Pacifism and War: Some Resources [Updated]

pacifismI’m trying to put together a list of responsible books/essays that explore theologically questions of Christian pacifism and Christian attitudes to war, and would be keen to hear of such that others have found helpful (and, if possible, why). Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Wilma A. Bailey, “You shall not kill” or “You shall not murder”?: The Assault on a Biblical Text (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005).

Roland H. Bainton, Christian Attitudes Towards War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1960).

Oliver R. Barclay, ed., Pacifism and War (When Christians Disagree) (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984).

Clive Barrett, ed., Peace Together: A Vision of Christian Pacifism (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1987).

Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

Robert W. Brimlow, What About Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006).

Martin Ceadel, Pacifism in Britain, 1914-45: Defining of a Faith (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1980).

*David L. Clough and Brian Stiltner, Faith and Force: A Christian Debate About War (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007).

Robert G. Clouse, ed., War: Four Christian Views (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1981).

James Denney, War and the Fear of God (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1916).

Kim Fabricius, Ten Propositions on Peace and War (with a postscript)

Kim Fabricius, Ten Stations on My Way to Christian Pacifism

Gabriella Fiori, Simone Weil: An Intellectual Biography (trans. J.R. Berrigan; Athens/London: University of Georgia Press, 1989).

Peter T. Forsyth, The Christian Ethic of War (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1916).

Peter T. Forsyth, The Justification of God: Lectures for War-Time on a Christian Theodicy (London: Independent Press, 1957).

*Stanley Hauerwas, Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992).

Stanley Hauerwas, Dispatches from the Front: Theological Engagements with the Secular (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994).

Stanley Hauerwas, September 11: A Pacifist Response. From remarks given at the University of Virginia, October 1, 2001.

Stanley Hauerwas, ‘No, This War Would Not Be Moral’, in Time (3 March, 2003).

Stanley Hauerwas and Paul Griffiths, ‘War, Peace & Jean Bethke Elshtain’, in First Things (October, 2003).

Stanley Hauerwas, Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Nonviolence (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004).

Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier, Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008).

Eberhard Jüngel, Christ, Justice and Peace: Toward a Theology of the State in Dialogue with the Barmen Declaration (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992).

Geoffrey A. Studdert Kennedy, Rough Rhymes of a Padre (Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton, 1918).

Geoffrey A. Studdert Kennedy, After War, Is Faith Possible?: The Life and Message of Geoffrey “Woodbine Willie” Studdert Kennedy (ed. Kerry Walters; Eugene: Cascade, 2008). [Reviewed here]

Jean Lasserre, War and the Gospel (London: James Clarke, 1962).

Philip Matthews and David Neville, ‘C.S. Lewis and Christian Pacifism’ in Faith and Freedom: Christian Ethics in a Pluralist Culture (Hindmarsh: ATF Press, 2004), 205-16.

Paul O’Donnell and Stanley Hauerwas, A Pacifist’s Look at Memorial Day: Duke University Divinity professor Stanley Hauerwas on nonviolence, Iraq and killing Hitler.

Oliver O’Donovan, In Pursuit of a Christian View of War (Bramcotte Notts: Grove Books, 1977).

*Oliver O’Donovan, The Just War Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

George Orwell, ‘Pacifism and the War’, Partisan Review August-September (1942).

Paul Ramsey, War and the Christian Conscience (Durham: Duke University Press, 1968).

Paul Ramsey, The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility (Lanham/Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

Alan Ruston, ‘Protestant Nonconformist Attitudes towards the First World War’, in Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century (ed. Alan P. F. Sell and Anthony R. Cross; Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2003), 240-263. [The book is reviewed here]

*W. J. Sheils, ed., The Church and War: Papers read at the Twenty-first Summer Meeting and the Twenty-second Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983).

Ronald J. Sider, Christ and Violence (Kitchener: Herald Press, 1979).

*Glen H. Stassen, ed., Just Peacemaking: The New Paradigm for the Ethics of Peace and War (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 2008).

John Stott, ed., The Year 2000AD (London: Marshalls, 1983), 27-71.

John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today: New Perspectives on Social and Moral Dilemmas (London: William Collins Sons & Co., 1990), 82-112.

Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics Volume 2: Politics (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979).

Miroslav Volf, ‘Christianity and Violence’ (A paper presented at the Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics, Boardman Lecture XXXVIII, University of Pennsylvania, 1 March, 2002).

Alan Wilkinson, Dissent or Conform? War, Peace and the English Churches, 1900-1945 (London: SCM Press, 1986).

*John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Scottdale/Kitchener: Herald Press, 1971).

John Howard Yoder, When War is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984).

John Howard Yoder et al., What Would You Do?: A Serious Answer to a Standard Question (Scottsdale/Kitchener: Herald Press, 1983).

