As the church is to a particular nation, so the world church should be to the international community. And just as the function of the individual state is to promote freedom and fellowship, so the aim must be to create a harmony of independent nations, seeking justice and the common good internationally. Citizenship remains a key concept for Temple.
Confronted twice with world war, Temple was no pacifist. He subscribed to just war theory, and considered pacifism as a universal principle to be heretical in tendency (York Diocesan Leaflet, Nov. 1935). This position was based on three considerations. First, the Gospel fulfills the law and the prophets, and does not supersede them. The kingdoms of the world have their place by God's appointment, with powers and rights to be exercised in obedience to God's laws. If necessary, we must check the aggressor and set free the oppressed (RE 176). Second, we are willy-nilly members of societies and citizens, and need to engage in the civic enterprise of justice, not stand aside from it (KG 86f., 91; TWT 28f.). Force is an indispensable element in the ordering of life, to be used according to that law which expresses the highest welfare of humanity. Temple's sacramental sense led him (rather unwisely) to use here the phrase "the consecration of force" (Church Assembly Report, 4 Feb. 1932; "Education for Peace", Birkbeck College, 18 June 1941). Third, human beings are incapable of living by love unless converted and sanctified by the grace of God. Nations fall radically short. All are therefore entangled in sin, and for that condition one needs not only a theology of the church but a theology of the state, involving obligations for Christian citizens. Temple declared that the universal pacifists he knew lacked such a theology of the state (York Diocesan Leaflet, Nov. 1935; CW 10-13; SLL 138).
Temple respected individual universal pacifists and conscientious objectors as witnesses to important but partial truth. He was also aware of some of the tensions in his position. He knew the perils of the use of force, and urged Britons to remember the purpose for which they were fighting: the cause of international law and civilization. They must, therefore, not use methods incompatible with that purpose (TWT 9; RE 178). "We have to do the best we can, being what we are, in the circumstances where we are - and then God be merciful to us sinners!" (Iremonger 1948: 542f.).
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