Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Recommended Reading on War and Peace

Feb 27, 2018

There would be many thousands of volumes written on the issues of war and peace, and for good reason. Issues of life and death are fundamental, and we need to have some sort of ethical framework by which we assess such matters. The books featured here are mostly about the ethics of war, whether war can ever be justified, how we might morally wage war, and so on.

The bulk of these titles are written by Christians, often for Christians, so they deal with what the Bible and church history have to say about war and peace, along with other considerations (political, philosophical, military, and so on). But some books here are written by non-Christians, and what they have to offer is also of value.

It should be obvious that this is a very small sampling of what is available on the topic. It is by no means any sort of attempt to be exhaustive of course. A whole book would be needed just to list some of the better titles that have been penned over the centuries.

The reason these particular volumes are featured here is because – as with all my bibliographies – they overwhelmingly are books I happen to own and have read. So I can speak to these books better than those I am not familiar with. But they are among the better books, especially for Christians who might be interested in these issues.

For what it is worth, some of you might want to know where I stand on these matters. As with all complex and controversial matters, there are no easy answers, and bumper sticker clichés (eg, “Make love, not war”) are not very helpful.

But, I happen to favour, more or less, just war approaches, and reject, more or less, the pacifist position. If you want to know why that is, you will need to look at the other 86 articles I have written on war and peace and related matters:

Perhaps I can say at this point that this piece is just a short list of some of the pro and con books. It is not meant to unleash WWIII (no pun intended). Those who have really strong opinions either way on these matters and want to start a massive debate are advised to go to one of my other articles on this topic, read it carefully, and then make your case.

As with so many controversial hot potato topics, heat can be generated more easily than light. So if you have a bee in your bonnet about such matters, offer a comment on one of the other articles and interact with it there. Again, this article is simply meant to offer the concerned reader some hopefully helpful recommendations on what books might be worth pursuing.

I begin with a few general titles, then look at the two major options: just war theory and pacifism. Finally, I conclude with some books dealing with the difficult issue of nuclear warfare. Most of these were penned during the heady days of the Cold War.

It would be quite hard – and foolish – to recommend just one or two of the best books from each section, but… Maybe try Holmes and Longman from the general section; Johnson, O’Brien and Ramsey from the just war titles; Yoder from the pacifist list; and Novak in the nuclear section.

Atkinson, David, Peace in Our Time? IVP, 1985.
Bainton, Roland, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace. Abingdon, 1960.
Best, Geoffrey, Humanity in Warfare. Metheun and Co., 1980, 1983.
Caner, Ergun Mehmet and Emir Fethi Caner, Christian Jihad: Two Former Muslims Look at the Crusades and Killing in the Name of Christ. Kregel, 2004.
Clouse, Robert, ed., War: Four Christian Views. InterVarsity Press, 1981.
Cohan, Marshall, Thomas Nagel and Thomas Scanlon, eds., War and Moral Responsibility. Princeton University Press, 1974.
Copan, Paul and Matthew Flannagan, Did God Really Command Genocide? Baker, 2014.
Craigie, Peter C., The Problem of War in the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1978.
Helgeland, John, Robert Daly and J. Patout Burns, Christians and the Military: The Early Experience. Fortress Press, 1985.
Holmes, Arthur, ed., War and Christian Ethics. Baker, 1975.
Longman, Tremper and Daniel Reid, God is a Warrior. Zondervan, 1995.
Stott, John, Jerram Barrs and Alan Kreider, Handling Problems of War and Peace: An Evangelical Debate. Marshall Pickering, 1988.
Thomas, Heath, Jeremy Evans and Paul Copan, eds., Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem. IVP, 2013.
Walzer, Michael, Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books, 1977.
Wasserstrom, Richard, ed., War and Morality. Wadsworth, 1970.
Wells, Donald, War Crimes and the Laws of War, 2nd ed. University Press of America, 1984, 1991.
Wells, Ronald, ed., The Wars of America: Christian Views. Eerdmans, 1981.

