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In Defence of War

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Against the Virus of Wishful Thinking ; 1. Against Christian Pacifism ; 2. Love in War ; 3. The Principle of Double Effect: Can it Survive Combat? ; 4. Proportionality: Lessons from the Somme and the First World War ; 5. Against Legal Positivism and Liberal Individualism ; 6. On Not Always Giving the Devil Benefit of Law: Legality, Morality, and Kosovo ; 7. Constructing Judgement: The Case of Iraq ; Conclusion ; Bibliography

About the Author

Nigel Biggar is Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and Director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life, at the University of Oxford, where he is also a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral. Before taking up his current post in 2007, he held chairs in Theology at the University of Leeds and at Trinity College Dublin. Among his published works are: Behaving in Public: How to Do Christian Ethics (2011), (co-ed.) Religious Voices in Public Places (2009), Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia (2004); and (ed.) Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict (2001, 2003). He sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Military Ethics and has lectured at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.


This is a major contribution to the literature on the morality of war, written in two voices, one argumentative, the other reflective and open to other perspectives... a rich reflection on a wealth of literature, historical and contemporary, addressing the justifications for making war. * George Wilkes, Scottish Journal of Theology * This is a book that everyone interested in peace should read. * Dr Peter Howson, Methodist Recorder * Biggar's arguments are carefully researched and meticulously argued. He analyzes the most important classical and contemporary theological and philosophical literature, and he draws insights from novels, movies, diaries, interviews and personal visits to war memorials. His case for just war is deeply heartfelt. Even readers who remain unconvinced will value his book for challenging them to think more clearly about war and peace. * Christian Century, * Biggars careful moral reasoning offers a model that, if followed, would deepen and mature the Christian discussion of the ethics of war and peace. And, if I may say, his book ought especially to be read by those who, at first blush, will be shocked or even appalled by its title. * George Weigel, First Things, * If such people wish to seek whether and how war might be justified, and when it might be necessary, this book is worth their time. * National Review * A book that should sharpen the thinking of other theologians venturing into this crucial, and tragically still topical, moral minefield. * Theology * Not since Paul Ramsey's The Just War almost half a century ago has a Christian theologian writing about war accomplished so much, so lucidly, in a single volume. Biggar is in full command of the theological, philosophical, and legal debates around just war, and engages in all these debates in powerful and illuminating ways. More than that, however, he tests his abstract proposals agains a series of richly detailed, historically grounded case studies-Kosovo, the 2003 Iraq Invasion, and the Somme-in sustained dialectical manner, and uses them to excellent illustrative effect. Theologically profound, philosophically acute, legally astute, politically canny, and historically aware, this book becomes at once the work on Christian just war theory. * Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia * Drawing on the Just War Tradition tradition, as well as on a wealth of reading in contemporary law, international relations and military history, Nigel Biggar crafts an impressive and thought provoking defence of the moral permissibility, even perhaps sometimes the moral necessity of war, both in general terms and in the context of three specific modern contexts: the First World War, The NATO intervention in Kosovo and the US-led invasion of Iraq. Deeply felt and Meticulously argued, this book should be on the reading list of all, Christian or not, who are genuinely concerned with the ethical dilemmas of war in the 20th and 21st centuries. * Nick Rennger, University of St Andrews * Nigel Biggar has written a truly valuable book. Rebelling against the 'wishful thinking' that there can be a pacifist solution to all conflicts between nations, he draws on the resources of both Christian moral theology and secular moral thinking to defend the legitimacy of military force in a variety of real world situationsa defense that is rich in detail about actual combat (the awfulness of which he does not minimize). The clarity of the writing and the scope and power of the authors mind advances the conversation in a way that will be instructive to all those interested in the topic of war and will cause all thoughtful readers, whether inclined to pacifism or not, to rethink their own positions. * Jeffrie G. Murphy, Arizona State University * This is a highly original and significant contribution to the discussion of the morality of war. Biggar has read extraordinarily widely, uses his sources masterfully, and writes both beautifully and persuasively. I have forty-odd books treating just war on my shelves, and this book stands with the very best. I rank it with Ramseys work of the 1960s, and that work has had a deep and lasting influence. This is a seriously good piece of work. * James Turner Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Religion and Associate of the Graduate Program in Political Sciences, Rutgers University * It employs an extensive knowledge of military history, exhibits expertise in a theological literature unknown to many, and articulates a most perceptive critique of prominent secular accounts. Biggars considered assessments of particular military conflicts are sophisticated, controversial, and nuanced. If you choose to read only one of the very large number of treatments of the morality of war that have recently seen their way into print, you could not do better than take up this book. * Christopher Eberle, Associate Professor of Philosophy, United States Naval Academy * Biggar's book is a fine polemic, offering a splendidly robust and well-argued defence of war, that deserves to be widely read. * David Fisher, International Affairs * Biggar's historical sensitivity and his testimony from the ground is indeed one of the great virtues of his book. Add to this his careful and sophisticated arguments, his creativity, and his beautiful prose, and the result is what may well become a classic book about the justice of war. At the very least, holders of rival contemporary views will not be able to proceed ahead without first confronting Biggar's arguments. * Dan Philpott, The Tablet * A very important book. * Reform * Every once in a while, a truly special book comes down the theological pike ... Now comes Nigel Biggar's In Defence of War. Biggar's careful moral reasoning offers a model that, if followed, would deepen and mature the Christian discussion of the ethics of war and peace. * First Things Magazine * This is an important book. * Church Times * Anyone who cares about questions of war and peace - and who wishes to think deeply about how to assess those questions morally - should buy and promptly read Nigel Biggar's In Defense of War. * Damon Linker, The Week * There are many fine books on the morality of war, but every so often a book comes along that really distinguishes itself in the field. Paul Ramsey's The Just War (1968) was certainly one. Appearing as it did in the midst of the Vietnam conflict, it served as a kind of bellwether of Christian moral reflection on a host of complex issues surrounding a controversial war. Nigel Biggar's new book is the same sort of text that comes to us in the aftermath of another very controversial conflict, the invasion of Iraq by the United States and Britain. Biggar's book is a veritable tour de force in Christian ethical reflection on war and surely the best such text that has appeared since Ramsey's work. * Darrell Cole, Journal of the American Academy of Religion * In Defence of War is a searching, challenging book. It deserves much discussion * John Kelsay, Studies in Christian Ethics * This is a significant book. It provides a defense and clarification of just war theory within the Christian tradition through a series of extended engagements with Christian and secular critics of that theory. Biggar makes a clear and important case, and does so with impressive learning and literary style * Kenneth R. Himes, Theological Studies * Nigel Biggars In Defence of War is, in my judgment, the best contemporary theological exploration of the ethics of war since the work of Paul Ramsey ... A robust book like In Defence of War, which has its own internal dialogues among different ethical frames, is a contribution that should be respected and taken seriously across the range of all who address military ethics * James Turner Johnson, Journal of Military Ethics * In Defence of War is an excellent book ... Combining deep understanding of the just-war tradition with impressive knowledge of military history, this book makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate. I highly recommend it * James Anderson, Expository Times * There is a serious disconnect between scholars exploring just war theory and those engaging the Christian just war tradition. The language of religion is foreign to many in the secular camp thereby leaving us bereft of a rich and sometimes compelling perspective. Provocatively titled, In Defence of War brings this tradition to the fore. It is well worth the read. * Michael L. Gross, Mind *

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