Our War
Tuesday of Pentecost 9
8 August 2017
Just war theory originated with St. Augustine. During the Gulf Wars, there was a great deal of talk about just war theory in the face of the doctrine of military pre-emption applied by U.S. war theorists. However, many people who talk about just war theory, while even referring to Augustine, fail to recognize that Augustine's doctrine cannot be understood apart from his views about the two cities: the city of God and the city of men.
 
The imperfection of war with all of its unforeseen consequences is only tolerable where greater goals are reached by making war, such as long-term peace, safety, and economic abundance. Success at war might be spoiled by an unjust peace, in which victory becomes an opportunity for predatory behavior, just as the carpet baggers preyed on the prostrate south after the American civil war. Only if the victor would recognize the need for repentance because of human weakness would war work God's will in the world. So for Augustine there is a spiritual meaning for activity in the city of men, even war. This is not taken into account by modern just war theorists, who merely want to make a ruling about a particular war, such as the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war, and whether our commencement of hostilities is just or unjust. But Augustine never removes the reality of the city of God from his consideration of the meaning of warfare. There is no just war without repentance and therefore without the intrusion of the city of God into the city of men.
 
There is also warfare conducted upon the city of God by the city of men, in the persecution that it works upon the faithful. So while the city of God blesses and gives meaning to the city of men, granting it a higher purpose even in warfare, the city of men simply attacks the city of God by trying to stamp out the preaching of the gospel. The city of God is called to this warfare in which our weapons are prayer and preaching. The world will not be impressed by such things, although our Lord sends us with such seemingly paltry weapons.
 
Increasingly, we feel like the lone student who faced down the tanks during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, about to be rolled over by the might of the state with its power to coerce. But we should remember that we never stand alone. We have a Lord who stands with us, who Himself was taken by the power of His own countrymen and stood under judgment before a Gentile governor. He did not receive a just judgment and thus knows how hard it is for us when the power of the city of men is trained upon us, who have only the power of the city of God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"The earthly city, which will not be everlasting (for it will no longer be a city when it has been committed to the final judgment), has its good in this world, and rejoices in it with such joy as such things can afford. But as this is not a good which can discharge its devotees of all distresses, this city is often divided against itself by litigations, wars, quarrels, and such victories as are either life-destroying or short-lived. For each part of it that arms against another part of it seeks to triumph through itself over the nations in bondage to vice. If, when it has conquered, it is inflated with pride, its victory is life-destroying; but if it turns its thoughts upon the common casualties of our mortal condition, and is rather anxious concerning the disasters that may befall it rather than elated with the successes already achieved, this victory, though of a higher kind, is still only short-lived. For it cannot abidingly rule over those whom it has victoriously subjugated.
 
"But the things which this city desires cannot justly be said to be evil, for it is itself, in its own kind, better than all other human goods. For it desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods, and it makes war in order to attain to this peace. Since, if it has conquered, and there remains no one to resist it, it enjoys a peace which it had not while there were opposing parties who contested for the enjoyment of those things which were too small to satisfy both. This peace is purchased by costly wars. It is obtained by what they style a glorious victory. Now, when victory remains with the party that had the more just cause, who hesitates to congratulate the victor, and consider it a desirable peace? These things, then, are good things, and without doubt the gifts of God. But if they neglect the better things of the heavenly city, which are secured by eternal victory and peace never-ending, and so inordinately covet these present good things that they believe them to be the only desirable things, or love them better than those things which are believed to be better, if this is so, then it is necessary that misery follow and ever increase."

Augustine, The City of God, 15.4
Psalm 3:1-8
  
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!
 
(ESV)
Prayer
O Lord, watch over and bring succor to all those who are suffering under the power of the city of men. Amen.
 
For those who work in service industries, that they would find joy in their service to others
 
For the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran School, who are retreating to prepare for the upcoming school year, that they would be upheld in every good deed
 
For Pastor Joseph Randrianasolo of Madagascar, that Christ would strengthen him in his office as a preacher of the Word of God
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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