Beyond Critique: Just War as Theological Political Theology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article takes up a charge often directed to neo-Augustinians by neo-Anabaptists that their defense of just war lacks adequate theological foundations. It is the case that most contemporary just war advocates, even within Christian ethics, no longer embed their accounts within a distinctively theological context, let alone a robust appeal to a doctrine of God or divine providence attentive to the divine One who really entered history, suffered defeat, and conquered death. This development can be seen as a form of self-denial for the sake of consensus and casuistry. In so doing, however, they confirm the claim of many Christian pacifists that just war reasoning betrays the radical creativity of Christian virtue in the name of some external (often duty-based) notion of responsibility and retributive justice. My project differs. It taps into resurgent interest in political theology as a way to remedy this neglect at least a little. I focus on two aspects of political theology that bear primarily on the relation of the temporal and the eternal: providence and suffering. They are rooted in fundamental theology, guided by the memory of being grafted as strangers into the God of Israel, the same God who showed compassion for Esau even while blessing Jacob. Just war tradition is an act of compassion rooted in providence and the inevitable suffering faced in history. The point is to re-theologize a living tradition that generations of the ecumenical church bequeathed to us as an exercise of their Christian imagination within their historical contexts where they took all of history seriously as God’s time. Wary of idolatry, we should strive for more than critique or a disappointing choice between Christendom or Church as the only theological word to the nations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-537
Number of pages14
JournalModern Theology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond Critique: Just War as Theological Political Theology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this