1. OverviewSince ancient times, world cultures have explored the political, philosophical and religious grounds of just war and the legality of the use of force. The Indian epic Mahabhrata, which some scholars date as early as the ninth century BC, explores just war doctrine. Cicero discussed just war theory in his essay De Officiis (“On Duties”) in the first century BC. On the basis of Romans 13, St. Augustine in the fifth century argued that Christians should not be ashamed of the use of force to maintain or reestablish justice. St. Thomas Aquinas, who, building on the foundation laid down by Augustine, set forth the conditions of just war.
2. Christian Just War Theory
a) The First Three CenturiesChristian involvement within the affairs of the State was limited during the first centuries of the Church. There were some Christians in civil service (consider the Christians within “Caesar's household” referenced by St. Paul (Php 4:22)) and in military service (both John the Baptist and Jesus ministered to soldiers (Luke 3:14; Mat 8:5-8) and the centurion Cornelius was used to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:35-48)). However, Christians, like other minorities in the early Roman Empire, faced persecution by the Roman government. The extent to which Christians were involved with civil government was generally limited to praying for the emperor (1Tim 2:1-2). A Christian’s association with the military and support of the Empire’s oppression of other Christians would have been incongruous.
b) Constantine’s Conversion (312)
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