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A Christian View of Armed WarfareNote from Charles Dailey: Some of us in the movement to restore orginal Christianity have opposed war as an option for believers. We are a minority, but we also have some good company from the past 200 years.
Opponents of fighting include: J.W. McGarvey, Moses E. Lard, Robert Milligan, Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb.
Alexander Campbell opposed Christians going to war, but naturally, he did not oppose law and order. He saw police as servants of God where the culprit is brought to court. War is a much different experience where men on one side of a controversy are hired to subdue men on the other side.
William E. Paul has written on the subject. With his permission, we are presenting the book A Christian View of Armed Warfare just as it was written in 1969.
To Warren E. Bell, from whose teachings I came to "learn war no more."
Table of Contents
"New Testament Teaching on Christians Participating in War"
CHAPTER 1 Viewing War from a Christian Standpoint
CHAPTER 2 A Christian and His Enemies
CHAPTER 3 A Christian and Evildoers
CHAPTER 4 A Christian and His Neighbors
CHAPTER 5 A Christian and His Brethren
CHAPTER 6 Participation in War and the "Golden Rule"
CHAPTER 7 Participation in War and the "Great Commission"
CHAPTER 8 Participation in War and Prayer
CHAPTER 9 The Peaceful Nature of the Kingdom of God PAGE 29
CHAPTER 10 The Fruit of the Spirit Versus the Fruit of War
CHAPTER 11 Jesus Prophesies Neutrality for Christians
CHAPTER 12 The Attitude of Early Christians Toward War
"Common Objections to Christians Not Participating in War"
CHAPTER 1 "What If Everyone Felt that Way About It?"
CHAPTER 2 "Aren't Christians Supposed to Give Their Lives for One Another?"
CHAPTER 3 "It Would Be a Stumbling Block Not to Fight for Our Country in War"
CHAPTER 4 "Didn't Jesus Use Violence in Driving the Moneychangers Out of the Temple?"
CHAPTER 5 "Wasn't Cornelius the Centurion a Soldier?"
CHAPTER 6 "Doesn't Being in Subjection to the Higher Powers Require Going to War?"
CHAPTER 7 "Doesn't Paying Taxes Assist in Carrying On War?"
CHAPTER 8 "But Killing in War is Done as an Agent of the Government and Not as a Personal Act"
CHAPTER 9 "But Didn't God's People in the Old Testament Go to War?"
CHAPTER 10 "What Would You Do if your Wife, Mother or Daughter were Attacked or Molested?"
I feel highly honored to be asked to write a Foreword for such a fine work on the Christian and war as has been compiled so carefully by brother William E. Paul. He has, to my mind, done the most exacting and clear presentation of the Christian's attitude toward war that has yet been compiled in our generation.
Every young Christian will be called upon to make the decision as to whether he will go to war or not. Every means known to man will be used to induce him to take arms, from the preacher (often times) to the "ladies" on the draft board; therefore he must KNOW why he believes and have a basis to stand on. This book is the best source of material to substantiate the Christian's refusal to go to war and kill that I have found anywhere.
When the Lord spoke and inspired His writers of the New Testament, keep in mind, He knew the hearts of men and he knew the history of men and nations, with war after war causing nation after nation to fall and another to be built on its blood and ashes. He knew the appeals that would be made to His followers to fight for national pride, and the strength of the press, radio, TV and all kinds of mass media to stir the hearts of men to go and fight.
Any man who has lived through a war knows the power of mass hysteria and when that time comes the Christian must have convictions as deep as the Word of God, and as sound as the God who gave it. This book will help to crystalize Christian convictions on the war issues, no matter what nation makes the appeal. Every Christian should be willing to sacrifice his life for the cause of Christ and for his fellowmen, but he is not willing to kill anybody.
Martyrs of the first centuries gladly gave their lives as a witness, but they did not try to kill those who were putting them to death, even though they were godly idolaters. We are their children and the source of our convictions is the same, THE WORD OF GOD.
May this book be used to strengthen Christian faith.
-- A. Word
Seldom in the course of human history has the beating of war drums been completely silent. As far back as the records go we can read of conflict between mankind. It seems that each generation is either trying to forget the horrors of the last war or else viewing with dread the coming of the next one. Because of this it makes the Christian's relationship to war always a timely topic for sober consideration.
In setting forth the proposition of this book, we intend to meet the issue head-on. In doing so we realize that it may not meet with popular approval. To question whether a person should be a member of the armed forces during peacetime may be considered by some to be foolishly impractical. To question it during wartime is usually looked upon as unpatriotic, if not downright cowardly. Be that as it may, the fear of popular opinion must not influence our conclusion in a matter where the will of God is at stake.
There are several schools of thought which voice opposition to participating in war. The Humanist objects to war on the ethical ground that human beings should not try to settle their differences by killing one another. He reasons that the welfare of humanity is sufficient cause for refraining from war "because he sees the innate value in the human being."1 While there is merit in this point of view, we will not approach the subject of war from that angle in this work.
