(Voices from the Past)
The Apostolic Way is now waging a war against Christians taking part in carnal warfare. We have only begun this fight, for we expect to keep it up until we rally to our help the rank and file of the Lord’s army, the church. Yea, more than this, we hope to arouse such an interest in this matter among other religious people that our political leaders will feel strongly the influence of these efforts and know, at least, that [Christians] in this country believe that their great Captain is unwilling for His soldiers to take part in the destruction of human lives.
In making this fight we expect to have opposition, to be misunderstood and misrepresented, even by brethren. We expect to be called “slackers,” “cowards,” “traitors,” etc. Some of us are so weak in spiritually that we are ready, upon very slight provocation to join the rabble in the cry to crucify our Lord. One of the saddest experiences of my life, one of the greatest disappointments I ever had in men, was to see so many of the recognized leaders of the church lined up with the powers of destruction and death when our country entered the World War. How any intelligent, God-fearing man, who professes to be guided by the New Testament, could speak or write in favor of such wholesale destruction of all that savors of Christianity is something I cannot understand.
We have never sought to dictate in such matter to the world. We try to teach the world that it is wrong to make war, that the Prince of Peace, whom we follow, has shown a better way to settle men’s differences with each other, but we do not propose in any way to bind the nations to our ideas. Nations imbued with carnal ideals and actuated by carnal motives have always fought their ideas of military glory, of power by physical might, of conquests gained at expense of human happiness are in keeping with the demands of man’s carnal nature, which has ever been under the control of Satan. Hence the Bible teaches in Rev. 20 that when Satan is bound by the power of God, the nations will cease to make war for a thousand years. It is not too much to say that all carnal warfare in the world’s history resulted from the activities and deceptions of Satan. I deem it unnecessary, now to argue these points at greater length, since my present purpose is rather to stir up my brethren on this subject than to convince any reader of the correctness of my views.
Denominational bodies around us take an entirely different view of the whole situation. Many of their leaders assume the doctrine of a kind of union between the church and State. They will not avow the doctrine, to be sure, but deny they teach it. Yet, in their general assemblies, they take action upon political issues, pass upon the merits or demerits of men and measures before the voters of the land, and assert it to be their duty as churches to make themselves felt in the national affairs of this country. These bodies are, therefore, found either offering their services as such to the country in the prosecution of carnal warfare, or, on the other hand, dictating to the Government what it shall do in opposing war. We consider such actions very erroneous because based upon the wrong premises.
Christianity is a religion of the soul. It is to be sure all aggressive, yea a militant doctrine; but its weapons are ideas, not swords, its conquests are of men’s minds, or spirits. Its control of any mans body is to be attained through his spirit. Christ asks me to mortify the fleshly man, yea, if need be, to die physically for His cause, but He asks me to do this only after His gospel has brought my spirit into loving submission to His will. It follows that all efforts, and they are many, made by religious bodies to control the conduct of men by civil authority or by any other human agency are essentially erroneous. First the mind, afterwards the body in subjection to the law, is God’s order. The world says: First the mind if it will listen, otherwise, subject the body anyway. Later, if possible and convenient, bring the mind to accept what has been forced upon the body.
The fundamental difference between the ideals of Christ and those of men is well illustrated by the contrast between Jesus and Peter in Gethsemane. Peter used a sword. Under the circumstances, he showed great physical courage. The world calls such action heroism. On the other hand, Jesus submitted to be bound and mistreated, although He had power at His command to destroy all His enemies. The world usually calls such action cowardly and unworthy. Jesus exemplified the principles of conquest by spiritual weapons ideas. He also showed in this case that spirit may sometimes conquer only by destruction of the flesh. Peter’s conduct exemplified the human notion that physical might should assert itself in opposing the advances of an enemy, even to the point of taking human life.
Finally, we would sow the seeds of brotherly love and compassion in the hearts of all men. Thus we would seek to bring the souls of men into subjection lo the will of Christ, assured that such results will destroy the desire to kill or rob other men. We would go into the entire world armed with the gospel of our Captain instead of the weapons of carnal warfare. We would leaven the world of mankind with the notions of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. We would banish the monster War from earth not by political conferences and fallible treaties, but by the power of faith in the word of Jehovah, deep-planted in the sentiments and motives of humankind.
(This article is from a 1925 issue of a paper called The Apostolic Way. It shows the authors determination to take a Christian stand against war.)