PART II CHAPTER ONE
"What if Everyone Felt That Way About It?"
This is usually the first objection raised by those who disagree with the position that a Christian should not engage in war. It is not a new objection for we saw that it was used by Celsus, the pagan philosopher, in his work "The True Doctrine," written about 176 A. D.,in an attempt to refute the entire religion ot Christ. As Celsus stated it, the consequences of refusing to participate in war were too terrible to even consider taking such a position. He said that barbarians would overrun the earth and that every race, all true wisdom and even the Christian religion itself would be obliterated. Objectors to Christians not participating in war today are saying the same things: "The Communists will take over the whole world and destroy our cities, our families, our homes, our churches and everything!" Needless to say this would be a great tragedy, but let us consider a reply to this seemingly unanswerable objection.
First of all, it will never happen that everyone will take the position of a Christian who declines military service. After giving the parable of the slighted invitation to the marriage feast Jesus closes with the statement, "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matthew 22:14). In His sermon on the mount Jesus declared, "For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it" (Matthew 7:14). From these two passages we can see that the Bible teaches only a few will be saved. The number who become Christians throughout the world has always been a minority of the total population. Thus, in any nation, those who hold as a Christian principle non-participation in war, would be such a small number that it could never affect the military security of that nation. Therefore, to raise the objection, "What if everyone believed like that?" is to suggest a hypothetical situation that does not harmonize with Scriptural teaching, and so could not be an actual threat to any nation.
As a second reply, let us allow the possibility that everyone in America did oppose participating in war as a genuine Christian conviction. This would mean that 200,000,000 persons in our country would be thoroughly converted and completely dedicated children of God. There would be no one left in the United States to convert. But long before this condition ever came about the "missionary" zeal of all these Christians would have been so great that they would have sent and financed preachers and Christian workers into all the rest of the world. The impact of the Gospel would have been felt in every nation on the face of the earth and among every "barbarian" tribe. The influence of the saving power of Christ would have so permeated the earth that there would be no country left where lust and covetousness (the causes of war according to James 4:1-2) would rule strong enough to bring about war. Thus if every person in America felt that he could not participate in war because of being a Christian, the rest of the world would be so affected by this that war would cease to be a possibility.
In the third place, suppose that all 200,000,000 A-mericans were Christians and thereby could not conscientiously partake of war. Would the logical conclusion follow that America would be taken over by the Communists or some other atheistic nation? Could not God Almighty, in answer to the fervent prayers of 200,000,000 of His saints, deliver them from the hands of their enemy? Would He not be very likely to do so especially if they were devoutly following His will as revealed in the Scriptures? Indeed, we are not left entirely to guess about God's attitude in such matters for He once spoke like this to His people Israel: "If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (II Chronicles 7:14). We are not saying that God will spare His people from destruction, but He could in answer to their prayers! At any rate this vast multitude would have at least as much reason to expect God's deliverance under such circumstances as your objector would have to expect the enemy's victory. It is a question of who has the greater power, God or Satan. He has to prove that Satan does in order to insist that God could not answer a prayer for deliverance by 200,000,000 American Christians.
In the fourth place, let us suppose, for argument's sake, that "everyone felt like that" about war and so the Communists swarmed in upon us and took over the land. With 200,000,000 Christians in America, would the Communists destroy the home, the family and the Christian religion? Remember, the church in its infancy not only survived but spread rapidly under the crushing yoke of the pagan, totalitarian Roman empire, which regarded Christianity as an illegal religion. In its attempt to stamp out the church thousands of Christians were put to torturous deaths in the arena. But did all this obliterate the influence of home, family and church? Recently, in the tiny remnant of the once mighty Roman empire, the country of Italy, it was found that juvenile delinquency was at the lowest rate of any western nation and this was attributed to the dominating role of the father as head of the Italian home.55 In this same country it was found recently that 90% of the college girls maintained their sexual purity before marriage over against only 65% in Canada, 57% in the U. S., 46% in Norway, 40% in Germany and 37% in England.56 Such has been the influence of Christian principles upon the Roman empire over the past 2,000 years. Our contention is that the Christian witness of 200,000,000 Christians here in America would be so overwhelming to the Communists that it would eventually bring about their downfall. We are told that one Christian martyr, dying in flames at the stake under the cruel Roman empire, led to dozens embracing the faith as they witnessed his self-sacrificing courage.
Finally, "if everyone felt that way about it," and America were taken over by a foreign power and all the Christians put to death, what would that mean? From a purely physical standpoint it would certainly be a tragedy. But from the spiritual it would simply mean that these saints had arrived at the glorious time when their eternal reward was realized. And if they had given up their lives in doing what was right in God's sight, what other course would have been better to choose? Jesus said, "And he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39). Remember, if everyone in America felt the same way about refusing to participate in war, there would be none to criticize them for this position and none who dissented from it to suffer the consequences. Most people who raise the objection under discussion here never stop to analyze all that is involved. If they did, they would likely never use such a weak argument.
By the way, "if everyone felt that way" about not partaking in war, your objector would be included and thus he would not be raising the objection in the first place.
NOTES FROM CHAPTER ONE
55. Judge Sam S. Leibowitz, "Nine Words That Can Stop Juvenile Delinquency," THE READER'S DIGEST, March, 1958, p. 105.
56. TIME MAGAZINE, August 16, 1968, p. 52.
"Aren't Christians Supposed to Give Their Lives for One Another?"
This objection, as most of them aimed at the Christian position of not participating in war, is designed to strike at the virtue of the person who holds such a position. He is made to appear a worse Christian instead of a better one because of his conviction against war. It is insinuated that he is either a coward or selfish. Then, if the objector is better acquainted with the Bible, he will cite the passage in I John 3:16: "Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." From this he suggests that a Christian should be willing to go to war and fight for his country, his neighbors and his loved ones. If he must die in the process this is only the supreme demonstration of his genuine love. The final conclusion is that a professing Christian who refuses to engage in carnal warfare is guilty of the gross neglect of a vital test of his Christianity at least, or pure hypocrisy at worst.
Although this objection is often made with delighted finality, there is no real strength to it whatever. While Christians should love one another enough to forfeit their lives for one another, if the need arises, this cannot be done if it involves violating the will of God in another matter. Simply stated, it cannot be right to save a life by taking a life. War requires taking the lives of one's enemies in order to preserve the lives of his friends.
The very passage of Scripture on which this objection is based does not uphold this view. We were the enemies of Christ when, because of His love, He laid down His life for us (Romans 5:6-10). Furthermore, He not only refused to show ill will toward those who sought His life but even forbade His followers to do any harm to them.
The principle involved in this objection would permit a Christian to become something of a "Robin Hood" and steal from his enemies in order to minister to the needs of his friends.
Also recall that Jesus instructed His disciples to remain neutral during the seige and fall of Jerusalem rather than to engage in a life and death struggle with the Roman armies to preserve the lives of their fellow inhabitants of the city.
If the element of prime importance is for the Christian to give his life to preserve the lives of others, without regard to justice or righteousness, one would be justified in obstructing the due process of law as it carried out the execution of a criminal. He could wage a gun battle with prison authorities, kill several guards, and finally be shot to death himself, as he sought to free the condemned criminal from execution in the electric chair. If this pictures a total disregard for law and order, we answer, so does war. If this poses an absurd parallel, we suggest that justifying killing in war as an act of love for others is equally absurd.
"It Would Be a Stumbling Block not to Fight for Our "Country in War
This objection looks at the problem from the standpoint of the person outside the church. Since he cannot appreciate the reasons why a Christian refuses to fight and kill in war, he looks down upon Christianity as weak and foolish and therefore cannot be won to Christ. Since Christian leaders are to have a good testimony from those outside of the church (I Timothy 3:7) and since Christians are to give no occasion of stumbling either to unsaved people or fellow-Christians (I Corinthians 10:32-33), they should enter the military service, take up arms and wage war, fully participating in all of the cruelty and bloodshed this involves. This is the argument of the objector.
