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When is War Justified? When is War Justified?

Andrew Goddard
ISBN 1851745203 (9781851745203)
Grove Books, 2003
£2.95

Category: Ethics & Morality

This booklet could hardly have been published at a more appropriate time. Goddard's own words from the introduction sum up its importance:

"Living as we do in the midst of wars and rumours of wars it is vitally important that Christians think seriously about how to speak and act when nations take up arms against each other. When, if ever, is war justified?" (p.3)

Goddard writes largely to address his concern that Christians, politicians and the media have misunderstood - and consequently often misuse - the concept of Just War. The Just War Tradition (JWT) is more than a simple "shopping list of criteria", he argues, and the tendency to see it in these terms robs it of its power.

He takes us through a concise history of JWT, its origins in early classical thinking, its subsequent Christian appropriation and development, more recent developments during the Cold War era, the challenges faced by the post Cold War situation and on into the 21st century post Sept 11th 2001. He then breaks the discussion down into its two primary areas of concern: decisions about commencing war (two chapters look at issues of just cause, right intention, when to wage war and who has the authority to do so, and reviews the problems arising out of these) and decisions during war (one chapter, looking at discrimination between legitimate and illegitimate targets, and issues of proportion - means and ends).

Finally a brief conclusion summarizes the arguments and sets the discussion within the larger framework of the church's place within contemporary international politics - and calls us to pray for the coming of Christ's kingdom, "the reign of the crucified and risen Messiah".

It's impossible in a booklet of this length (28 pages) to do justice to an issue that has seen vast tomes and endless reams devoted to it, and there's a danger that this review commits the very crime that Goddard seeks to redress. But if you're looking for a straightforward summary of the issues to help bring your thoughts into focus, this booklet is definitely the place to start - once again, a Grove booklet lives up to the publisher's claim: "Not the last word - but often the first."

Phil Groom, March 2003

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.

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