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War, Participation in It, and Ethics


The conflict between the ethical living and necessary violence has always been a hot and throbbing topic within philosophical debates. This dispute has continued for at least two millennia since the advent and subsequent dominance of the Christian worldview. Since then, the issues of the life-saving taking of the lives of others and the deadly protection of one’s own have always divided society into two ideologically conflicting groups, which in the current global context can be called patriots and pacifists. The existence of people like John Stuart Mill and Leo Tolstoy, philosophical figures who held radically different ethical perspectives about joining the war and executing forced defensive violence within the same timeframe, is just one example of this fundamental ideological division. As an adept of the patriot side, I believe that it is ethical to go to war for one’s country since God requires his children to obey the rulers and powers over people in this world.

Obedience to Rulers and Ethical Permission to Go to War in Christianity

The next logical question arises about the causal connection of the ethical justifiability of one’s joining a patriotic with God’s requirement for a society to obey its leaders. The answer is the absolute truth and legitimacy of the decisions and orders of the rulers that they receive from God. According to the Bible, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…the authorities that exist have been established by God” (The NIV Bible, Romans 13.1). God is the absolute truth and its source in Christian ideology and philosophy since he is ideal, eternal, righteous, and omnipotent (The NIV Bible, Psalms 119.142). Consequently, it is objectively ethical and correct to become a soldier in a war for the interests of your country, be it aggressive or defensive, which the rulers have either begun or participate in and require you to join it.

Following the Higher Worldly Powers and Ethical Permission to Go to War in Christianity

The only power over people in this world is God himself with all his three manifestations and his law in Christianity. The latter includes the commandments and the words of Jesus Christ, and he advocated for both defensive war and aggressive wars. One of the postulates of God is “if a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed” (The NIV Bible, Exodus 22.2). It is direct divine permission for self-defense with a possibly fatal outcome for the attacker and the defender’s absence of moral and posthumous punishment.

Since there is no mortal sin here, then it is ethical for one to join the patriotic war. His other well-known phrase that people should not “suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth” can be interpreted as a justification and permission for starting preventive and non-defensive military conflicts for Christians (The NIV Bible, Matthew 10.34). Jesus is one of the manifestations of God, and therefore Christians are to follow this principle as well, which gives them the moral right to an aggressive military policy.

Pacifist Counterargument

The analysis and criticism of counterarguments should begin with the major one, namely the pacifist one. Surprisingly, the pacifists have the exact ideological origin as the patriots, namely the figure of Jesus Christ. Pacifists believe that the initiation of wars and participation in them by states and individuals is unacceptable and unforgivable (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Any conflicts and measures of resistance should be carried out in a way that excludes human casualties (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). However, while the latter follows, for the most part, his written words, the former are guided by his actions and behavior described in the Bible. Constant global peace is their primary value, and non-conflicting countries are the ultimate goal of their activism and politics.

The critical error of this worldview is the over-reliance on the good side of human nature and the associated idealism. History shows that war is an immortal parasite deeply rooted in human civilization. The military industry has succeeded in preventing and stopping bigger wars far better than the pacifist organizations. As St. Augustine said, “We go to war that we may have peace” (“History of War Ethics”). War is ethical, primarily defensive, as it ends the conflict faster.

Tolstoy’s Concept of Non-Resistance

Another counterargument also has a Christian origin, and this is the concept of non-resistance to evil by Leo Tolstoy. He believed that a person’s behavior, lifestyle, and actions could be ethical only if they “oppose all forms of violence,” since this, even a forced one, engenders evil (Fishley 3). Violence is an essential component of war, and this logically means that war and all its participants are unethical. An antithesis to this idea was provided by John Stuart Mill, who argued that inaction, including non-resistance, is the actual source and propagator of evil and, as a result, unethical (“John Stuart Mill Quotes”). It can be extrapolated to the subject matter of this paper, which makes joining a person in a war for their country justifiably ethical.


This work presents an ethnic and theological justification of the participation of one in the war. The ethics of being a soldier and the necessity of wars have been proven. The antitheses considered and criticized were the pacifist and the Tolstoy’s, which belong to Christian philosophy like the critical statement of this essay. The lack of a legal perspective and non-Christian counterarguments can be seen as shortcomings of this paper.

Works Cited

Fishley, Daniel. “Encountering Finitude, Confronting Infinitude: Leo Tolstoy, Emmanuel Levinas, and the Ethics of Non-Resistance.” Studies in Christian Ethics, vol. 33, no. 3, 2020, pp. 1-21, Web.

“History of War Ethics.” BBC, Web.

“John Stuart Mill Quotes.” Quotes Cosmos, Web.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Pacifism.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Web.

The NIV Bible. Biblica, 1983, Web.

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StudyKraken. "War, Participation in It, and Ethics." February 24, 2023.


StudyKraken. 2023. "War, Participation in It, and Ethics." February 24, 2023.


StudyKraken. (2023) 'War, Participation in It, and Ethics'. 24 February.

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