PG 715 - War: Ethical and Theological Perspectives

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Module Level

9/10: MTh/PhD/STL Seminar Course

Time Allowance

Wednesdays 18.15 am – 20.00 pm, beginning the 21 September 2022


Continuous Assessment: Attendance, Participation and Reflection Papers = 40%. Focused Research Paper = 60%

Module Aims

Rationale: This module provides an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of a field of applied ethics. It will examine the ethical and theological dimensions of war and peace as well as key concepts that underpin the theory and practice of nonviolence, just war, and just peace. It will expose students to a wide range of topical issues. An ancillary (and optional) aim is to prepare an article for possible publication in a theology journal.

Indicative Syllabus

This course explores Christian ethical and theological perspectives on war and peace. It surveys the Christian tradition on war and peace, focusing on the history of these perspectives as they have developed, including pacifism/nonviolence, just war/justified war, holy war/crusade, realism/blank check, and just peacemaking/just peace. Theological attention will concentrate on the Christian understanding of love, justice, mercy, and peace, and how these are related. Ethical concepts and principles such as discipleship, conscience, and the principle of double effect will be explored. In addition, consideration will be given to a number of topics arising in recent decades, including current conflicts (e.g., Ukraine and Russia), humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect (R2P), terrorism, preemptive versus preventive war, drones and other modern technologies, nuclear weapons, and moral injury.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • identify and describe the spectrum of theological and ethical perspectives on war and peace, as well as their historical developments;
  • articulate their own conscientious position on the ethics of war and peace;
  • apply these theological and ethical perspectives as they address current armed conflicts;
  • consider the resources proposed by spiritual practices and religious traditions, especially the Catholic tradition.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Allman, Mark J. Who Would Jesus Kill? War, Peace, and the Christian Tradition. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2008.
  • Bell, Daniel M. Jr. Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church rather than the State. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009.
  • Bergman, Roger. Preventing Unjust War: A Catholic Argument for Selective Conscientious Objection. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2020.
  • Biggar, Nigel. In Defence of War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Cahill, Lisa Sowle. Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Pacifism, Just War, and Peacebuilding. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2019.
  • Cramer, David C. and Myles Werntz. A Field Guide to Christian Nonviolence: Key Thinkers, Activists, and Movements for the Gospel of Peace. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2022.
  • Holmes, Arthur F., editor. War and Christian Ethics, second edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
  • Winright, Tobias and Laurie Johnston, editors. Can War Be Just in the 21st Century? Ethicists Engage the Tradition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2015.