Guest / Limited Access /
Reviews

/

This summer marks 100 years since the guns of August 1914 signaled the eruption of an unprecedented global battle. Over the next four years, some two dozen countries would send more than 60 million soldiers to fight. When the guns at last fell silent in November 1918, 10 million men had fallen, and millions more were permanently maimed. Some 7 million civilians had also died, and the physically broken and psychologically scarred were beyond counting.

Shocked by its magnitude, its duration, and above all by its staggering human cost, contemporaries labeled the conflict simply the "Great War." In a historical tour de force, Baylor University's Philip Jenkins demonstrates that participants viewed it as a holy war as well. The story Jenkins faithfully retells in The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (HarperOne) is both engaging and disturbing.

Jenkins's central point is that we cannot comprehend World War I until we come to grips with its essential religious dimension. Religion is central to "understanding the war, to understanding why people went to war, what they hoped to achieve through war, and why they stayed at war." Just as important were the long-term religious consequences. The war triggered "a global religious revolution," Jenkins argues, and in the process "drew the world's religious map as we know it today."

'Hell against Heaven'

"Holy war" is a loaded phrase, and Jenkins is careful to define what he means by it. It goes far beyond what theologians such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas meant by "just war." Just-war doctrine says that, in a fallen world, as a last resort one fallen nation may ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Browse All Book Reviews By:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only The Long, Strange Trip
What has stayed constant during my 30 years at CT.
RecommendedThe Singular Humility of America's Only Ordained President
The Singular Humility of America's Only Ordained President
In 1880, James A. Garfield won the country's highest office. He never wanted it.
TrendingChristians Can Hold Their Bladders and Still Shop at Target
Christians Can Hold Their Bladders and Still Shop at Target
Consider the missional implications before you boycott.
Editor's PickReading Esther in the Shadow of ISIS
Reading Esther in the Shadow of ISIS
A Jewish philosopher’s perspective on how God delivers his people from radical evil.
Christianity Today
The Forgotten Side of the First World War
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.