Book Review: Just War As Christian Discipleship

Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church Rather Than the State by Daniel M. Bell Jr.
Kindle Edition, 267pages
Published October 1, 2009, Baker Academic

Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church Rather Than the State by Daniel M. Bell Jr.  serves as a introduction to the history and formation of Just War Tradition as well as a provocative challenge for the Church to recover and faithfully embody the practice of Just War as a part of Christian Formation. Bell attempts to educate the reader on the development of Just War Theory through the writings of the early Patristics (specifically identifying the tradition in Augustinian thought) through the medieval era and into modern times. Bell argues that in the course of history the Just War tradition transitioned from a distinctly Christian doctrine and practice – rooted in and shaped by faithful convictions and communal confessions – into a checklist used by present-day nation-states to develop international laws in order to govern and guide public policy and warfare. Bell argues that Just War principles (authority, just cause, right intent, last resort, and proportionality) are just as applicable, if not more so, to Christian discipleship and formation than they are to the battlefield. In fact, Bell’s purpose in writing this book to the Church is so “that of learning the tradition, teaching it, and living it… Christians might avoid the hypocrisy of claiming to be a just war people when we do not really know what that means.” (18) Bell’s central claim is that in order to wisely judge the morality (or immorality) of current wars and to discern rightly when the rumors of wars begin to swirl, Christians need to access the necessary foundation for intelligent and faithful moral discernment that will lead us, not to declare a particular conflict just or unjust, but to act in accordance with what Christians claim to believe – that God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, is active in this world and calls His church to love even its enemies. This may be accomplished through practices that are both obedient to God and point to the God of “justice, restraint, long-suffering love, mercy, and (who cares) for the common good and will join us in this common good.” Again, Bell is less concerned with declaring particular wars Just and more concerned with developing a peculiar Just War people. Bell challenges his readers to become true disciples and not merely armchair diplomats.

In this review we will briefly summarize the major sections of Bell’s book followed by critical engagement with Bell’s thesis that the main concern for Christians in regards to Just War Theory “is not how to bolster (a) party or platform while discrediting the other side, nor is it steering politicians and public policy in the right direction” but it is most concerned with “how we might wage war (or not) in a manner that points to the One who came that all might have life and have it abundantly. How can we live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of wars and rumors of war? How do we follow Christ by loving and seeking justice for our neighbors in war?” (20) The review will conclude with a practical outworking for how one might apply Bell’s work in the education and discipleship practices of a local church. 

Just War as Christian Discipleship can be divided in to two distinct sections. Chapters 1-3 recount the history of Just War theory and how Just War as an act of Christian Discipleship (CD) differs from the modern notion of Just War as a simply a checklist for Public Policy (PPC). Chapters 4- 8 consider traditional Just War criteria to compare and contrast Just War as Christian Discipleship (CD) with Just War as Public Policy Checklist (PPC).

Bell begins by detailing the major players and principles that laid the foundation of the Just War tradition and chronicles how the Church’s official stance on war transitioned from one of complete rejection of force and military service to one of acceptance of force and service in war as morally acceptable or just. Giving much of the credit for this shift to Augustine and Gratian’s Just War theory they described as a type of “harsh kindness” firmly rooted in love. War is “kind” and “harsh” when it’s intended outcome is the complete “restoration of the moral order and of the offender’s proper role in that order.” If Bell believes that the Church is ignorant of the history of the Just War tradition and Christianity’s involvement in its development, these opening chapters provide a comprehensive and compelling primer to bring the church up to speed and help her locate where she is within the current conversation. From here Bell attempts to give evidence that Just War is not “a lesser evil” that, given the fallen nature of humanity, we must resign ourselves to engage (or disengage) from. For Bell, Just War is a genuine possibility if Christians are willing to do the hard work of critical discernment of the mind and the even harder work of Christian character development of the heart. In secular history as well as Church history, this discernment and development declined as the church’s authority and relevance waxed and waned. This resulted in grave injustices (sometimes done in the name of God) and the center of the Just War tradition being shifted to the modern nation-state and international law and away from the community of faith. As the subtile for the book proclaims, it is Bell’s intent that this “ongoing conversation about what it means to love and seek justice for our neighbors in war” be reclaimed and recentered in the Church through Christian reflection on and distinctly a Christian practice of just war.