There is no question about the need for Christians to set the best possible example of honesty, virtue and sincerity before the world. Without these, people will be repulsed by Christianity rather than attracted to it. But is there a limit beyond which the Christian dare not go in his desire to "please all men in all things?" Certainly no one would suggest that a Christian is obligated to become a drunkard, dope addict or immoral person in order to avoid being a stumbling-block before such persons who practice these things. Everyone would agree that there has to be a limit. To the Christian this limit is the teaching of the Bible. He cannot stop short of its requirements nor go beyond them, regardless of the effect it may have on the people of the world. Contrary to the tenets of the "new morality" the Bible teaches there are such absolutes as right and wrong. And despite the current emphasis upon "situation ethics" the Bible leaves no loop-holes for practicing certain ethics only in particular situations.
Now back to the objection. If the Bible teaches that a Christian should not participate in war, and we feel this has been clearly shown in Part I, then a Christian must refrain from such participation regardless of the consequences. He may be misunderstood, ridiculed, persecuted, ostracized and discriminated against for his belief and conduct. But Jesus predicted that His disciples would be hated, reproached and cast out as evil for His sake (Luke 6:22) and then went on to warn them, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you" (Luke 6:26). The very nature of the Christian position makes it impossible to reconcile it with that of the world. They are simply incompatible.
So when the objection is raised that our refusal to enter carnal combat will prove a stumbling block to the world, we must reply that so will a number of other convictions. Rather than to forsake a Bible-based position the Christian's responsibility is to live such a life of consistent dedication to the principles of love, truth, purity and self-sacrificial service to others that the world will be forced to acknowledge his genuine sincerity at least. And if the world doesn't? Then right shall still always be right!
"Didn't Jesus Use Violence in Driving the Moneychangers Out of the Temple?"
The force of this objection lies in what it implies. If Jesus resorted to the use of violence, in whipping the moneychangers who were using the Temple for mercenary purposes, would that not set a precedent for Christians to follow in using violence and brutality in war? This objection appeals to the example of Jesus as a basis for acceptable Christian conduct. The argument is, "If it were right for Jesus to whip, it is right for Christians to war."
In analyzing this objection it will be necessary for us to have the text of this incident before us. The passage is found in John 2:13-17, and reads as follows:
"And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and he made a scourge of cords, and cast all out of the temple, both the sheep and oxen; and he poured out the changers' money, and overthrew their tables; and to them that sold the doves he said, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise. His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for thy house shall eat me up."
—American Standard Version of 1901
This objection is thought by some to have much weight in favor of a Christian going to war because it makes an appeal to a specific passage of Scripture supposedly sanctioning the principle of war. Let us examine it carefully to see if this is so.
First of all, did Jesus actually use the scourge or whip of cords to literally beat with at all? Some consider the reference to a scourge as "an emblem of authority rather than as a weapon of offence."57 In his commentary on the Gospel of John, we find this comment from B. W. Johnson regarding this scourge of cords, "Chosen more as a symbol...probably not laid in violence upon anyone.... The traffickers fled before his glance; not in terror of his scourge."58 The text actually tells us that He "made a scourge" but does not state specifically that He used it. After all, the very piercing gaze of Jesus, together with His authoritative voice, would be sufficient to accomplish His purpose.
But, allowing that He did use the scourge of cords in a literal way, let us consider upon whom Jesus inflicted its lashes. Since a whip or rod is more naturally used upon animals than upon men to prod their movement, we may rightly conclude that Jesus used the scourge upon the sheep and oxen. Macgregor tells us that "a correct rendering of the Greek makes it clear that the whip was used only on the animals" if it were literally used at all.59 With this Rutenber also agrees.60
A number of New Testament translations render John 2:15 in such a way as to indicate that, in driving "all" from the temple, Jesus actually drove only the sheep and the oxen. You will notice in the American Standard Version quoted in its entirety at the beginning of this chapter that "all" is further clarified as meaning "both the sheep and the oxen." Among the translations which bear out this same meaning are the English Revised of 1881, Weymouth, Rotherham, Berry's Interlinear, Amplified, Robert Shank (Jesus, His Story), Moulton's "The Modern Reader's Bible," American Bible Union, Panin's Numeric and others. A few translations are even more explicit in pointing out that it was the animals that were cast out with the scourge and not the men. Goodspeed says, "and drove them all, sheep and cattle, out of the temple." The Living New Testament makes the distinction clear in its paraphrase: "Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out, and drove out the sheep and oxen." Finally, Today's English Version says, "He drove all the animals out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle."
Among other noted commentators who assert that the scourge was used on the animals and not the men are J. W. McGarvey and Albert Barnes. So this passage gives no example of inflicting physical harm upon evil doers as some would like it to.
There is some evidence, also, that Jesus used no violence at all on this occasion. The words "cast out" in the text are used elsewhere in the New Testament where no violent action is involved whatever. The same Greek word for "cast out" is used in Matthew 9:38 where Jesus refers to "sending forth" laborers into the harvest. It is used again in Mark 1:12 where the Spirit "driveth him (Jesus) forth into the wilderness." From these instances it becomes clear that the language used does not demand that we understand Jesus to have used violence necessarily on this occasion.
Had Jesus used violence, thrashing men with a whip, why did they not turn upon Him and subdue Him? He was certainly far outnumbered. If it be replied that He demonstrated a divine authority that prevented the moneychangers from retaliating, we say that such authority could have been exerted even without the use of a scourge. Consider the incidents at the brink of the cliff in Nazareth where Jesus passed through the angry mob untouched (Luke 4:28-30) and the case in Gethsemene when the armed band of soldiers "went backward, and fell to the ground" when Jesus identified Himself to them (John 18:6).
We might also observe that, had Jesus cast out the men along with the animals, who would have been left to carry the bird cages out of the temple? After the reference to Jesus casting "all" out of the temple, He addresses the dove sellers and commands them to "Take these things hence," that is, remove the bird crates (or possibly other objects connected with the business). In any event, men were still in the temple after Jesus drove the animals out.
Thus is dissolved a seemingly choice example of physical brutality upon humans by the Lord Jesus Christ. And with it goes a primary "proof text" for justifying Christians participating in war.
NOTES FROM CHAPTER FOUR< P>57. C. G. H. Macgregor, THE NEW TESTAMENT BASIS OF PACIFISM, (Nyack, New York: Fellowship Publications: 1960) p. 17.
58. B. W. Johnson, THE NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY, Vol. III, JOHN, (Dallas, Texas: Eugene S. Smith, Publisher; c. 1886, Reprint edition, no date) p. 51.
59. C. G. H. Macgregor, op. cit., p. 17.
60. Culbert G. Rutenber, THE DAGGER AND THE CROSS, (Nyack, New York: Fellowship Publications: 1958) p. 41.
"Wasn't Cornelius the Centurion a Soldier?"
This objection is intended to imply that, since Cornelius who was a soldier in command of one hundred men became a Christian, this is a New Testament endorsement of Christians going to war. The account of this man's conversion may be found in Acts, the tenth chapter. But one very vital element of this case is totally ignored by those who try to use it as a basis for justifying military service for Christians. This is an example only of a soldier becoming a Christian and not of a Christian becoming a soldier. There is no example in the New Testament of a Christian becoming a soldier. We are all in agreement that all soldiers may and should become Christians and we have a New Testament example of this occurring. The question is over whether a Christian may or should become a soldier and of such an event we have no Scriptural precedent. If we concluded our consideration of the subject at this point we have already established the inherent weakness of this objection. But there is more that can be said about it.
This objection builds its entire case upon the assumption that Cornelius remained in the army and continued the work of soldiering following his conversion. Those who are not opposed to Christians participating in war freely admit that they assume both Cornelius and the jailor (Acts 16:23-34) remained in their respective positions after their conversions. 61
Now since the account of Cornelius closes with his baptism we do not have any subsequent history of the man to inform us of his place of residence or occupation thereafter. If we are to give any further thought to the man following his conversion we, too, must make assumptions regarding his future. However, we do so only because the objector first brings Cornelius into the picture. In reality, all we are obligated to do with this objection is to test the assumption that Cornelius remained a soldier. Is it the safest and most logical one in view of the general tenor of Scriptural teaching found throughout the New Testament?
