War & Peace: Resources

This page provides a range of key resources on the ethics of war, particularly in relation to just war and pacifist approaches. Most, but not all, of these are available online (some though requiring a subscription to be accessed).

The initial section points to some helpful introductory and widely reprinted pieces found in dictionaries and readers. There follows a selection of resources particularly focussed on Scripture and then on the Christian tradition.

The contemporary ethical discussions are divided broadly into those within the just war tradition, the debate between this and pacifism, and those who more identified as pacifist in their approach.

Last Updated on 2 March, 2021 by Andrew Goddard

Dictionary Articles & Readers

The following dictionary articles help to provide a general orientation to the issues:

  • IVP Dictionary articles on “Pacifism” (644-7), “Violence” (875-9) and “War” (885-8)
  • SCM Dictionary articles on “Pacifism” (446-8) and “Just War” (328-9).
  • Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics articles on
    • “Force, Use of” by Mark Douglas (309)
    • “Holy War” by Stephen B. Chapman (369-70)
    • “Just-Peacemaking Theory” by Glen Stassen (442-5).  Excellent summary of this approach by key thinker.
    • “Just-War Theory” by Gary M. Simpson (445-9)
    • “Pacifism” by Charles Gutenson (573-5)
    • “Peace” by Willard M. Swartley (583-6).  Major survey by leading expert
    • “Violence” by Mark Douglas (809-10)
    • “War” by Mark Douglas (824-7)
  • Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible article on Violence by Hans Boerma (834-7)
  • The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought articles on “Just War” (287-9) and “War & Peace” (652-7)
  • Reichberg, Syse & Begby (eds), The Ethics of War: Classic and Contemporary Readings is an excellent large reader which presents a wide range of authors from across the centuries, including many Christian thinkers.

Scripture



  • On war in the New Testament:
    • Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, Chpt 14 “Violence in Defence of Justice” (pp. 317-46) covers biblical material in some detail from a pacifist perspective.  Worth reading whole chapter but helpful summary overview provided here by Trevin Wax
    • Stassen & Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, chpt 7 (‘Just War, Nonviolence and Just Peacemaking’), pp. 149-74 (see also other chpts esp chpt 8).
    • An extensive bibliography of material relating to the New Testament and War is online here.

Tradition


  • Gill, Textbook of Christian Ethics Section 3 gives key readings from Augustine, Aquinas and Luther with comments. Helpful to read all 3 writers but if you look at just one then Aquinas best [pp. 277-88 or links below]
  • Evangelical Quarterly April 1985 – “War in a Church-Historical Perspective” by David F. Wright (pp. 133-61) offers a helpful overview of church history.
  • Endre Begby, Gregory Reichberg and Henrik Sysegive a survey of the general history in “The Ethics of War Part I: Historical Trends”, Philosophy Compass 7/5 (2012), pp. 316-327.



  • On Luther a helpful introduction with extracts can be read online as chapter 2 (pp. 9-29) of the recent The Reformers on War, Peace, and Justice by Timothy J. Demy, Mark J. Larson and  J. Daryl Charles

Modern Just War Thinking

A helpful overview of contemporary, mainly philosophical, approaches is provided by Endre Begby, Gregory Reichberg and Henrik Sysein “The Ethics of War Part II: Contemporary Authors and Issues”, Philosophy Compass 7/5 (2012), pp. 328-47.

The introduction to the Oxford Handbook of the Ethics of War – “The Ethics of War” (PDF) by Helen Frowe and Seth Lazar provides an overview of the book and thus of some of the issues and debates within contemporary ethics of war.  Seth Lazar has also written the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on war (and other articles listed on Academia).  Helen Frowe’s contribution to the Handbook is on “The Just War Framework” and she too has other articles on Academia.

Contemporary just war doctrine: a critical comparison of theological and philosophical proposals” is a recent Oxford thesis by Therese Feiler which looks at 3 Christian and 2 non-Christian recent accounts.


In relation to recent and contemporary Christian writers looking at one (or more) of the following writers will give a sense of the current Christian arguments broadly in favour of just war:

  • Paul Ramsey, writing in the 1960s and 1970s, is the father figure of recent Christian just war thinking certainly in Protestant circles
    • A good way into his thinking is his early book War & Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly esp chs 2-4.



  • Oliver O’Donovan, Anglican moral theologian
    • In Pursuit of a Christian View of War, Grove Booklet is an early, short discussion
    • His fullest is his Just War Revisited (especially the lengthy opening four-part chapter).  A sense of his central argument can be gained from this full review of the book by Jon Gunnemann


  • J. Daryl Charles is a US-based writer of more popular material supporting just war thinking.
    • Helpful book length studies by him include
      • Between Pacifism & Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition (a talk with same title sketching the just war tradition can be read here)
      • The Just War Tradition: An Introduction (with David D. Corey),
      • War, Peace, and Christianity: Questions and Answers from a Just-War Perspective (with Timothy J. Demy)
    • The opening chapter of his most recent edited volume (America and the Just War Tradition) – “The Just War Tradition and America’s Wars” – offers a helpful overview of the tradition and a discussion of it in relation to American history.  It can be read online at Google Books.
    • You can watch a recent lecture on just war by him here.

  • Other helpful sources providing an overview include:
    • Andrew Goddard – When Is War Justified?, Grove Booklet or Pocket Guide to Ethical Issues, chpt 6 (pp. 97-111)
    • Charles Reed – Just War?, especially chpt 3, pp 32-61.
    • Darrell Cole, Good Wars in First Things Oct 2001, pp27-31.
    • Thomas Kennedy, “Can War be Just ?” in Boulton et.al. From Christ to the World, pp436-42.

Just War vs Pacifism Debates

A debate between just war defender Nigel Biggar and pacifist Mennonite Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld entitled “Who Would Jesus Shoot?” (audio) gives a good sense of the argument between these two traditions.

A discussion between Nigel Biggar and Stanley Hauerwas – two of the leading theological voices on either side of the debate.

““It’s Just War”: Should Christians Fight” – video of a two hour debate between two defenders of pacifism and two advocates of just war thinking.

See also the exchanges between Nigel Biggar and Richard Hays described above in the biblical section.

Two of the best books setting out the debate are

Oliver R. Barclay, ed., Pacifism and War (When Christians Disagree) (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984) which offers short clear statements of positions and responses from evangelical writers.  See especially Holmes on just war (pp 17-37) and Kreider and Swartley & Kreider on pacifism (pp 38-67).

David L. Clough and Brian Stiltner, Faith and Force: A Christian Debate About War (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007).  The introduction is online at Academia.  Clough has also written “Understanding Pacifisms: A Typology” (2007).

Modern Christian Pacifism & Peacemaking

The two most significant writers here in recent years have been John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. In terms of their approach to NT ethics they are both discussed and critiqued in Richard Hays – The Moral Vision of the New Testament, pp. 239-66. 

A flavour of at each of them can be gained from the selections below.

Yoder


Hauerwas



Other recent Christian theologians whose work focusses on the ethics of peace and non-violence include:

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