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The Dove, The Fig Leaf and the Sword: Why Christianity changes its mind about war [Paperback]

Alan Bilings
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

15 May 2014
This fascinating critique of the Church's varying response to the use of force over the centuries gives Christians a greater understanding of the complexity of peace keeping, and stresses the vital role of praying for those in authority


Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing (15 May 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0281072248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281072248
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 552,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

''I welcome the contribution this book makes to the continuing debate and the ever-changing spectrum of the responses of Christian thought to areas of peace and conflict. It will make a good sourcebook for all involved with the subject at whatever level.'' --The Venerable Ray Pentland CB QHC, Chaplain-in-Chief (RAF)

''A thoroughly readable analysis of an important topic.'' --Theos

About the Author

The Revd Canon Alan Billings is an Anglican priest and a former Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University. In recent years he has taught the ethics of war to chaplains to the forces at the UK Defence Academy, Amport, and on military bases in England and Germany.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a good and highly readable book (I just wish it hadn't been published just after I handed a 3,000 word essay in on Jesus and the Just War tradition - this would have been an excellent resource!) Its argument is an interesting one, that the Church has over its history developed 3 approaches to war: 'Dove' (Pacifism, linked to the idea of Christians as 'sojourners' in a strange/ foreign land); 'Fig Leaf' (the development of the 'Just War' tradition, related to the rise of Christendom, with the Church as an adjunct of the State); and, 'Sword' (related to the increased theological justification of war by a Church heavily synchronised with the State. A good example would be the role of Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London during WWI, who acted as Chaplain-in-Chief to the British armed forces and who managed to link militarism, nationalism with Christian theology.) Finally Billings argues that we are re-entering a state where the Church is again taking a 'Dove' like stance, related to its increased marginalisation in Western democracies.

However, Billings's arguments are highly flawed from the outset because he assumes a 'Christian Realist' approach to War: that war is justified and justifiable, being part of our fallen humanity and society. War may not be nice, he argues, but it is sometime justifiable. So far so good. Where I take issue with Billings is his argument, coming out from his approach, that Jesus himself was not a pacifist, as some (myself included) have argued. He uses such proof texts as Jesus's non-condemnation of soldiers for their status, nor that they are encouraged not to participate in violence, merely limit their behaviour to simple ethical norms relating to fair and responsible behaviour in society.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars A guide to changing and varied Christian attitudes to war 15 Jun 2014
By Dr. John Bunyan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a very readable account of varying Christian attitudes to war and conflict, fair in its discussion, for example, of Christian pacifism but presenting the case for pragmatic "Christian realism". The latter is based on a belief that Christians are called to political involvement on behalf of their wider communities, but also on a recognition that individuals and families and nations are prone to greed and pride, hubris and sheer evil. This is one of the best books I have read on this subject, especially for the general reader - for the scholar there are more detailed and perhaps more profound books. And there are studies on related questions regarding, for example, human psychology - the subjects of fear and human aggressiveness for example, and reasons for conflict between groups and individuals, that will complement this work - though of course these are matters for our on-going study especially in our very troubled world today. Canon Dr Alan Billings in a priest of the Church of England, former Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University, and in recent times - one especially notes - teacher of the ethics of war to British military chaplains. Other books by this gifted writer include "Dying and Grieving", "God and Community Cohesion", "Lost Church", "Making God Possible", and "Secular Lives, Sacred Hearts" - his a sane and intelligent (and intelligible!) voice in today's Church.
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