First of all, let us raise the question as to whether others mentioned in the New Testament continued in their particular occupations or professions following their encounter with the Christ. Both Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9) and Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13) had been publicans or tax collectors before they met Jesus. This was equivalent to being a "sinner" (Luke 19:7) due to the corrupt nature of the business. Zacchaeus admits to extortion and, as evidence of repentance, promises to restore his ill-gotten gains (Luke 19:8). The question arises, did Zacchaeus remain a publican after salvation came to his house that day? If cheating people was an inherent part of the job of tax collecting in order to make a living, then surely he eventually resigned from his post. If not, then possibly he stayed on. However, the stigma attached to being a publican was so pronounced that it seems hardly probable that his new outlook would have permitted him to continue at this work.
Next, consider the several references to prostitutes becoming followers of the Lord. Jesus commends the publicans and harlots for believing the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 21:31-32). He further points out that they would be more receptive to the message of the kingdom than the self-righteous Jews. We ask the question, did these prostitutes, upon accepting the message of John and no doubt that of the apostles later, forsake their profession? While prostitution was certainly immoral according to the Mosaic law, it was neither immoral nor illegal according to the prevailing Roman law. Tacitus even tells us that there was an official register of prostitutes kept by the Roman authorities.62 So the practice of harlotry prevailed in the Roman empire with the sanction of the government, but that did not make it right in God's eyes. Every prostitute who came to believe in Christ unquestionably repented of her immorality and necessarily forsook her profession.
If then a publican and a harlot left their occupations when becoming followers of the Lord, because to continue would have involved sin, would not we have the right to safely assume that a soldier did likewise? While we are not specifically told that Cornelius resigned from military duty, neither are we specifically told that the publicans or harlots changed occupations. But our assumption that they did is safe because of the nature of their work requiring conduct totally unfitting of a disciple of Christ.
This leads us to the advice given to some soldiers by John the Baptist (Luke 3:14). When they came to him for baptism they requested to know what they were to do as an expression of the repentance John had demanded in his preaching. John's reply was, "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages" (KJV). Those who argue in favor of warring by Christians point out from this incident that John did not tell those soldiers to stop being soldiers. From this they deduce that it is legitimate for a Christian to remain in the armed forces and participate in war. But let us notice the restriction John placed upon these men. They were not to engage in any violence toward people. Norlie's translation puts it this way: "Don't mistreat anyone." The Amplified says, "Never demand or enforce by terrifying people." The Living Oracles translation expresses the idea by saying, "Injure no man, either by violence or false accusation." Now, how could a man continue as a part of an armed military fighting unit without being violent, mistreating, terrifying and injuring people? Instead of John's advice endorsing the type of service required by a soldier, it would actually lead to a man dissolving his relationship with the army. John's advice did not flatly demand that the soldiers resign from military duty but it required such principles to be observed that would make continuance in the army virtually impossible. The Bible is primarily concerned with internal motives and attitudes which, when they are in harmony with divine principles, will govern external relationships.
Finally, if Cornelius remained in the army, why do we find no evidence whatever for the first 150 years of the church's existence that Christians were in the army?63 Would not the example of the first Gentile convert, led to Christ by the apostle Peter himself, have been sufficient proof that military service was acceptable to God? Would not his action in remaining in the army have become so well known that later writers would have used him as prime evidence that Christians should engage in war? Surely the conduct of a man personally acquainted with an apostle would have held great sway in the early church. But if he remained in the military the entire early church, according to the most competent authorities in such matters, acted contrary to his example by refusing to serve in the army.
Thus, Cornelius' example would best be left un-mentioned by those who advocate serving in the armed forces for, if anything, it comes nearer refuting their objection than substantiating it.
NOTES FROM CHAPTER FIVE
61. Allen Isbell, WAR AND CONSCIENCE, (Abilene, Texas: Biblical Research Press: 1966) p. 54.
62. Otto Kiefer, SEXUAL LIFE IN ANCIENT ROME, (New York: Barnes and Noble, Inc.: 1953) pp. 60-63.
63. Roland H. Bainton, CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TOWARD WAR AND PEACE, (New York: Abingdon Press: 1960) p. 67.
"Doesn't Being in Subjection to the Higher Powers Require Going to War?"
The passage of Scripture on which this objection is based is found in Romans 13:1-7. Verse one of this passage reads as follows: "Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God." Verse five says, "Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection...."
Another passage that bears on this subject is I Peter 2:13-17. Verses thirteen and fourteen read, "Be subject to every ordinance for the Lord's sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him...."
A third verse that carries a similar thought is Titus 3:1 which says, "Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient...."
The above Scriptures clearly teach that Christians have the responsibility of obeying the laws of their government. The "higher powers" of Romans 13:1 obviously refers to the civil authorities of a duly constituted government. Such authorities are said to be sanctioned by God and the Christian is to submit to their oversight. The I Peter 2:13 passage expressly requires compliance with "every ordinance" passed by those in authority, such as "kings" or "governors." The Titus 3:1 verse identifies "in subjection" as meaning "be obedient" to the rulers and authorities. From this it can be seen that Christians must be law-abiding citizens. They must be conscientious in observing all of the laws of the land. They must conform to federal, state and local ordinances. They must honestly comply with the smallest hunting and traffic restrictions as well as with statutes prohibiting bank robbery, kidnapping and murder. Although "civil disobedience" is openly practiced in the name of religion, this does not excuse it from being blatant disregard for law and thoroughly unChristian. The importance of this point cannot be overemphasized in this "do-as-you-please," rebellious generation.
The objection under consideration therefore, is based upon the assumption that the person who refuses to engage in warfare claims, at the same time, to be a respectable citizen who is willing to obey the laws of the land. The argument goes something like this: "You claim to be a Christian. The Bible says that Christians are to obey the laws of the government. If we are at war and the government passes laws requiring men to serve in the armed forces, you are obligated to go. By refusing to go to war you prove that you are not living up to your profession." How may the Christian answer this charge?
Unfortunately, this objection is based upon ignorance of the very basis of the argument, namely, the law of the land. It is only ASSUMED that the Christian who refuses to enter the armed forces is breaking a law when the truth is, HE IS BREAKING NO LAW AT ALL!
This false assumption is very widespread. Nearly every work the author has consulted which advocates that Christians may engage in war either specifically states that the Christian must obey the government and go to war or strongly insinuates this. An article in "The Christian Standard" carried the following statement: "As a Christian, I am duty bound to answer the call of my government.... To resist the call of your government to war...means to resist God."64
Notice how this false assumption that the laws of the United States require Christians to go to war is frequently based upon the Romans 13 and I Peter 2 passages cited above: "Paul says, 'Every soul;' Peter says, 'Every ordinance.' Yes, a Christian should bear arms in obedience to the commands of the government..."65 You will notice that this author jumps from the Scriptures which require obedience to "every ordinance" to the assumption that the government requires "every soul" to go to war. Such ignorance as to just what the government requires is indeed unfortunate. Especially when it is made as a major thrust in the argument designed to induce Christians to participate in armed warfare with carnal weapons.
Let us see what the United States government does require in the way of laws regulating military service. In 1962 a survey was published in which an analysis of laws regarding military service of all the countries of the world (from which information could be obtained) was presented in graphic form.66 Thirty-two nations were found to have no laws requiring military service of any kind. Of the remaining fifty-two nations surveyed, who did have laws requiring certain individuals to serve in the military forces, eleven nations have special provisions for those who find themselves unable to participate in war because of religious convictions. One of these eleven countries is the United States of America. We are thankful that our country is pleased to recognize the position of a Christian whose Bible-based convictions make it impossible for him to participate in war. This recognition is in the form of laws which exempt those from becoming a part of the armed forces whose beliefs are opposed to warring. The exact wording of the United States Universal Military Training and Service Act as amended by the Military Selective Service Act of 1967 reads as follows: "Section 6(j) Conscientious Objectors. Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the armed forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form." 67
This is the law of the land. This simply means that no Christian is required by the United States government to go to war and kill. Of course, proper forms must be filled out and complete information must be furnished to substantiate one's claim. Where evidence is lacking or the Selective Service Board has reason to doubt the accuracy of the information provided or the sincerity of the applicant, some delay and even occasionally a rejection in granting the deferment occurs. This carefulness on the part of the officials is to be commended as it ferrets out the insincere "draft dodger." But the law is on the side of the consecrated Christian and he may claim this exemption just as one claims exemption from military service on other grounds such as civilian employment, agricultural occupations, students, ministers, or physical disability.