Just War
Bell, Daniel, Just War as Christian Discipleship. BrazosPress, 2009.
Biggar, Nigel, In Defence of War. OUP, 2013.
Boettner, Loraine, The Christian Attitude to War. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1940, 1985.
Burns, J. Patout, Robert Daly and John Helgeland, Christians and the Military: The Early Experience. Fortress Press, 1985.
Charles, J. Daryl, Between Pacifism and Jihad. IVP, 2005.
Charles, J. Daryl and Timothy Demy, War, Peace, and Christianity. Crossway, 2010.
Cole, Darrell, When God Says War is Right. WaterBrook Press, 2002.
Culver, Robert Duncan, The Peace Mongers. Tyndale House, 1985.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Just War Against Terror. Basic Books, 2003.
Johnson, James Turner, Can Modern War Be Just? Yale University Press, 1984.
Johnson, James Turner, Morality and Contemporary Warfare. Yale University Press, 2001.
Lewy, Guenter, Peace & Revolution: The Moral Crisis of American Pacifism. Eerdmans, 1988.
Morey, Robert, When is it Right to Fight? Bethany House, 1985.
O’ Brien, William V, The Conduct of Just and Limited War. Praeger, 1981.
O’ Brien, William V, War and/or Survival. Doubleday, 1969.
O’Donovan, Oliver, The Just War Revisited. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Orend, Brian, The Morality of War. Broadview Press, 2006.
Ramsey, Paul, The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility. University Press of America, 1968.
Ramsey, Paul, War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly? Duke University Press, 1961.
Seabury, Paul and Angelo Codevilla, War: Ends and Means. Basic Books, 1989.
Tucker, Robert C., The Just War. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1960.
Weigel, George, Tranquillitas Ordinis. Oxford University Press, 1987.

Two important articles:
Lewis, C.S., “Why I am Not a Pacifist”. A talk given by Lewis to a group of pacifists in 1940. Reprinted in various collections of his essays.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, “Why the Christian Church Is Not Pacifist,” ch. 1 of Christianity and Power Politics. Scribner’s, 1940.

Hauerwas, Stanley, The Peaceable Kingdom. University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.
Hershberger, Guy, War, Peace and Nonresistance. Herald Press, 1944.
Lasserre, Jean, War and the Gospel. Herald Press, 1962.
Sider, Ronald, Christ and Violence. Herald Press, 1979.
Trzyna, Thomas, Blessed Are the Pacifists. MennoMedia, 2006.
Yoder, John Howard, Nevertheless: The Varieties of Religious Pacifism. Herald Press, 1971.
Yoder, John Howard, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism. Herald Press, 1971.
Yoder, John Howard, The Politics of Jesus. Eerdmans, 1972.

Nuclear War Ethics
Barrs, Jerram, Who Are the Peacemakers? The Christian Case for Nuclear Deterrence. Crossway, 1983.
Bridger, Francis, ed., The Cross and the Bomb: Christian Ethics and the Nuclear Debate. Mowbray, 1983.
Cameron, Neil, et. al., What Hope in an Armed World? Pickering & Inglis, 1982.
Child, James, Nuclear War: The Moral Dimension. Transaction Books, 1986.
Curry, Dean, Evangelicals and the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter. Eerdmans, 1984.
Fisher, David, Morality and the Bomb: An Ethical Assessment of Nuclear Deterrence. Croom Helm, 1985.
Hollenbach, David, Nuclear Ethics: A Christian Moral Argument. Paulist Press, 1983.
Lawler, Philip, ed., Justice and War in the Nuclear Age. University Press of America, 1983.
Lindsell, Harold, Armageddon Spectre. Crossway, 1984.
Martino, Joseph, A Fighting Chance: The Moral Use of Nuclear Weapons. Ignatius Press, 1988.
Novak, Michael, Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age. Nelson, 1983.
Payne, Karl and Keith Payne, A Just Defense: The Use of Force, Nuclear Weapons and Our Conscience. Multnomah, 1987.
Schaeffer, Francis, Vladimir Bukovsky and James Hitchcock, Who Is For Peace? Thomas Nelson, 1983.
Sider, Ron and Richard Taylor, Nuclear Holocaust & Christian Hope: A Book for Christian Peacemakers. IVP, 1982.

There are over 60 titles offered here – they should keep you busy for a while! Once again, happy studying and happy reading.

[1378 words]

One Response to Recommended Reading on War and Peace

  • Always interesting to see how theory plays out in practice. Some of those most keen on warlike ways manage to avoid actually taking part. Think of our great defender of the right and Vietnam war enthusiast B A Santamaria who did not volunteer in the 1939-45 war. R G Menzies who declared we were at war in 1939 failed to enlist in the Great War. In foreign parts G W Bush avoided service in Vietnam as did D Trump.
    The first E G Whitlam Cabinet was composed entirely of those who had returned from active service.

Leave a Reply