more in line with the church fathers, and very close to the eastern orthodox, even if he’s not EO himself.

Due to circumstances he’s not blogging that frequently nowadays, but there’s stuff in his archives that I really recommend, like his series on heaven and hell and on original sin. He also has a series on sola scriptura that’s very challenging.  And a lot of commentary on ancient texts and other interesting stuff. (did I mention the gluten-free diet?)

Recently I was reading a discussion on the Jesus creed blog on muslims, christians and war (also recommended, both this post and the blog itself) which contained some comments that are just too good to be hidden in a blog comment discussion. So I will quote them here, so I have access to them when I want, and so that you all can be enlightened by them:

Which Christian just war theory? 😉 The first thoughts are on it were expressed by Augustine. I’m not sure I would call it a developed theory, per se. He was struggling in his part of the world with the real and (for him) immediate question of what to do when the nation itself is predominantly Christian and the barbarians are at the gate, as it were. His thoughts were expressed in three points.

St. Thomas Aquinas fleshed it out more in his Summa Theologica, but as I recall (been some years since I read it) stuck with essentially the same three points Augustine used.

Without looking them up (always a dangerous thing), I believe Augustine’s original three tenets were:

1. War must only be waged for a good purpose, not for power or gain.
2. War must only be waged by a properly instituted state.
3. The central goal must always be peace, even in the midst of violence.

More modern versions have many more points (and clarifications of points). As a former soldier and in trying to develop an understanding of historical Christian perspectives on war once I found myself one, I read all that I could find once upon a time (including a really good paper published through West Point).

Personally, I prefer the Orthodox understanding and approach to the attempts in Western theology. The basic Orthodox approach is that Christians are called to love and killing another human being is always evil. It is never good. However, we live in a broken world and sometimes people (and states) are placed in situations where it seems the only options they have are evil (whether that’s reality or merely our broken perception is always hard to say). They can kill or engage in war, which is evil, or they can refrain and by not opposing evil with violence allow worse evil to occur.

Regardless, killing another human being damages a person’s humanity deeply. A priest who sheds blood is deposed (though the possibility of restoration through repentance and economia remains open). A communicant who takes a life was typically restricted from communion for a period of time for repentance and restoration (traditionally 1-3 years) even though their action may have been “justified” or even required by their circumstances. The focus is always on healing the damage and not on determining whether or not it was “justified”.

I think that’s a better approach. Within the Christian perspective, violence always runs counter to love. That was, after all, God’s charge against humanity in the story of Noah — the world was “full of violence.” If we do not act, in and through Christ, to heal and be healed of violence, who else will?

The second one is a lot later in the discussion.

I came back and read the comments and, as often seems to be case, they seem to be a back and forth around the wrong question: When is it justified or right to kill another human being? It’s as though if a sufficient justification can be found, it somehow ameliorates the effects or consequences of the act.

But how can that be true? In the Christian perspective, Christ joined the divine nature wholly and inseparably, but without confusion, to our common human nature. It’s through that act, joining us in suffering (though without sin), even to death, and then defeating death that mankind was redeemed and our healing begun. It is no longer the nature of man to die, which is why the NT and early Christians typically called what happens to us now “sleep” indicating its new and impermanent nature.

This also means that when you kill another, you not only attempt to kill a human being, part of the humanity that in nature has been joined with Christ, but you damage yourself as well. Sin is like a disease, running rampant in our mortal bodies. We are either being healed or we are falling under its sway. Unless someone can explain how you can kill another human being as an act of love toward that human being (willfully acting for their good), then clearly your act is “missing the mark” — the very definition of sin in the NT. Surely no Christian disputes that point? What is the foremost command of our Lord, after all — repeated again and again by him and by his apostles?

With that said, are there situations where our choices appear constricted to the lesser of two evils? Certainly. But a lesser evil is still evil. It seems to me that much of just war arguments consist largely of trying to rationalize evil, even the lesser evil in a particular situation, into good.

And that’s a problem on multiple levels. When people begin to feel the evil they are doing is justified or even righteous, things can become topsy-turvy. We see that repeatedly in Christian history. The Crusades. The Inquisition. The usual litany of charges. They had convinced themselves that what they were doing was good and that’s a very dangerous place to be. We are no less subject to such temptation. We must guard against it. And when we recognize and acknowledge that it is evil and a failure of love to kill another, that’s a start.

But it also has a more insidious effect. If we do not recognize that the perhaps necessary act of a person defending innocents, a police officer upholding law, or a soldier fighting (within the bounds of conscience) according to the dictates of his nation, is still sin, we may not act to heal the person suffering from the effects of that sin. For unacknowledged (or even justified) sin is then left free to wreak its havoc unchecked and unchallenged. One who has committed violence or killed another human being has damaged themselves. They require healing, but healing can only begin if a mirror is held in front of them so they can see that damage. And for Christians, the mirror is always Christ. He shows us as we are in his light.