In place of military service the Christian who is conscientiously opposed to "participation in war in any form" is assigned to "civilian work contributing to the maintenance of the national health, safety or interest" according to section 4(b) of the above mentioned law.
Thus the objection that the Christian who refuses to participate in military warfare is disregarding Bible teaching on obedience to governmental authority is entirely unfounded. A Christian can be in subjection to the higher powers and still not go to war.
But there is another element to be considered. What if the United States government DID NOT have laws permitting Christians to be exempt from the service? Or what about the Christians who live in countries where no provision is made for deferment from the army on religious grounds? This would pose the problem of two authorities to which the Christian is obligated to be in subjection. James 4:7 says, "Be subject therefore unto God" while I Peter 2:13 says, "Be subject to every ordinance of man." What if God says not to kill and the government says to kill? Obviously the Christian has a choice to make. Which authority should he obey?
This same problem arises in the parent-child relationship. Ephesians 6:1 makes it essential for children to obey their parents. But what would a Christian young person do if he had an ungodly parent who insisted that he lie or steal while the Bible forbids both of these? We are back to the same dilemma. To whom does a Christian owe primary allegiance where conflicting principles are concerned?
Happily, we are not left to our conjecture, for the Bible gives the clear answer. When the Jewish council in Jerusalem, which had authority to imprison, strictly charged the apostles to discontinue their Gospel preaching, the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Here we have a clear-cut case of conflicting commands. God had commissioned the apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature. This Jewish council had charged them "not to teach in this name." If they disobeyed God they would have to answer to Him and suffer eternal consequences. If they disobeyed the council they would be subject to imprisonment. Which authority were they to consider the highest, that of God or men? The answer is obvious.
This same principle holds true in regard to a government requiring a Christian to go to war and kill while God forbids him from doing this. The Christian must obey God and refuse to engage in war because his first allegiance is to Almighty God. It is with regret that he declines military service but he has no other choice. He must obey God rather than men. If this involves punishment by the government this would be no more than countless martyrs suffered at the hands of the Roman government in the early days of the church. Any Christian who would place greater care in doing the will of men, even though the men may be authorized to rule over him, than he does in doing the will of God has a misplaced first love. To the Christian, God must come before even members of his own household (Matthew 10:34-39). Jesus taught that his disciples were to seek the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33). If service in the kingdoms of men calls for warring and service in the kingdom of God forbids this, the Christian must seek that which is required by God's kingdom first and foremost.
An Old Testament example of this may be seen in the conduct of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel. The first three were required by Nebuchadnezzar, the absolute monarch of Babylon, to fall down and worship a golden image at a given signal, but they refused. Here is a case of the government commanding one thing and God another. These men chose to obey God rather than men (read Daniel 3). In Daniel's case a signed ordinance forbade anyone from praying to any other god than the king for one month. Daniel refused to abide by this government "interdict" and continued praying to the true God (read Daniel 6). In all four cases the men willingly submitted to the punishment brought on by their disobedience to government decrees. In choosing to put God first they were blessed and delivered.
The principle of obedience to God having priority over obedience to one's government is recognized even by the United States Selective Service System. In their special form for conscientious objectors (SSS Form No. 150) the following statement appears under Series II.-Religious Training and Belief: "2. Describe the nature of your belief which is the basis of your claim made in Series I above, and state whether or not your belief in a Supreme Being involves duties which to you are superior to those arising from any human relation." This statement allows for the possibility of a person considering obedience to God of greater importance than complying with a government regulation which he feels is opposed to God's will. This is the exact situation with a Christian. If he lives under a government which requires military service and does not make provisions for exemption on religious grounds, the Christian must refuse service in their armed forces. His duty to God is superior to his duty to any human being.
Thus the objection based upon subjection to higher powers becomes invalid when viewed in the light of subjection to the Highest Power.
NOTES FROM CHAPTER SIX
64. Buel B. Buzzard, "What the Bible Teaches About War," THE CHRISTIAN STANDARD (Cincinnati, Ohio: Vol. XCVII, No. 45, November 10, 1962) p. 714.
65. Robert L. Moyer, THE CHRISTIAN AND WAR, (Wheaton, Illinois: Sword of the Lord Publishers: 1946) p. 18.
66. THE WAR RESISTER, (Enfield, Middlesex, England: War Resisters International: 1st Quarter, 1962, No. 94.) pp. 5-11.
67. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON THE CLASSIFICATION AND ASSIGNMENT OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS, (Washington, D. C.: National Service Board for Religious Objectors: Rev. ed. 1967) p. 1.
To Table of Contents
"Doesn't Paying Taxes Assist in Carrying On War?"
This objection is aimed at trying to make the position of non-participation in war an inconsistent one. The argument goes something like this: "You pay taxes that go to support war. What's the difference between that and serving in the armed forces? In one case you are supporting war with your money and in the other with your time." As you can see this presents an apparent dilemma. Everyone wants to be consistent in his religious views if he is conscientious at all. To suggest inconsistency can be most upsetting to one's convictions, especially if he has not met with the objection before. Here are a few suggestions for making a reply.
Christians are responsible for their motives and actions but not for any improper use to which their motives and actions may be put. We are to do good to all men and assist the needy (Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27) but, if such persons use our help to some evil end we cannot be held accountable for their actions. If our motive is to help the needy and our action is that of providing for a legitimate need, we have fulfilled our Christian commitment. We cannot be held liable for all the corruption that might stem from our properly motivated actions which lie beyond our ability to govern or regulate.
Now consider how this relates to war and taxes. We know that every activity which contributes to a war effort is designed to bring the enemy nation to defeat. We know that this effort will involve inflicting violent death upon both the citizens and soldiers of the enemy nation. The object of war is to induce the surrender of the enemy by means of reducing his fighting force to a point which would threaten the complete annihilation of his nation's population if he refuses to give up. So the extinguishing of human life is the primary objective of war, while the restoration of a peaceful condition, on the terms of the victor, becomes the secondary goal.
Needless to say, the paying of taxes has no such design as that of financing wanton destruction. Its purpose is to provide for the needs of an orderly government. On a local and state level the paying of taxes would never be put to the uses of war. Only on a national level, and then only during war time, would tax money be used for war. And even then, much of the taxes collected by the federal government is still used for roads, parks, conservation, schools, courts, natural resources, etc., etc.
To put it simply: Every effort put forth by a Christian in the military service goes directly toward the all-out goal of taking the lives of as many of the enemy as possible. On the other hand, most of the dollars paid by Christians as taxes go directly toward a host of legitimate uses, many of which the Christian could heartily commend. So there is a vast difference between going to war and paying taxes, and fairness demands that this difference be recognized. When it is, the weakness of this objection becomes obvious.
But there is an even weightier reply to this objection that paying taxes assists the war effort. To all Bible loving Christians this reply should settle the argument based on paying taxes. The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are required to pay taxes, but it does not teach that Christians are required to go to war. The Pharisees once devised a scheme whereby they hoped to trap Jesus into advocating resistance to the Roman occupation forces or advocating that the Jews submit to this totalitarian regime. In either case they hoped to destroy His influence. So they asked Him, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:17). In other words, should a person pay his taxes? Jesus said yes! After requesting that a coin be produced, Jesus pointed out the reproduction of Caesar's profile and name on it. We are told that these were placed there as indications that the tokens of monetary exchange of the empire belonged to the emperor himself.68 Jesus' reply was wisely worded but unmistakable in its meaning. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). Pay the taxes required by your government and obey the commandments of God. Nothing could be plainer. Jesus here settles the tax question once and for all. He shows by His reply that paying taxes was not contrary to the will of God.
But what if some of that tax money went to support war? Although the particular tax here referred to appears to be a type of poll tax69, certainly revenues paid by subjects of the Roman government were used for other purposes, including wars of aggression. In addition, tax money paid to the Roman government also went to promote pagan idolatry, drunken orgies and many other sinful practices. Regardless of this, Jesus still said to pay taxes to Tiberius Caesar, the reigning emperor.