To do this Bell draws a major distinction between what he calls Just War as an act of Christian Discipleship (CD) and Just War as Public Policy (PPC). This is important work because while many Christians, including many local pastors, might be familiar with terms like “right intent,” “just cause,” and “last resort” these virtuous sounding qualifiers have been completely eviscerated through the secular influence of international law leaving them devoid of any true restorative intentions they may have once had.

Too often Christian thinking, teaching, and preaching about war is shallow and undisciplined, uninformed by the tradition. As a result, what we say about war too easily ends up providing legitimation for anything, for forms of war that do not in fact merit the label “just.” Hence, we end up supporting kinds of warfare that are at odds with the just war tradition, even as we think we are a just war people, simply because we do not know the just war tradition well enough to know when we are being misled. (17)

This is the great challenge that the Church must face today. As church leaders, we may not have an audience with Presidents, Prime Ministers, or members of the high ranking military brass. We may not have the cultural authority we once had in speaking publicly for or against political decisions in ways that directly impact and drive the conversations toward spiritual development. However, there is one place where we do have an audience and authority: we have been given these within the local congregations in which we serve. Our pews and classrooms are full of men and women, military personnel (enlisted and retired) and civilians, young and old alike who read and watch the news. At this writing, our people of faith have, just this week, seen images of civilians suffering the effects of chemical warfare launched by a totalitarian government. They have listened to reactions and statements from the international community and have watched as the US government executed an airstrike against strategic military targets in the wee hours of the night. Many of our people will be listening intently as the pundits and talking heads on cable news run down a list of criteria to determine whether or not this or continued military action is “right” or “justified.” As each each criteria is checked, aggression from the enemy will be met with force meted out by Tomahawk cruise missiles or economic sanctions or other punitive means for deterrence. Most of the discussion though will not center around the moral implications for war and the people it impacts but the political significance for relationships between nation-states, the idealogical approaches to force utilized by Republicans and Democrats, and how action or inaction will play out within the international community. People of faith need more than this from us. The Church was given one mission from Jesus and that was to make disciples who make disciples. Like Esther, church leaders must realize that we were born “for such a time as this.” We have been given authority and influence within our churches so that we might raise up men and women who are faithful disciples in all areas of their lives – including discerning whether or not war is justified and, if it is, how we might engage in war in a way that points to God’s intent for his creation. Working through a checklist will not do – that is to simplistic and does not require enough lasting change on our part or on the part of others.  The takeaways or lessons from previous conflicts will be simply forever tied to whether or not the criteria for war was met and not on whether true justice occurred or real peace was  pursued and obtained. To this end, Just War as Christian Discipleship is not a book for individual Christians (or individual Christian soldiers) but for the community of Christian faith, The Church as a whole. Just War must be a “practice of a community; it is a matter not of an individual’s but of the community’s reflection and discernment.” If this is the case, then Bell calls those of us who have authority and influence in the church to make  two commitments in order to help the community to become Just War people.

First we must Love. The community of faith must learn what it means to Love All and Serve All. That includes the marginalized and the tyrants, the combatants and the civilians, those who are near and those who are far. If we fail to Love than we will be driven to react too quickly or move too slowly because we are motivated by fear or simply a general sense of “duty.” Love is the animating principle that unites our heart, head, and hands to respond appropriately and most reflects Our Father in Heaven.

Secondly, we must seek to be Spiritual Formed more than culturally informed. As we lead the Church to engage God’s Word – as he speaks through His Word and through his faithful servants in the past, we will learn to see the world through the ears of God and grow in our ability to  act according to His character. Moving beyond giving lip service to Just War (PCC) principles and proof-texts that “prove” Jesus is for or against particular conflicts is imperative if we are to be formed through the discipline of Just War (CD).

