T. Edmund Harvey and the Moral Theology of Conscientious Objection



Published Nov 4, 2021
Mark Frankel


The British Quaker politician T. Edmund Harvey (1875–1955) responded to the introduction of military conscription in 1916 by helping to enact and administer a scheme of non-military national service for conscientious objectors. Underpinning his political work was a moral theology that a conscientious objection entailed a conscientious obligation to serve by alternative, non-military means. The paper draws on a passage from Harvey of 1937 to break down his theology of conscientious objection into four elements: personalism; the Christian citizen, which is an idea from the philosopher T. H. Green; the two kingdoms or cities, from the book of Luke and St Augustine; and moral pioneering. Harvey’s moral theology, it is argued, was a cogent amalgam of Christian deontic ethics and a liberalism which vested the individual in society with rights and obligations. Harvey lived his own theology, which put him in the political centre-ground between the British war state and absolutist pacifists.

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Conscientious objection, Quakers, liberalism, pacifism

Special Issue - Cities of God: Politics, Theology and Ethics