Then there are others, of the "liberal" or "modernistic" school of religious thought who strongly object to engaging in carnal warfare. Harry Emerson Fosdick stated it well in a sermon delivered in New York City in 1933 when he said, "I renounce war because of what it does to our own men...because of what it compels us to do to our enemies...for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the underlying hatreds it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in place of democracy, for the starvation that stalks after it."2
Who would question the worthiness of these motives for renouncing participation in war? But, unfortunately, the "modernist" who holds these views concerning war also holds other views which reject such Biblical teaching as "the virgin birth of Christ", "the bodily resurrection of Christ" and the miracles of our Lord. Because of this, the person who opposes going to war is frequently classed a "modernist" in his view of the Scriptures. This should not be done without first making a careful investigation into one's entire outlook toward the Bible.
The presentation given in this book should not be misunderstood. It is not to be considered the "pacifist" viewpoint of modern religious liberalism. Our attitude toward the Bible is one of unqualified acceptance of it as the divinely inspired Word of God. It is from this conviction that we approach our study of a Christian's attitude toward war.
A third voice is being heard these days crying out against war. It is the voice of the confirmed Marxist. He would have us think that Communism is strongly opposed to war. Lenin promised "peace and land" to the peasants of Russia in order to gain their confidence and then led an armed revolt resulting in his seizing of power.3 Communist "peace" talk is merely a clever smoke screen behind which it hides while planning whatever vicious war action it feels necessary to gain its desired ends. Bible Christianity and atheistic Communism are at opposite poles. Let no one make the mistake of thinking for a moment that the position set forth herein has anything in common with the hypocritical Communist double talk about its lying love for "peace."
The purpose for this book is twofold. First of all, material dealing with a Christian's relationship to war is not abundantly available. A number of large publishing houses write that they have nothing on the subject in their stock of books. Several excellent books and pamphlets have been produced on war, but due to waning interest they are seldom reprinted after the initial supply is sold out. The present work, then, is an attempt to fill this need. The material will be in a rather condensed form and will feature an index of all Scriptures used plus a select bibliography, items not usually found in briefer works such as this.
The second reason has to do with the rising tide of world Communism. Christians are becoming alarmed at the rapid advance of this extremely militant form of atheism. People are asking what can be done to halt the onslaught of this evil menace. Impending world crisis seems imminent. Nuclear war clouds hover above and political fervor is at a high pitch. The desire to "do something" about Communism has brought with it the temptation for Christians to feel they must "fight fire with fire." From a legitimate concern to stem this godless scourge from overrunning the world, some well-meaning people are being led to advocate the use of armed warfare. Among those who formerly took a strong stand against killing as an agent of the government, there are some who now UK ready to take up arms, as guerillas, for a fight to the finish with Communism. Rodney Reyman quotes a young preacher who stated this very attitude bluntly by saying, "The only way to deal with the Communists is blood and guts." 4
A well-known preacher, who has written some of the best material against Christians participating in war, has now reversed his position. His change of view appears to coincide with his intensive study and prolific writing on the nature of Communism. There are indications that this trend may be gaining ground among others also.
It seems that when a crisis brings nations to the brink of war, people are more easily aroused to take up weapons and fight. This can even be true with Christians.
Before the Civil War, James A. Garfield, then a preacher among churches of Christ in Ohio, opposed the idea of Christians participating in war. But when this nation erupted into a bitter struggle over the slavery issue, Garfield (later to become our twentieth president) apparently changed his conviction, for he entered the Northern army and rose to the rank of General as a result of his gallant action in battle.5
Certainly Communism is a terrible evil. This is because it is so diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus Christ. But in the process of combating its atheistic influence, our every attitude and action must be governed, not by mere emotion, but by the decrees of God's Word.
It is not our intention to propose solutions to the world's problems, nor to suggest the course of action which national leaders should take to reduce international tensions. It is not our intention to set forth the popular "pacifist" viewpoint which hopes to see the total abolishment of war from the face of the earth. This is no more possible than to rid the world of robbery, murder or sex crimes. The Epistle of James, the fourth chapter, indicates that war will continue as long as men lust and covet.
Instead, our purpose is to present plain teaching from the New Testament concerning a Christian's relationship to carnal warfare. It is our hope that this study will prove helpful to God's children in aiding them to form convictions in harmony with the will of Almighty God.
NOTES FROM THE INTRODUCTION
1. Philip Altbach, THE PACIFIST ETHIC AND HUMANISM (Student Peace Union Pamphlet.)
2. Harry Emerson Fosdick, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER (Extension of Re-marks of Hon. James P. Pope, of Idaho, in the Senate of the United States, Saturday, June 16, 1934) page 8.
3. Dr. Fred Schwarz, YOU CAN TRUST THE COMMUNISTS (to be Communists) (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall: 1960) pp. 86-90
4. Rodney D. Reyman, "God's Plan for World Peace," THE VOICE OF EVANGELISM (Ottumwa, Iowa: Vol. 11, No. 32, August 11, 1956) p. 255.
5. James Deforest Murch, CHRISTIANS ONLY, (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1962) p. 153.