I was listening to a lecture from the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture archives and was drawn to several comments by Enda McDonagh concerning the problem of using original sin as justification for ‘just war.’
We’re not living in an unredeemed world, we’re living in a redeemed world, that’s the whole point of our faith in Jesus Christ. So if we live in a redeemed world then it’s very proper for us to struggle…because we have the redeeming presence of Christ.
…the turning point is the death and resurrection of Christ. We live in a redeemed world. We’re never going to fully realize it, but what we’re called to…is to overcome.
It strikes me that the position McDonagh is critiquing is also a common underlying assumption among many of this blog’s dissenters.
Christian Realism assumes that, because the nature of sin cannot be completely overcome until Christ’s return we are allowed certain compromises so that we can achieve a not-yet-complete justice in order to foreshadow the complete justice which is possible only on Christ’s return. This is often articulated as a civic responsibility to “fix the world” while we are “still here on earth.”
The Reality of Christ’s Presence
What McDonagh’s comment suggests, and what I sympathize with, is that because of the resurrection, Christ is actively present and working in the world. Though we are still confronted by sin, our calling is to live and act as witnesses to the present work of Christ who alone is able to overcome sin.
Also present in the panel was Stanley Hauerwas who argues quite succinctly that,
If Christ is fully present in the body and blood of the Eucharist, God’s peace is fully present. …our failure, is not embodying that.
The lecture includes:
Defending Just War Theory: Three Views
- Gilbert Meilaender, Valparaiso University
- James Toner, United States Air Force Academy
- Russell Hittinger, University of Tulsa
Abolitionism: A Christian Response to War?
- Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University
- Enda McDonagh, St. Patrick’s University, Maynooth
- Michael Baxter, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame
(By the way, though I disagree with some of the Air Force Academy speaker’s arguments for Just War, I highly commend the U.S. Air Force for being the only military branch with an ethics department)
While the aforementioned arguments primarily relate to the topic of Just War, I think the underlying assumptions of Christian Realism vs. the Presence of Christ are inherent in the arguments for a number of other issues including abortion, euthanasia, politics, social justice, and even church planting.
What do you think? Are we called to just actions that, while imperfect, allude to the true justice that is possible only after Christ returns, or are we called to witness to what Christ is already doing, even at the risk of appearing less effective?