As we listen to the voices that have reflected and discerned these things in the past, we will then struggle to consider and engage in faithful practice today. In doing so, may we challenge the generation of believers that follow us to do the same to Love and Be Formed. Karl Barth famously said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” Only as we are formed into the likeness of Jesus will this even be a possibility.

St. Patrick’s Prayer

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

This Is Just A Tribute

In the song Tribute by the ribald and insane comedy-folk-rock-metal group, Tenacious D,  recount for the listener the tale of the time they played The Best Song in the World. At the demand of a shiny demon, the duo, Jack and Kyle, are forced to play the best song in the world or risk having their soul’s devoured. So, the band plays the first thing that comes to their heads and it just so happened to be The Best Song In The World. Unfortunately, after the encounter, The D tell us that they cannot remember the song and so what we are listing too is a tribute to the Best Song in the World and not, actually, the Best Song in the World . Get it?

That’s what this post is. This is just a Tribute.

Last week I determined that I would  publish a blog post everyday for the next month or so.

With this personal challenge in mind I set out to post an article about how I use my Kindle Paperwhite both personally and professionally.

It was the best blog post in the world. Funny. Insightful. Practical. The post was destined to win the Nobel Prize for Stunning Insight…

Then I clicked something… And it was gone.

I had failed to save along the way. What was left was a mere shadow of the glory that had been. Cntrl – Z couldn’t recover it. It was gone. Forever.

To say that I was upset and felt defeated is an understatement. I got up, left my office, and ran an errand to get my mind and heart right.

“I wrote the post. That’s enough,” I thought. “I’ll work on it again and post later – tomorrow or even the next day. I tried.”

No. I can’t do that. I resolved to hit “Publish” every day. Yes, I want to post great content but I mainly want to get back into the habit of generating content and shipping it out. In these early days of this new habit formation, what counts is producing something getting it out there on the blog.

So, here I am publishing this requiem for a lost post. 

I’ll rewrite my Kindle post another day. Until then, I’ll post this. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t the best.

It’s just a Tribute.



Take a Breather

Mark 6:30–32 NIV
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Have you ever had one of these days? You know, the days when, with every great intention, you set out to make a dent in your world or at least your inbox. You lay down a vision for your day and wake up ready to kick some tasks and take some notes but before you even sit down at your desk the phone rings…

and then someone walks in your office with a crisis that needs your input…

then something in your workspace or building breaks…

then your kid gets sick at school and you have to pick them up and take them to the doc and then to the pharmacy…

then… and then… and then…

We’ve all been there, right?

This is where Jesus’ ministry staff finds themselves on this particular day. The apostles were right in the thick of this kind of ministry whirlwind. They came to Jesus for a staff meeting to share with him all that they have been doing and to get a little encouragment and development. The problem is that ministry doesn’t stop. Not for staff meetings. Not for office hours. Not when you’re on vacation. Not in the minutes leading up to the beginning of the Sunday servoce. Not. Ever.

Mark reports that people and problems kept interupting this personnel meeting and was so consuming that the apostles looked around a few hours later and realized that they worked right through lunch.

That’s when Jesus says, “Let’s go. Get in the boat. We are taking a break.”

Jesus sensed what they needed was some space, some breathing room. In fact, Jesus himself was probably stretched thin and, no doubt, was still greiving over the execustion of his cousin, John the Baptist earlier in this chapter. In the midst of ministry still left to do, Jesus hit the pause button and had everyone head to the lake.

So Jesus and the staff climb into the boat, cast off, and for a moment… there is quiet. There is stillness. There is no one and no situation vying for their attention. For a moment.

Mark 6:33–37 NIV
But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

The people needing to see Jesus and needing a word or needing healing realized what was happening and ran around the Sea of Galilee to meet them on the other side.

