“The beginning of wisdom is:
And with all your acquiring, get understanding.”
by Rick Love, Ph.D.
One of the best ways to acquire wisdom is through reading. So I have put together a list of my current top ten books on peacemaking. It was painful whittling the list down to only ten books, but hopefully this will give you some guidance as you seek to acquire wisdom.
To say these are my top ten books on peacemaking does not mean I agree with everything in them. Nor are all of these books written from a Christian perspective. Sometimes the best books say things outside the box (hyperbolic and even heretical) and force us to think deeply about a subject. So as you read, follow Paul’s teaching, “examine all things and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace, and Healing
Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice
A profoundly biblical description of reconciliation in all its fullness. Katongole and Rice will help you see the vital relationship between the Gospel and peacemaking. In fact, the guiding text for the book (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) indicates that reconciliation is the ultimate value of the new creation. So when we work for peace, we demonstrate the very nature of the new creation. This book will also help you confront the painful reality of the world in which we pursue peace. The chapter on lament is a much-needed addition to the spiritual life of any peacemaker. The authors are co-founders of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.
Yes I think my book needs to be in the top ten! But rather than explaining why or writing a commentary on my own book, I will point you to two different reviews of my book: Jennifer Bryson’s “Reclaiming Peace by Love” is a great place to begin, and “Peace be With You” by James Stambaugh is another review worth reading.
Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians
John Paul Lederach
This book is a great introduction to peacemaking and a wonderful window into the thought of John Paul Lederach, one of the most accomplished peacemakers of our generation. The author of 22 books on peace, Lederach serves as the director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. In this new book he shows his mastery of peacemaking practices which are rooted in Scripture. I especially enjoyed his chapters on Psalm 85 (where truth, mercy, justice and peace meet), Matthew 18 (where Jesus outlines clear steps to making peace) and Paul’s teaching on reconciliation as the heart of the gospel. His analysis of Acts 15 is also brilliant. He shows how the process described in this chapter (the Jerusalem Council) demonstrates what a good group mediation looks like. Read this book and you will acquire wisdom!
Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War
Glen H. Stassen, editor
The late Glen Stassen, along with other top Christian scholars, describes a new kind of ethical theory about peace and war, which they call “Just Peacemaking.” In contrast to pacifism and just war theory, which are about whether or not one should go to war, Just Peacemaking is comprised of ten proactive practices to prevent war and facilitate peace. This new peace ethic can and should be promoted by both pacifists and just warriors.
Evangelical Peacemakers: Gospel Engagement in a War
David P. Gushee, editor
This book emerged from the Evangelicals for Peace Summit on Christian Morality and Responsibility in the Twenty-First Century, which was held at Georgetown University in September of 2012. The speakers were a veritable ‘who’s who’ of evangelical leaders: the late Glen Stassen, Eric Patterson, Douglas Johnston, David Shenk, Jim Wallis, and Geoff Tunnicliffe to name a few. This book is a must-read for three reasons. First, it is the only book of its kind – as you probably know, evangelicals are not known for being peacemakers. Second, there are a number of articles that touch on Christian-Muslim relations. Third, the editor of the book, David Gushee, does an excellent job of critically evaluating each presentation and offering some wise concluding remarks.
With passion and prophetic insight, Brian shows the radical nature of forgiveness. He helps us understand the nature of the gospel and the role of forgiveness in peacemaking. “Forgiveness occupies center stage at all the most important places in the Christian faith: the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, Good Friday, Easter Sunday” (p 92). Thus, “followers of Christ, who are both the recipients and practitioners of radical forgiveness, should be the leading authorities on peace” (p. 205). Amen Brian!
This book provides a profound analysis of the nature of both conflict and resolution. It gives a broad overview of issues and describes helpful models and paradigms. Mayer describes this book as a practitioner’s guide. His use of case studies does make it a valuable resource for practitioners. But I would describe this book as a theoretician’s guide as well. Its primary strength is helping the reader think more deeply about peacemaking issues.
This is one of the best books I’ve read about the practice of mediation. Dana masterfully describes the tools, terms, strategies, and steps of conflict resolution. He describes how managers can mediate, how to do self-mediation, team mediation, and preventative mediation. He also includes an important chapter on the “Strategic Management of Organizational Conflict.” This is a book you will return to again and again as you mediate conflict. My wife Fran and I are certified mediators and trainers with Daniel Dana’s organization, Mediation Training Institute International.
I disagree with Wink’s demonology, but I love his political theology! He brilliantly exposes the myth of redemptive violence: “the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right… this Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today” (p. 42). Wink argues that “nonviolence is at the very heart of the gospel, and that the church’s task is to attempt to spread this leaven into the life of the world” (p. 135). To do so the church must follow the third way of Jesus: Instead of passivity or violence, Jesus taught a non-violent resistance. A challenging book about the revolutionary Jesus.
Noll provides a profound overview of the field of peacemaking. The heart of the book, however, is his rigorous critique of diplomatic peacemaking methods and robust apologetic for the importance of emotions in peacemaking. Noll’s detailed illustrations and solid research will benefit peacemakers working at a grassroots level as well as those who do high-level peacemaking. If you read and apply Noll’s suggestions, I believe that peace will not be so elusive after all (see my review of this book here).