Studies in Christian Ethics 22 (2):164-184 (2009)

Widely showered with superlatives when it was first published in 1996, and now commonly regarded as a masterpiece, Richard Hays's The Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996) constructs a pacifist reading of the New Testament. To date, Hays's reading has provoked no systematic refutation from proponents of the doctrine of just war. This essay hopes to offer such a refutation. Its argument has three main planks. First, that Hays's reading of the New Testament stories about god-fearing soldiers, who persist in their profession, is not compelling; second, that he fails to specify sufficiently the meaning of Jesus' teaching and conduct in terms of Jesus' own context (particularly the option of armed violence in the service of religiously inspired nationalism); and third, that Hays's normative moral concepts are often too crude, suffering from a failure to employ valid moral distinctions. The essay concludes by arguing that the doctrine of just war is better able than pacifism to make adequate sense of all the relevant New Testament data
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DOI 10.1177/0953946809103490
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