When I visited this region we took a boat across the Sea of Galilee and it took us roughly 45 minutes to an hour.

I’m not sure how long it took Jesus and the apostles to make the trip but I know this: They only had a short break before they were thrown right back into the thick of ministry activity.

Maybe I’m looking to deeply into this story but it resonates with my heart. On the far side of the lake, the apostles were fading fast. They were hungry, bombarded, and seemingly overwhelmed. They get into the boat, receive a short repreive from their work, and then they are seemingly ready for the next wave of pastoral care. On top of that, Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook when it comes to continuing to meet the increased needs of the people they are serving.

“You give them something to eat.”

I hear Jesus saying, “I gave you a chance to rest. It was enough. I am enough. Let’s show them what The Father is capable of.”

Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Culturally this is a season where you might hear Jesus-people talking about how they are giving up ice cream or posting on Facebook about how they aren’t going to be posting on Facebook for a few weeks. The season runs for approximately 40 days leading up to Easter. In the grand scheme of the year and certainity for the totality of your life 40 days isn’t a very long time. I mean, by comparison, the MLB season is 182 days.

What if you looked at the next 40 days as a time of respite and preparation for what is coming next?

For most of us in ministry, Easter Sunday is… a pretty big deal. I know that ministry cannot and will not stop completely for this season but how can you push pause and get in the boat with Jesus for a brief RnR? Maybe you make room in your heart through refraining from an activity or giving up sweets or deactivating your social media platforms or… what ever that looks like for you. Let God breath into you for the next few weeks.

Not because it’s trendy or a tradition or tantalizing but because you need it.

You need to rest because on the other side of the lake, there are more poeple to serve.

On the other side of these 40 days, Jesus needs you to feed his people.

Base Hits

Some of the best advice I’ve received lately has been this:

Never underestmate the importance of just getting on base.

In my line of work, the temptation is to get up to the pulpit every single Sunday and knock it out of the park with a homerun sermon that will reverberate through the ages, leave people weeping, and secure a 7 book deal with a major Christian publisher… and then do it again the following week.

That is all kinds of stupid.

Homeruns are great. There is nothing like hitting one and I welcome them when they happen but, no one should expect to hit them week in and week out.

What wins baseball games is the same thing that leads to a long and fruitful career preaching God’s Word week in and week out – getting on base.

Getting on base is playing the long game. It’s sustainable. It’s productive. It’s faithful.

For me, getting on base looks like helping people…
CONNECT with God’s Word in a meaningful and imporatnt way.
CONNECT what God is doing in their life with the mission of God.
CONNECT with their brothers and sisters in the pews.
CONNECT where they are now with where God wants them to be.
CONNECT them with the HOPE of God, Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, when we CONNECT the ball goes sailing up, up, and away and every one of these things happens and more. Those are good Sundays.

However, if I can make a CONNECTION with any one of these each week, that will make for a great legacy.

Don’t overestimate your ability to hit all the homeruns while at the same time underestimating the power of CONSISTENTLY CONNECTING and regularly getting on base.

Exit Question:

What does consistently hitting singles and regularly getting on base look like for you?

Get Into God’s Word in 2017


(This morning I shared something with my church family that has me super excited. This year, rather than put out a Bible reading plan at the first of the year, we are going to take the next 52 weeks and help our people engage their Heads and Hearts in diving deeper into God’s Word. We started recording podcasts, planning some seminars, and reached out to other ministries for resources to help us get into God’s Word so that God’s Word can get into us. From time to time, I’ll share our journey here on the blog. If you would like to join us on this journey, grab your Bible and dive in! I’d love to travel alongside you.)

In 6 days we usher in a new year and say goodbye to this one. What if, one year from today, you could look back and say that in 2017 you grew in your personal relationship with Jesus, in your intimate friendships with God’s people, and in radical influence with those who don’t know Jesus? What will you have done to make these things a reality?

I believe that there are many ways to growing in each of these areas but there is one thing that you can do to grow in all three of these areas simultaneously: That is to passionately and intentionally engage in reading your Bible.

