Augustine and the death of Bin Laden

If ever there was a “just war,” our nation’s pursuit of Osama Bin Laden would qualify. Here are Augustine’s comments on the necessity and limits of waging a “just war”…

For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party [Al Qaeda] which compels the wise man [Coalition Forces] to wage just wars; and this wrong-doing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrong-doing.

Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling…

…For even they who make war desire nothing but victory,—desire, that is to say, to attain to peace with glory. For what else is victory than the conquest of those who resist us? and when this is done there is peace. It is therefore with the desire for peace that wars are waged… (Augustine, “City of God,” quoted from Philip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. II, 407).

I think it’s appropriate to feel a mix of sorrow and gladness today as we reflect on the death of Osama bin Laden. On the one hand, we grieve the thought of anyone facing the prospect of eternity in hell, apart from Christ. On the other hand, when a battle was provoked by wrongdoing, and weapons were reluctantly taken up by the innocent nation, we should rejoice at the sight of justice and a little more peace in our world today.


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