Unjust Lies, Just Wars? A Christian Pacifist Conversation with Augustine

Journal of Religious Ethics 29 (1):51 - 78 (2001)
Pacifism is routinely criticized as sectarian, incoherent, and preoccupied with moral purity at the expense of responsibility. The author contends that the pacifism of John Howard Yoder is vulnerable to none of these charges and defends this claim by establishing parallels between Yoder's analysis of killing and Augustine's analysis of lying. Although, within the terms of his own argument, Augustine's rejection of all lying as unjust is consistent with his condoning of some killing as just, the author shows that given a different conception of the defining characteristic of God (noncoercive love instead of truth), Augustine's theological argument against lying would become an argument against violence. The author therefore suggests that Yoder's rejection of killing is no more sectarian, incoherent, or irresponsible than Augustine's rejection of lying.
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