Author Topic: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition  (Read 17958 times)

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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« on: July 02, 2007, 11:36:30 PM »
Splitting off from this thread in the FFA section:
Atomic Bombing 'Couldn't Be Helped'


http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-03-045-f

http://www.nycslsociety.com/CSL%20Jan%202003%20CSL%20and%20Pacifism.pdf

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My path is clear here: I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history. This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer

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Only liberal societies tolerate Pacifists. In the liberal society, the number of Pacifists will either be large enough to cripple the state as a belligerent, or not. If not, you have done nothing [by adopting a pacifist stance]. If it is large enough, then you have handed over the state which does tolerate Pacifists to its totalitarian neighbor who does not. Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be no Pacifists.
-- C.S. Lewis, "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" from The Weight of Glory (1941)


1.  What are your thoughts on the above citations?
2.  From your collective knowledge of Tradition, what does our Faith have to say about the issue of war and peace?
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 11:40:42 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2007, 12:01:26 AM »
2.  From your collective knowledge of Tradition, what does our Faith have to say about the issue of war and peace?
It has always been my understanding that Orthodoxy does not view any war as "justifiable".

Here is a statement from the Antiochian Orthodox Church which touches on the subject:

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Opposition To Extreme Christian Groups

Occured during the 47th North American Convention of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America was held in Dearborn, Michigan from July 25th through July 31st, 2005.

WHEREAS, several extreme positions that are both divisive and dangerous have emerged from so-called “Left-wing” and “Right-wing” Christian groups;

AND WHEREAS, the tenets of these extreme positions include, but are not limited to, support for same-sex marriage, support for abortion, support for ordination of women to Holy Orders, support for the concept of war which is “pre-emptive” or “justifiable”, and the labeling of other faiths and their leaders with hateful terminology;

AND WHEREAS, The Holy Orthodox Church believes and teaches the faith which was taught by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and upheld by His Apostles, and “which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude:3);

AND WHEREAS, The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America stands firm in her resolve to uphold this Holy Orthodox Faith in all of its purity;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that this General Assembly of the 47th Convention of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America firmly rejects all extremist positions that are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Faith;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Archdiocese will not be affiliated with those groups that support and promulgate these extreme positions, and that this Archdiocese will continue to witness to the Truth as received from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and all of the saints and martyrs who have lived and died to uphold the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Source: http://www.antiochian.org/1123163067
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Offline GabrieltheCelt

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2007, 12:36:11 AM »
It has always been my understanding that Orthodoxy does not view any war as "justifiable".
Hmm. I don't fully understand what exactly the Antiochian quote *says*... Am I to understand that a country/nation CANNOT defend itself? Or that we CAN defend ourself IF attacked, but NO attacking first to stave off a greater war?
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Offline GiC

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2007, 03:08:16 AM »
It has always been my understanding that Orthodoxy does not view any war as "justifiable".

No justifiable war...come on, we are the Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire. The cross itself has been born on the shields and standards of the Legions and has gone before the Imperial Armies. No war the Empire engaged in was ever condemned by the Church and every Imperial Soldier and Emperor who went to war was praised, if not actively venerated, in the Great Church of Christ. At every Orthros which we chant before the Divine Liturgy we proclaim at the very beginning.

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Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance. Granting victory to the Emperors against the Barbarians and safekeeping your polity (πολιτευμα, or the Empire in this context) through your cross.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

He who was voluntarily lifted upon the Cross, through your new polity which bears your name (the Empire) grand your mercies, Christ God. Gladden in your power our faithful Emperors, providing them victroies against their adversaries. May they have your alliance, weapon of peace (clearly not through diplomatic action though), invincible trophy.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

(now, of course, it's time to ask the Mother of God to aid the Empire in battle)

Protection, awsome and unshamable, overlook not, good one, our supplications all praiseworthy Theotokos; support the Orthodox Polity (the Empire), save those whom you Commanded to Reign (the Emperors, who were, of course, directly appointed by the Mother of God), and provide them with victory from heaven, because you gave birth to God, only blessed one. (how that last part logically follows I do not know, but the point is clear, "Theotokos help our God-Ordained Emperors kill our Enemies.")

