Just War Principles - Summary

By Staff
Jul 1, 2006

Principles for Engaging in War

Just cause.

  • The cause of initiating war must be just.

Competent authority.

  • War cannot be initiated justly except by those who hold the proper authority and responsibility.

Comparative justice.

  • The moral merit on our side must clearly outweigh the moral merit on the other.

Right intention.

  • The intention of going to war must be to obtain or restore a just peace. Desires to punish or humiliate are not adequate intentions.

Last resort.

  • All non-violent alternatives must be exhausted before resorting to war.

Probability of success.

  • If the prospect of success is hopeless, war is not justified no matter how just the cause.

Proportionality of projected results.

  • The good expected must be greater than the estimation of anticipated costs.

Right spirit.

  • War should be regarded as a tragic necessity.

Principles for Conducting War

Proportionality in the use of force.

  • No action should be taken that generates more harm than good.


  • A strong distinction must be maintained between combatants and non-combatants. Non-combatants must never be deliberate or primary targets of military action.

Avoidance of evil means.

  • No use of evil means (even for a just cause).

Good faith.

  • As much as possible, the enemy must be treated in good faith in order to keep open the possibility of reconciliation.

Just War Principles – PDF

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, Christian Citizenship, Church and State, Persecution, War,


1 On Sep 27, 2006, at 1:54pm, Charlie McClelland wrote:

The Just War presupposes a war between states involving a command structure, government authority, and an identifiable territory.  As far as I can see, the “war on terrorismâ€? contains none of these.  Instead, it resembles Rome’s fight against the incursions of the barbarians.  To “winâ€? involves killing all the barbarians.  The only common traits of the terrorists are their ethnicity and their religion.  The American mindset recoils from such unrestrained warfare, so we must think through how we will fight terrorism without murdering the values that are intrinsic to our way of life.

2 On Mar 31, 2007, at 6:57am, eric wrote:

“...we must think through how we will fight terrorism without murdering the values that are intrinsic to our way of life.”

Well spoken, Charlie! Far more wisdom here than coming from Washington!

3 On Nov 8, 2008, at 8:34pm, gale wrote:

How many are aware that the phrase “Just War” and the accompanying theses come straight out of the Catholic catechism?  Sure, war is part of world history and OT Bible history, but Jesus showed us a better way and then laid down His life for us after admonishing His most-eager-to-fight disciple to lay down his sword.  After all, didn’t His disciple have a just cause in wanting to defend the Lord Himself from being captured, tortured and murdered?

We either believe that Ephesians is correct in calling its very intentionally limited list of armor the “full” armor, or we don’t and then we can try to add more worldly arsenal to the list in violation of the rule against adding to the Word of God, which is the only sword worthy of bearing.  Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.  He wasn’t lying to us about that.

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