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When God Says War Is Right: The Christian’s Perspective on When and How to Fight [Paperback]

By Darrell Cole (Author)
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Item description for When God Says War Is Right: The Christian’s Perspective on When and How to Fight by Darrell Cole...

In "When God Says War Is Right, " Cole focuses on such topics as relating the character of God with the use of force and when and how Christians ought to fight.

Publishers Description
Across the centuries, how have Christians who follow the Prince of Peace responded to the recurring reality of war? And what guidance do they offer for believers today–in the midst of global conflict?

In When God Says War Is Right, Dr. Darrell Cole offers thorough and highly readable answers. His expert examination focuses on these topics:
·Relating the character of God with the use of force
·Determining when and how Christians ought to fight
·Understanding why Christian virtues are vital when using force
·Using nuclear weapons for deterrence
·Learning lessons from World War II, Vietnam, and the 1991 Gulf War
·Responding to today's war against terrorism

Dr. Cole focuses on Romans 13, where Paul commands us to “do what is right” (or “good” or “noble”) in regard to our governing authorities, who have legitimate war-making authority. In the case of war, what is “right” for the Christian? This book answers that essential question. In today's war-stricken world, Dr. Cole provides timely, trustworthy, and vitally needed guidance for Christians.
Dr. Darrell Cole is assistant professor of religion at Drake University in Madison, New Jersey, and taught previously at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, and a graduate of Lynchburg College, he holds masters degrees in philosophy from Ohio University, in religion from Yale University, and in theology from Duke University, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: WaterBrook Press
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 20, 2002
Publisher   WaterBrook Press
ISBN  1578566576  
ISBN13  9781578566570  

Availability  0 units.

More About Darrell Cole

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Dr. Darrell Cole is assistant professor of religion at Drake University in Madison, New Jersey, and taught previously at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, and a graduate of Lynchburg College, he holds masters degrees in philosophy from Ohio University, in religion from Yale University, and in theology from Duke University, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Darrell Cole has an academic affiliation as follows - Drew University, USA.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > Terrorism
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > U.S.
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Church & State

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > Contemporary Issues

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Reviews - What do customers think about When God Says War Is Right: The Christian’s Perspective on When and How to Fight?

Doesn't quite live up to its title.  Jan 8, 2005
Cole's book, though from a conservative perspective, doesn't live up to its subtitle. Most of the book is a review of points from the works of Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin. Each of these authors is summarized on the topics. The chapter headings give a good idea of the direction of the work. Some are: Why Christians use force; Christian Virtue and Warfare; When Christians should fight; How Christians should fight; and then three chapters dealing with the Second World War, Vietnam and the Gulf War; Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence; and finally Just Warfare and Terrorism.

At only 160 pages, the book doesn't begin to adequately cover the subject matter. In the theoretical portions, it gives good summaries both of what classical authors have said and of the major points of "just war" theory. It is unfortunate that Cole seems unaware however of much of the philosophical and military work that has been done in this field in recent years. He is unaware of people like R. B. Theime, James Turner Johnson, James Toner, Nicolas Fotion, Malham Wakin, to name a few who have worked in this vain over the past quarter century.

This book falls well short of placing the "Christian perspective" on the justification of war. For a much better examination, I would recommend some of the works by Col. R. B. Theime, Jr., such as FOLLOW THE COLORS, WAR: MORAL OR IMMORAL, and THE CHRISTIAN WARRIOR. Unfortunately, these books are only available (free of charge) through Berachah Church in Houston, TX.
Disturbing  Sep 1, 2004
I am not a Christian but read this book because I was curious to see how a contemporary evangelical scholar might justify war. I was sobered by what I read.

The author states that humanity's "essential goal is to bring itself into right relation with God, to seek its proper place in the divine order" (p23). Thus the state, acting as an agent of God's will in its police and military functions, should "hold evil actions in check by minimizing disorder and chaos" (p23). The author then states that "the goal is always peace--preferably by the word, but if not, then by the sword" (p24). It follows from this that soldiers in a just cause "carry the sword to execute God's wrath, which is in harmony with his love . . ." (p41).

The author's dogmatic certainty (that humanity has a single essential goal, that the author knows what this goal is, and that God can be said to take sides in political and social conflicts) reminds one of the danger religious fundamentalism poses in an age of nuclear weapons.

The author, for example, cites the fourth century Bishop Ambrose as a man whose ideas about the relationship between church and state should be revived and applied today. Ambrose believed that the rulers of a state should be under the Church. "This is key," our contemporary author states, "because if responsibility for using the sword is under the Church, then distinctly Christian morals will govern how that sword is to be used in practice" (p16).