When Christians try to argue that killing others is ever “right” we have lost our way. There are times it is necessary (or at least I lack the imagination to see any way it can always be avoided). But it’s a necessity that must be covered in tears of repentance and sorrow. When we kill, we have made the world a little darker, even if it would have grown even darker had we not.

I especially love that last paragraph. This is really important stuff, that we need to talk about more. That we need to live more.

what do you people think?



Does the gospel require the doctrine of ‘the fall’?

And we’re back after a blogging hiatus with more thoughts that might disturb some people.

I was participating in a discussion about evolutionary creationism on the blog of Rachel Held Evans, (look out for the actual article when it’s ready, it will probably very interesting)  and one of the subjects that always comes up in such discussions is that of the fall. The line of reasoning is that without the litteral story of Adam, Eve and the apple there would be no gospel at all, but I’m affraid that I don’t get the problem here…

Let me sayfirst that I myself have no problem at all with 6-day creation, nor do I have any problem with the idea of evolutionary creation. I do think that the scientific evidence points towards the latter, but by no means does that mean that one of those options is right and the other wrong. Au contraire, I don’t believe that modern science is capable of telling us how the world was created at all, since the visible world comes from the invisible. Investigating the traces left in the material world will never give us a complete view, but if the traces lead us to an old earth and universe, and biological evolution, it’s okay to me. But it will never be the whole story, and the whole story is outside the scope of science, and bigger than we can comprehend…

So I’m inclined to see the first chapters of genesis as a symbolic story to tell us in a poetic way about something that cannot be said in straight and exact ways and modern scientific discours. I would say the same about the story of the fall. The whole forbidden fruit story kinda seems symbolic, but still it says something real: man has at some point rebelled against God, and now we live in the reality described.

That ‘fallen’ reality is clear to everyone: this world in in the hands of the powers of sin, death and distruction. We see it everywhere if we open our eyes, and experience it every day. The power of sin is working inside of us, and also from the outside against us. This is so clear that I don’t believe anyone can deny this. So I’m always surprised that people need to use genesis to explain why we need salvation, just point to anywhere and you’ll see why…

Now we could have a discussion about Augustinian original sin, or ancestral sin. The first says that the sin of Adam is in some way transferred to all his descendants, the second one says that Adam had in his sin polluted the world, which brings all people born into this world under the influence and power of sin. I tend to the second, which makes me probably a bad protestant, but I don’t even see a problem for Augustinian Christianity without the story of the apple being litteral history, let alone non-Augustinian theology which does not place such an emphasis on the idea of ‘the fall’. Wheter or not we know what happened, we see the state the world is in and it’s not a good one, and Jesus came to solve that, and did solve it. Do we really believe that?? Or do we think Jesus came to solve some abstract ideas and man-made theological problems?

Jesus did defeat death, evil, sin and Satan in his death and resurrection, so the problem solved is bigger than the one the apple story explains anyway!

Wait here!

Did I just say that the problem solved is bigger than the story of the apple and the fall?

Yes I did. The hope we have as Christians is the New Heavens and the New Earth, in which all evil will be eliminated. So no more sin, no more death, etc… The whole problem of evil being undone by the work of Jesus; like I said earlier. That is the whole story of Christian salvation. The source of evil here is in a way irrelevant, if we look to explain it in a historical analytical way like we Westerners like to do it; but what we can say is that it defenitely lies outside of God. The whole story of redemprion, culminating in the incarnation, life, teaching, example, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus is about God doing something against evil, and in the end eradicating it.

So evil is NOT from God, but what God is fighting against. And this evil has something to do not only with the fall of men, and the whole apple story, but with evil powers of which the origin isn’t explained in genesis either (the ‘snake’ is just called a snake, not even identified with satan except by the writer of revelation, and why he is evil is explained nowhere)

There’s more going on about evil than the fall of man anyway, and we don’t know that much about it… There are speculations about the fall of Satan, but we don’t have anything really clear about it in the bible.

So what are my shocking conclusions? The first one is that we don’t need a litteral story about the fall of man to see that this world is burdened by sin and evil and in need of the salvation Jesus brought, but we just have to open our eyes, and the second one is that the problem solved by the salvation Jesus brings is a lot bigger than what the apple story explains… The apple story might explain how those forces of evil infiltrated mankind, but not where they came from.

Any additional ideas anyone?




So here are a lot of quotes; most of them which I’ve posted though twitter and facebook throughout the last year.

