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C H A P T E R 3 Natural Flourishing as the Normative Ground of Just War A Christian View Nigel Biggar THE IRREDUCIBLE PLURALITY OF SECULAR DISCUSSION ABOUT JUST WAR WE MIGHT ACHIEVE a universal language about the ethics of war. It might be that warrior cultures will vanish from the world, and that no one will ever again suppose that the ecstasy of violence is its own justification, or that domination is war’s obvious and intrinsic end. It might be that the terms in which the just war tradition speaks will become the global lingua franca. I doubt it, but it might be. If it were so, we would have achieved a measure of consensus about how to view war morally —but still only a measure. Common terms are susceptible of diverse information . Different people can use the same language and still mean significantly different things by it. Controversy is here to stay; and salvation lies, not in aspiring to transcend it, but in growing the virtues to handle it well. Some might think that in this supposedly secular world, the moral essence of just war thinking needs to be liberated from its premodern, theological husk and translated into universally accessible philosophical language. Well, when I last looked, there was no such language—not even among philosophers. There is no language that is beyond provoking moments of bafflement. And besides, surely bafflement is a normal feature of human conversation, around which we have learned to maneuver in a familiar variety of ways. No doubt ethical discourse about war that is silent about God, the afterlife, and eschatological justice, and which 49 50 Nigel Biggar makes no reference to holy scriptures, will seem neutral to atheists and agnostics. But it will not seem so to religious believers, whose rising number worldwide discom fits the secularization thesis, and not all of whom belong to the Great Unwashed—or at least to the Great Uneducated. So with due respect to just war Habermasians, the search for a universally acceptable ‘‘secular’’ language is a narcissistic illusion. The same applies, pace just war Rawlsians, to the search for an overlapping consensus that transcends controversy. Even the very late Rawls admitted that consensus contains such dissensus as to require, sometimes, crude resolution by majority vote.1 THE RELATIVE DISTINCTIVENESS OF CHRISTIAN JUST WAR THEORY I take it that, like any other, the tradition of just war discourse contains a diversity of construals, which are nevertheless sufficiently similar to be considered members of a single family. Quite where lies the bottom line will, of course, be controversial. One man’s heretic is another man’s Protestant. Nevertheless, heresy there must be; otherwise definition is lacking, and if definition, then identity. There can be no doubt, however, that orthodox construals of the just war tradition include Christian ones. And in what now follows, I offer a Christian, theological account of the grounds of the authority of just war discourse, and of their moral implications. A Christian account will have its proper characteristics. What is characteristic, however, need not be absolutely distinctive. Not everything that a Christian affirms will every non-Christian feel the need to deny. This is so for one of several reasons: Either the non-Christian depends on a Christian intellectual heritage, or she shares with Christians the same moral conviction but for different reasons, or the Christian view incorporates an empirical element that commands broad assent. The fact that an account of just war is Christian, therefore, is no good reason for non-Christians to shut their ears and turn away, as if it had nothing to do with them. Some characteristic features of a Christian account of just war will elicit their agreement, whether qualified or wholehearted; other features will baffle them. It was ever thus in human conversation. What reaction something provokes depends upon who is listening and where they are listening from. Accessibility is unpredictable. The only thing to do is to speak one’s mind, and then negotiate. FROM THE COMMAND OF NEIGHBOR-LOVE TO THE GOOD OF HUMAN LIFE The practical norm that immediately generates Christian just war thinking is Jesus’s command that we should love our neighbors, whom he then specifies as including Natural Flourishing as the Normative Ground of Just War 51 our enemies.2 No command, however, is ever its own justification; every duty serves a good. We should love our...


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