Friday, October 24, 2008

Christianity and Soldiering

White Rabbit made some interesting points regarding these...

"i think this is why for the first 300 years of the Christianity the Church did not allow Christians to remain in the military. This is why many Christians from the Anabaptist background still refuse to be involved in the military. "

Actually, there are a couple of Christian soldiers in the Bible. First of all is the Centurion who asked Christ to heal his servant. The centurion did not consider himself worthy for Christ to come to his home, but referred to the fact that since he commanded many men, he knew from the lowly amount of authority he had, that Christ could simply say that the servant would be healed, and He would. Christ's response was not the response that He had with the woman at the well (Go and sin no more). Christ knew what the centurion did. He did not call him to repentance, instead, He proclaimed His faith as being the greatest He had ever seen. Not one word about how what he did was evil and displeasing to God.

Then in Acts 10, there is Cornelius, described as a centurion "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually."

Cornelius was used by God to show Peter that it is okay to eat all things and to reside with Gentiles without being unclean, because the faith is the same. A powerful lesson. And Cornelius was never rebuked for being a soldier. He was a devout man of great faith.

Christians who were soldiers.

Also, when soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do, he only replied that they should not steal, should not accuse anyone falsely, and should be content with their wages. He did not tell them to abandon their posts because it is evil. (Luke 3:14)

Now as the caesars grew more powerful, they proclaimed themselves to be gods. It would be a problem for a Christian to swear allegiance to a different god. The very uniform would be a confession of faith in a false god. And then when it became the duty of the Roman army to persecute Christians, their duty to God would most definitely be opposed to their duty to their caesar.

The Anabaptists, in their purest form, were very opposed to any interaction with the secular world. It was sinful to be a politician, it was a sin to be a law officer, it was a sin to be a soldier. Any kind of agent of the secular world was unbecoming for a Christian. Because government ruled, and not God, government was opposed to God. They sought to reproduce the society described in Acts 4. But they sought to make that a law, rather than something that was done out of the goodness of their hearts. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead (again, God killing for justice) not because they didn't share everything, but because they lied, and sought the admiration for sharing everything when they didn't. Peter affirms that their property was theirs to do with as they liked, and Acts and the Epistles give us pictures of other Christian groups that continued to have individual property rights. (Anabaptists are the ancestors of Mennonites and Amish and other such separatist groups. Nice people...strongly works-righteous theology)

Melancthon expounds on this in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession - Article XVI (The Augsburg Confession and The Apology (defense) of the Augsburg Confession were documents written and presented to the Holy Roman Emperor, defending Lutheran theological positions. "The adversaries" that Melancthon mentions are the Catholic theologians that responded to the original Augsburg Confession. The Apology responded to their response)

The adversaries accept Article XVI without exception. In it we have confessed that it is lawful for the Christian to hold public office, sit in judgment, determine matters by the imperial laws and other laws currently in force, set just punishments, engage in just wars, act as a soldier, make legal contracts, hold property, take an oath (when public officials require it), and contract marriage. Finally, we have confessed that legitimate public ordinances are good creations of God and divine ordinances, which a Christian can safely use.

He was elaborating on Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession, a document that was written in defense of Lutheran Doctrine. The Augsburg Confession was written just as much to show that Lutherans were not participating in the heresies and rebellion approved of by the Anabaptists as to show where we disapproved of the practices of the Papists.

1 Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God. 2 They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage [Romans 13; 1 Corinthians 7:2].

3 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these political offices to Christians. 4 They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but place it in forsaking political offices. 5 For the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart (Romans 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. The Gospel very much requires that they be preserved as God’s ordinances and that love be practiced in such ordinances. 6 Therefore, it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws. 7 The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 39

Luther also expounded Scripture on the matter of soldiering in a pamphlet called "Whether Soldiers, Too Can be Saved." Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it on the Internet.

