Prince Caspian, Natural Law and Just War Theory

Michael Ward has an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that touches upon the natural law lessons in Prince Caspian, the much awaited sequel in the new Narnia film series. It helps shed some light on the difference between the modern wars that we read about in the news and the more righteous version of organized, armed conflict as depicted in the fiction of C.S. Lewis, who, “a believer in Natural Moral Law. . . thought that certain things were naturally good and other things were naturally bad.” Being “a seriously wounded veteran of World War I, Lewis knew all too well the horrors and stupidities of armed conflict. And, he was most certainly no warmonger. But he also felt that war could sometimes be warranted.”

Although Lewis and others of his tradition were not pacifists, the traditional criteria for a just war might seem alien to those looking at the situation in Iraq. “War should be a last resort, declared by lawful authority and conducted according to the natural moral law: It should be defensive, not imperialistic, and there should be limits to one’s war aims, a fair chance of success, no torture of prisoners, no slavery, full personal accountability for the acts of those engaged, no intentional ‘collateral damage,’ and mercy and reconciliation after the conflict ends.”

Indeed, by these standards, most modern warfare is barbaric and viciously immoral. So while Lewis’s fiction and the movies inspired by it do, in a sense, glorify righteous and patriotic defense, they are also an indictment of the status quo.

Read the rest of Ward’s piece here. Those interested can see here for my review of the first Narnia movie, as it relates to just war. And here is a review of Christianity and War, by Laurence Vance, which touches upon such issues. For those who want to see a strong critique even of just war theory—to show it, too, is limited and not a perfect proxy for natural law (although a great improvement over today’s warfare), see Laurie Calhoun‘s important article in the The Independent Review.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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