How could one who chants this or hears it chanted before every Liturgy possibly consider the Church to be pacifist? The battle cries of the Empire are enshrined in our Liturgical worship. The Holy Eucharist is not even consecrated until supplication for the Empire's military victories are made. Here's another one I quite like, a personal favourite, a Hymn to St. Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles sung on his feast day:

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Thou wast the first of all the Christian Emperors to receive the sceptre from God; for His saving sign, which was hid in the earth, was shown o thee, O blessed Constantine. By its might though didst subjugate all nations and peoples underneath the Christians' feet, since thou didst truly have the life-giving Cross as a weapon which no adverse power could conquer, and thereby though also wast brought to our God.

Beautiful imagery, isn't it? Subjugating all nations and people under the Christians' feet...just beautiful. Also, we get from the last few liturgical pieces that the real value of the Cross is as a military weapon. Of course, that's pretty much what the troparion of the Holy Cross says.

If one wishes to be a pacifist may I suggest they find another Religion? Being a pacifist in a Religion that had its golden age as an Imperial Cult probably isn't the best choice.

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2007, 05:46:56 AM »
No justifiable war...come on, we are the Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire. The cross itself has been born on the shields and standards of the Legions and has gone before the Imperial Armies. No war the Empire engaged in was ever condemned by the Church and every Imperial Soldier and Emperor who went to war was praised, if not actively venerated, in the Great Church of Christ. At every Orthros which we chant before the Divine Liturgy we proclaim at the very beginning.

How could one who chants this or hears it chanted before every Liturgy possibly consider the Church to be pacifist? The battle cries of the Empire are enshrined in our Liturgical worship. The Holy Eucharist is not even consecrated until supplication for the Empire's military victories are made. Here's another one I quite like, a personal favourite, a Hymn to St. Constantine the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles sung on his feast day:

Beautiful imagery, isn't it? Subjugating all nations and people under the Christians' feet...just beautiful. Also, we get from the last few liturgical pieces that the real value of the Cross is as a military weapon. Of course, that's pretty much what the troparion of the Holy Cross says.

If one wishes to be a pacifist may I suggest they find another Religion? Being a pacifist in a Religion that had its golden age as an Imperial Cult probably isn't the best choice.

"I am, and will ever be, a Roman" - that's my line, GiC.
But even I know the Empire is dead. Weakened by 100s of years of war with the "aliens", mortally wounded in 1204, the empire died in 1453. There are a couple of organizations, mostly cyber-ones I'll bet, that wish to revive the dried bones of a long gone era.  Your argument will play well with them.
Being a "Roman" meant being first of all an Orthodox Catholic - not just a subject of the emperor. The emperor was defended as he defended the Church. Not the other way around. Of course we prayed and pray for him and for ourselves.
When I pray for our military I pray for them as individuals and for their sin (and mine) that ceasar has asked them to do. Nothing glorious to God in that, my friend. Only you and our erstwhile poster who claimed descent from the last emperor are the cultists here.  ;)
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2007, 06:40:57 AM »
Hmm. I don't fully understand what exactly the Antiochian quote *says*... Am I to understand that a country/nation CANNOT defend itself? Or that we CAN defend ourself IF attacked, but NO attacking first to stave off a greater war?
It's saying neither. It's not about "cans" and "can'ts". It simply says that there is no such thing as a "just" or "righteous" war. Sometimes a lesser evil has to be used to prevent a greater evil- but they're both evils.
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Offline GiC

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2007, 10:49:16 AM »
"I am, and will ever be, a Roman" - that's my line, GiC.
But even I know the Empire is dead. Weakened by 100s of years of war with the "aliens", mortally wounded in 1204, the empire died in 1453. There are a couple of organizations, mostly cyber-ones I'll bet, that wish to revive the dried bones of a long gone era.  Your argument will play well with them.
Being a "Roman" meant being first of all an Orthodox Catholic - not just a subject of the emperor. The emperor was defended as he defended the Church. Not the other way around. Of course we prayed and pray for him and for ourselves.
When I pray for our military I pray for them as individuals and for their sin (and mine) that ceasar has asked them to do. Nothing glorious to God in that, my friend. Only you and our erstwhile poster who claimed descent from the last emperor are the cultists here.  ;)

That the Empire has fell is clear, but I think the logical concusion that must be reached is that the Church also fell in 1453...as Patriarch Anthony of Constantinople proclaimed, 'it is impossible for Christians to have a Church and no Empire'. But in any case, it can hardly be argued that the history of the Church is a pacifist one, we had no 'just war' theory because none was needed, the distinction between Just and Injust was as simple as a war desired by the Empire and a war opposed by the Empire. The Empire could not unjustly wage war and one could not justly wage war against the Empire. As I said, the golden age of Christianity was spent as an Imperial Cult and unlike the west we did not have to try to determine when various Christian countries could go to war against each other, we were defined by the Empire.

Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2007, 11:12:16 AM »
All of this making you a great 'Empirist'.  :D
The golden age is yet to come for the rest of us, I'm afraid to say.


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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2007, 02:42:23 PM »
Quote
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of him who is in authority?  Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.
-- Romans 13:1-4

Sure, this passage describes primarily our responsibility as Christians to submit to the authority of the state, seeing the state's governing authority as established by God.  But does this not also describe, albeit indirectly, the responsibility the state has to use the sword to enforce the rule of goodness?  Despite its frequent abuses, military action has been seen from time immemorial as an extension of the state's use of the sword to prosecute evil and maintain peace.


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And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets--who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
-- Hebrews 11:32-34

Is this not the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews glorifying those OT persons who fought wars in the name of the Kingdom of Israel?  How is this NT witness consistent with the non-violent teaching of the Gospels?  Rather, I should ask: How can we view the Gospel as being totally non-violent in the light of such explanations [as the above] in the Epistles?


Quote
O Lord, save Your people
and bless Your inheritance.
Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians
over their adversaries,
and by virtue of Your Cross
preserve Your habitation.
-- Troparion of the Cross, Tone 1

Interesting the paradox that one of the stichera for Vespers of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sep. 14) praises the Cross as "our weapon of peace"...  The architecture of many Russian churches even recognizes the victory of the Cross over the forces of the Muslim Tatars (the Cross with the crescent moon at its feet), a victory that was brought about largely by military means.  I also have in my reader's service book for home use a prayer for our armed forces that God may "grant them victory over evil and injustice in all places, that they may keep Your holy Church secure".


In our reverence for the sanctity of human life, we see the taking of even one human life as a grievous thing, as well we should.  But is there not a mode of existence even worse than physical death?  What if we had not stood up to the greatest perpetrators of evil in this fallen world and destroyed them with military might?  Maybe the Eastern Church has never developed a "just war" dogma as the Western Church has, but neither has she really articulated an opposing dogmatic tradition of pacifism, AFAIK.  What, then, if peace is sometimes the evil to be avoided?
« Last Edit: July 03, 2007, 03:19:16 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2007, 02:43:28 PM »
From the Life of St. Sergius of Radonezh (http://www.st-sergius.org/life6.html):
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A rumour spread that Khan Mamai was raising a large army as a punishment for our sins and that with all his heathen Tatar hordes he would invade Russian soil. Very great fear prevailed amongst the people at hearing this report. The puissant and reigning prince, who held the sceptre of all Russia, great Dimitry having a great faith in the saint, came to ask him if he counselled him to go against the heathen in battle. The saint, bestowing on him his blessing, and strengthened by prayer, said to him: "It behoveth you, Lord, to have a care for the lives of the flock committed to you by God. Go forth against the heathen; and upheld by the strong arm of God, conquer; and return to your country sound in health, and glorify God with loud praise." The grand duke replied, "If indeed God assist me, Father, I will build a monastery to the Immaculate Theotokos." And with the saint's blessing he hurriedly went on his way.

Assembling all his armies, he marched against the heathen Tatars to meet them on the field of battle at Kulikova, where the rivers of Don and Nepryadva meet. Prince Dimitry and his generals, upon seeing the multitudes of the Horde, began to doubt of obtaining victory. The generals were perplexed, not knowing what to do, when of a sudden, a courier from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity arrived in all haste with a message from the saint stating: "Be in no doubt, Prince Dimitry; go forward with faith and confront the enemy's ferocity; and fear not, for God will be on your side." Forthwith, the Grand Duke Dimitry and all his armies, were filled with a spirit of temerity; and went into battle against the pagans. They fought, and many fell, but God was with them and helped the great and invincible Dimitry, who vanquished the ungodly Tatars.