God’s Word is the one place where we learn about who God is, who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish. We read about and enter into the story of God’s people from creation and into eternity. We hear the voice of Jesus calling us to mission and He sends the Holy Spirit to transform and empower us for spreading the Good News to a broken, hurting world desperate for life.

When we read God’s Word, it changes us and the world around us.

Maybe you’ve read through the Bible every year. Maybe this is the first year you’ve considered making the commitment to read everyday. Regardless of whether this is your first time or the hundredth time, we want to help you get into God’s Word so that God’s Word can get into you.

Starting this week, we are launching a brand-new initiative to help you engage with God’s Word on two fronts so that you can read with your Head and your Heart. We want to help you understand what your reading and encourage you to apply it to your lives. Through a daily Bible reading plan, audio podcast teaching, resources, and events we want to make 2017 the year of Biblical Engagement at Lakeside.

A ministry called The Bible Project has graciously allowed us access to use their video content as a launching point for us to understand God’s Word in a creative and powerful way. The Bible, written over thousands of years, by dozens of authors, writing in every imaginable style and genre is God’s Word about His Son, Jesus. It tells a unifying story of how God, through Jesus, rescues and redeems His people in order that we might have a real relationship with Him today and into eternity. The Bible Project, using sound teaching and creative storytelling helps to make sense of the larger narrative of God’s Word in a way that is meaningful and immensely practical.

Each week, we will release an audio podcast  (and in the coming days and weeks we will release through iTunes as well as other internet resources) filled with conversations, teaching content, and encouragement for your journey into God’s Word. We will also link to a Bible Project video or other resource to help you grasp what is happening each week as you read and engage with God’s Word. Throughout the year, we will also provide the whole church with teaching and tips to help you get the most out of reading and applying God’s Word in your life.

This is the final week of 2016 so to prepare yourself for 2017, check out the first podcast (bonus: I linked the 2nd podcast below too), the reading plan, and a video from the Bible Project giving you an overview of what the Bible is all about:

Podcast Episode 1: Get Into God’s Word
Podcast Episode 2: Genesis 1-11
The Bible Project: Read Scripture
Bible Reading Plan

Other Resources
The Bible App
Read Scripture App

Nothing gets me more amped than thinking about what is possible when people meet with Jesus and begin to live like Jesus. That’s what happens when we read God’s Word. Again, imagine the possibilities of what is possible if we as a church body passionately and intentionally seek the voice of God and allow Him to grow us Up, In, and Out this year. Anything is possible when you get into God’s Word and God’s Word gets into you.


This time next year…

It’s Thursday, December 15, 2016.

We’re about to close out 2016. 

If you’re like me, you’re reflecting back on the
year — the good, the bad, the ugly. For some of you, this may have been a great year… for some of us, we are ready to put this dumpster fire of a year away into the history books for good!

But let’s look ahead for a moment.

It’s a year from today, and now you’re looking back on 2017.

How do you want to feel?

There are a lot of ways to answer that question.

But here’s one thing I’m sure of. You don’t want to look back on 2017 and feel remorse. 

…Feeling like you wasted another year.

…Feeling like you failed, once again, to accomplish
that one elusive goal.

…Feeling like nothing changed, like nothing’s better.

…Feeling like you drifted along, not fully realizing
the incredible potential you KNOW you have.

It reminds me of that bone-chilling quote from Robin Sharma…

“You can’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”


I don’t want you to feel like you’re doomed to repeat each
year without making significant progress toward what you
really want.

No way.

I want you to have a BANNER year in 2017. I want you to
look back a year from now and WHOOP WITH JOY at what you did and how you grew.

And I don’t think there’s a better way to start than
Michael Hyatt’s course: 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.

If you truly want to make this your best year ever, and finally make progress against the goals that matter most, then go get Michael’s course:

Make sure you get it TODAY because he is closing
up registration tonight!

