JACKSON, Tenn. – Jan. 12, 2005– In a day when wars rage around the world, Christians need a solid understanding of the theology and ethics behind war, according to Daryl Charles.
Charles, associate professor of Christian Studies at Union University, has written a book addressing these issues. “Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and the Christian Tradition,” published by InterVarsity Press, will be released this spring.
Charles’ motivation for writing the book came from the need to address the inability of the average layperson, clergyman, educator and politician or policy-maker to offer an explanation for the just use of force; and the questions that stem from the use of force: “Whether or not?” “Why or why not?” and “Under what conditions?”
“Christians have a very important role to play in policy making,” Charles said. “We are challenged to affirm what we believe — and be able to give a reasonable hope for what we believe in. Although a moderating position, the just war tradition is a long tradition.”
Paul Ramsey, an ethicist who taught at Princeton for a number of years, argued against the religious concern that war cannot be morally justified based upon the teaching of Jesus “to turn the other cheek.” Ramsey believed that Christian love must protect the innocent third party — and that a just use of force can be an expression of religious charity. These principles can be true in the family, neighborhood, city, state and nations.
“Many of us have not learned how to bridge both theology and ethics,” Charles said. “People like Paul Ramsey have done us a great service.”
There are responsibilities with what America has been given. Justified war requires wisdom and discernment. This just war thinking is, in fact, a type of moral political wisdom for this day and age.
“To whom much is given, much is required,” Charles said. “I am distressed by the low levels of evangelicals doing policy work. Just war tradition is a way of thinking, a way of qualifying justice in an imperfect world for the goal of peace.
“The reader will hopefully be struck by several things when reading, ‘Between Pacifism and Jihad,’” Charles said. “Force can indeed serve just purposes; morally-guided force can be a legitimate expression of charity, based on ‘ethics of protection’; peace must be justly ordered, for there also exists an unjust peace; and there is a rich, long-standing, consensual tradition of moral reflection on war and peace in the history of Christian thought that provides political-moral wisdom for our day, even with its unique moral challenges.”
Heather Hagood ('05)