Events Lectures News Releases

Upcoming lecture to explore and critique modern interpretations of just war theory

Rev. Dr. David Widdicombe to speak at Canadian Mennonite University

An Anglican priest will explore just war theory in an upcoming lecture at Canadian Mennonite University.

Rev. Dr. David Widdicombe, Rector of Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg, will give a presentation titled, “To Sow the Wind: An Argument Against the War on Terror and Other Bad Ideas,” at 7:00 PM on Thursday, February 26 in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.).

To Sow The Wind PosterPresented by CMU’s Biblical and Theological Studies Department, the lecture will explore a particular way of looking at war—specifically, the war on terror.

“What I hope people go away with is additional intellectual resources for thinking about what the government ought to do in the circumstances we presently find ourselves in,” Widdicombe says. “I’m not suggesting that I have the answers, but what I’m suggesting is that we need to be thoughtful about the kinds of questions we’re asking.”

Widdicombe says that just war theory has received a lot of attention in recent times, but the results have been mixed. It is no longer a tradition of thought designed to outline how force is to be used in the restraint of evil.

Instead, under the pressure of a variety of factors including humanitarian interventionism, theories that democracies do not fight wars against each other, Western exceptionalism, and supposed states of emergency, the tradition has lost its profound Augustinian political scepticism and moral realism.

Widdicombe’s lecture will ask whether the restraint of force wasn’t always a better, foundational idea than the pursuit of justice in the just war tradition—a tradition that once thought of war as tragically endemic and sometimes justified, but never simply unambiguously just.

“Behind all this is my assumption that Christians, whether pacifist or not, have a stake in governments getting this right rather than getting this wrong,” Widdicombe says.

Dr. Karl Koop, Professor of History and Theology, and Coordinator of CMU’s Biblical and Theological Studies Program, invited Widdicombe to present the lecture after hearing him speak about just war theory this past summer.

“Christian pacifists sometimes place Christians, who are not pacifist, into a just war theory box and then assume that their position may not be sound, nor well thought through, nor theologically tenable,” Koop says. “Dr. Widdicombe’s position is of a different sort. He is seeking to be a faithful Christian and recognizes the complexities of conflict. While not holding a pacifist position, he is not enamoured with just war reasoning either, at least not the way in which it is applied in the contemporary context.”

Koop adds that he is looking forward to hearing what Widdicombe has to say at CMU, a university that lists “Educating for Peace and Justice” as one of its four core commitments.

“We may differ with Dr. Widdicombe’s point of view, but he is the kind of conversation partner that we need beside us as we together think through what it means to be faithful in a year of war and conflict—and 100 years after the big war that was supposed to end all wars,” Koop says.