In this paper I will attempt to answer the question: ‘Is there ever a time when killing in justifiable?’. I will also explain my views and apply metaethical theories to a real-life situation to conclude on the topic. My personal ethical theory includes a hybrid of virtue ethics, revelation Christian ethics, and divine nature theory.
I will first describe my personal ethical theory and the application process. Then, I will apply the theories to the real-life scenario of the question at hand. I realize that not everyone will have the same feelings or outlooks and may come to a different conclusion on the topic. It is okay to have differences in opinions.
First, I will address virtue ethics. Essentially, this approach to ethics says, “good ethical decisions will be made by good people”. The part of virtue ethics that best describes my personal ethical theory is the fact that virtue ethics is essentially based on how you are raised and the moral characteristics you practice. “Aristotle observed that there is a reason for everything that exists” .Aristotle refers to virtues as being character traits that persuade you to act and react in a moral way. He also refers to virtue ethics as a balance between two extremes or otherwise known as, the ‘Golden Mean’. Virtue ethics to me, means that if you practice being honest, generous, or just (or practice actions that proceed a good moral character) then you, as a person, will develop and become an honorable moral character. In turn, when you continue to practice these ethical habits, you will know what the right choices to make when confronted with ethical challenges. Although, my issue with the theory is that it leaves God out of the picture.
Revelation Christian Ethics
Revelational Christian ethics applies to my personal theory because I believe that what is in the Bible should essentially be list metaethics that Christians should live by. Although, it is not that simple. Many believe that the Bible is an easily interpreted list of rules, but that is not the case. “The Bible is not some middle-school piece of literature: it is a collection of writings that were composed over a long expanse of time by people with a variety of backgrounds who were communicating some pretty advanced religious and philosophical ideas”. Also, the Ten Commandments are ethical principles that I believe we should all live by. The world would be a much more peaceful place if everyone believed in the Lord our God, if we honored our father and mother, if there was not murder or adultery, etc. Although, it is impossible for everyone to agree on these principles. The other part of the Revelational Christian ethic theory that I have based my life on since a child is the golden rule. I treat others the way I would like to be treated. Although this principle has its issues too, because the way ‘I’ want to be treated is going to be interpreted many ways. The key foundation of Revelational Christian ethics is the Bible, reinforced by careful thinking and understanding of the heart and conscience. This ethical theory takes into consideration more than just the words but the actual application to the times or ‘hermeneutics’ and the study of the philosophy behind the Bible. This approach to ethics allows us the take into consideration more than just the words, and apply it to becoming “better Christians and better people”.
Divine Nature Theory
I previously thought that I could relate to divine command theory, as well, but after reading chapter eight of ‘Theory of Moral Reasoning’ it has swayed my opinion ever so slightly. When I was introduced to a modified divine command theory, towards the end of the chapter, more commonly referred to as divine nature theory, I thought I related to this theory more so than divine command theory. This made me question my previous thoughts regarding divine command theory. So, if I were to add yet another theory to my personal theory, it would be divine nature theory. As defined in the text presented to us, “it rejects the suggestion that there is a standard of morality outside of God to which God’s commands conform, for now the standard is internal to God- in effect, God is the standard”. And although not everyone believes in God, I do. Divine nature theory can be summed up as an approach to ethics to interpret moral principles as a reflection of the definitive morals that are essential to God himself. This theory also denies the suggestion that there is a standard outside of God. It tells us that God is the standard.
There are many times when we ask ourselves if the violence going on in today’s world is justified. You can look at the death rates by violence and the trend has continued to sky rocket in the last few years. In fact, in 2015 the number of violence related deaths in the United States was 62,516 compared to the 1998 statistic of 48,847 . That is approximately a 27.983% increase in confirmed and reported deaths by violence, just in the Unites States alone. This does not include those who go unreported or are put under a category besides ‘violence related’. There was an applied case in our reading that addressed the issue of justifiable killing, but it was related to the military. In the case of ‘Vietnam’s Legacy’ Martin Paxton’s views and feelings after the Vietnam War are different then when he was first drafted to go to war. Paxton’s grandson was questioning the U.S. draft and Mr. Paxton was at a crossroads in how he should address this topic with his grandson. Mr. Paxton has trauma still, to this day, because of the sights he witnessed in Vietnam. He also understands that we, as a country, must have a way to fight back on acts of terrorism and fighting corrupt people, in general.
The application of virtue ethics to this scenario is going to have a basis of your personal moral characteristics that you practice but also how you were raised. Personally, I grew up in a Christian home and my father has been in the military since before I was even a thought. In fact, he way deployed when I was born, and he is currently deployed, fighting for our nation, in the country of Kuwait. So, just based on virtue ethics, I would have to say that are some killings that are justifiable. Although, not even all killings that the military must commit are justifiable, but for their (those overseas) and our safety they must be carried out. It is a different world in combat zones overseas. I personally could not do what these soldiers do. There are times when they are forced to take a life of a child because the child is contributing to corrupt foreign affairs. This child is essentially innocent, although this poor child was raised to commit acts that are seen as immoral. So, based on my virtue ethics and that alone, I would have to say that killing for a just cause of greater good, would morally be okay. Although, this could possibly fall under the ethic of rule utilitarianism. I don’t think that this alone could prove that it is morally acceptable to kill for a just cause, I think it goes deeper than that.
The next part of my ethical theory that I am going to apply to this topic is revelation Christian ethics and divine nature theory. The way that I will apply these theories to the situation is that God said, “Thou shall not kill” (in original Hebrew language, “Thou shall not murder”). There is a difference between murder and kill. Although, in this passage God is referring to murder and not necessarily killing. If we could have world peace without killing and only peaceful protests it would be one thing, but I don’t think the world that we live in today is capable of that. So, then comes the thought of, what if we stop killing in the military all together, where would that get us? In the current state of our country and those where we have an active military presence, I don’t believe we would be around much longer. The reasons for war are so many, while not all reasons are just, I believe the majority are. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace”. And one more bible verse that supports just war would be Matthew 10:34, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places”. Divine nature theory has been presented to us in a way that states essentially God is the standard. God tells us to obey all laws. Per our government, it is required for certain individuals to register for the draft and if the draft is reinstated they will be called to serve. By not following these rules or laws you are being sinful. These facts and theories must be applied when trying to decipher if killing is ever justified.
My conclusion is going to answer the thesis question of, is there ever a time when killing in justifiable? My answer to this question is yes. There are times when killing is justified. For instance, “killing becomes murder when (and only when) it is not properly justified, and the justifications are clear: you can use whatever force necessary to protect your own life from a hostile aggressor, or to save the life of an innocent from such imminent, life-threatening danger. The difference between the legal or illegal use of deadly force is really a matter of motive, intent, and justification, and these distinctions come straight from the pages of Scripture”. I don’t think God has intended for killing to take place, but after his life, he had seen enough how humans had worked and realized that it was unavoidable. There are times when crimes are committed, or people are harmed, and those perpetrators must be handled. Overall, there are times when killing in justifiable. When looking at it from a military or law enforcement aspect, you must ensure you are fighting for the right reasons and making sure you do everything in your power to do the job ethically.