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What about Hitler?: Wrestling with Jesus's Call to Nonviolence in an Evil World (Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The) Paperback – October 1, 2006
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From the Back Cover
"With clarity and respect for the best arguments justifying violence, from Augustine and Bonhoeffer to Michael Walzer and Jean Bethke Elshtain, Robert Brimlow responds to the challenges of radical evil. Brimlow provocatively engages the reader on three levels: a philosophical analysis and critique of just war reasoning; meditations on the gospel and Jesus that support willingness to die rather than participating in violence as the 'answer' to Hitler; and the spiritual practices of prayer and daily acts of mercy that habituate persons to being the people of God."--Duane K. Friesen, coeditor of At Peace and Unafraid
"A searching examination of just war and pacifist approaches to war and violence that leads to advice on discipleship. It is a book I would make required reading for a course on the morality of war, even though I don't always agree."--Arthur F. Holmes, editor of War and Christian Ethics
"This is not an easy book to read, which is why Brimlow's book is so important. The hard clarity of his prose witnesses his refusal to report any easy answer to the question posed in the title. As a result, however, he has answered that question in the only honest way it can be answered."--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School
"This book is an honest examination of the most important challenge to pacifism: Would it not be right to use violence to stop great evil, such as that unleashed on the world by Hitler? Brimlow's honesty in dealing with the commands of Jesus is refreshing, and he does not shrink from confronting the dilemma of being a pacifist in a 'supreme emergency' of demonic evil unleashed on society. His answers are profound in their simplicity and honesty."--Craig A. Carter, author of The Politics of the Cross
"I expected, in this book, to see challenges issued to the just war theory. I was also not surprised to see probing questions--drawn creatively from Bonhoeffer and Orwell--posed to pacifists. However, I was not prepared to be so powerfully challenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a wonderfully challenging book!"--Mark Thiessen Nation, author of John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions
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Top Customer Reviews
The question posed by the title is meant to confront the Christian with the ultimate test of the call to nonviolence, namely, nonviolence in the face of ultimate evil - Hitler. On his way to answering to answering this question, Brimlow tackles the doctrine of "just war." In his analysis, Brimlow finds the criteria set forth to justify a "just war" to be too flaccid and easily malleable to justify even the most immoral "unjust" war. Brimlow also finds the theologicial justifications set forth by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and other theologians as consequentialist which do nothing more than weigh the costs and benefits and advocate an "ends over means" mentality.
Brimlow also addresses Michael Walzer's contribution of the supreme emergency" as a refinement of the "just war" theory. According to Walzer, "supreme emergency" is defined by two criteria: "the imminence of the danger and the second with its nature." For a "supreme emergency" to arise, the danger of the threat must be imminent and the nature of the threat must be "immeasurably awful.Read more ›
I don't want to ruin too much of this book, but allow me to say that Brimlow tackles Just War theory before moving to terrorism and, of course, World War II and "the Hitler Question". Brimlow challenges our assumptions of what counts as successful and the ways in which we're called to holiness.
All in all, this is a fantastic book. I *highly* recommend it.
We have an example of an activist Christian pacifism that worked during World War II: the village of Le Chambon, in Vichy France. (See Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed.) Yet, even it worked under the shelter of a war against Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, I don't want to deny the courage or power of a community that takes Jesus' words to turn the other cheek seriously.
The difficulty I have with Brimlow's book is that it doesn't really address the best argument for the "just war": love. I imagine a Rwandan Tutsi asking me, why did we not come and help? How can I respond with "turn the other cheek"? Does not our love for our neighbor demand that we do something about their peril? Though he only hints at it, Brimlow also undermines the use of a state's police powers to restrain evil. Yet, Paul seems to suggest that the state is ordained by God to do just that. If a non-Christian governor is allowed to restrain evil through his/her police powers, can a Christian do any less? Similarly, if a non-Christian is allowed to defend his/her people, should not a Christian do so as well? I feel as if I'm willing to be persuaded to Christian pacifism, but I still need to hear answers to these questions.
I also would quibble with Brimlow's characterization of Augustine, whose experience of evil (the fall of Rome, the seige of Hippo) was far from academic.Read more ›
Brimlow is a professor of philosophy, and it sure shows. I mean that in a good way. At first I thought the book was overly academic. But then I realized that my problem was that I was trying to remember everything I read. There are just too many arguments to remember them all.
In other words, he deals with each argument one at a time, and he doesn't mince words. There's no fluff. It would be impossible to condense this book without leaving huge gaps in the discussion of nonviolence. But the plus side is that because he's a philosophy professor, he anticipates every possible argument and counter argument and deals with all of them, very methodically.
For the general reader this book might be a little challenging. But please don't let that deter you. Just take your time and enjoy it. It's not that it's hard to read so much as that it covers a lot of territory very quickly. It's not too jargon heavy, it's just thorough and concise, and, for that reason, difficult to condense, perhaps, but not difficult to read.
THE STRENGTH OF THIS BOOK IS: That if you wanted to debate the philosophy of nonviolence with an atheist, a philosophy professor, a theologian, or a mystic, this is the only book you would have to read in advance, because it gives a point-by-point analysis of all related arguments.
An incredible book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An amazing book. It took me forever to read just because it's so full of information and theology but honestly it is one of the best books I've ever read about how to live like a... Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by Justine Scott
Comments sent to the author:
Dear Professor Brimlow,
The following comments are in rough chronological order, only rarely citing page numbers. Read more
I purchased this book along with 3 other books on the biblical view on war in an attempt to gain understanding on this difficult subject. Read morePublished on February 22, 2009 by Andrew Chandler
I found many parts of this book useful and interesting, but overall it was a disappointment for two reasons. Read morePublished on January 29, 2009 by Susan Wise Bauer
Brimlow takes his writing very personal, and throughout the book much of his reflections or comparisons resonate from stories of his experiences. Read morePublished on February 12, 2008 by J. Breneman