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About War

A Summary of Friendship’s Position on War and Peace

  1. Christians are exhorted to be peacemakers:
    . . . We who claim his name must live peaceably ourselves, furnishing to the world conspicuous examples of peace-loving, harmonious living, and must also privately and publicly denounce war and strive to prevent it by prayer. . . (Acts of Synod1977, p. 558)
  2. Friendship maintains that a “just war” is possible and permissible,
    i.e. that a legitimately constituted government may use appropriate force to achieve the ends of justice and freedom.
  3. Friendship’s position is grounded in the view that the state is the bearer of the sword as taught in Romans 13:4 and supported by the general analogy of scripture. A duly constituted government may rightfully use force in the pursuit of justice and freedom.
  4. Friendship recognizes that even though there are occasions and reasons when war may be justified, it also recognizes that (“in the eyes of God”) there are no completely or purely just wars.
  5. Friendship eschews both pacifism and militarism.
    With respect to militarism, all inclination—surely all eagerness—to fight is thoroughly immoral and contrary both to the letter and spirit of everything our Lord teaches.
  6. Selective conscientious objection is acceptable with respect to a specific war under very limited conditions.
  7. Uncertainty or doubt is not sufficient ground for conscientious objection. When in doubt, one’s duty is to obey one’s government.
  8. The imperative “to obey one’s government” is a generalization and not a universalization
    (“obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word” – Belgic Confession, Article 36).
  9. The principle of proportionality leads Friendship to conclude that the widespread use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in a war renders such a war as unjust.

Principles of a Just War

The “just war” tradition has been found extensively within the Christian church even though it may be understood and articulated in different ways within different communities. The following seven components are considered necessary for judging a war as just:

Just Cause:

A just war can only be fought to redress wrongs that have been committed. A first strike attack on a nation that has committed no atrocities cannot be considered justice; that is aggression.

Right Authority:

A just war can only be waged by a legitimate authority. People, vigilantes, and terrorists do not wage just wars; only a legitimate government is permitted to wage a war that can be considered justified.

Right Intention:

A just war can only be fought with “right” intentions. War is not justified to gain control of another nation, it’s assets or it’s people. If the right intention for going to war is not present, justice is not present.

Proportionality:

A just war must never allow the force used to be disproportional to the need. Nations must be prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the wrongs that have been committed.

Last Resort:

A just war can only be waged as a last resort, after reasonable attempts to bring justice have been exhausted.

Achieve Peace:

A just war can only be fought if the ultimate goal is to re-establish peace. More specifically, war is not justified if the situation in a country cannot be reasonably expected to be better after the war than before.

Reasonable hope of success:

A just war can only be fought if there is a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

Additionally, developments in warfare and weaponry lead to the following principle:

Discrimination:

A just war must employ weapons and tactics that discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Innocent civilians are never permissible targets of war, and war can only be just if every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties.

A Link to the Statement of Our Denomination

The Christian Reformed Church’s “Guidelines for Justifiable Warfare.”

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