Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he also serves as Director of the University's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. An internationally recognized historian of religion, he previously served as Distinguished Professor of Religion at Florida State University, where the Richard L. Rubenstein Chair for Religious Studies was created in his honor.
John K. Roth is Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, where he taught from 1966 through 2006. In addition to service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and on the editorial board for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, he has published hundreds of articles and reviews and authored, coauthored, or edited more than forty books. In 1988, he was named U.S. National Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
In this study, Harold Palmer, an attorney, examines the case that has traditionally been made to justify Christian participation in war. The author begins with a historical background of the roots of just war theory as promulgated by Thomas Aquinas. He then examines the passages on which just war theorists rely, including God’s commandments to the Israelites to go to war against their enemies, Jesus’ praise of the Roman Army centurion for his faith and God’s use of the centurion Cornelius to graft Gentiles into the Kingdom of God. Arguing that these passages have been misunderstood, he concludes that Christianity only permits a single response to evil—self-sacrificial love.
The author makes a cogent case for Christian pacifism by examining the life of Jesus and arguing that His crucifixion was more than a salvific act; it also exemplified the ideal of Christian living. Being a disciple of Jesus means emulating Him in every way, including responding to violence through self-sacrificial love, as Jesus did, and obeying Jesus’ commands to be as “harmless as doves,” to “turn the other cheek” and “pray for those who persecute you.”
Finally, this study tackles the difficult question of Old Testament violence by arguing that it falls within a specific context and is not normative for members of the New Covenant of Grace. Rather than embrace violence, we are to follow the examples set by the early church and its martyrs, including the Apostle Stephen, who prayed that his persecutors not be charged with their sins, and the apostle Paul, who taught us to “live peaceably with all men.” Our war is not a physical struggle, but a spiritual war to be waged with prayer, faith and the gospel of peace (Eph 6:12-18).