Jason B. Ladd

Author | Apologist | Entrepreneur

Just War Theory and Evangelism Part 3: Escalation of Force


Chosin Resevoir, December, 1950.

Have you ever gotten defensive with someone who didn’t agree with you?  Are you unsure about the proper way to respond when things heat up?  Are you passionate about your faith, confident about your future, and burdened with a desire to share a sacred truth?

Today’s study on escalation of force may help you share your faith.

Today’s post is part three in a 5-part series relating components of just war theory to the field of evangelism.

We’ll continue to juxtapose physical and spiritual warfare by comparing the rightness of waging war with the rightness of sharing your faith.

Here is a review of the concepts covered in this series (click each concept to review previous posts):

  • Jus ad Bellum: the rightness in going to war.


    “We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem.” Colonel “Chesty” Puller. Photo credit: Staff Sergeant M. Shutak

  • Jus in Bello: the rightness in the conduct of war.
  • Escalation of Force: the rules of war.
  • Proportionate Response: the sensibility of war.
  • Jus post Bellum: the rightness after the war (also known as “just peace”).

This post covers escalation of force.

Escalation of force deals with

the graduated use of force, often applied in the context of self-defense.  

When a combatant attacks, you must respond with reasonable steps to defuse the situation.

A example in war is when an unidentified vehicle approaches a military checkpoint at an alarming pace.  The sentries have little time, but they must still respond with the appropriate escalation of force.  In this example, the guard may start by firing a flare–a visual signal for the car to stop.

If the car continues, the guard may fire several warning shots in the direction of the vehicle–an audible signal for the car to stop.

If the car continues to accelerate towards the checkpoint, the guard may be justified in firing on the vehicle.  

What the guard may not do, is immediately fire upon the vehicle at the first suspicion of trouble.

Sometimes when sharing your faith,

it’s easy to begin firing on the other person at the first sign of trouble.

Passions run high during discussions about sensitive topics.  You must use restraint.  You must respond in a manner sufficient to defend against the attack without launching a counter-attack yourself.  You want to share the truth in love without coming off as an arrogant hater.

Here are some guidelines to follow to make sure you adhere to escalation of force principles:

  1. Don’t be an attacker.  The Apostle Peter says to always be prepared to give a defense, not launch an offensive.
  2. Be ready to defend. Challenge yourself to be able to explain why you believe what you believe.
  3. Use the minimum amount of force.  No one likes to be overwhelmed.  Others may already perceive they are being attacked.  Don’t reinforce their perception.
  4. Disengage once the situation is neutralized.  The only thing worse than getting into a touchy argument is falling into another one.  If you’ve found yourself in an escalation of force scenario, it’s probably not your day for sharing.  Call it a day and do no harm.

Escalation of force is a crucial concept to understand when waging a just war.

How do you engage hostile forces when engaging in just evangelism?


Related Posts

Photo by U.S. Marines (Official Marine Corps Photo # A5656) (http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Home_Page.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by U.S. Marines / http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chesty_Puller_studies_the_terrain_during_the_Korean_War.jpg

Photo by Sergeant Frank C. Kerr, U.S. Marines (Official Marine Corps Photo # A4852) (http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/images/KWC/Combat_photos/Chosin/A-4852.JPG) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

2 Replies

  1. I’m enjoying this series very much. It’s giving me quite a lot to mull over. Well written!

    1. Rebeca, I appreciate the comments. Thanks for reading.