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Fall 1988 · Vol. 17 No. 2 · pp. 100–101 

Book Review

Christian Peacemaking and International Conflict: A Realist Pacifist Perspective

Duane K. Friesen. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1986. 304 pages.

Reviewed by Richard S. Unruh

International conflict is accepted by most persons as a permanent feature of the human condition. Peace is customarily understood to be the absence of war or violence—a desired condition but an unrealistic one. Pacifism has often been viewed as an approach to human relations which is ethical—yet idealistic and thus “irrelevant.” Duane Friesen, Professor of Bible and Religion at Bethel College, Kansas, has written a provocative book in which he argues that international conflict is not inevitable, that peace is a social-environmental condition in which righteousness and justice prevail, and that pacifism can be instrumental in bringing the world closer to the realization of such a goal. He proposes a Christian pacifism that is “political”—it seeks to apply its ethic. He also proposes a Christian pacifism that is “realist”—it offers a practical methodology for a ministry of peacemaking and reconciliation.

Friesen begins by arguing that the world is becoming more interdependent, that transnational networks of interconnectedness are becoming more prevalent, and thus war is becoming less appropriate as a means of resolving disputes. These factors create opportunities to transcend purely nationalistic frameworks and make it possible for the church—a transnational community—to bring to bear more universal values upon international politics. And what are these values? The first is justice as the goal of social institutions. Christian peacemaking should work for those overall conditions of society and the physical environment which can lead to a full and holistic {101} human development for all persons. The second is nonviolence as the normative principle of social change. Christian peacemaking should seek to encourage nonviolent action which alone can achieve some kind of positive solution that leads to justice. Friesen concludes by showing how the ethical principle of nonviolence can be applied to the actual international situation by outlining five levels on which the church can act to influence world events and by describing the spiritual resources and communal structures necessary to sustain a Christian vocation of peacemaking amidst the obstacles it will encounter in a conflict-ridden world.

This book skillfully interweaves theological and social scientific analysis to suggest that living in a more peaceful world is not a utopian dream, but a realistic alternative. It is no less a challenge to pacifists than to Christians who have accepted war as a necessary evil. Pastors, seminary students, and informed lay leaders should study it carefully, come to understand its implications for the mission of the church, and interpret them to the mass membership. Someone should also write a “popularized” version of the book, easily comprehensible to the average church member so that its message could receive the wide hearing it deserves.

Richard S. Unruh is Professor of Political Science at Fresno Pacific College, Fresno, California.

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