The root cause of Just War Theory – a misinterpretation of the Agony in the Garden?

Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray. And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me. And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me?

Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak. Again the second time, he went and prayed, saying: My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done.

Matthew 26:36-42

All four of the Gospels record that Christ went to the Garden of Gethsemane before his passion, only the Apostle John does not record what happened there.

Last Sunday (14th September) was the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, and while listening to the homily at Mass, I found myself disagreeing with the preacher on nearly every point of his sermon. I won’t try to recount the entire homily here, however the basic point was that the Christ’s passion and death on the cross, was what brought salvation to humanity.

In listening to the homily and my interior disagreement, I stumbled across what I think may well be the root cause of the prevalence of the Theory of Just War in the Catholic Church.
It comes down to a simple question:

What was the “chalice” in the Garden of Gethsemane?

The (post-Constantinian) Traditional Catholic understanding is that the “chalice” presented to Christ is the Father’s requirement that His Son should suffer and die, and by the Son’s suffering and death, the Son would save the world.

Perhaps putting it in plain English like this, you my readers may already perceive a subtle problem:


There is an every-so-slight corruption of the Dogma of the Hypostatic Union of Christ’s humanity and divinity and the Dogma of the Most Holy Trinity – specifically the Homoousios (consubstantial with the Father).

There are several understandings of the Chalice and the Agony in the Garden presented in Traditional Catholicism.

  1. Christ is presented with a revelatory command from the Father
  2. Christ is accepting the burden of all sin.
  3. Christ contemplates the sufferings about to come.

One or any combination of these, according to some Traditional understandings cause Christ to sweat blood (the Agony in the Garden).

The first position is Arian, because it corrupts the Hypostatic Union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and the Consubstantiality with the Father.
God the Son knows perfectly everything that the Father knows (Homoousios clause of the Nicene Creed), and the human intellect of Jesus Christ knows what the Divine Intellect of the Son knows by the Hypostatic Union between Christ’s divinity and His humanity.
It is impossible for the Son to receive a “revelation”.

The second position Theologically is transferable. It can support an Arian point of view that says the Father commands the Son to take on the sins of the world – which equally means the Father commands the Son to suffer (because Scripture says the Son does indeed suffer). The cause of Christ’s Agony in the Garden as being the acceptance of all Sins is logically more complicated than my conclusion below (Occham’s Razor).

The third position frustrates the Dogma of Hypostatic Union and Homoousios. Like the first position, there is a concept that new information is being presented. But to admit that is Arianism, a denial of the Hypostatic Union and the Homoousios of the Father and the Son. Christ has always known the information.

Please note: I said that it is an “Arian point of view that says […] the Father commands the Son to suffer”.

Why is it Arian to hold that the Father commanded the Son to suffer?

Homoousios means that the Father cannot withhold anything from the Son. The same works the other way around, the Son cannot withhold anything from the Father. What the Son teaches and holds as absolutely true, the Father teaches and holds as absolutely true. There can be no divergence.

The Incarnate Son condemned violence and enmity, so the Father condemns violence and enmity – absolutely and for all time (past, present and future). The Incarnate Son provided a New Covenant, a New Commandment; “Love one another as I have loved you”, which means that the Father Commands this too.

To hold otherwise would deny the Homoousios or the Hypostatic Union – Arianism. Either God the Son and God the Father say different things (no Homoousios), or there is a miscommunication between the Divine Person, God the Son and human intellect and will of Jesus Christ (no Hypostatic Union).

For example run this past your logic: “Son, I command You to suffer and die on the cross, for the fulfilment of scripture and the salvation of the human race”. Does that fit with “Son, I love You as You love Me”?

If it were respecting of the Homoousios (or consubstantiality) then the command must be mutually applicable. The Son must be able to say the same to the Father – “Father, I love you, so you must suffer and die”. Such a concept is absolutely abominable.

So if Christ already knows what is going to happen, and has not been commanded by the Father to suffer and die, what is left for the Incarnate Son, who at the time, is bound by the temporal?

Christ knows. Christ is also perfectly in control of Himself. What is the one thing that remains, one thing that can only be done in the moment?

Quite simple – the use of his human free will.

Christ, knowing all things, that he was about to be betrayed, to be violently abused, tortured and killed, had a choice whether or not to be obedient to the Commandment that He (and thus entire the Holy Trinity) gave to His Disciples in the Upper Room minutes ago. To return good for evil. Not to respond to violence with violence. To love those that did evil to Him.

And what was the ultimate Good that He could do, in the ultimate evil that was about to happen (Deicide)? To offer His suffering as expiation for sins.

The Chalice was not the sins themselves, it was the free assent to obey to His own law; Non-violence. Knowing, absolutely, what was to happen, Christ had the choice to run away, He had the choice to resist, even resist violently. It was the weight of the choice whether, or not, to be obedient to His own teaching (and therefore all the consequences), which was enormous enough to make Him sweat blood.

But He did, what He taught His disciples, and His Church to do. He freely chose to obey His own Command. He did not resist evil, He did not give way to violence, He repaid evil with Good. He did what He Commands us to do.

Christ saved us, by being obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Obedient to His own Command of non-violent love of those that do evil to Him.

The Cross, His Passion and death, are not what saved humanity. What saved humanity was His decision to abide by His own Law, and as a consequence of that obedience he was tortured and murdered. The Cross, the instruments of His Passion, are consequences, which if taken by themselves loose all importance. The key was free assent to His own Law.

He was obedient, and by being obedient, He did the greatest Good in return for the greatest evil, He offered His death in reparation.

The Exultation of the Cross, isn’t the exultation of His suffering and death exclusively. It is the proof that Christ was willing to show us, even to the most horrible torture and death, that obedience to His own Commandment is the Way. He loved those that tortured and murdered Him, to the extent of offering His suffering in expiation of all sin, for all time. The glory of the Cross, is the Exultation, manifestation, of Gospel Non-Violence.

The root of the Theory of Just War, I believe, is the Arian heresy. A denial of the Homoousios “oneness”.


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