President Dwight Eisenhower with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (
Man of the world

God’s Cold Warrior:
The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles

by John D. Wilsey
Eerdmans, 271 pages, $21.99

John Foster Dulles is a largely forgotten figure. Had he not served as U.S. secretary of state from 1953 to 1959, that largely would be entirely. Whatever interest his life retains stems from his tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat during the tense early years of the Cold War.

Oddly, however, John Wilsey’s “religious biography” of Dulles devotes fewer than twenty pages to its subject’s tenure at the helm of the State Department. Wilsey, who teaches church history at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, directs most of his attention elsewhere. His stated purpose is to “explore [Dulles’s] worldview as informed by his religion.”

As a 1950s-vintage cold warrior, Dulles is a fairly easy read: He was an uncompromising ideologue. As a Christian of a particular type—a non-doctrinaire, twentieth-century Presbyterian—he is more elusive. Dulles “kept his inner life largely hidden from outsiders,” Wilsey writes. Wilsey’s own efforts to illuminate that inner life yield little.

Read the full review in First Things.

More from