We received a comment on our Sarah Palin 3 post on which we would like to make a few remarks.
The comment goes like this, slightly edited (for the original comment, see the post):
I have an idea for another post, perhaps only indirectly related but no less relevant. The post I have in mind would tackle the topic of jus ad bellum (a.k.a. ‘Just War Theory’).
A few questions which might be worth answering are:
1) Is there such thing as Just War Theory in Orthodoxy? I.e. do the Orthodox historically define preconditions wherein war may be engaged without commission of evil?
2) Related to #1, is there such a thing as “necessary evil” in Orthodoxy? I.e. is there a scenario where going to war will be evil, but not going to war is also evil, but the former is adjudged a lesser, but necessary evil?
The theory of the just war arose in the West as part of Scholastic theology. It left its Scholastic context behind in the work of certain secular legal scholars of the Renaissance who based themselves on the Scholastic tradition. The very systematic nature of the theory is peculiar to the Western Scholastic tradition as modified in the Renaissance. The separation of the law of war into jus ad bellum and jus in
Jus ad bellum deals with when going to war is justified. Jus in
In the little time we have been an Orthodox monk, we have
In general, our experience has been that there is an informal sense of justice on the part of the saints, and a recognition that some wars are just and some are not, and some rulers just and some not, but that there is not a developed legal or theological analysis of when a war is just or not, or when a ruler is just or not. The discernment is more informal, or spiritual, as you prefer.
Elder Paisios (1924 – 1994) served in the Greek army during the Greek Civil War and
The canons of the Orthodox Church do address the issue of when a soldier who has fought in a war can be ordained a priest.
With regard to the second question posed by our reader, we imagine that all Orthodox saints, not being militarists, would treat war as an evil. That being said, they would take it as given that there are some cases in which going to war is necessary—we are not aware of Orthodox saints who were what would today be described as pacifists. We do not think that they would accept any decision to go to war as justified just because a ruler made it, but it might depend on the particular saint how he handled the issue.
In this matter, we suspect that an Orthodox saint would direct you to the Old Testament, where there is considerable treatment of both jus ad bellum and jus in
In general, we think that the whole law of war or theory of war apparatus is an artefact of the Western intellectual tradition. As such, it has no genuine Orthodox counterpart since the Orthodox tradition did not go through a similar development.
Sorry that’s the best we can do.