Thus Jesus set forth the guiding principle of submission to governmental authority in the matter of taxes, regardless of the use made of the money so collected. The tax money of a Christian in Canada would go to the support of education in some places where religious instruction is given glorifying the Catholic Church. Here in America tax money is used for purchasing textbooks that teach the God-denying doctrine of evolution. Also, tax money is used to pay the salaries of teachers who teach and sanction dancing which prepares children for susceptibility to sex sins later on in life. Despite all of this the Christian is required to be in subjection to the higher powers which includes rendering "tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due" (Romans 13:1-7). He must pay his taxes even if a portion of it goes to support such things that he, himself, would not practice or condone.
In the case of taxes we have Scriptural authorization to pay; in the case of war we do not have Scriptural authorization to kill. While this may not fully satisfy the objector, it must be admitted that these are sound Bible principles.
NOTES FROM CHAPTER SEVEN
68. G. H. C. Macgregor, THE NEW TESTAMENT BASIS OF PACIFISM, (Nyack, New York: Fellowship Publications: 1960) p. 82.
69. Merrill C. Tenney, NEW TESTAMENT TIMES, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: 1965) p. 152.
"But Killing in War Is Done as an Agent of the Government, not as a Personal Act'
Here is an objection which may take on various forms. The argument may emphasize that since one is a member of society or the community at large his responsibilities must be met to that society. If the community is at war he must participate for he cannot escape being a citizen of some nation.
Some point out that a Christian has obligations to his country as well as obligations to God. They suggest that a Christian may participate in war and even kill for the good of his country but may not commit such acts for his own personal welfare. Those who advocate this position interpret the Bible passages that deal with a Christian and his enemies as referring only to personal enemies. If someone is the enemy of the nation, then it is admissible to join hands with your fellow citizens and destroy that enemy, without incurring any disfavor from God for such an action.
This may be termed "collective action." Because every human being is part of a nation, country, tribe or society he is bound by this association to participate in every activity deemed wise or necessary by that nation. If a personal moral issue is involved or if the community action has religious or spiritual implications a person is not to consider them because he cannot possibly be held accountable since he is acting merely as part of a collective group whose responsibility is to carry out the decisions of those in charge. The nation decides who is the enemy, how he is to be dealt with and when and where such treatment is to be inflicted. According to this argument the Christian has no other recourse than to comply with such decisions. He has no other Source of authority or allegiance to which he is obligated which might affect his conduct. He can do no personal wrong because he is not acting personally. When involved in such collective actions of his nation he is in a virtual state of immunity from responsibility to God. If, in the nation's view, its best interests were served by killing, the Christian should kill, and there would be no wrong involved. If national security called for the cessation of all other activities of a spiritual nature, such as Bible study, prayer, partaking of the Lord's supper, etc., the Christian may dispense with these religious duties indefinitely without it affecting his relationship with God. In essence, whatever is required or sanctioned by the government under which one lives becomes proper to engage in so long as it is done collectively under the direction of the government.
Before proceeding any farther let it be re-emphasized that we are not advocating disregard for law. We are not suggesting disrespect for the duly constituted governmental authorities. As brought out in chapter six, the Christian has definite obligations to be an obedient citizen of his nation. He is to cheerfully comply with all laws and regulations imposed upon him by his government except where to do so would involve a breach of his obligation to God according to the teaching of the Bible. When such a conflict arises the Christian must submit to the will of God first and foremost. In so doing there are times that he might be required to decline participating in an activity required, sponsored or sanctioned by the government. Such a case would be that of war.
This may best be illustrated by referring to a few specific incidents encountered by the author during his period of service in the United States Navy during World War II. While aboard ship in the Inland Sea of Japan, on mine sweeping and demolition duty there, beer was brought aboard ship and served to the crew. This was not done by an individual sailor but was provided by the Navy and was not sold but served, just as the regular meals, at no cost. Would a Christian, who held the conviction that drinking alcoholic beverages was wrong, have been justified in joining in with the other sailors in their beer-drinking just because it was under the auspices of the government? If we admit that his personal convictions could have and should have been exercised in refusing to partake of the beer, then this same principle holds true in a Christian refusing to partake in war when it stems from a sincere conviction based upon the Bible. Just because a government sanctions an action, this does not require God to sanction it. Participating in it as a member of a national unit or group does not release one from the personal responsibility for his action. Then, of course, all ex-servicemen can recall the distribution of cigarettes to the personnel of the armed forces. While these may have been donated by private organizations, they were distributed with the cooperation and sanction of the government. To accept and use tobacco does not become proper for the Christian just because it is given to him by his government.
A final incident will demonstrate that one is not justified in an action just because he engages in it collectively as part of the armed forces. Following World War II a number of Army units were transported to Japan to serve as occupation forces. In one city the author visited, the Army secured a large two-story frame building and furnished it to the troops as a house of prostitution. Japanese girls were procured and given small rooms in the building. Just outside of the building a soldier was stationed in a small booth where he sold tickets to the servicemen to be presented to the prostitutes of their choice inside the building for illicit purposes. To insure protection against the spread of disease the building was furnished, at government expense, with rooms where precautionary medical treatment could be self-administered by the military personnel who frequented the place. And even though all this went on in broad daylight, the Army added one more precaution to insure that orderliness was kept. Armed Military Police patrolled the halls inside the building.
We simply ask, could a Christian participate in the activities of such a set-up, sponsored by the military, without committing the sin of fornication? While we recognize the difference between being offered something and being commanded something, the same principle holds true. Collective action, under governmental supervision and sanction, does not remove the sin from an illicit action nor the personal responsibility of the one committing it.
But what does the Bible say about the Christian's responsibility for his actions? Regardless of whether an act is performed individually or collectively, the person committing the act will be judged for it personally, not as an agent of the government. The Bible says that God's judgment "will render to every man according to his works" (Romans 2:6). Notice that each man will face God to be judged according to HIS own works, that is, the things he did as an individual. In referring to the return of Christ we are told "Then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds" (Matthew 16:27). This is again emphasized in Romans 14:12: "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God." Notice that judgment will be on an individual basis. This truth is repeatedly taught in the Scriptures. Another clear passage says "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10). Other Scripture passages that bear out the same teaching are the following: Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25; Revelation 20:12; 22:12.
Thus the objection that one may kill as an agent of the government and not be held accountable for his action is not upheld by the Bible. As close as the husband and wife relationship is, each one will be judged individually (Matthew 10:34-36). As close as members of the same congregation are, each one will face God for his own actions (Revelation 3:1,4). If this is true of the members of a home and the church, it would certainly be true of citizens of a nation.
Let no one conclude that killing as a representative of the government will be excused in judgment, for God shall judge each person's life individually and not as part of any group.
"But Didn't God's People in the Old Testament Go to War?"
Of all objections used to justify Christians going to war, this one seems to betray the least understanding of the overall teaching of the Bible. The assumption lying behind the statement, "But didn't God's people in the Old Testament go to war?" is that whatever God has once permitted He must always allow. So, the argument goes, if we can read about the Israelites going to war and killing their enemies with God's approval in the Old Testament, it must be acceptable for Christians to fight and kill in war today. This position completely overlooks a fundamental tenet of Biblical interpretation, recognized by all Bible students, that God has dealt with man in various ways depending upon the particular period or age. Under one period, certain laws and principles are given for directing man only to be abrogated, superceded or elevated in the next period. Let us consider how this operated throughout Bible history.
God spoke to the "fathers" or heads of families in the beginning through various means such as prophets, angels, dreams, etc. (Hebrews 1:1). This period covered the lives of such men as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Eventually the twelve sons of Jacob were formed into a separate nation variously known as Israelites, Hebrews or Jews. In order to direct this nation God revealed His will to them, through Moses, in what was termed "the Law." (John 1:17). Finally, God made His will known through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2).