But how "in practice" have Christians in power actually used force (either police or military) to maintain an "order" conducive to "humanity's essential goal"?

The answer can start with Ambrose himself. In Robert Wistrich's study of antisemitism (titled appropriately, "Antisemitism"), when a Christian mob in Mesopotamia burned down a synagogue in 388 it was Bishop Ambrose, the founder of Christian "just war" doctrine, who used his influence over the emperor Theodosius to see to it that the synagogue was never rebuilt (20).

Bishop Ambrose, like our contemporary author, apparently had no difficulty figuring out who the enemies of God are and how to best maintain an order conducive to humanity's "essential goal."

This is not to say that our contemporary author is an antisemite or that his book is not clearly written and sensible in places. What I mean to suggest is that the presumption of knowing God's will and what constitutes a just war and proper order are highly problematic.

Our contemporary author, for example, insists that one of the criteria for a just war is that those who are not soldiers should not be targeted for harm. But, if one follows the Bible literally, then God bears no compunction about killing women and children (as one can see in his commands to Joshua as the Israelites entered the promised land).

Indeed, genocide is seen throughout the old testament (the chief example being the flood of noah). The God of the Bible often seems to approve of genocidal gestures on the part of His elect. But our author does not address the question of genocide in this book.

To conclude, the author writes clearly and the book should be read, but not for sensible clerical guidance, but for what it reveals about contemporary evangelical Christianity with regard to war.
Stellar introduction to a pertinent topic  Dec 24, 2003
Professor Cole canvasses the historic just war position with clarity, urgency, and cogency. He not only surveys the material, but advocates the just war position as biblically sound and morally superior to its rivals. In this, he appeals principally to Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. Cole challenges the commonly asserted idea that pacifism was the dominant position in the first three centuries of Christianity. Although the position was voiced by some, it was not the consensus. As Cole notes, "We have little evidence that any early Church Father (besides Tertullian, who was later declared a heretic) held an unambiguously negative view of war. In fact, there little evidence of any unified Christian attitude toward war during the earlier years of the Church era. It simply cannot be demonstrated that early Christians, in general, viewed either the military or the state as inherently evil, and hence completely off-limits to their participation" (p. 8). While the Christian understanding of just war was first developed principally by Ambrose (339-397) and more systematically by the great Augustine (354-430) in the early part of the Fourth Century, seeds of the idea can be found much earlier.

Cole notes that both Christian pacifists and Christian realists (such as Reinhold Niebuhr) "are in agreement about an essential point: Both assert that all use of force is evil and that the teachings of Christ forbid violence" (p. 7). The pacifist, therefore, shuns all military involvement, while the realist sanctions war only as a "lesser of two evils." Cole, and the just war tradition, employs another approach by arguing that the use of force is sometimes virtuous, not merely necessary. That is, some situations demand a proper use of force in the name of love and for the glory of God. It is true that there would be no war in a world without sin (see James 4:1-2), but in this sinful world force is sometimes required to protect the innocent and to right terrible wrongs. It can be, in fact, a positive good in a bad world. "Modern Christian pacifists have argued that a presumption against violence is what led Christians to create just war criteria in the first place. But this claim is historically false. Christians did not create just war criteria out of a disregard for violence but because they wished to bring some sort of justice and order to this temporal existence. Aquinas and Calvin certainly knew of no such presumption against violence" (p. 71).

Pacifists argue that Christ's meekness under persecution is the normative model for all Christians with respect to war, and that his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount exclude any use of force. But Cole argues from Scripture and from leading theologians that this interpretation is mistaken. He cites Calvin to good effect on this issue. "For Calvin, Christ's pacific nature carries little normative weight for Christians, for that pacific nature is located in Christ's priestly office or reconciliation and intercession-an office that Christians can in no way fulfill or reproduce. Christ's pacific nature-His willingness to suffer death at the hands of unjust authorities both Jewish and Roman-is inextricably tied to His role as Redeemer and is not meant to be a complete model for Christian behavior. No Christian can follow Christ as Redeemer, but all can follow Christ as One who obeys the commands of his Father" (p. 75).

