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Our Research


Published Research

Brian Powers (Executive Director of the ICMI and Vann Fellow in Christianity and the Armed Forces) has worked to provide a thorough theological treatment of moral injury.

In an early work, Brian explored three theological doctrines in relation to the experience of wartime violence and the value of each of these in providing hope and solace to the morally injured - Sin, the conception of humanity created in the image of God (Imago Dei), and the idea of resurrection as the restoration of all things. (“Moral injury and theology”* in Moral Injury: A Guidebook for Understanding and Engagement)

His work has led him to contend that Augustine’s moral psychology – the idea that we are responsible, but not exhaustively responsible, for our own actions - resonates with the experience of combat and several psychological accounts of combat trauma and moral injury. ("Moral injury and original sin: The applicability of Augustinian moral psychology in light of combat trauma” in Theology Today*)

He suggests that an Augustinian understanding of original sin can illuminate complex problems of agency and responsibility that lie at the heart of the guilt and shame that often result from wartime violence. (Full Darkness: Original Sin, Moral Injury and Wartime Violence, Eerdmans, 2019)

Another recent project looked at the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Proposing that Bonhoeffer’s understanding of sin, guilt and responsible action is deeply informed by his experience of moral injury, Brian argues that Bonhoeffer’s conception of responsible action as the taking on of guilt for the sake of another is a profound, if troubling, articulation of moral trauma in modern combat situations. (“The Bonhoeffer dilemma: Sanctification as the increasing awareness of moral chaos” in the Scottish Journal of Theology*)

A recent article was published in response to the essays in the book The Business of War: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Military-Industrial Complex. Brian’s response touches on key theological themes from previous work in a current environment, engaging with the work of three ethicists and exploring examples in contemporary politics and society. (Frameworks of Meaning, Identity and Resistance, Political Theology Network)

*If you don't have institutional access to this article, please feel free to email for a copy.


Ongoing Projects

The ICMI, in collaboration with colleagues from two other UK universities, is conducting a project measuring moral injury in retired British military chaplains. This first-of-its-kind UK study seeks to establish the degree and scope of Moral Injury in military chaplains and examines the ways in which moral injury impacts belief systems, ideas of a just God and sense of divine forgiveness in a population that may experience a profound sense of self-judgment. Additionally, it incorporates examinations of particular theological orientations in ameliorating or exacerbating moral injury and in disposing one towards the acceptance of divine and self-forgiveness. If you are a retired military chaplain and would like to take part, please email us at

Brian is currently working on the manuscript of a monograph that will articulate a vision of resurrection hope in light of the disfiguring force of war and moral injury. It will argue that lament and hope are deeply connected theological concepts – lament expressing the most bitter and painful grief, loss, failure, injustice and human agony, and resurrection the divine answer of life, justice, restoration, reconciliation and peace. It will draw upon the theology of Jurgen Moltmann and his understanding of the power of the resurrection as a sign of God’s ultimate awakening of all things to new life in articulating a profound sense of hope for the human brokenness exposed through moral injury.  

Furthermore, the following works are forthcoming:

  • A defence of Jurgen Moltmann’s understanding of Universal salvation as particularly salient in addressing the injustice and inhumanity that so often lies at the heart of experiences of moral injury 
  • An article on the concept of penance in the Christian tradition, carefully examining its merits in shaping our moral sense of self and self-forgiveness in light of a troubled history
  • An article that proposes a new typology for moral injury based on an Augustinian accounting of agency
  • A chapter entitled “Military moral injury and the importance of Christian theologies of guilt, forgiveness and hope” in The Routledge Handbook of Spirituality, Religion and Medical Humanities, to be published in late 2024.

A repaired brick wall with a painted picture of a girl on a swingDoctoral student Chris Talbot is exploring intersections between trauma theology and education in emergencies, i.e., education for children and others in the face of armed conflict, disaster and forced displacement, including for asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people. One of the aims is to identify ways in which trauma theology can strengthen the planning and carrying out of education in emergencies, including the provision of psychosocial support. Through the research and dissemination of its findings, Chris hopes to help enrich both the practice of education in emergencies and of trauma theology. This project is being conducted under the auspices of Westcott House, Cambridge, and Durham University, through the Theological Education Institutions (TEI) Partnership.

Doctoral researcher Jan Shultis is working on a project entitled, "No Treaty with Reality: Moral Injury and a Theology of Choice According to C.S. Lewis, British Army, World War I". Here she is sharing Lewis's war-formed lessons in what constitutes humanity, how we preserve that humanity, and how to regain humanity we fail to safeguard. Lewis, a combat veteran who wrote in the language of war throughout his life, considered "the choosing part" of a tripartite human soul that which should most concern us. From a Moral Law to divine mystery, Lewis's theology of choice provides a powerful system for evaluating moral injury and promoting healing today. This project is offered in hope that Lewis's most rigorously tested apologetics, those able to withstand the chaos and brutality of war, be extended to illuminate circumstances encompassing and far beyond combat.

Lastly, we are pleased to be collaborating with Moral Injury Partnership on a pilot study to measure and describe the effect of its retreat-based intervention, Reflect and Renew, on moral injury-related distress and wellbeing in frontline professionals.


Third image from top: Shelled wall of Primary School No. 1, Popasna, Ukraine, repaired and repainted; photo by C. Talbot, 19 September 2017