John Howard Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution (ed. Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker; Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2009).

Supplementary Readings

Terry Eagleton, ‘Isaiah Berlin and Richard Hoggart’ in Figures of Dissent: Critical Essays on Fish, Spivak, Žižek and Others (London/New York: Verso, 2003), 104-8.


  1. Hi Jason,

    How about O’Donovan’s fairly recent little book on Just War theory? Martin Ceadel’s Pacifism in Britain, 1914-1945: The Defining of a Faith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980) and Alan Wilkinson’s Dissent or Conform? War, Peace and the English Churches, 1900-1945 (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1986) are, of course, historical studies, but no less valuable for that… In fact, I tend to think that an exploration of the Christian attitude(s) to war and the use of violence ought to proceed with close attention to the real, concrete perplexities that Christians, and others, have faced in particular situations. Perhaps some biographies ought to be included: e.g., Fiori’s on Simone Weil (who fought in the Spanish Civil War); Bethge’s on Bonhoeffer. Some of the literature on the July 1944 plot (which Bonhoeffer was on the edges of), may also be relevant here, in terms of understanding the very real moral dilemmas faced by people like Stauffenberg (who was, of course, no pacifist, but was also a deeply committed Catholic) and Bonhoeffer (who was a pacifist, but believed Hitler needed to be killed). An review-essay by Eagleton on Isaiah Berlin and Richard Hoggart, republished in Figures of Dissent (2003/2005), is worth mentioning also, in so far as Eagleton’s criticism of Berlin – that in spite of his opposition to political tyranny, he never really understood what drove people to sometimes violent revolution – is one that those Christians who decide that all violence is illegitimate, need to wrestle with. Gillian Rose on “the broken middle” and the risk of violence is also important here. Finally, I’d be incredibly remiss not to note MacKinnon’s various contributions to the working out of a Christian attitude towards violence.


  2. What no Stan?
    I have been going through my cabinet for study leave and came across some bits and pieces. An article by David Neville on “CS Lewis and Christian Pacifism”. Miroslav Volf, ‘Christianity and Violence’, a monograph entitled ‘”You Shall Not Kill” or “Shall Not Murder”? The Assault on a Biblical Text’ by Wilma Ann Bailey, Kim Fabricius’s post on pacifism Ten Statios on My Way to Christian Pacifism (guest post on Inhabitatio Dei in Halden’s series). And finally “Can a Pacifist think About War? (in Dispatches from teh Front..) by Stanley Hauerwas


  3. Andre and Bruce,

    Enormously helpful suggestions.

    Andre, I wholeheartedly agree: the inclusion of both historical and biographical studies is imperative in such an exploration, and your suggestions are excellent ones. Thanks for the reference to Eagleton’s essay on Isaiah Berlin and Richard Hoggart. I was unfamiliar with this one. The exclusion of O’Donovan’s study was a genuine oversight, and I am suprised you waited so long in your comments to mention MacKinnon :-)

    Another essay that you may be interested in is Alan Ruston’s on, ‘Protestant Nonconformist Attitudes towards the First World War’, in Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century (ed. Alan P. F. Sell and Anthony R. Cross; Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2003), 240-263. I found it fascinating, and probably ought to be included in the list.

    Bruce, great suggestions. I knew that there was an essay on Lewis and pacifism but couldn’t recall who wrote it. The Volf readings sound great. I must check them out; as with the Hauerwas (who is, on some days, growing on me).



  4. War and the Fear of God, James Denney, Hodder and Stoughton, 1916.

    Well, you’d expect this from me – and alongside Forsyth’s Justification of God I know it doesn’t carry the same weight. It’s Denney’s British Weekly articles on the First World War. The more poignant because there is a letter extant to W R Nicoll in which he laments (the word is used in its biblical sense) the loss of some of his best students at the Somme


  5. You may also want to consider the Clough and Stiltner book (2007), “Faith and Force: A Christian debate about War.” This is a an interesting and engaging debate as the two authors engage their positions about war–Clough is an advocate for pacifism and Stiltner an adherent to just war. I think it is worth considering for your list.


  6. I know this is a few weeks old Jason, but I thought I’d drop one book into your fine bibliography:
    Robert W. Brimlow, What About Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus’s Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006.

    I especially liked his Chapter 7: “The Christian Response.” The refreshingly honest (one-half of a page) ‘chapter’ I think gets the pacifist vision right, even if it frustrates those who want more.


  7. C.John Cadoux’s classic, The Early Christian Attitude to War.[find it free online]

    Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way [Which was beat out at Hearld Press by Sider’s Christ and Violence, pub by Friend’s United Press but out of print, now ebook at amazon or barnes and noble]


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