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When and How Can War Be Just?

Tim Staples

Tim Staples explains the principles from both reason and Scripture that underlie just war theory, and shows why these principles not only allow but even obligate a nation under attack to protect its people with “the use of the sword.”


Host: We go now to Anonymous listening in Columbus, Ohio on St. Gabriel Radio. Anonymous, you are on with Tim staples.

Caller: Oh, good day, blessings to you all, thanks for taking my call.

Tim: All right, brother.

Caller: Tim Staples mentioned about “just war.” Two questions: who makes the war—meaning killing people—just, and how is it just?

Tim: That’s an excellent, excellent couple of questions.

Okay, well first of all, we know, biblically speaking, that there is a distinction, in fact, there’s a distinction in Hebrew, between killing and murder. And the Ten Commandments can really be translated as “Thou shalt not murder,” not “Thou shalt not kill.”

And really, translating it as it popular, as “Thou shalt not kill,” you end up with a lot of contradictions in the Old Testament because, as you know, Anonymous, because it sounds like you know your Bible, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 says in plain terms: “There is a time to heal and a time to kill; a time for war and a time for peace.” So we know that both the Ten Commandments and Ecclesiastes 3 are inspired by the same Holy Spirit.

So, the key is, “Thou shalt not murder,” and so in the case of—let’s use the example, Anonymous, of me—I said this earlier in our last hour, I’m a father of seven children. If someone comes in my house and wants to rape and kill my wife, kill my children, I have a responsibility as 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If any man provides not for his household, let him know he has denied the faith and he is worse than an unbeliever.”

I believe that text is talking about more than just putting corn flakes on the table and teaching my kids; but it means to provide security and protection for my family. I’m the head of the household. And so yeah, Anonymous, this might sound strange to you, but I encourage all fathers to learn how to fight.

You know, I joined the United States Marine Corps, I used to box myself; I think everyone, if you’re going to be the head of a family, you should be able to take care of yourself to protect.

Now that doesn’t mean, you know, everybody’s got to be you know heavyweight champion of the world, or, you know, MMA or anything like that; but we do have a responsibility, I believe, to take care of our families, and that means we don’t just sit there and watch if they’re, you know, being taken apart or being killed. We must defend them. We have an obligation to defend against an unjust aggressor.

Well the same goes, as Romans 13:1-4 talks about nations having a responsibility to wield the sword; now that comes to–that comes in the context of the protection against malevolent people, malefactors who are trying to do bad things in your country, you arrest them and so forth, and that does include the use of the sword there, as St. Paul tells us in Romans chapter 13.

So, the key is, when the sword can be used, it must be a matter of defense, we don’t strikeout offensively against people at a whim, but there have to be legitimate concerns about the protection of your people.

In fact, the Catholic Church, Anonymous, has a doctrine called a Just War Doctrine. In fact, if just war doctrine were adhered to, we wouldn’t have very many wars, because it’s very difficult to qualify for it to be a truly just war.

But the bottom line is, Anonymous, we have to acknowledge, Biblically speaking, that there is a time for war and a time for peace–that is, if you believe in the Bible.

Does that help at all?

Caller: Yes, it does. Thank you very much.

Tim: All right, God bless you, my friend.


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