The way of life in the West is currently under assault, and Western Civilization hangs in the balance. Christians need to reclaim the great moral teachings on war and peace from the contemporary revisionists who would have Christians believe it is necessary to choose a “lesser evil” for a good cause or as a way of being “responsible” citizens of a nation-state.
Professors Webster and Cole explore in detail the great moral teachings found in Holy Scripture, the ancient and Byzantine Church Fathers, canon law, manuals of penance, lives of the saints, liturgical texts, visual icons, the medieval Scholastics, the great Reformers, and even among modern theologians and literary authors. They present a powerful, genuinely ecumenical, meticulously documented, incontrovertible case on behalf of the moral teachings known to Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians as the just or justifiable war traditions. This book provides a firm biblical, theological, and historical foundation for that confidence and is an incontrovertible answer to the “Christian” peace movement.
An important and timely contribution to one of the most important ecumenical debates of the early twenty-first century.
-George Weigel, Senior Fellow & Director of the Catholic Studies Project,
Ethics and Public Policy Center Washington, D.C.
This book usefully broadens the shape of reflection about just war and its implications by addressing both these critical matters and setting them in relation to Roman Catholic and Reformation Protestant just war thought, producing a genuinely comprehensive study of Christian tradition on the justification and limitation of war.
-Dr. James Turner Johnson, Professor of Religion, Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ
In The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West the authors deal with the intractable issues of peace and war from within the Christian Traditions of both Eastern and Western Christian thought. Webster and Cole make a strong case for their convictions that war by Christians can be virtuous and justifiable.
-V. Rev. Stanley S. Harakas, Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology
Emeritus, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology Brookline, MA
Fr. Alexander F. C. Webster holds a B.A. degree in history (Summa cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in history and education from Columbia University, a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University Divinity School, a Graduate Certificate in International Security Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in religion/social ethics from the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Darrell Cole holds a B.A. degree in philosophy from Lynchburg College, a Master of Arts in philosophy from Ohio University, a Master of Religion in ethics from Yale Divinity School, a Master of Theology from Duke Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in religion from the University of Virginia.
Read an Excerpt from the Book!
By far the most ambitious—and extreme—Orthodox statement on the impending war in Iraq came from the North America chapter of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (OPF), an organization that we encountered in Chapter 4 above. A 10-person council headed by John Brady and Jim Forest drafted “A Plea for Peace” in October 2002, which 146 persons had signed by March 19, 2003, the first day of the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq. The list of signatories is admittedly quite impressive and includes seven Orthodox bishops (three from the United States), the majority of the faculty of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in New York, and a potpourri of faculty from the other major Orthodox seminaries in the United States, as well as many prominent Orthodox clergy and laity on both sides of the Atlantic. What is most striking about the statement, especially in light of its distinguished proponents, is its shrill tone, simplistic analysis, and fundamental moral error.
We need only cite a few passages from this grievously flawed document. In the opening paragraph, the “Plea” concedes that Saddam Hussein “is an enemy of the United States and of the people of Iraq,” but, it hastens to add, “there are better ways to respond to terrorism than to respond in kind.” That blanket characterization of the then anticipated U.S. military action is, to use the familiar term from international relations, an example of “moral equivalence” of the worst kind. It is startling to realize that so many Orthodox leaders would equate U.S. military intervention with “terrorism.” The “Plea” also asserts that the “United States is ready to overthrow him by any means”—an egregious falsehood. The official military policy of the U.S. government, at least since the adoption of the “counterforce” nuclear strategy in the mid-1970’s, is firmly grounded in the Western just war tradition, particularly the jus in bello criteria (shared, as we have seen above, with the Orthodox justifiable war tradition) of the proportional use of force and immunity of civilian noncombatants from direct attack. There are other profound shortcomings in the document, such as an incorrect use of the concept of “pre-emption” in war, dire predictions about the consequences for the Middle East, and a naïve understanding of “friendship” in international relations.
But the most extreme assertion comes in the fourth of its 14 short paragraphs. The “Plea” declares: “the Orthodox Church has never regarded any war as just or good, and fighting an elusive enemy by means which cause the death of innocent people can be regarded only as murder.” The first contention in that passage is what the present volume is all about. Once again, a group of Orthodox leaders has mischaracterized the Orthodox moral tradition concerning war and peace. There is, unfortunately, nothing new there. But the charge of intended “murder” places this document into a class by itself. Perhaps the OPF and its signatories resort to this legal (and ethical) term out of sheer frustration with their presumed adversaries in the administration of President George W. Bush or the U.S. military itself. Perhaps the signatories are somehow unaware of the ramifications of impugning the motives and divining the intentions of U.S. public officials with such certitude. Perhaps not everyone who signed the “Plea” agrees with its entire content. Whatever the circumstances that gave rise to this accusation, a charge of “murder” is a rhetorical weapon of mass destruction that demands a moral rebuttal. . . .