The Hardest Part
A Centenary Critical Edition
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"Real war is the final limit of damnable brutality, and that's all there is in it. It 's about the silliest, filthiest, most inhumanly fatuous thing that ever happened... if God does not suffer agony because of war, and if He does not will that men should live at peace, then I cannot and will not worship Him."
Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, often known as `Woodbine Willie' because of his practice of distributing Woodbine cigarettes together with New Testaments to the troops, was undoubtedly the most famous World War One chaplain.
Stark, moving but with glimmers of humour amongst the wreckage, "The Hardest Part" asks perhaps the hardest question of all when faced with the horrors of the 1st World War - where was God to be found in the carnage of the western front?
Kennedy's answer, that through the cross God shares in human suffering rather than being a `passionate potentate' looking down unmoved by death, injury and destruction on an immense scale, was, and still is, revolutionary.
Marking the centenary both of the end of the First World War and the original publication of The Hardest Part, this new critical edition contains a contextual introduction, a brief biography of Studdert Kennedy, annotated bibliography and the full text of the first edition of the book, with explanatory notes.
The Man, the Padre and the Theologian - Thomas O’Loughlin
Gone and Almost Forgotten: The Reception of The Hardest Part - Stuart Bell
The Hardest Part – the 1918 text
1. What is God like?
2. God in Nature
3. God in History
4. God in the Bible
5. God and Democracy
6. God and Prayer
7. God and the Sacrament
8. God and the Church
9. God and the Life Eternal
'More than any other person Studdert Kennedy brings home to us the reality of a God who suffers, not just once on the cross, but in nature, history and contemporary pain. In The Hardest Part we have a theology that arose directly out of the horror and pity of his battlefield experience that still speaks to us today. Its blunt rejection of false ideas of God and vivid images that touched ordinary non-religious soldiers still has a freshness and relevance.' -- Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford
'What is God like? Asks Studdert Kennedy - Answer: 'God, the God I love and worship reigns in sorrow on the Tree, Broken, bleeding, but unconquered, very God of God to me.' This outstanding new critical edition focuses Studdert Kennedy's transformative theology, forged on the bitter, bloody anvil of murderous conflict.'-- Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten