Another Just War Theory

In my late-vocations class were were informed that during late antiquity in the Eastern (very Christian influenced) Roman empire there was an operational just war theory. That theory was quite simple and was as follows. 

War is never just. 

Now this is an interesting theory of war to be held by a Empire which was almost continuously at war (mostly for defense) for 800 years or so. This merely points out that the conclusion that war is not just is not equivalent to the claim that war is at times necessary. 

War not being just however, did not mean war was not practice or even should not be practiced. Those engaged in war, because of its inherent injustice, were excluded from Eucharist for a period of five years (if the war was not deemed defensive, in which case it was three years). I think there are some problems with this theory as presented about how the Eastern Roman Empire viewed justice vis a vis war, in that I’m pretty sure that clerical presence was found alongside the army. What was its purpose if these soldiers were all “out of communion” during wartime? 

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2 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    I had to put down Christianity the first 3K years but didn’t I read in it that monestaries were partially established to do penance for the sins of the military? Their POV then was kind of like God was getting ‘paid off’. The prayers of a monk could offset the killing of a solider.

    What’s interesting about the older concept you pitch is the transactional nature it seems to imply. God forbids war but you can get away with it if you’re willing to offset that violation with something else.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I don’t know much (yet) about Christian monastic movements past about the 5th-6th century, and then mostly in the East (the West’s monastic movements migrated from the East mostly via John Cassian). In that earlier time-frame I’ve seen no mention of such a transaction or motive. I haven’t gotten back to that book for a bit either.

    I’m pretty sure that the East wouldn’t take it in to the same literal extreme that the more legalistic West did for example with Luther’s objections to indulgences. However the notion that another’s prayers on my behalf might be beneficial for my sake my time of Judgement is not strange in the East … and is probably where this sort of thing arose.