How can one prepare a paper on the theology of war?

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Discussion of the theology of war involves the history of “just war doctrine.”  Developed by the Catholic Church, it represented an effort on the part of Roman philosophers to reconcile the apparent conflict between theological proscriptions against the taking of life with the perception that there existed morally legitimate instances when violence is warranted.  Christian theories of “just war doctrine” have continued to provide the basis for discussions of the moral dilemmas inherent in decisions to go to war.  The Old Testament is replete with the expectation that the Jews, under the mandate of God, will destroy their enemies.  References to the inevitability of war occur in the following passages from, respectively, Ecclesiastes 3:8 and Matthew 24:6:

“A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all [these things] must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Early philosophies regarding necessary or just war included those put forth by Thomas Aquinas and Auerelius Augustinus Hipponensis, or Augustine of Hippo.  Aquinas famously articulated three conditions under which war is justified:

“The first thing is the authority of the prince by whose command the war is to be waged.  It does not belong to a private person to start a war, for he can prosecute his claim in the court of his superior. . . But since the care of the commonwealth is entrusted to princes, to them belongs the protection of the commonwealth of the city, kingdom, or province . . . The second requisite is a just cause, so that they who are assailed should deserve to be assailed for some fault that they have committed.  Hence Augustine says: ‘Just wars are usually defined as those which avenge injuries, in cases where a nation or city has to be chastised for having either neglected to punish the wicked doings of its people, or neglected to restore what has been wrongfully taken away.’ The third thing requisite is a right intention of promoting good or avoiding evil.  For Augustine says ‘Eagerness to hurt, bloodthirsty desire of revenge, an untamed and unforgiving temper, ferocity in renewing the struggle . . . these and the like excesses are justly blamed in war’.”

Discussions regarding the moral propriety of war are a regular feature of debates regarding the use of military force today.  A useful reference in this regard is available at, which provides discussions and quotes issues by the Catholic Church regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace on December 10, 2009, President Barak Obama noticeably did not eschew war as a foreign policy option, but emphasized instead the concept of just wars:

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

Debates over the morality of war have accompanied major crises in Rwanda, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other cases of genocidal or otherwise inhumane instances of human conduct.  The key in preparing an academic paper is the refinement of the paper’s scope.  Picking one or two contemporary examples, while providing the historical development of the doctrine will provide the basis of a good report.

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