Friday, November 19, 2010

Torture in an age of terrorism Part 2

III. Position Statement
In order to be transparent, I must admit that this is one issue as an American and a follower of Christ that I had not given much thought to leading into this post. Typically people have their opinion on an issue at the flip of a coin, but the issue of torture on individuals is not quite that simple. First, it is an issue that I know exists, but one that I have never given much thought too. Second, the only form I have ever seen first hand is that in the movies, which in some ways desensitizes me to the reality that there is places that torture is actually happening. But not giving much thought to an issue and being desensitized to its reality does not pardon me from taking a position on torture.

Especially because the society today is dealing more often with the topic of war, terrorism, and torture gives me all the more reason to be ready to give an answer to those around me. I find it difficult for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ to easily justify torture. We are referring to following the God of love so it seems almost impossible to claim to follow Him in one breath and talk of torturing a person whom He created in another breath.

In general I do not believe that torture is something that should be used in an age of terrorism, but under extreme very specific cases I do see it as permissible. Although, this does need to be nuanced as there would need to be a clear definition of what a specific case would be allowing for an act of torture when dealing with terrorism. In addition there would need to be specific requirements on the type of torture and to what degree it would be taken.

One might question how it is ever permissible and for that I will turn to the “Just War Theory” as my means of doing so. Although, most would say that no means of torture would be justifiable by the just war theory, I believe that it can be, but that it needs to be fleshed out. The best means for doing that I believe are using the Jus Ad Bello Criteria under the just war theory. (Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 3rd ed., 2009), 314.)

First, the torture must be prompted by a just cause. Second, the torture must have a just intention. Third, torture must be engaged as a last resort. Fourth, torture must be initiated with a formal declaration by properly constituted authorities. As can be seen this is a delicate issue that must be handled as such. Based on these requirements I cannot foresee torture as a regularly occurring practice in a time of war. In addition to having very specific requirements, the torture itself must be limited to only go so far and determined before ever beginning. This protects the human life being dealt with and does not allow for it to go further than necessary or out of spite of the situation.

Hebrews 11:35 would be a situation in which torture should definitely cease. In the case of Hebrews it is referring to being persecuted on the behalf of Christ, but it is no secret that there are terrorist out there willingly to die in the name of Allah. Upon realization of discernment of this then if torture does not cease it becomes a different issue dealing with the heart of the one inflicting the torture on an individual.

Recognizably so this is in no way an exhaustive look at the issue of torture, but more of a brief look in order to begin thinking through the issue myself and prompt others to do the same.


  1. I will comment on this very quickly and will in no way do it justice.

    I have had this conversation with many people and it always seems that people use reason over the teachings of Jesus.

    We justify things that should never be justified (as Christ followers) based on security and success. When Jesus commands us to Love our enemies he isnt giving us a "here is how to stay alive teaching." Thats why Jesus' teachings are hard, because it could cost you your life if actaully lived out. I personally can not justify in any situation to torchure anyone. If I remember correctly most all of the people who took Jesus' teachings seriously were killed. How can we as Christians support the "tools" of the empire. Jesus never says love your enemies unless torchuring or killing them is the more successful option. And I definitley can not in any way consider torchure to be a way of loving our enemies.

  2. Jkub, appreciate the feedback. It is honestly something that I am still working through and believe that more believers should think through these issues. I will be posting some more ethical stances and would love feedback, I am more concrete in some than others.