Jesus instructed his apostles during his earthly ministry and then sent the Holy Spirit to completely furnish them with all spiritual truth necessary to guide men throughout the Christian age (John 14:26; 16:13). Jesus clearly showed in his teaching that some things permitted under the law of Moses were not to be permitted in the kingdom he came to establish. An example of this is marriage. Originally, God intended one man for one woman. However, under the law of Moses, divorce under certain conditions was permitted. Then, in the Christian age, there were to be no grounds for divorce except fornication (Matthew 19:3-9). The law of Moses appears to sanction more than one wife for one man (Deuteronomy 21:15) while the apostles' doctrine allows only one wife for each man (I Timothy 3:2). Numerous other examples of this principle could be cited. What was commanded or permitted under one dispensation may neither be commanded nor permitted under another. Have you ever wondered why Christians today do not observe the seventh day Sabbath, animal sacrifices, the burning of incense, circumcision, and many other religious rites and ceremonies? The simple reason is that they were required under the law of Moses which was done away with when Christ died on the cross. (See the following passages: Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:8-9). Therefore, not everything you may read about in the Old Testament portion of the Bible is to be followed by Christians today. In fact, very few principles are still applicable. Only those which are universal in nature or have been reinstated in the New Testament apply to Christians.
Now let us consider the relationship of the Old Testament and war. It is true that God sanctioned war for His people in the Old Testament. The Israelites were a nation, with a king, territory and law which included numerous social and political statutes. In short, God's people then were a PHYSICAL kingdom restricted to the descendants of a particular person. It was entered by a PHYSICAL birth and one remained a part of it until his physical death. Its existence depended upon its maintaining an army with which to repel all physical attempts to overthrow it. Also, since God had promised that Israel would receive a specific portion of land, it followed that He would lead them in military operations designed to drive out the pagan inhabitants of that land. Everything about the Israelites of the Old Testament harmonized with the concept of armed warfare. In the wisdom of God it was considered a necessity for the times and circumstances under which they then lived. So God commissioned and directed them to war against their enemies. When we understand the nature of the Old Testament kingdom of Israel it is not difficult to comprehend why God sanctioned war during the Old Testament period.
It is also true that God does not sanction war under the New Testament period. Part I of this study provides ample proof of this. In the New Testament period Christians are not a physical nation but rather are individuals scattered among all the nations. The church is a SPIRITUAL kingdom. It has only a heavenly king, the Lord Jesus Christ, who said that the worship of God would not be restricted to a specific, geographical location under his reign (John 4:19-21). Under the New Testament, men would worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). They would enter Christ's kingdom by a spiritual birth (John 3:3-5). For additional information on the spiritual nature of the church see Part I, Chapter 9. There is nothing about the church that calls for the need of armed combat. Neither is the Christian under any obligation to fight on behalf of any earthly government, regardless of how just its cause may be. See Part II, Chapters 6 and 8 for further discussion on this point.
Let us approach this objection from one other viewpoint. Since God's people did take human life in the Old Testament period with His sanction, let us look at this matter more carefully. The objection we are considering holds that, if it were right for God's people to kill at His direction in the Old Testament, it must be acceptable under the New Testament. If that objection is sound it would stand the test of consistency. Let us see if it does.
In the Old Testament period, under the law of Moses, there were numerous laws which required God's people to "put to death" their fellow human beings because of particular sins they committed. If what was done in the Old Testament is to be the standard for governing a Christian's conduct today then it would be proper for Christians to put people to death for the same reasons as given in the Old Testament. Let us look at some of the regulations calling for the death sentence in the Old Testament where God's people were to inflict the death penalty.
In religious matters the Israelites were to put people to death for the following offences: Blaspheming the name of God (Leviticus 24:10-16, 23); Worshipping other gods besides Jehovah (Deuteronomy 17:2-7); Enticing others to participate in a false religion (Deuteronomy 13:5-10); Practicing sorcery or witchcraft (Leviticus 20:27; Exodus 22:18); Violating the restrictions of Sabbath day observance (Numbers 15:32-36; Exodus 31:14-15; 35:2). By using the same argument "But didn't God's people in the Old Testament go to war?" we could justify killing people who cursed God, worshipped according to a false religion or recommended it to others, conducted seances where they sought to consult with the dead, or failed to partake of the Lord's supper on the first day of the week. Remember, the issue involved in this objection has nothing to do with what the government requires but only with what God sanctioned in the Old Testament. If He permitted His people to inflict the death penalty for the above mentioned offences in the Old Testament, this objection would make it right for Christians to do the same today.
A second realm in which the Israelites were required by specific command to punish by death had to do with the parent-child relationship. Under the Old Testament law the following acts were punishable by death: Rebellion or disobedience of a child toward his parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); Cursing of a parent (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9); Smiting or hitting a parent (Exodus 21:15). Consistency would require Christians to stone their children today who were guilty of the above actions. Obviously whatever occasions called for inflicting death by God's people, under His direction, in the Old Testament do not call for such treatment by Christians under the New Testament.
A third realm in which death, usually by stoning, was carried out upon offenders of the law by the Israelites had to do with sex crimes. They were: Homosexuality, (Leviticus 20:13); Adultery (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22); Incest (sexual relations between close relatives) (Leviticus 20:11-12); Rape (Deuteronomy 22:25); Marrying a mother and her daughter (Leviticus 20:14); Fornication (Deuteronomy 22:23-24); Unchastity (A woman found not to be a virgin at marriage) (Deuteronomy 22:20-21); Bestiality (man or woman) (Exodus 22:19; Leviticus 20:15-16). Certainly these crimes are despicable but who would say that Christians should kill those who commit them today just because the Israelites were required to in the Old Testament?
A number of other crimes were punished by death inflicted by God's people. Among them were: Man stealing (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7); Not penning up an animal known to have gored a human to death (Exodus 21:29); A stranger coming near the Tabernacle (Numbers 1:51). These examples are sufficient to prove beyond doubt that just because God's people put human beings to death in the Old Testament, there is no reason to conclude that Christians are free to do so today with God's approval. Thus, the Old Testament argument for justifying war is invalid.
Perhaps, here would be a good place to make mention of the subject of capital punishment. While a lengthy treatment is not considered within the scope of this study, the author's position is that capital punishment for murder is authorized by the Scriptures and should be practiced by governmental authorities today. Briefly, it was a principle given before the law of Moses came into being and therefore would not have necessarily passed away with the law (see Genesis 9:6). It was carried over into the law (Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21; Numbers 35:16-21, 30-33). But most important, the New Testament Scriptures authorize the civil government to "bear the sword" against evildoers. This would certainly indicate the right to execute, with the death penalty, those who take human life (read Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-14 carefully). Also, Paul's willingness to die at the hands of the Roman government if found guilty of a capital offense provides the endorsement by an inspired apostle of the right of government to inflict capital punishment (Acts 25:10-11).
It might be good to point out that these passages cannot be made to justify a government bearing the sword in war. First of all, they teach that a government's authority is over its own subjects, not those of another nation. Secondly, the sword is to be borne against evildoers only, whereas war brings death to completely innocent individuals. Finally, if these passages teach that a government could kill the citizens of other nations, they also teach that a government can require obedience to all its laws from other nations. The example of paying taxes is specifically given. Can one government levy taxes on the citizens of another government outside its jurisdiction? Of course not! Neither can it rightfully use the sword in taking vengeance upon those citizens.
"What Would You Do if your Wife, Mother or Daughter Were Attacked or Molested?"
Here is the classic objection! Its appeal is saturated with man's deepest emotion...love. Its strength lies in the universal nature of a man to want to protect those he loves, especially when the sacred honor of the weaker vessel is at stake. This becomes the "unanswerable" objection intended to put an end to the controversy. "What would you do if someone broke into your home and began to rape your wife?" If it is admitted that any physical action at all would be justified, the objector's quick reply comes, "then why should you refuse to go to war? It's all the same."
But, for argument's sake, let us suppose you answered, "I would shoot him down in cold blood." This would still not justify war. For, at least the guilty person would be dealt with in the case of an attempted rape. But how would an attacker's action ever justify your going half way around the world and killing his brother, his neighbors and as many of his countrymen as possible? This is what war calls for.
But the objection is basically unfair. It is hypothetical and therefore a person's response to such a situation is incapable of being determined by any similar past experience. After all, who really knows what he would do under such extreme circumstances...for certain? A person could say what he thinks he would do, or what he should do, but no one could say with absolute certainty exactly what he would do at a time like that. If a person took the position that he should not kill, even to prevent the rape of his wife, he might well turn on the attacker in a fit of blind rage and beat him to death mercilessly. This would not prove that his opposition to killing was wrong but only that his action in failing to abide by his conviction was wrong. Not even your objector would admit that he always acts in perfect harmony with his standards. And he could never tell you, with certainty, what he would do under a set of extreme conditions which he had never experienced before. This objection attempts to obtain a committment from a person where, by the very nature of the case, one cannot possibly be given. While this objection seems most unfair, yet it is perhaps the most common one used in efforts to refute the position of the Christian who opposes killing in war on the basis of Bible teaching. Notwithstanding, this is a favorite objection of selective service boards in their interviews with those who claim exemption from military service because of their religious beliefs. So the Christian must face up to such an objection, think it through, and be prepared to give an answer consistent with Bible teaching.
