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Book Review – Faith and Force

March 5, 2014

“No ethical theory – no set of human ideas of any kinds – is flawless. That does even for ethical theories that base themselves upon scripture and religious tradition. Christians should expect to find weaknesses in any theory or theology that has developed out of their religious tradition.”[1]

David Clough and David Stiltner have produced a wonderful work dealing with the issues of pacifism and just war theory in a way that is not restricted to the philosophical realm: Faith and Force: a Christian Debate about War” combines philosophy, theology, historical examples, and a healthy debate between the two authors to make this text not only challenging and informational, but also relevant to the current situations in the world. This is a unique work in its particular field.

While their foundational information about pacifism and just war theory is helpful, it is actually quite mundane. This information is quite typical of the points you will find in most texts that address this topic. Where they break differently is they both acknowledge that neither position holds all the answers and that the extreme of either position is at fault for being myopic in its view.

The real reward to this book is when the reader reaches the chapters which address historical events, both old and new, and then debate the application of the positions citing both areas of excellence and areas of failure. This is where real learning happens as it forces the reader to step beyond the ease of simple, shortsighted answers and look at the long term consequences of choices which were made. The debate between the authors in this section was excellent and provides a healthy example for replication.

In critique, these authors view of the United Nations (UN) seems a bit unrealistic. While both authors agree there are difficulties in the UN making its responses over the years uneven, they have a belief that the UN is the best option to prevent atrocities from happening and making use of force decisions for the world at large. This is quite unrealistic as the UN is for the most part an impotent force in the world which accomplishes little. This is evidenced by the inaction of the UN in Rwanda and Darfour. The political bureaucracy in the UN is just as corrupt as its member nations and to think it can make life and death decisions is overly generous.

If just war and pacifism is a topic of interest for you, this is a must add for your book shelf. If you pastor near a military installation you should consider this book. It will help you approach these difficult topics with your congregants. Clough and Stiltner have given us a great work. It is a tool of growth if you are willing to approach it with an open mind.

 


[1] David L. Clough and Brian Stiltner. Faith and Force: a Christian Debate about War. (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2007). 221

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