If you decide that the course is right for you, I will gladly hop on the phone, email with you, or even FaceTime with you (and even your whole team) to encourage you, walk you through some best practices for goal-setting, and check in with your progress whenever you want.

I’m glad you are a part of this journey. Remember, who you are and what you do matters when The Goal Is Soul.


                    Micheal Felker

P.S. Registration for 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever closes tonight at 11:59 pm PST. After that, it’s back into the vault like a Disney Princess.

2017 > 2016


Imagine a year from now…

You’re looking back on your year thinking to yourself: “What a year I’ve had!”

Goals in all areas of your life were getting ticked off your list.

Health goals. Financial goals. Relationship goals.

Goals you’d been trying to accomplish for years. Finally behind you.

And it all started with this:

Best Year Ever 2017

I have been using Hyatt’s Best Year Ever system for the last 2 years to make significant progress on some of my biggest goals in my life.

When Hyatt’s group asked me to get the word out about BYE I didn’t hesitate because it has made such a difference in my life.

I’ve learned how to set AACTIONable goals that are clear and consistent with what I’ve determined is most important to me.

I’ve learned how to keep my goals in front of me at all times in the year making it harder to ignore or forget.

I’ve learned how to celebrate when I reach my goals and how to readjust or identify what might have gone wrong in missing the mark in a healthy way so that I can regroup and move forward.

I really think that if you are serious about making 2017 a better year than the dumpster fire that was 2016… Best Year Ever is for you!


P.S. You can’t just “hope” that 2017 will be your
best year ever. You need a roadmap. This
will show you how.

Check out Best Year Ever today!

You + 2017 = Best Year Ever (details inside)

take-controlMy goal here is to help equip you to grow in your love and leadership for the people God has put in your care. This week, I get to share with you the opportunity to go after some big goals this next year. All of this leads up to the release of program that I have personally used to transform my day to day schedule, achieve some of my biggest goals, and help others think through God’s purposes for their lives. I am so excited!!! So here’s the $100,000 dollar question:

Have you’ve ever struggled to hit any of the goals you’ve set for yourself?

Maybe you have BIG plans for this year but you are a little hesitant to put pen to paper, the shoulder to the wheel, and get after it?

The problem, so it seems, is that life feels out of control sometimes, doesn’t it?

Project deadlines and kiddo soccer practices and coffee with a friend and getting dinner on the table and sneaking in some exercise and don’t forget that work trip next
week… and… and…

Whew. It’s a lot to handle.

If you are like me sometimes our vision of where we want to be gets obscured because we get so bogged down and focused on the myriad of things calling out and vying for our immediate attention.

What if there was a way to take some of the control back? What if you could get a handle on all the things you are currently doing and begin achieving some of the biggest goals you have for your life?

New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt is going to show you, step-by-step, how to use goal-setting to take control of your days and turn them into the life you really want.

You’ll hear Michael share things like:

* The one single strategy that will instantly make
you 42% more likely to accomplish your goals —
it’s shocking how many people miss it

* How to “quit-proof” your goals and ensure 2017 is
the year you finally cross “that big one” off your
list (you know which one I’m talking about!)

* Why detailed action plans work against you and an
alternate strategy that will take a huge weight off
your shoulders

* The secret to sustaining your initial momentum and
keep making progress toward your goals no matter what
life throws at you

* The common and seemingly positive goal-setting
strategy that is likely sabotaging your success
(and what to do instead)

and so much more!

There are several different times to accommodate your
schedule. See what works for you here:

7 Steps to Taking Control in 2017 Webinar

By the end of the presentation, you’ll be crystal

clear about how you can have your best year ever
in 2017.

Make sure you reserve a spot for webinar:

7 Steps to Taking Control in 2017 Webinar

It’s a free presentation but it will fill up super fast (which is why you need to reserve your spot).


P.S. All registrants will get a special
workbook designed specifically for this
presentation. Here’s the link to sign up:

7 Steps to Taking Control in 2017 Webinar

The Goal Is Soul