NR Digital

Peace and Principle

by Victor Lee Austin
In Defence of War, by Nigel Biggar (Oxford, 384 pp., $55)

This book, which is hands-down the most ambitious and consequential defense of the Christian just-war tradition we’ve seen in decades, is, first of all, an argument “against the virus of wishful thinking.”

What wishful thinking? That Jesus was a pacifist; that Paul was a pacifist; that the Christian tradition, when it is true to itself, is pacifist. That Nigel Biggar would call such views — widely espoused by Christian theologians today — “wishful thinking” is but the second sign (the first is the title) that here we have a Christian ethicist of no mean courage. His thought is careful and exact — he really does mean, for instance, that Christian pacifism is “wishful thinking” for the precise reason that it is not grounded in realism and imports into its Biblical exegesis unwarranted assumptions.