Christ and Culture

Daniel R. Heimbach: The Ethics of War and Peace

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Christ and Culture · Dan Heimbach: The Ethics of War and Peace – EP31

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In Christ & Culture podcast with Dr. Ken Keathley, we explore how the Christian faith intersects all avenues of today’s culture through conversations with leading thinkers.

Today’s Episode: Is war ever justified? If so, how should a justified war be conducted? On today’s episode, ethics professor Dr. Daniel Heimbach defines and discusses Just War Theory and its role in the wars of history.

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Any part of social life is going to be imperfect.

What is pacifism?

“Pacifism is the idea that the use of deadly force, taking life, destroying property is never ever right because violence is the definition of evil. It defines violence as evil, therefore no evil can be justified, and therefore no use of deadly force can be justified.”

What is a crusade?

“It doesn’t like war, but it uses war as the best means to get rid of evil and create a perfect world. Its vision of a perfect world is to have a world ruled by God or an emissary of God with no exceptions, nobody disagreeing and nobody opposing. If people are converted? Great. If they don’t, kill them.”

How are pacifism and crusade similar?

“Both crusade and pacifism are perfectionist ethics, or versions of ethical ideals. That is they start with a vision of perfection and construct an ethic of war and peace in view of that vision. The perfection that the pacifist starts with is no violence; the perfection that a crusade starts with is a world ruled by God or a world ruled by a perfect ruler, with no opposition. But of course we don’t live in a perfect world, and we’re not going to have a perfect world as long as there are sin and sinners in the world. Any part of social life is going to be imperfect.”

What is Just War Theory?

“Just War is a mediating ethic that is realist…. It opposes unnecessary war, but also thinks at times war is necessary. The ethic is framed by two questions: When is going to war justified?.… How should a justified war be conducted?”

Bush’s use on my recommendation of Just War language resurrected the application of Just War in the modern world.

On his role in the George H. W. Bush administration’s Gulf War policy.

“Nobody was discussing Just War when I went to the academy or to seminary for PhD work. It was a historic thing, and nobody thought it was relevant after the advent of nuclear weapons. Bush’s use on my recommendation of Just War language resurrected the application of Just War in the modern world.”

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