In the end, God places governments as authorities over us, and we are bound to obey them, even if they are not necessarily a Christian government (which ours is not)...unless they place us in direct disobedience to God's laws. And God does give the right to nations to defend their interests and to wage just wars. Soldiers are citizens whose vocation is to do so. And God also gives the rights to governments to protect the lives of the innocent even through war, as happened in World War II, and in Iraq. We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the only other option to achieve surrender was to form a blockade, and that would take many years, and many more deaths. The solution ther White Rabbit suggests would've placed all of Europe in jeopardy and at risk to the Russians even more than they already were, if the Nazis eventually fell through nonviolent protest. We needed the good Christians to be alive once their society needed to be rebuilt. Allowing the Nazis to kill all of them as well as the Jews would've resulted in many more deaths than had already happened, and who knows what else at the hands of the Russians. We needed to be there. We needed to be fighting. Nonviolent resistance has its place. But God uses war to bring about the destruction of evil empires as happened with the Nazis.

I have no problem with the interpretation of the word "Enemy" as a state enemy, either. I can turn my cheek and submit to a government that is my enemy if God has placed me as that government's subject. The Christians experienced that under the Romans. Unlike the Jews, they did not rebel. They sought to preserve their lives and the faith that they loved, but if they were called to punishment and martyrdom, they went to their deaths honorably. Paul is a good example of that. He submitted to Caesar to bring him justice, since he was a citizen of Rome. Yet Caesar brought him to his death, and Paul submitted to it. However, MY enemy is not another country. My country's enemy may be another country, and my nation has a right to protect me and to a great extent...its own interests, and to go to the defense of those who are being oppressed, because that is not in the good interest of the rest of the world.

With Saddam Hussein, it was not in our best interest that he torture his people with randomness and cruelty. It was not in our best interest that he continually refused to work with the United Nations until he was threatened with war, and very possibly would've continued. He didn't have WMDs, but he certainly acted like he did. Hussein gave money to the families of Palestinians who served as suicide bombers. He proclaimed the honor of their role. He destroyed tens of thousands of Kurds. He was an evil man, and as long as he was in power, his people would suffer terribly, and the rest of the Middle East would remain unstable. And we do need more stability in that area.

You may not agree with me. Certainly in this country at this time, there are many opposing views on the war, and we do have a hard time seeing, as basic citizens, how having our brothers, husbands, children in Iraq helps us directly. It was easy to understand why Hitler and the Japanese needed to be stopped. They were atacking us. But I personally believe we will see the good from this if we hold fast.

I honestly don't want this all to turn into a debate about Christian pacifism. Concern and searching about these issues is one thing, but propogating it as "the only way Christians can act" is false theology and I will not have my blog be used to damage consciences on matters that the Bible does not condemn, especially when our Lord had clear opportunities to do so and did not. This was the only reason that I even felt a responsibility to respond to White Rabbit's statements -- not because I really wanted to debate the issue with this person.


Anonymous said...

A copy of Luther's pamphlet can be found at .

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. The last link was incomplete. It should be

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Thank you Pastor Trouten. My Google search came up with more people writing about it, not the actual document.

Jungle Mom said...

Do you prefer I not respond to White rabbit?
BTW, I am a Baptist missionary and married to a third generation Marine, so... I am sure you can figure out my thoughts on this subject.
I do appreciate the respectful tone of the comment.

La said...

thanks RPW,
I would have liked to see this topic debated more, without my input, because I feel like I am still working all of this out. It is good to get respectable and intelligible insight from both sides. I'm still not sure you can call pacifism a "false theology". None of us knows the answer for sure.
Yet, it sounds like you don't want to discuss the matter further. I will respect that.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Now wait, I'm not calling pacifism a false theology. I have friends who are pacifists for very good reasons...some of them religious. It is simply not Biblical to say "all Christians must be pacifists." We can and hopefully do all despise any bloodshed that happens. All of it is because of sin in the world. It is all regrettable.

What can't be said Biblically, is that it is a sin to be a soldier, that there is no such thing as a just war, etc. We can debate whether or not THIS is a just war. Luther even says in some of his sermons that if someone believes their lord is taking them into an unjust war, he has an obligation to not fight and to trust that God will take care of him.

I just won't let a discussion lead to condemning our military, many of whom are valiantly serving God in their vocations...when being a soldier is not a sin. If we are going to call something a sin, lets call something a sin that the Bible says is a sin.

La said...

got it. sorry for the misunderstanding. that sounds more like the sensible person i thought you were. for a minute there, i thought, because you didn't agree with it, you were saying it was false