In that same hour the saint, with his brethren, was engaged before God in prayer for victory over the pagan Hordes. Within an hour of the final defeat of the ungodly, the saint, who was a seer, announced to the brotherhood what had happened, the victory, the courage of the Grand Duke Dimitry, and the names, too, of those who had died at the hands of the pagans; and he made intercession for them to all-merciful God.
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2007, 10:14:07 AM »
Peter,
I was discussing the issue of "Peak Experiences" with the Abbot of our local monastery this evening. He referred me to the sixth chapter of St. Cyprian of Carthage's "Epistle To Donatus". I was going to post it in the "Peak Experiences" thread, but I actually thought it was more relevant to this thread, especially the part in bold.
Here is the entire sixth chapter:

Quote
But in order that the characteristics of the divine munificence may shine
forth when the truth has been revealed, I shall give you light to
recognize it, by wiping away the cloud of evil I shall reveal the darkness
of a hidden world. For a little consider that you are being transported to
the loftiest peak of a high mountain, that from this you are viewing the
appearance of things that lie below you and with your eyes directed in
different directions you yourself free from earthly contacts gaze upon the
turmoils of the world. Presently you also will have pity on the world, and
taking account of yourself and with more gratitude to God you will rejoice
with greater joy that you have escaped from it. Observe the roads blocked
by robbers, the seas beset by pirates, wars spread everywhere with the
bloody horrors of camps. The world is soaked with mutual blood, and when
individuals commit homicide, it is a crime; it is called a virtue when it
is done in the name of the state. Impunity is acquired for crimes not by
reason of innocence but by the magnitude of the cruelty.

Source: http://www.churchdocs.org/fathers/cyprian/cyp-dona.txt
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Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2008, 12:33:10 PM »
Hello,

I'm brand-spanking new to this board, so please pardon me if this question has been asked before.

What is the teaching of the Orthodox Church with respect to pacifism?

A Greek Orthodox priest explained it to me this way:

Orthodoxy understands the nuances of when pacifism might be appropriate such as a personal response to violence directed against oneself. The martyrs are good examples of this. At the same time, pacifism [would] not be appropriate when other people's lives are being threatened. That's why we have police and military and the Orthodox Church blesses their existence in this fallen and sinful world to protect innocent lives and prevent the spread of tyranny. Reasonable people might disagree about the most appropriate methods for police actions and war but I think Orthodox understands the balance.

I wholeheartedly agree but I would not want to stop there. Can we also say the following:

(1) When as Christians we see grand evils (e.g. Islamic terrorism, fascism, communism, tyrants) coming in, we must fight these evils (by force if necessary).
(2) [Because] If we are to be holy we cannot allow evil to triumph through our own inaction.
(3) The defense of innocent people by the moral use of force is an [Orthodox] Christian virtue.
(4) Praying for our "victory over every enemy and adversary" is right and proper, as we say this in the Divine Liturgy.
(5) In summary, Christianity is not a suicide pact. In the face of evil Christians cannot act like doormats.

Comments on any of these things? How do we respond to Matthew 26:52, where the Lord Jesus tells St. Peter to put his sword away, for they "who live by the sword shall die by the sword." For more background I was involved in a very lengthy discussion of this here (handle: Egyptian).

Thank you for responding.

In Christ
tpkatsa
« Last Edit: July 22, 2008, 12:45:15 PM by tpkatsa »
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Offline PoorFoolNicholas

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2008, 01:21:04 PM »
I have wondered the same thing as well. I will be glad to hear what others have to say. BTW, Welcome tpkatsa, I am under Bishop Mark as well. Good to have you here!

Offline Simayan

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2008, 01:24:25 PM »
Well, the Greek priest was spot on. Many Orthodox have lived in close connection with a military lifestyle (and in 1 month, myself included). As for your bullet points:

1.) I would say yes, but it can lead to a slippery slope. If a Nazi moves in next door, I'm not going to go over to his house and shoot him, nor will I firebomb the headquarters of the American Communist Party. But overwhelming evils can be resisted, either through force (Oxi Day) or self-sacrifice (a Greek Bishop in WWII writing only his name on a large piece of paper when Hitler demanded the names of all Jews in the town).