I noticed that Shane Claiborne, C.S. Lewis and Brian McLaren are great contributors to my stock of quotes…

just read one; and think about it… and then another one… and so on

True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. ‘Love thy neigbor’ is not a piece of advice, it”s a command. and that means that in the global village we’re gonna have to start loving a whole lot more people. – Bono

“Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared.” -Henri Nouwen

if you think nuclear disarmament is impossible, South Africa did it in 1991. They saw it as something to leave behind along with apartheid, just as previous generations saw slavery, the inequality of women, and child labor as things to leave behind. (Brian McLaren)

A genuinely new, more perfect and better life comes from within, and not from without, it comes from a spiritual rebirth, and not from a mere change of social conditions, of social means. (Nikolai Beryaev)

“When a man is thirsty, whether he be learned or ignorant, young or old, in order to quench his thirst what he needs is not knowledge, but water. Before he drinks the water he does not need to know that it contains oxygen and hydrogen. If he ref…used to drink it until he could understand what we mean by oxygen and hydrogen he would die of thirst.” Sadhu Sundar Singh

Michael Moore: ” It doesn’t seem you can call yourself a Capitalist and a Christian”

the blood of the dodo still cries, that our so-called civilisation is nothing but a very advanced & sophisticated form of barbarism (Bram cools)

Mutual aid is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle – Peter Kropotkin-

everything we consume, we turn into shit… (McLaren wrote a censored version)

the real christian work ethic is not the so-called protestant work ethic which is embedded in individualism, but it is found in Eph 4:28: If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need.

“Talk about God is not repressed talk about sexuality; talk about sex is, in fact, repressed talk about God.” – sarah coakley

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? – Thomas a Kempis

Sadhu sundar singh the question who were right, Christian Fundamentalists or Liberals? — Both were wrong.The Fundamentalists were.uncharitable to those who differed from them. That is, they were unchristian. The Liberals sometimes went to the extent ofdenying the divinity of Christ, which they had no business to do.

“The more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he seems to get me into.” -Shane Claiborne

Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These godless Galileans (ie. Christians) feed not only their own poor but ours: our poor lack our care – Roman emperor Julian

the real christian work ethic is not the so-called protestant work ethic, but it is found in Eph 4:28

“Never forget that u are beautiful, just like everyone else. And never forget that u are a fool, just like everyone else.” -Shane Claiborne

everybody knows that the moon is made of cheese – wallace from wallace and gromit

we are not punished for our sins, but by them – Elbert Hubbard

Christianity is not a doctrine to be taught, but a life to be lived.” Søren Kierkegaard

“Change will have to come from outside, from the margins. The desert, not the temple, gave us the prophets.” -Wendell Berry

Jesus light the light we were asleep beside the roadside waitng on rescue this relationshp it isn’t how its really supposed to be -souljunk-

love your enemies, pray for those who persecute your [Jesus of Nazareth]

There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it. [Lord Voldemort]

Our hope today does not lie on Wallstreet our hope doesn’t rest in America our hope does not come from a new caesar or even a new president, our hope today is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood & righteousness on Christ the solid rock we stand all other ground is sinking sand, indeed as we look around all other ground is sinking sand but christ will live forever – shane claiborne

everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes (shane claiborne)

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature. — St. Augustine

don’t buy the lie that new is always better: evolution can be both progress and regress, but mostly it consists of both… -abe Claeysson

if you’re looking for the devil, check out the inquisition, not just the witches…

“A private truth for a limited circle of bellivers is no truth at all” – Leslie Newbigin

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. – Mother Theresa

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” -Jesus of Nazareth-

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”- C.S. Lewis

“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C. S. Lewis

Look into the eyes of the ones who are hardest for you to like, and see the One you love. – Shane Claiborne

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. — Einstein

lust reduces the riches of the deep attractiveness of masculinity & femininity to mere satisfaction of the sexual need of the body pope John Paul II

seek first His Kingdom, and Hid justice, and all the other things will be given you as well… – Jesus from Nasareth, the christ

“God comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.” – Shane Claiborne

Every year we waste enough To feed the ones who starve We build our civilization up And we shoot it down with wars – woody guthry

It is more courageous to love our enemies than to kill them – Shane Claiborne

We Haven’t Just been Told, We Have Been Loved – half-handed cloud album title

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. The opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Religious debate can be a lot like pornography, drug abuse, and gambling: stupid yet attractive and potentially addictive, and therefore dangerous spiritually. -Brian McLaren-

“I believe people are saved not by objective truth, but by Jesus. Their faith isn’t in their knowledge, but in God.” – Brian McLaren

the third way of Jesus is always asking if there is an imaginative, subversive, brilliant, creative path- Rob Bell

you can be [insert anything here] but without love you ain’t nothing – Larry Norman

“Most good things have been said far too many times and just need to be lived.” – Shane Claiborne

“Some Christians use Jesus as a shortcut to being right. In the process they bypass becoming humble or wise.” Brian McLaren

“The World can’t afford The American Dream” – Shane Claiborne

Each time the people of God becomes effective according to the world´s criteria, this only implies that society has absorbed our action and is using it for its own ends and for its own profit. (jacques ellul)

that’s enough for today…