At some point the pragmatic test deserves its day in court. Usually its leveled against the pacifist - i.e., How can we live in a world without war? And that deserves an answer. But there is a more potent practical question the pacifist can ask: Has there ever been a just war?
Both questions appropriately demand livability, an essential component of any conception of Christian life. Something may look great on paper, adorned with proof texts and Luther quotes, but does it work? Can it be lived?
If a pair of scissors was used in a brutal murder, no one would call into question whether or not we should continue to manufacture and use them for their other effective purpose. Just because something is abused does not undermine its validity. But what if we lived in a world where scissors were only ever without exception used not for cutting paper but stabbing victims? Every single time any well-meaning school teacher sought to conduct an art project, she ended up with a room full of bodies. We might begin to wonder if scissors were such a great idea after all.
Enter "just war". Has there ever been a just war? Even if you support war without the "just" part, has there ever been a war for which a Christian could fully support its cause and fully support its means?
This might sound like an unfair test. It might sound like asking, Has there every been a completely untainted democratic process? But that's not what I'm asking. I'm not saying that we throw out democracy because its always tainted. I'm saying we throw out communism because we always end up with totalitarianism.
Enter "war". We don't abandon war for the Christian because it involves non-Christians and its always tainted by evil on both sides. We abandon war because when we set out for justice on paper we always end up with injustice. We fight for unjust reasons, with unjust means, and get unjust results. Sure there might be some mixed blessings in there. I could name a few mixed blessings under Mao or Stalin or Hitler. But collateral blessings are cause for abandonment not embodiment.
And so the pragmatic challenge stands: Has there ever been a just war?