2.) It is our job to speak out against evils. But as above, burning down the home of a convicted sex offender is going too far.

3.) Yes.

4.) Yes, though victory does not necessarily mean killing every last person of that group.

5.) Yes.

As for the Bible quote, I have always taken it to mean that those who live purely in violence and revenge shall only have violence and revenge returned. Temperance is the key, and to know when force is necessary to save the innocent, and when we ourselves become corrupted through its use.'


Of course, this is all my personal opinion. There are many conflicting views from the saints.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2008, 01:25:28 PM by Simayan »
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Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2008, 01:52:37 PM »
BTW, Welcome tpkatsa, I am under Bishop Mark as well. Good to have you here!

Thank you.

HG Bishop MARK came to visit our parish in mid-June. I had a chance to talk to him for a few minutes, and I was impressed by his knowledge of Scripture and of the faith.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2008, 01:57:32 PM by tpkatsa »
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Offline PoorFoolNicholas

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2008, 04:33:33 PM »
Thank you.

HG Bishop MARK came to visit our parish in mid-June. I had a chance to talk to him for a few minutes, and I was impressed by his knowledge of Scripture and of the faith.
He was supposed to visit our mission for the Feast of the Ascension, but his father fell ill, and died. His father converted to Orthodoxy before he passed. Glory to God. Good to have you brother.

Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2008, 04:48:48 PM »
He was supposed to visit our mission for the Feast of the Ascension, but his father fell ill, and died. His father converted to Orthodoxy before he passed. Glory to God. Good to have you brother.

Yes that was very unfortunate but his father is now in that blessed place of repose. How hard it must have been for His Grace. Life is not easy, that's for sure. Thanks for the welcome and may God make His face to shine upon you.
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Offline PoorFoolNicholas

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2008, 04:50:12 PM »
Yes that was very unfortunate but his father is now in that blessed place of repose. How hard it must have been for His Grace. Life is not easy, that's for sure. Thanks for the welcome and may God make His face to shine upon you.
As well as on you brother! Many Years! Alright let's reroute this back to pacifism. God Bless!

Offline Quinault

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2008, 04:57:07 PM »
Most orthodox books I have found have been from a pacifist perspective. I did find this book though;
http://www.reginaorthodoxpress.com/viofwaalfwea.html

I haven't read it, but it would be interesting to read the authors viewpoint.

Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2008, 09:40:35 PM »
Most orthodox books I have found have been from a pacifist perspective. I did find this book though;
http://www.reginaorthodoxpress.com/viofwaalfwea.html

I haven't read it, but it would be interesting to read the authors viewpoint.

I have read this book and I think it's quite good. The authors argue that war can be conceived as a lesser moral good. The only problem with the book IMHO is that it is the view of two scholars, neither of whom (as far as I am aware) is ordained, but I could be wrong on this fact.

So what is the teaching of the our Church on this issue?
« Last Edit: July 22, 2008, 09:42:20 PM by tpkatsa »
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Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2008, 11:45:23 PM »
tpkatsa,

Welcome to OC.net.  To plug you into some possible answers to your question, I merged this thread with an earlier thread on the subject of pacifism in the Orthodox Tradition.  I hope you find this helpful.

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Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #21 on: July 23, 2008, 03:36:04 PM »
Quote
AND WHEREAS, the tenets of these extreme positions include, but are not limited to, support for same-sex marriage, support for abortion, support for ordination of women to Holy Orders, support for the concept of war which is “pre-emptive” or “justifiable”, and the labeling of other faiths and their leaders with hateful terminology;

rejects all extremist positions that are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Faith

Lord, have mercy.

The inclusion of pre-emptive or just war looks very, very odd to me in this list. All of the other things are quite on the fringe and none of them are really debatable within the Church. There has never been support within the Church for same-sex marriage, for abortion, or for the ordination of women as deacons, priests, or bishops. And we certainly don't endorse running around speaking of other faiths and their leaders using hateful words.

But calling the just war theory, or a pre-emptive war theory extremist? When did we start promulgating this position? What is the historical precedent in the Orthodox Church for labeling, for example, defending one's country against tyranny, or rescuing others from certain death and destruction or enslavement extremist? What were we supposed to do in the wake of 9/11? Pearl Harbor or for Britain in 1940? What will we do now that Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb and has threatened Israel with extinction not once, but several times? What is our response as Christians supposed to be to these evils? Roll over and play dead?

I cannot believe for an instant that we are called by our Lord Jesus Christ to allow massive evil to go on against others, whether in our personal lives e.g. standing by and doing nothing while another person gets beat up and robbed, or at the macro-level e.g. allowing tyrants and terrorists like Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad to threaten the free world and innocent people everywhere while they terrorize their own citizens at home. Allowing evil to prevail because we do nothing does not seem to me to manifest the love that Jesus commanded.

I had not seen this communication by our archdiocese before. I confess I am stunned and confused, for this is not the opinion of one man, it is an official statement of our archdiocese, and therefore (supposedly) inspired by the Holy Spirit. Really? ???
« Last Edit: July 23, 2008, 03:54:34 PM by tpkatsa »
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Offline Riddikulus

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #22 on: July 24, 2008, 12:02:45 AM »
Lord, have mercy.

The inclusion of pre-emptive or just war looks very, very odd to me in this list. All of the other things are quite on the fringe and none of them are really debatable within the Church. There has never been support within the Church for same-sex marriage, for abortion, or for the ordination of women as deacons, priests, or bishops. And we certainly don't endorse running around speaking of other faiths and their leaders using hateful words.

But calling the just war theory, or a pre-emptive war theory extremist? When did we start promulgating this position? What is the historical precedent in the Orthodox Church for labeling, for example, defending one's country against tyranny, or rescuing others from certain death and destruction or enslavement extremist? What were we supposed to do in the wake of 9/11? Pearl Harbor or for Britain in 1940? What will we do now that Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb and has threatened Israel with extinction not once, but several times? What is our response as Christians supposed to be to these evils? Roll over and play dead?

I cannot believe for an instant that we are called by our Lord Jesus Christ to allow massive evil to go on against others, whether in our personal lives e.g. standing by and doing nothing while another person gets beat up and robbed, or at the macro-level e.g. allowing tyrants and terrorists like Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad to threaten the free world and innocent people everywhere while they terrorize their own citizens at home. Allowing evil to prevail because we do nothing does not seem to me to manifest the love that Jesus commanded.

I had not seen this communication by our archdiocese before. I confess I am stunned and confused, for this is not the opinion of one man, it is an official statement of our archdiocese, and therefore (supposedly) inspired by the Holy Spirit. Really? ???

Welcome to the forum, tpkatsa,

I believe that what ozgeorge said earlier in the thread might have some bearing on this. He said, and I agree, "that there is no such thing as a "just" or "righteous" war. Sometimes a lesser evil has to be used to prevent a greater evil- but they're both evils."

This is my understanding, from what I have read regarding the Orthodox view on war. We simply don't do what is done in the West and go to war thinking that it's right, just or even justifiable. War is sin, but it's also a sin to do nothing when the weak and innocent are threatened. Although when attacked personally, we may choose to do nothing, as a group of people who rely on each other, we are sometimes in the situation where war or striking back might be the only option to defend those who can't defend themselves. This might seem like semantics, but I do believe that it can remove the potentially idolatrous attitude; the whole "God is on our side" battle cry. There is nothing noble, nor glorious about war; although in all the horror, one may act nobly and give glory to God. But war is something we choose to do as weak and sinful human beings, but from the Orthodox perspective, it is done knowing all along that we are sinners and war is the result of our sinfulness.

Lord, have mercy on us all.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2008, 12:04:24 AM by Riddikulus »
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Offline chrevbel

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2008, 04:07:17 AM »
My interpretation of the Orthodox perspective on this:

It would not be just for the Church to engage in war, whether pre-emptive or not.  Nor is it just for any individual to engage in war in the name of Christ or in God's name.  When a Christian engages in warfare, he (or she) does so at the behest of his country, not his Church.  He is not "rendering unto God", he is "rendering unto Caesar."  But Christ told us that we should render unto Caesar those things that are his.  Nations can justly engage in conflict for the reasons cited previously.  And individuals can justly participate under those circumstances.

