What To Read on War and Peace
Recommended reading on war, peace and international relations:
The issues of war, peace, geopolitics and international relations are all part and parcel of the world we live in, and it is important that we think carefully about these matters. As such, there are thousands of books to choose from. And just four years ago I did offer a recommended reading list that contained around 60 volumes.
What is offered here is an updated and expanded version of that. As in that first piece, the majority of titles are penned by Christians. And the books included are almost all written within the last 70 years or so. Some of the books are quite recent as well, so issues such as nuclear war, terrorism and cyber warfare are also covered.
There are three major groupings when it comes to matters of war and peace (although some others, like militarism, could be mentioned). The main three are:
Just war theory. This position argues that there are some times when going to war can be morally justified, and there can be some morally acceptable ways of fighting a war. Obtaining peace with justice is the aim, and sometimes the use of force is the main way of achieving this. This tradition goes back some two and a half millennia, with both non-Christian and Christian thinkers making the case. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/03/26/just-war-theory/
Pacifism. This is the view that war is morally wrong and cannot be morally justified. It basically condemns all things military, and argues that the use of force is unacceptable. It instead urges peaceful means for the resolving of conflict. Peace and peacemaking are fundamental goals. As with the other two groups, there is a degree of variation and differentiation to be found among pacifists.
Realism. This position holds that war is not governed by moral rules and ethical considerations. It takes an amoral, and wholly pragmatic approach to warfare. When considering international relations the emphasis is on the role of the state, national interest, and the balance of power. The main recent advocates include E. H. Carr, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, and Henry Kissinger.
Here then are some 85 books to choose from, broken down into 6 main sections. For what it is worth, I adhere to the just war position. And if you were to ask for some of my favourite authors in that camp, perhaps I can recommend Charles, Coates, Elshtain, Johnson and Ramsey.
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.
Lucas, George, Military Ethics: What Everyone Needs to Know. OUP, 2016.
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.
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.
Bell, Daniel, Just War as Christian Discipleship. BrazosPress, 2009.
Bellamy, Alex, Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq. Polity, 2006.
Biggar, Nigel, In Defence of War. OUP, 2013.
Boettner, Loraine, The Christian Attitude to War. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1940, 1985.
Brunstetter, Daniel and Cian O’Driscoll, eds., Just War Thinkers: From Cicero to the 21st Century. Routledge, 2017.
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.
Christopher, Paul, The Ethics of War and Peace, 3rd ed. Pearson, 1993, 2003.
Coates, J. A, The Ethics of War, 2nd ed. Manchester University Press, 2016.
Cole, Darrell, When God Says War is Right. WaterBrook Press, 2002.
Corey David and J Daryl Charles, The Just War Tradition: An Introduction. Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2012, 2018.
Culver, Robert Duncan, The Peace Mongers. Tyndale House, 1985.
Dubik, James, Just War Reconsidered: Strategy, Ethics, and Theory. University Press of Kentucky, 2016, 2018.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Just War Against Terror. Basic Books, 2003.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ed., Just War Theory. NYU Press, 1992.
Fotion, Nicholas, Military Ethics. Hoover Press, 1990.
Fotion, Nicholas, War and Ethics. Continuum, 2008.
Frowe, Helen, The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Routledge, 2011, 2022.
Hall, Mark David and J. Daryl Charles, eds., America and the Just War Tradition: A History of U.S. Conflicts. University of Notre Dame Press, 2019.
Johnson, James Turner, Can Modern War Be Just? Yale University Press, 1984.
Johnson, James Turner, Morality and Contemporary Warfare. Yale University Press, 2001.
Kopel, David, The Morality of Self-Defense and Military Action: The Judeo-Christian Tradition. Praeger, 2017.
Lewy, Guenter, Peace & Revolution: The Moral Crisis of American Pacifism. Eerdmans, 1988.
Miller, Paul. Just War and Ordered Liberty. Cambridge University Press, 2021.
Morey, Robert, When is it Right to Fight? Bethany House, 1985.
O’Brien, William, The Conduct of Just and Limited War. Praeger, 1981.
O’Brien, William, War and/or Survival. Doubleday, 1969.
O’Donovan, Oliver, The Just War Revisited. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Orend, Brian, The Morality of War, 2nd ed. Broadview Press, 2006, 2013.
Patterson, Eric, Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History. Routledge, 2018.
Patterson, Eric, Just War Thinking: Morality and Pragmatism in the Struggle against Contemporary Threats. Lexington Books, 2007.
Ramsey, Paul, The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility. Rowman & Littlefield, 1968, 2002.
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.
Walzer, Michael, Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books, 1977.
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.
Brimlow, Robert, What about Hitler? Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World. Brazos, 2006.
Hauerwas, Stanley, The Peaceable Kingdom. University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.
Hershberger, Guy, War, Peace and Nonresistance. Herald Press, 1944.
Holmes, Robert, Pacifism: A Philosophy of Nonviolence. Bloomsbury, 2016.
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.
Carr, E. H., The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. Harper, 1939, 1964.
Kennan, George, American Diplomacy. University of Chicago Press, 1951, 2012.
Morganthau, Hans, Politics Among Nations, 7th ed. McGraw-Hill, 1948, 2005.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, Christian Realism and Political Problems. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953.
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.
2 Replies to “What To Read on War and Peace”
Thank you, Bill. This is one of the best resource lists available on War and Peace. I am a retired US military officer who was converted in the middle of my career. As The Spirt of Christ began began to transform me by the renewal my mind, I began to examine my views of war, and the just use military and war. In my case, I began to struggle with a related issue—the culture of the modern US military and its historical relationship with evangelicalism. I came across the helpful writing of Laurence Vance, a libertarian economist and Christian, who wrote essays on the topic. They are available in the archives on lewrockwell.com and collected in a book. It may not be as interesting to Australians as Americans.
“War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism” by Laurence Vance
Thanks Mike. I had a quick look on amazon at the book you mention. Given my remarks above (I am not a pacifist and I believe the Christian can support and participate in just war), it sounds like I would differ with him on this issue. But thanks for making me aware of the book.