Christians, The State, and War

Lexington Books/Fortress Academic

In Christians, the State, and War: An Ancient Tradition for the Modern World, Gordon Heath argues that the pre-Constantinian Christian testimony regarding the state’s just use of violence was remarkably uniform and that it was arguably a catholic, or universal, tradition. More specifically, that tradition had five interrelated and intertwined constitutive areas of consensus that can best be understood as parts of one collective tradition. Heath further argues that those five related areas of an early church tradition shaped all subsequent theological developments on views of the state, its use of violence, and the conditions of Christian participation in said violence. Whereas the sorry and sordid instances in the church’s history related to violence were times when the church drifted from those convictions of consensus, the cases when Christians had a more stellar record of responding to the horrors of the world were times when they lived up to them. Consequently, the way forward today is for Christians to forgo beginning with the just war-pacifist debate, and, instead, to begin by letting their views on war and peace be shaped by that ancient tradition.