In discussing this objection we must first examine the meaning of FORCE and then determine if and when it may be properly used by a Christian. The dictionary gives several definitions for the word "force." In this study let us state that force is simply the EXERTION OF POWER IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH A GIVEN END. Force can be either ACTIVE or PASSIVE. If a state refuses to issue a license to operate a restaurant, this is a means of passive force designed to prevent a person from selling prepared meals to the public. It may be due to a failure to comply with sanitary regulations. But the state may force one of its citizens to refrain from conducting such a business. This is passive force. Traffic signs are another example of passive force. "One Way" on a sign post acts as a mute and yet restraining force to prevent one from entering a certain street.
Within Scriptural and legal limits a Christian may exert passive force. In the face of danger there are several ways in which a Christian may legitimately make use of passive force. In order to prevent someone from entering your home you may lock your doors. In so doing you are forcing those on the outside to stay out. Of course, all such passive force may be actively violated. A person can open a restaurant in spite of having no license and thereby becomes subject to arrest. A person may drive the wrong way down a one-way street and be fined. A person may batter in your door to gain entrance. While passive force can be countered by active violence, this does not mean that passive force is of no value. The disciples of Christ feared the Jews following the Lord's resurrection and so met together behind "shut" (probably barred) doors (John 20:19, 26). Following the imprisonment of Peter, the church which met in Mary's house in Jerusalem for prayer did so behind a gate through which Peter could not enter until it was opened for him (Acts 12:13-16). Christians may force people to stay out of their homes by locking their doors.
Another reaction which Christians may have in the face of danger is flight. If someone is attempting to break into your home to molest you, you may exercise the passive force of fleeing to avoid being hurt. If such persons are intent upon harming you and you leave your home by another door, you are forcing them not to realize the fulfillment of their desires. Jesus warned the Christians in Jerusalem to "flee unto the mountains" when they saw the Roman armies advancing toward the city (Matthew 24:15-18). The Jews in Damascus sought to kill the apostle Paul. To avoid this Paul was lowered over the city wall and thereby escaped their plot against his life (Acts 9:23-25). This is a legitimate use of passive force.
A third use of passive force is to appeal to law enforcement authorities to deal with intruders. As we saw in chapter six, God has ordained that "the powers that be" are to deal with "him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:1-4). When molested or threatened in any way the Christian has the privilege of appealing to the civil authorities for assistance. The apostle Paul appealed to Caesar when his accusers attempted to incriminate him with false charges (Acts 25:10-11). The Christian cannot take the law into his own hands and render vengeance upon an evildoer, but must summon those whose responsibility it is to handle such matters. Although the authorities are permitted to "bear the sword" in the execution of their duty, the Christian still only exerts passive force in calling the police when danger threatens.
We now come to another type of force which we may term ACTIVE FORCE. Active force may be of two kinds, namely, RESTRAINING and DESTRUCTIVE. Destructive force is the intentional and premeditated taking of life in order to achieve some given end. Murder is an example of destructive force. War is another. In both cases the express purpose of the action is to destroy a human life. Regardless of the eventual end in mind, if the means to it involves the outright killing of a person, such a wanton act is a type of force forbidden to the Christian (see Part I, chapters two through five).
The second type of active force we may term RESTRAINING force. Restraining force is not motivated by any purpose or intention of destroying a life. Furthermore, it does not even seek to inflict bodily injury or harm of any kind. Its sole purpose is the desire to restrain or prevent injury or death. It is prompted by love and executed for the benefit of all involved, without requiring the destruction of any. Such a restraining force, however, does not exclude entirely the use of violent action of some kind. The issue is not violence versus non-violence, but destruction versus preservation.
Consider the following illustrations of the use of active, restraining force which violates no Christian principle and therefore may be exerted by a Christian. Parental discipline which involves spanking or paddling a child is an active force designed to restrain a child from continuing on in disobedience or some other undesirable conduct. This is clearly authorized by the teaching of the Bible (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 29:15; Ephesians 6:4; and Hebrews 12:9-11). Here is a case of exercising active force with a view to restraining the child from future harm to himself and his character or to society in general. Injury or death are the farthest things from the mind of the parent who administers such discipline out of love for the child and for those with whom this child will someday be associated in the home and community. God's approval unmistakably rests upon this form of active, restraining force.
Take the case of a child who is found about to swallow something poisonous or who is playing with a loaded revolver. Active, restraining force would need to be exerted suddenly and even violently in order to prevent the child from harming himself, or in the case of the gun, from harming or killing another. The motive of such a restraining force is to preserve life and not to destroy it. The goal in view is to see all concerned spared from injury or death. Thus, this type of force would certainly be justified.
Suppose you worked as an attendant in a mental institution and one of the patients went berserk and began attacking the nurses and doctors. Suppose he then rushed to an open window and was about to jump out to his death five floors below. A Christian would be justified in exercising the active, restraining force required to subdue this deranged person. If it required tackling him or holding his arms until help could arrive to administer necessary treatment, the Christian would do this to prevent injury or loss of life to the mental patient and those whom he may harm. The motive must always be to preserve BOTH the violent person AND those he may injure. To take the one's life to spare the others would be a destructive force unacceptable to the Christian.
We may term this active, restraining force BENEVOLENT RESTRAINT. It is a restraining force which seeks always to benefit and never resorts to an action which would destroy or injure as primary goal. This BENEVOLENT RESTRAINT has as its primary purpose always to prevent death from occurring so therefore could never involve any action which would cause it. To shoot to death an armed gunman in order to prevent him from shooting others could not be termed BENEVOLENT RESTRAINT. To attempt to disarm him, without resorting to a destructive weapon, would be a form of restraint with a benevolent purpose. If it be objected that this would be less effective, we reply that it would be more in keeping with Bible principles for a Christian's conduct. It is also admitted that an attempt to disarm or overpower a vicious attacker without resorting to a weapon of destructive force is far more dangerous. But again, the Christian's chief concern must be for the welfare of others rather than for himself. Certainly to follow this course of action would not be easy. Some might even suggest that it would be unnatural. We reply that many things required of a Christian are contrary to the natural response of the unregenerated person. While one may rationalize that the use of BENEVOLENT RESTRAINT would be impractical, ineffective, or even foolhardy, this does not alter what the Bible teaches on the matter.
Now, let us return to our objector's question, "What would you do if...?" If intruders are known to be coming, a Christian may call the police, lock his doors and either remain there in prayer or else leave the house for safer quarters. Should he be caught in his home and the intruder enters and makes an attempt to molest his wife, mother or daughter, the Christian may use physical force to restrain the attacker from committing any harm or abuse to his loved ones. In the process of attempting to prevent the evil action the Christian must avoid whatever measures that would require the taking of life. Needless to say, this would not be an easy situation in which to exercise calm wisdom and thoughtful restraint. A person's emotions would be strained to the breaking point, no doubt. His ability to maintain composure and self-control would be tested to their fullest. Under the mental and emotional pressures of the situation it would be extremely difficult for most Christians, perhaps, to allow their inner convictions to regulate their outward physical actions. As mentioned before, in such a hypothetical circumstance, it is impossible to describe exactly how one would react. We are here setting forth what we believe to be the proper conduct for a Christian faced with an attack on his wife. Whether or not any Christian ever used benevolent restraint, as described above, does not affect the rightness of this position. Whatever the Bible teaches is right, regardless of whether or not anyone follows its teaching. But since God does not require the impossible, we believe that a consecrated Christian can react with benevolent restraint under such circumstances.
Therefore if a Christian is not at liberty to kill in repelling an attack upon his family, surely he would not be permitted to do so as a soldier in war. If this provides an answer to the "unanswerable" question, then the last and most difficult objection against non-participation in war has been removed.