There are several recorded instances of Christ's encounters with soldiers.  Not once did he tell them to "go and sin no more" in the sense that their service in war was unethical.  Just before telling his disciples about "those who live by the sword...", he had instructed them to take up arms as part of being ready for what was to come.  To me, it is quite clear that Christ's actions, words, and instructions acknowledge that military service is a reality of our fallen world.  There is much left to interpretation, of course, but the same is true for almost every other aspect of our lives, so that is not so surprising.

Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2008, 08:56:50 AM »
It's great to see the server back up again. Well anyway thanks for all your feedback on this. I now have it on pretty good authority that there is no dogmatic statement in the Orthodox Church on pacificism (although there could be theologoumena or pious opinions). I'm happy with where we are on this issue, and I appreciate all the input. The grace and peace of our Lord be with you all.

 
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Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #25 on: August 06, 2008, 10:14:07 AM »
Thank you, Chrevbel. Excellent post.
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Offline MarkosC

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2008, 10:52:53 PM »
I have to get ready for a flight in a few hours.  But I'd throw some things in.......

Traditionally Orthodox nations like the Roman Empire, Kyivan Rus, Muscovite Rus, the Bulgar and Serb Empires of the pre-Ottoman periods, the Ethiopian kingdoms,  to say nothing of the post-Ottoman nations of the Balkans, all have had militaries and have engaged in wars of various sorts, of various degrees of moral "justification" (if you're a westerner and feel compelled to argue this kind of case).  Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia have all engaged in wars (and even fought each other I might add).   It seems to me that Orthodoxy cannot be called "pacifist" in the absolutist sense that many western activists use the term.   

This topic has been addressed in English.  The book from Regina Orthodox Press mentioned is in fact co-authored by Father Alexander Webster, a priest of the OCA/Romanian jurisdiction (I believe) and a military chaplain with the rank of Lt. Col.   His book is good, but its description of war as  "lesser good" in limited cases (his position IIRC) is controversial and I know the abbot of one monastery who is a bit uncomfortable with it.   Its basic point was also argued - with sometimes angry ripostes - on one issue of St. Vladimir's quarterly.  Somewhat harder to find is Father Alexander's book on Orthodox pacifism, which (IIRC)  argues also that pacifism is a "lesser good" in limited cases.[I used the same exact wording for war and pacifism, and intentionally so]   

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Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2008, 09:10:10 AM »
Quote
with sometimes angry ripostes - on one issue of St. Vladimir's quarterly

Do you have a link or reference to this? Would love to read it.

Grace to all
-tpkatsa
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Offline mariner

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #28 on: August 12, 2008, 02:36:50 PM »
I would recommend that anyone who is interested in this subject read "The Christian Faith and War" by Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky. It's a short 16 page booklet that was written during WWI. It can be purchased online at these two places.:

http://www.stnectariospress.com/catalog/eccles.htm
http://www.iconbook.org/Contemporary%20Issues.html

I've typed up the last couple paragraphs below:

Finally, we have the perfectly clear teaching of the Church about murder in war which is set forth in the canonical epistle of St. Athanasius the Great to the monk Ammun and confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. With these words of the Church, or more accurately of the Holy Spirit speaking through her mouth, we will conclude the present article:   "In the various occurrences of life we will find differences which exist according to different situations, for example:  it is not lawful to kill, but to kill an enemy in battle is legal and praiseworthy. Thus those who excel in battle are worthy of great honors, and pillars are raised to proclaim their excellent deeds. Thus one and the same thing, considering the occasion, is not permitted in certain circumstances, but in other circumstances it is timely, tolerated, and legitimate. One must consider physical union in the same way. Blessed is he who in his youth, freely forming a couple, uses nature for child-bearing. But if he uses it for passion, then he is subject to the punishment for fornicators and adulterers proclaimed by the Apostles."
   Murder is reprehensible as an act of self-will and hatred, i.e. personal murder, but the killing an enemy in battle is "tolerated and permitted."
« Last Edit: August 12, 2008, 04:01:54 PM by mariner »

Offline PeterTheAleut

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #29 on: August 26, 2008, 01:10:22 PM »
The tangent discussing the American War on Terror have been split off and moved to Politics.  Please limit your discussion on this public thread to the general subject of the Orthodox attitude toward war--historical accounts are okay as specific examples.  Any more specific comments regarding current U.S. foreign policy will be moved to Politics and merged immediately into the new thread.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 06:58:07 PM by PeterTheAleut »
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Offline tpkatsa

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #30 on: August 27, 2008, 03:27:23 PM »
Quote
"For example, we shouldn't have ever supported Saddam back when he was useful to us as a destabilizing secular power against Islamic oil.  We also shouldn't support dictatorships in other countries."

