Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Saint Augustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354, in the town of Thagaste, on the northern coast of Africa, in what is now Algeria. North Africa was part of the Roman Empire, though it was considered something of a backwater, far from the centers of imperial power. Augustine had at least one brother, Navigius, and at least one sister, but little information is available about his siblings.

Patricius his father was a pagan, an adherent of the Roman civic religion. Augustine's mother, Monica (sometimes spelled Monnica), had been raised as a Christian. Although Patricius was only lukewarm about Christianity, he allowed Monica to raise the couple's children as Christians, and he finally converted to Christianity before his death. The example of his mother's fervent faith was a strong influence on young Augustine, one that would follow him throughout his life. In contrast, Patricius had relatively little influence on Augustine's character.

In 384, Augustine moved to Milan, his mother had followed him to Milan, and she arranged an advantageous marriage to a Christian girl from a good family, requiring Augustine to send his concubine away. In the fall of 386, he had a conversion experience that convinced him to renounce his career and his marriage prospects in order to dedicate his life to God. He spent the winter with a group of like-minded friends, withdrawn from the world, reading and discussing Christianity. At Easter 387, he was finally baptized by Bishop Ambrose. On their way back to Africa, his group of friends and family was delayed at the coastal city of Ostia, where his mother fell ill and died.

In 389, Augustine returned to Thagaste, where he lived on his family estate in a small, quasi-monastic community. But Augustine's talents continued to attract attention. In 391, he visited the city of Hippo Regius (, in order to start a monastery, but he ended up being drafted into the priesthood by a Christian congregation there. In 395, he became the Bishop of Hippo. He spent the next 35 years preaching, celebrating mass, resolving local disputes, and ministering to his congregation. He continued to write, and he became famous throughout the Christian world for his role in several controversies.

Saint Augustine of Hippo is noted in history as the founder of “Just War Theory” in the Western tradition (The Islamic world has its own tradition of “Just War Theory” based on the Koran). This is a body of thought that seeks to provide guidelines for when it is justified for one nation to wage war on another.  These guidelines also seek to clarify what sorts of conduct are morally acceptable within war. Islamic concepts of war do not define and conceptualize things in exactly the same way as western thinking has done within the “Just War” framework. Yet the parallels with the western world are striking. The reasons for going to war expressed within the Qur’an closely match those within the “Just War” criteria which establishes the justice of a decision to undertake combat. The criteria include; Just Cause, Proportionality and Last Resort.

One popular theory of justice in war is simply “Might is Right”.  Whosoever has the greater power is able to dominate others, and so is in the position to determine what is just and unjust. An early philosophical statement of this position is given by Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic. He says that "justice is the interest of the stronger." Numerous nations have followed this policy, even though few admit it.  Imagine a nation that was so powerful that no other nation could stand as a credible threat?
Perhaps this nation had great weapons of total destruction as well as powerful military forces to enforce policies.  Such a nation would seek to protect its status as the primary might by attacking any other nation that came close to its military power.  Of course, such a nation would issue proclamations of its virtue and benevolence and inherent peacefulness.  Yet, let another power emerge that posed even a remote threat to it and that other power would be attacked and dismantled.  Such a nation would operate on the “Might is Right” principle.
Augustine lived in the era when Rome had lost its control of the world and was quickly falling to other powers.  The question of moral values in war were immanent for him.  Augustine identified two aspects of war that required moral justification and guidelines:

1. The right to go to war.
2. The right sorts of conduct in war.

The right to go to war concerns the justification that a nation must give in order for it to have a moral right to wage war on another.  Augustine laid the basis for four main criteria:

1. Just Authority - is the decision to go to war based on a legitimate political and legal process? 
2. Just Cause - has a wrong been committed to which war is the appropriate response?
3. Right Intention - is the response proportional to the cause? i.e. is the war action limited to righting the wrong, and no further. So when people speak of "mission creep," this condition is the relevant concern.
4. Last Resort - has every other means of righting the wrong been attempted sincerely so that no other option but war remains?

The conduct of war is clearly a matter of moral concern.  Even when a nation is justified in waging war on another, there are moral limits on what it may do in prosecuting the war.  Defining and enforcing such limits has been a long a concern for international agreement and law, such as the Hague laws and the Geneva Conventions.

1. Proportionality - The proportionality of the use of force in a war. The degree of allowable force used in the war must be measured against the force required to correct the Just cause and limited by Just Intention.
2. Discrimination - The combatants discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Innocent, non-military people should never be made the target of attacks.
3. Responsibility - A country is not responsible for unexpected side effects of its military activity as long as the following three conditions are met:
(a) The action must carry the intention to produce good consequences.
(b) The bad effects were not intended.
(c) The good of the war must outweigh the damage done by it.

These criteria have been revised and expanded, notably by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and the Hague laws and the Geneva Conventions of the current era.
Since war seems to be a constant human condition, the concerns for its moral constraint are ever important.  Consider how the criteria of “Just War” may be applied to the present.  Clearly an insightful philosopher writing almost 1,600 years ago speaks to matters that are relevant to us now and will be relevant to us for some time. Philosophy is a living and present concern, even when it speaks to us from the distant past.

P.S. GOOD DAY! :) As U draw your next breath, remember that GOD's LOVE surrounds U  as U travel through this Day & each Day & Night thereafter!  So may GOD bless U &  keep U; May GOD make His face shine upon U & be gracious to U; May GOD turn His face toward U & give U His Precious Peace. May this Day & Tonight & many thereafter, be Blessed by GOD! In His HOLY NAME I pray. AMEN!
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Sir Richard…
Always Pray For Peace.

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