This study has been a sincere effort to present New Testament teaching for governing a Christian's attitude toward armed warfare. The purpose of this material has been to provide a sound, Scriptural basis for developing convictions which would lead a devout, Bible Christian to decide against participating in war in any form. Let it be added quickly, however, that this material is intended solely for individual study and action, and in no sense is to be regarded as the "official position" of any group. Let each reader study the material honestly and prayerfully and arrive at personal conclusions about the matter under discussion. Let whatever action that may be taken be motivated by the Word of God. If this book aids the earnest Christian in determining God's will for his life as it relates to war, the author will be abundantly gratified.
Due to present conditions in America, the author wishes to make clear his position once more, lest this material be used to bolster some action not intended by its presentation. The author disclaims any connection with or responsibility for certain activities currently associated with non-participation in war. The position taken in this work should not be construed as condoning refusal to register for the draft or any other failure to cooperate with the Selective Service System. The practice of draft card burning, flag burning and all other forms of contempt for the United States and its laws are deplored as absolutely contrary to the Christian spirit of willing submission to legally constituted authority.
Other practices by self-styled "pacifists," which have no Biblical justification, are refusal to cooperate with Civil Defense instructions, air raid drills or any other precaution designed to insure the safety of the community in the event of an attack. It is regrettable that a number of political and ethical "objectors" to war have gained national publicity by such unreasonable actions. This has placed the Christian position against participating in war in an unfavorable light. Most of this type of "objector" has little or no interest in true Bible Christianity and many of them do not even accept the Scriptures as wholly inspired.
Furthermore, the current wave of "demonstrations," "marches," and "campaigns" attempting to mold and sway public opinion fails to deal with the root of war. This whole approach, often spearheaded by idealistic religious liberals, Socialists and even Communists who deny the very basic fundamentals of Bible Christianity, is an empty one compared with the Christian position on war. It may appear that they are part of the same "movement," but God's people deal with men's hearts, like a doctor dealing with the causes of a disease. War is a symptom.
It is futile for a Christian to campaign or participate in a movement designed to make the non-Christian world legislate war out of existence. Non-participation in war will always be an individual matter and must result only from one's personal committment to serve Almighty God and obey Him. A humble Christian will not participate in "sit-ins," "teach-ins," "love-ins," (perhaps better termed "rebel-ins") or other mass efforts to demonstrate disapproval of war. Bible Christians deplore war, and so do many honest people in the "hippie" type groups. But the fact that many of the latter use such slogans as "make love not war" cannot offset their filth, dope-addiction, sex orgies and other obnoxious anti-Christian activities. Such people may have a noble end in sight, but ignore God's means of achieving that end.
Such practices as lying down on railroad tracks in "protest" of troop train movements, or public suicide by self-immolation as expressions of opposition to national war policies are thoroughly repugnant to the nature of New Testament Christianity, notwithstanding the fact that they are engaged in or approved of by prominent "clergymen."
The Christian is a law-abiding, responsible citizen of his community and nation. He is a patriotic person who loves his God first and deeply appreciates his country for providing him with the freedom to worship Him unmolested. The Christian willingly accepts all responsibilities imposed upon him by his government and faithfully discharges his obligations in every realm where he can do so without violating his higher obligation to God.
It is the author's wish that God's blessing attends the prayerful study of this material. It is hoped that whatever truth it contains will be earnestly obeyed and that any error found will be forgiven and forsaken.
NOTE FROM THE EPILOGUE
70. Guy F. Hershberger, WAR, PEACE, AND NONRESISTANCE, (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press: 1953) p. 198.
Bainton, Roland H., CHRISTIAN ATTITUDES TOWARD WAR AND PEACE, (New York-Nashville: Abingdon Press: 1960)
Bales, James D. and Stonestreet, P. W., THE CHRISTIAN AND CARNAL WARFARE-DEBATE (Searcy, Ark.; James D. Bales: 1947)
Boles, H. Leo, THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING ON WAR, (Nashville, Tenn.: The Gospel Advocate Co.: no date)
Fudge, Bennie Lee, CAN A CHRISTIAN KILL FOR HIS GOVERNMENT? (Athens, Ala.: The C. E. I. Store: 1943)
Hershberger, Guy Franklin, WAR, PEACE AND NONRESISTANCE, (Scott-dale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press: 1953)
Macgregor, G. H. C., THE NEW TESTAMENT BASIS OF PACIFISM, (Nyack, N. Y.: Fellowship Publications: 1960)
Rutenber, Gilbert G., THE DAGGER AND THE CROSS, (Nyack, N. Y.: Fellowship Publications: 1958)
Toews, J. A., TRUE NONRESISTANCE THROUGH CHRIST, (Winnipeg, Canad: The Christian Press Ltd.: 1955)
TRACTS AND ARTICLES:
Bales, James D., "The Use of the New Testament to Justify War for the Christian," GOSPEL DIGEST, Vol. 15. No. 10, March, 1958 (Athens, Ala.)
Blakely, Fred O., "When the Church was Pure," THE APOSTLES DOCTRINE, Vol. 2 (Revised) p. 281, (Highland, Ind.: Fred O. Blakely: 1959)
Campbell, Alexander, "Address on War," POPULAR LECTURES AND ADDRESSES, p. 342, (Hollywood, Calif.: Old Paths Book Club: no date) Also in tract form (Nashville, Term.: World Vision Publishing Co.)
Dailey, J. Charles, "Capital Punishment and War," THE PATTERN, Vol. 5, No. 15, Aug. 1,1962, (Vancouver, Washington)
___________, "The Sword of the Spirit or the Sword of Caesar?" THE PATTERN, Vol. 8, No. 11, Nov. 1,1965, (Vancouver, Washington)
Dennis, Fred E., WAR!, (Athens, Alabama: The C. E I. Store: no date)
Goushaw, A/2c Larry J., "Can A Christian Kill?" THE CHURCH SPEAKS, Vol. 13, No. 4, July 1961,^Portland, Oregon)
Holifield, Honorable Chet, "Declaration and Appeal on Carnal Warfare-Extension of Remarks of Hon. Chet Holifield of California in the House of Representatives, Saturday, July 5,1952" CONGRESSIONAL RECORD-APPENDIX, Vol. 98, Monday, Aug. 18,1952, No. 127.
Hostetter.C. N. Jr., WAR AND THE WORD, (Nappanee, Ind.: E. V. Publishing House: no date)
Hunt, Donald G., GOD, UNCLE SAM AND YOU, (Ottumwa, Iowa: The Voice of Evangelism: no date)
Jonas, Larry, "Nationalistic Militarism," THE PATTERN, Vol. 7, No. 11, Nov. 1,1964, (Vancouver, Washington)
Lard, Moses E., "Should Christians Go To War?" LARD'S QUARTERLY, Vol. 3, 1866, page 225, (Lexington, Kentucky)
Nichols, Gus, "Christians and Carnal Warfare," GOSPEL DIGEST, Vol. 2, No. 5, Oct. 1953, (Athens, Alabama)
Reyman, Rodney, "God's Plan for World Peace," THE VOICE OF EVANGELISM, Vol. 11, No. 32, Aug. 11,1956, (Ottumwa, Iowa)
Sawyer, Wyatt, "Can a Christian Fight for His Government?" TEENAGE CHRISTIAN, Vol. 3, No. 2, Feb. 1962, (Austin, Tex.)
Toews, Monroe, WHY I CANT TAKE PART IN CARNAL WARFARE SINCE I'VE BECOME A CHRISTIAN, (Hesston, Kan.: Free Tract and Bible Society: 1962)
Ulery, Bishop O. B., CAN A CHRISTIAN FIGHT? (Nappanee, Ind.: E. V. Publishing House, Fifth Edition, no date)
Word, Archie, "Can a Christian Go to War?" THE CHURCH SPEAKS, Vol. 8, No. 2, July 12,195 3, (Portland, Oregon)
__________, "War ... the Madness Deemed Wisdom and Necessary," THE VOICE OF EVANGELISM, Vol. 17, No. 5, Feb. 3,1962 (Ottumwa, Iowa)
__________, "When War Comes" THE VOICE OF EVANGELISM, Vol.4, No. 34, Aug. 20,1949, (Ottumwa, Iowa)
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