Who Would Jesus Kill?
War, Peace, and the Christian Tradition
In the video below, Dr. Allman gives a lecture entitled "Gods of War." The lecture is broken into nine videos. View the rest of the lecture: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=265E4A598BE60A61.
Copyright: Sept. 22, 2008
Size: 5.375 x 8.25
Length: 326 pages
Item number: 7010
By Philip L. Barclift, PhD, associate professor of theology, Seattle Univeristy
By Catherine F. Brodersen, instructor, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
By David L. Weedle, professor of religion, The Colorado College
By J. Milburn Thompson, PhD, chair and professor of theology, Bellarmine University, Louisville, Kentucky
By Todd T. W. Daily, assistant professor of theology and ethics, Urbana Theological Seminary
By Ian Bell, professor of religious studies, Siena Heights University
I would adopt this for my classroom
By Rev. Benedict M. Guevin, OSB
By Brian Orend, PhD, author of The Morality of War and professor of ethics, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
By Tobias Winright, PhD, assistant professor of Christian ethics, Saint Louis University, Missouri
Horizons: A Journal of the College Theology Society, Fall, 2009, Vol. 36, No. 2
The first words of the Introduction are "War is about killing" —to shock us out of our complacency regarding this massive evil. The Introduction seeks to define war and concludes with a chart that places the approaches to war and peace on a continuum. Later chapters refer to this chart in clarifying the reader's position on the morality of war.
The first chapter is a "crash course in Christian ethics" that surveys the four sources of Christian ethics—Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience—in a way worthy of a good course on moral theology. The next three chapters explore the major approaches to war and peace in the Christian tradition: pacifism, holy war, and just war. The basic pattern of these chapters is to begin with definitions and distinctions, examine the biblical basis for this model, trace it through history, and discuss the criticisms of this model regarding the morality of war. The fifth chapter investigates "challenges and adaptations" to the just war theory, including criteria for postwar justice (jus post bellum) and the just peacemaking model. After a brief concluding chapter, there is a substantial Appendix devoted to "Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on War and Peace." There are numerous sidebars throughout the text that present related topics, such as conscientious objection in the chapter on pacifism. Each chapter includes provocative discussion questions and endnotes, which demonstrate extensive research and point to further reading.
This is an accurate, insightful, and user-friendly introduction to the Christian tradition on war and peace. I think it is the best text available on the topic. From my perspective, its major weakness is that the presentation of the New Testament basis for nonviolence is not challenging enough. Gandhi quipped that the only ones who do not think that Jesus was nonviolent are the Christians. Allman might have drawn on Scripture scholar Walter Wink, who presents Jesus' "third way," and/or James Douglass's theology of the nonviolent cross (or many others) to buttress the Christian foundation for peacemaking. Instead, the chapter on pacifism devotes more pages to the challenge from realism than to the Gospel basis of nonviolent discipleship. In the end, Allman's answer to the provocative question in the book's title is that Jesus would kill unjust aggressors and those who oppress others, (or at least the followers of Jesus can be morally justified in killing them). Perhaps that is right, but the unsettling power of the title's question should be more convincingly presented.
While many of my students appreciated the thoroughness of the book, some thought it gave too much information. I understand their point; it is like wanting to edit a movie we think is too long. I also appreciate, however, the author's desire to be comprehensive. An instructor can always highlight sections for student focus. Nevertheless, there may be places where judicious summary might have replaced more comprehensive exposition.
The College Theology Society confirmed the excellence of Who Would Jesus Kill? by bestowing the Best Book Award to Mark Allman for this book at the 2009 annual meeting. It is well-deserved.
Used by permission of Horizons.
Review by J. Milburn Thompson, Bellarmine University
U.S. Catholic, March 15, 2009
Many of those baptized into the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, however, as well as others who look to Jesus as a moral example, have engaged in warfare and killing with regularity. WWJK? presents a variety of positions, rationales, and critiques that disciples of Jesus have used throughout history to justify their personal and communal conduct that seems in such clear opposition to the words and example of Jesus.
This book seems to be intended for college classrooms, adult education programs, and thoughtful readers. A challenging teacher, Allman presents a great deal of information but does not do all the work for the reader. In addition to the reflection questions that close every chapter, Allman leaves open to discussion why the various moral theories presented early in the book exist. Also unexplained (because it is possibly unexplainable) is why various prayerful, thoughtful, sincere Christians might hold such different positions on issues so important—the matters of killing and the destruction of lives, cultures, and property that is of the essence of warfare.
There are places in the text where Allman leaves it to the reader to figure out the kind of pacifist, just warrior, or holy war he is discussing, but no one who reads WWJK? will ever want to use the words "pacifism," "just war," or "holy war" again. Allman does not allow simplistic understandings of these complicated ideas to stand without critique.
WWJK? Is a useful introduction to Christian positions on the objective morality of war and peacemaking. Those forming and reforming their consciences on matters of war and peace will profit from Allman's thought-provoking explanation.
Review by James Halstead, O.S.A.