What are the criteria for a just war? The first set of criteria address the question of when to go to war (or jus ad bellum). Although Cole does not explicitly put it this way, each of these five criteria are necessary for stipulating a just war. Jointly all given criteria are sufficient for establishing a just war. First, proper authority must be used in declaring and carrying out a war. A band of rebels with no social standing cannot do this. Secondly, there must be a just cause. Expropriating land from another nation for simply in order to broaden a nation's wealth and influence (consider Iraq's invasion of Kuwait) fails this test. Defending a nation's borders against attack would pass the test. Third, a right intention should govern the leaders who degree the war. Fourth, because it involves so much suffering and death, war should be the only way to right the wrong in question. So, if other reasonable courses of action fail to achieve the just goals-such economic sanctions, mobilizing world opinion, or threats of force-war is justified. Fifth, there must be a reasonable hope of success in warfare. Otherwise, it is pointless and merely destructive.

The second set of criteria concerns how war should be fought in order to be just (or jus in bello). Again, each of these three criteria are necessary for stipulating a just war. Jointly they provide sufficient criteria for conducting a just war. First, the most overarching principle is that there should be no consent to evil. That is, we should never do evil that good may come (see Romans 6:1-2). If any act is intrinsically evil (such as rape), it is not allowed in warfare. The two following rules flow from the first principle and are interrelated. Second, discrimination should be used in warfare such that noncombatants are not deliberately targeted. This is also called noncombatant immunity. Third, the use of force should be proportional to the ends desired. An entire town should not be destroyed to neutralize a weapons facility, for example. (This act would also be barred under the criterion of noncombatant immunity.)

Cole takes these just war principles-which he defends on the basis of both Scripture and the work of orthodox theologians-and briefly applies them to the specific cases of World War II, the Vietnam War, as well as to the war on terrorism. These reflections are significant, if not entirely adequate for the depth of the subjects addressed. Nevertheless, they provide some concrete applications for the principles he so carefully elucidates throughout the book.

Douglas Groothuis, Denver Seminary

Outstanding and timely overview of just-war theory  Jan 11, 2003
Dr. Darrell Cole, assistant professor of religion at Drew University, has offered perhaps the finest overview of Just-War theory, examining Scripture along with he progressive, historic development of the theory by Catholic and Reformation scholars. Dr. Cole then applies the conditions to WWII, Vietnam, and Desert Storm ("the most cleanly fought modern war"). He also deals with the topic of Muslim terrorism, contrasting the concept of Islamic jihad to Christian Just-War theory.

Some of the issues include: comparative justice, why human sin makes war necessary, treatment of prisoners, siege and embargo tactics, and the rules of engagement. Cole gives special attention to the criteria that has been developed. It is not enough to simply say one has "just cause"; there are numerous requirements that must be met before one can clearly regard a cause as just. Each condition is given thorough analysis.

Special attention is focused on nuclear arms; Cole evaluates their use in WWII and questions whether the effectiveness of MAD/Mutually Assured Destruction during the Cold War will work with other regimes. Regarding nuclear deterrence, Cole warns that, "If the Unites States actually has to use nuclear weapons, those weapons fail in their purpose." He addresses the threat of escalation and the use of conventional weaponry, which he calls "just weapons only insofar as they can be used with discrimination."

Refuted is the notion that war is at best a necessary evil. While he argues against a "my country, right or wrong" mentality, Cole regards just war as a positive good. Failure to protect and preserve peace through the use of force is not simply being irresponsible, but less-than righteous. Soldiers therefore have chosen a virtuous, "holy vocation".

This is a post-9/11 book, and so there is a historic analysis of Islamic just-war theory, how it differs with Christian views, and how terrorists defend targeting non-combatants. Cole explains, "...if the enemy is attacked on account of unbelief, then we are likely to find no restrictions on who may be slain: All unbelievers are proper objects of attack." The non-Muslim world is regarded as the "territory of war" in which corruption must be eradicated. Perhaps this is why Moslem extremists claimed that all who perished in 9/11 were "guilty". It is a sobering worldview. Cole advises that we not sacrifice our ethical principles in our response to terrorism.

This is must reading for all Chaplains, Chaplain Assistants, military ethicists, civilian clergy and anyone appraising the morality of warfare. When God Says War Is Right is an extremely well-written book that clearly answers the concerns of moral people grappling with the morality of war in general and striving to evaluate specific wars in light of the theory.

excellent theology and conclusions; accurate, and intriguing  Nov 11, 2002
Dr. Cole satisfies graduate level professors in its thoroughness, and yet can be read and enjoyed by the average lay reader. His theological insights and use of current affairs make this book a must reading for thinking people and especially Christians who want a valid discussion and review of justifications for modern methods of waging war. (the Bush anti-terrorism campaign).

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