Before continuing the series on the biblical foundations for an inclusive approach to relations, especially between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, let me register my notes from a book called “Christianity, Diplomacy, and War” by the Cambridge professor Herbert Butterfield (1900-1979). The book was published in this country in 1953 but is in large part Butterfields’ reflections on WW II.


BUTTERFIELD, HERBERT, CHRISTIANITY, DIPLOMACY AND WAR, ABINGDON-COKESBURY, n.d. [First published 1953]

ONE  Christianity and Human Problems
p. 1    Can Christians hope to contribute to world?  Yes, because:
    A.    Many centuries of accumulated wisdom and experience, outlasting all other western institutions.  Our traditions reflect long term view.
2    B.    Christianity is also “capable of producing the greatest breaks of tradition–precipitating the unpredictable thing.”

3    “Precisely because he can hold fast to spiritual truths–not turning any mundane programme or temporal ideal into the absolute of absolutes–the Christian has it in his power to be more flexible in respect of all subordinate matters, and to ally himself with whatever may be best for the world at a given moment.  In the last resort he can clear away all intermediate systems and meet an unprecedented problem by going back to his starting point–his zeal for personalities as such.”  “…so that all may be fluid and flexible save that ultimate Rock, which is Christ himself.”

4    “Yet while men weep to see the end of the things they love, something in Christianity survives the fall of Roman Empires and national monarchies, lives on when Platonism and Aristotelianism go out of fashion, and persists when a whole civilization changes its character.  The Christian is particularly called to carry his thinking outside that framework which a nation or a political party or a social system or an accepted regime or a mumdane ideology provides.”  
    “And no doubt Christianity in its essence is a risky religion, packed with the kind of ethical implications that are dangerous to status quo’s, established regimes, and reigning systems.”

5    “Certain aspects of Christian teaching–the treatment of love, the insistence on humility, the attitude to human personality and the doctrine of sin–have helped to affect the character of our civilization, no doubt, but still leave a divergence between the message of the Church and the assumptions which are current in the world.”
    “In general, I think that in time of war we should expect the Christian to have compassion somewhere even for the enemy, and even for the wicked–expect him also to be diffident about believing that his own nation’s cause is absolutely the righteous one, and all the wickedness on the side of the enemy.”

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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