An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Faith and Force: Book review

FAITH AND FORCE: A Christian Debate about War by David Clough and Brian Stiltner. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007. 304 pages, bibliography and index. Paperback; $26.95. ISBN: 9781589011656.

Faith and Force is an unfortunate title for this book. The “and” gives the impression of two separate areas of life; faith is not a separate area because it permeates all of life. However, this title was chosen, I suspect, for its alliteration rather than its theological purpose as both authors seek to show how their faith integrates with their different positions.

David Clough and Brian Stiltner have produced an excellent and innovative book. They come from different perspectives as well as different sides of the Atlantic. Clough, a Methodist at St. John’s College, Durham, UK, expounds and defends a pacifist position. Stiltner, a Roman Catholic at Sacred Heart University, USA, takes a just war position.

The impetus for this book is the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Two friends found themselves on opposing sides of the debate and long e-mail debates ensued. These debates formed the basis of Faith and Force. Each of the chapters is co-written and then followed by the e-mail type discussions which retain much of a conversational character and highlight agreements and disagreements.

The key questions addressed are: When, if at all, is it right for a country to go to war? Should a person serve in the armed forces? How much money, if any, is legitimate to spend on the military? These are urgent questions since millions of lives and dollars are at stake.
Along the way, clear and insightful discussions are directed at topics like developing a war-ethic (chap. 1), the issue of weapons’ proliferation (chap. 4), and the menace of terrorism (chap. 5).
It is a little disappointing for this neo-Calvinist not to see any major interaction with Reformed authors on the just war position as it avoids the problems of a natural law approach. Nevertheless, this book is highly recommended, not only for its ethical discussion, but also as a model for debate and discussion. Ethics involves a reflective and dialogic process and these aspects are exemplified in this book. The authors have provided useful resources in thinking about the ethical issues of war from two different Christian traditions.

Despite my reservations with the book’s title, it would be great to see a series of books using this as a model such as Faith and Global Warming, Faith and Evolution; though I suspect these debates might not be as cordial as this particular book.

Steve Bishop

Publisher's details here

Book website here

No comments: