Nuclear weapons, just war, and Christian praxis

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


St. Augustine was largely responsible for securing an enduring place for the idea of Just War in theology and philosophy. His understanding of ‘just cause’ was extraordinarily broad, but he did at least insist that, once begun, a just war will respond proportionately to the wrongs it seeks to right and discriminate carefully between combatants and non-combatants. The principles of proportionality and discrimination have carried through into contemporary international humanitarian law. States do not always agree on their meaning, but none has dared suggest that they are finally compatible with the wholesale slaughter of human beings. They are not infinitely elastic. Nuclear weapons extend humankind’s propensity for violence to the point of absurdity. There are really only two ways of responding to the existential threat they pose. We can deny the threat, or we can affirm it and work to remove it. We deny the threat when we claim that nuclear weapons have an exclusively deterrent function; when we choose to believe that the nuclear weapon states are serious about disarmament; and by failing to imagine what a nuclear war would be like, especially for the survivors. We affirm the threat when we acknowledge the fact that nuclear war is possible; when we recognize that the nuclear-armed states have no intention of disarming; and by accepting that with this understanding comes the obligation to support all peaceful efforts to rid the world of these terrible weapons whose use, in any circumstances, would be a crime against God and humanity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages4 - 31
Number of pages27
Specialist publicationSt. Mark's Review: A journal of Christian thought and opinion
PublisherSt. Mark's National Theological Centre
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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