Military Ethics in Christian Perspective (THE3023)

StaffDr Esther Reed - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. provide an introduction to military ethics (its sources, approaches, difficult questions, and ways forward) before treating each in Christian perspective;
  2. offer an introduction to classical, theological traditions of just war reasoning, modern humanist variants, new applications and challenges to established modes of ethical and moral reasoning;
  3. investigate some of the most pressing challenges in military ethics today, including definitions of ‘war’, the changing character of warfare, when cyber attacks count as warfare, the ethical challenges for military ethics posed by complex counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism action; the relevance of just war traditions for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism; military ethics in an age of unmanned weapons, and more;
  4. test the thesis that an especially important question for contemporary military ethics today is not whether it is necessary to engage constructively with just war traditions of reasoning, but how to do so.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Give an historically-informed account of ‘just war’ traditions of reasoning
  • 2. Engage theologically and otherwise with questions about when and why war is justified; how, morally speaking, wars should be fought; how technological advances, insurgency and terrorism are presenting new challenges to military ethics'
  • 3. Analyse and evaluate the arguments of a range of significant theorists in the field

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Attend to, reproduce accurately, and reflect on the ideas and arguments of a major theologians and other theorists with fairness and integrity, and to express, as appropriate, their own views about military ethics today denigration of the views of others
  • 5. Work creatively in applying knowledge, understanding and skills to new problems

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Communicate effectively with peers and members of the teaching staff in oral form. Particular opportunity for developing communication skills will be provided in the 'presentation' and 'seminar' sessions
  • 7. Exercise substantial autonomy in the management of their own learning
  • 8. Exercise judgement based on awareness of key issues in the area
  • 9. Demonstrate meaningful and consistent participation in the module, including teamwork.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Justifications for the resort to military force (jus ad bellum), with particular reference to ‘just war’ tradition(s)
  • What may justifiably be done in the use of such force (jus in bello)?
  • The (un)changing character of ‘war’?
  • Technology and War (AI, Cyber, Enhancement)
  • Moral Injury in War
  • Military chaplaincy / civil religion?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Synchronous Learning and Teaching 1111 x 1 hr whole cohort lectures/workshops
Synchronous Learning and Teaching 1111 x divided cohort seminars
Synchronous Learning and Teaching 1At least two 1-2-1 tutorial slots
Asynchronous Learning and Teaching4ELE-accessible video recordings
Guided Teamwork3311 x 3hr student-led teamwork
Guided Independent Study240Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentations by team members will be formativeAs per discussion with your team. At least 10 mins suggested 6, 9Oral feedback from class tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay402800 words1-5, 7-8 1-2-1 feedback from tutor on essay plan in tutorial, plus essay feedback sheet
Essay505000 words 1-5, 7-8 Written
Participation10200 word statement on contribution to teamwork6, 9n/a

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-5, 7-8 Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-5, 7-8 Referral/Deferral period
ParticipationParticipation6, 9n/a

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Oliver O'Donovan, The Just War Revisited (Cambridge: CUP, 2003)
  • George Lucas, Ethics and Cyber Warfare: The Quest for Responsible Security in the Age of Digital Warfare (Oxford: OUP, 2017)
  • George Lucas, Military Ethics: What Everyone Needs to Know (OUP, 2016)
  • James Turner Johnson and Eric D. Patterson, Eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015)
  • Gregory M. Reichberg, Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions (Cambridge: CUP, 2014)
  • Anthony F. Lang, Jr., et al., Just war: authority, tradition, and practice (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013)
  • Julian Lindley-French and Yves Boyer, Eds, The Oxford Handbook of War (Oxford: OUP, 2012)
  • Rosemary Kellison, Expanding Responsibility for the Just War: A Feminist Critique (Cambridge: CUP, 2019)
  • John XIII, Pacem in Terris (1963); John Paul II, Centesimus Annus (1991) and many annual letters on the World Day of Peace; Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


  • The King’s College London Centre for Military Ethics has a very useful website. Please refer to it frequently
  • See also the World Council of Churches website on Promoting Just Peace and, of course, the many Vatican website pages devoted to this topic
  • New Advent primary texts from Patristic figures and Thomas Aquinas;

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Military ethics, just war, peace, cyber attacks, chaplaincy