Thursday, May 7, 2015

Considerata: Augustine on whether a Christian can ever justify killing another

Spun on a lecture, “The Morality of War,” delivered by Yaron Brook 

In his work, Augustine asked whether a Christian can ever justify killing another, given the Biblical imperative to “turn the other cheek.” Augustine’s answer was this: One can use force, not to protect oneself, but to protect one’s neighbor. As the scholar Jean Elshtain, author of the highly regarded bookJust War Against Terror, explains:
For early Christians like Augustine, killing to defend oneself alone was not enjoined: It is better to suffer harm than to inflict it. But the obligation of charity obliges one to move in another direction: To save the lives of others, it may be necessary to imperil and even take the lives of their tormenters.
Thus, according to Augustine, if only you are attacked, you are obligated to turn the other cheek and die, because personal self-defense is immoral; only if someone attacks your neighbor’s cheek are you permitted to retaliate.
Augustine’s theory is not about justice in the sense of the innocent defending their lives against the guilty. In Augustine’s view, the guiding purpose and standard for the just use of force by individuals—trumping guilt or innocence—is that it must be an act of selfless service to others.