Was it morally right to ally with Josef Stalin to defeat Hitler during World War II?

Surely any religious/moral argument that we should not have worked with Saddam to contain Iranian Islamic fanaticism in the 1980s could also be applied to America's alliance with Josef Stalin to defeat Adolf Hitler during World War II in the 1940s.

Quote
In any case, war and fighting terrorism are just and virtuous causes.  We should take care to consistently act in a manner consonant with that virtue.

I agree. And I would add that sometimes we must to ally with a lesser evil to defeat (or contain) a greater evil. It is most unfortunate, but true.

Grace to all
-tpkatsa

« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 03:28:17 PM by tpkatsa »
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Offline stanley123

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #31 on: August 27, 2008, 04:04:04 PM »
With reference to the use of the Atomic Bomb, I don't think that its use would be justified because it would result in a large number of civilian casualties. I don't think that it would be morally right to target civilian areas in order to get an enemy government to surrender. And I read:
"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons -- especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons -- to commit such crimes (CCC 2314). " (RC Catechism).

Offline Cyril of New York

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #32 on: August 27, 2008, 06:06:29 PM »
NOT using the bomb would have necessitated Operation Downfall; the full-scale invasion of Japan, which would have cause immeasurably more civilian deaths and inestimable losses of our own. At the time of their surrender Japan still possessed almost two million combat-ready troops and close to nine thousand aircraft.

Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #33 on: August 27, 2008, 08:32:01 PM »
With reference to the use of the Atomic Bomb, I don't think that its use would be justified because it would result in a large number of civilian casualties. I don't think that it would be morally right to target civilian areas in order to get an enemy government to surrender. And I read:
"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons -- especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons -- to commit such crimes (CCC 2314). " (RC Catechism).
And in this case the RC Catechism is exactly correct. Nuclear weapons are just too powerful to avoid killing civilians, and therefore those who employ them must do so knowing the results of their actions on non-combatants. Committing such an act is a crime indeed.
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Offline MarkosC

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #34 on: August 27, 2008, 09:42:34 PM »
Do you have a link or reference to this? Would love to read it.

Grace to all
-tpkatsa


The references are: St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, Vol. 47, #1, 2003 (I ordered mine from their bookstore); and Alexander F.C. Webster "The Pacifist Option: The Moral Argument Against War in Eastern Orthodox Theology", International Scholars' Publications, Lanham MD, 1998 (I got mine through Amazon; if that doesn't work you can call them 800-462-6420)

Nuclear weapons are just too powerful to avoid killing civilians,

There is such a thing as "counterforce".  I greatly dislike nuclear weapons, but a statement like this is too broad of a brush.

I don't really wish to discuss nuclear weapons here, but all should be aware that the Patriarch of the world's largest Orthodox church has blessed the nuclear arsenal of his country.  And frankly, despite my dislike of said weapons, I can't really fault that country for having them.   Their conventional army has been in shambles for at least the past 30 years  (recent events in Georgia notwithstanding).  The only thing stopping them from invasion is their nuclear arsenal............

Markos

[and yes, it is possible that someone will invade them - both real and imagined potential enemies.  As weird as it seems to us, they really believe that NATO would invade them if they became weak enough]
« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 09:50:30 PM by MarkosC »
O Lord although I desired to blot out
with my tears the handwriting of my many sins
And for the rest of my life to please Thee
through sincere repentance
Yet doth the enemy lead me astray as he wareth
against my sould with his cunning

O Lord before I utterly perish do Thou save me!

Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: Pacifism and "Just War" Theory in the Orthodox Tradition
« Reply #35 on: August 28, 2008, 04:35:26 PM »
There is such a thing as "counterforce".
I didn't mean that they cannot be destroyed. I meant that when they are used, civilians will die.

Quote
I greatly dislike nuclear weapons, but a statement like this is too broad of a brush.
I don't believe so. No nuclear weapon has ever been deployed which did not kill thousands of civilians. The damage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be enough for us all to destroy the awful things forever.
"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens