Carnal Warfare or Spiritual Warfare?
- Are You a Soldier?
- What does Scripture say about engaging in earthly warfare?
- In what sense is every Christian a soldier of Jesus Christ?
- Do you realize that we are involved in a great spiritual conflict every day?
This study will discuss these and other relevant topics!
The Christian is a soldier. He is a participant in a war of immense proportions. His entire life is involved in this conflict! The war will continue until Christ returns in victory over His foes. Scripture repeatedly refers to this lifelong spiritual battle we are waging against our spiritual, unseen enemy—Satan.
Paul makes reference to this spiritual warfare when he writes, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Notice that we are soldiers of Christ and not of Caesar or any other earthly ruler, whether he be president, king, or sovereign dictator. Because of this, Paul was able to call Epaphroditus and Archippus his “fellow-soldiers” (cf. Phil. 2:25; Phile. 2). Furthermore, we are so devoted to our responsibilities as the Lord’s soldiers and so intent on pleasing Him that we have neither the time nor the interest to become entangled in “the affairs of everyday life” (v. 4; cf. 1 Cor. 7:29-31).
A Spiritual War
We must realize that we are participating in spiritual warfare, not carnal or fleshly warfare. Paul specifically says, “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). With spiritual weapons, we are actively “destroying” and “demolishing” everything that would oppose the knowledge of God (v. 5, NASB, NIV).
With the spiritual “armor of God” we are enabled to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11) and resist his wicked advance in the world and in our lives (v. 13). Paul definitely says that our warfare is spiritual in nature: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12; cf. vv. 13-20; 1 Thess. 5:8). We fight unseen realities rather than national opponents.
We believe in warfare, but ours is a spiritual war, far greater than the carnal wars fought to defend and advance the transitory and imperfect kingdoms of men. The “domain” and “glory” of “the kingdoms of the world” belong to Satan our adversary (Luke 4:5-6), but John the apostle, in vision, heard the announcement that “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15; cf. v. 17). The words of Christ bear like testimony: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). Jesus was king of truth (v. 37; cf. 14:6) and we who have received Him as truth fight a spiritual war, as spiritual soldiers, wearing spiritual armor, bearing spiritual weapons, in His spiritual kingdom! Christ is King of King and Lord of lords! Our Sovereign Commander will be victor over Satan, his angels, and the world (Rev. 17:14; 19:11-18).
What should be the Christian’s attitude toward carnal or earthly warfare, in contrast to spiritual warfare? How should he view the military profession, the military industry, and production of instruments of war and bloodshed? These questions do have answers but they will only make sense if you, personally, know God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son. Only if you know the Prince of Peace will you be able to understand the way of peace that He brings to our hearts (John 16:33) and brings to His followers (Eph. 2:14-17). Paul the apostle wrote, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one” (1 Cor. 2:14-15). While certain facts of the Bible may be seen and acknowledged (including the truths which follow), the deeper import of them simply will not be perceived or embraced.
With these thoughts in mind, the following considerations should help the sincere follower of Christ to decide what Scripture says about participating in earthly, carnal warfare.
Questions that You Must Face
(1) Would Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” engage in armed warfare in support of an earthly kingdom on earth? (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 9:54-55; 23:33-34)
The Christian is to be Christlike in his attitudes, words, and behavior. He should ask, “What would Jesus do?” as he makes decisions in life. Can you conceive of Jesus clothed in a military uniform, bearing arms, under an earthly commander, taking orders to kill enemies from another nation?
- “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
- ” Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21b).
(2) Is the Christian to love all people and do good to all people, including his enemies?
Every Christian is to be characterized by love and goodwill toward others, including those who have made themselves his enemy. We are instructed how we should respond to others who hate us and harm us. Just as God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), so the Christian walks in the way of love and goodwill. Is it loving to destroy the enemy and his family? Is it good to maim, harm, and injure both our enemy and innocent people from our enemy’s country?
- “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28; cf. vv. 32-36; Matt. 5:43-48).
- ” May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men” (1 Thess. 3:12).
- ” See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men” (1 Thess. 5:15).
(3) Would war cause Christian to fight against Christian if they were to fight for their respective nations?
Christians are found in all the nations of the world (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Rev. 7:9; Col. 1:23). Instead of fighting against His brothers, the Christian is to love his brothers just as Christ loved him! He is to lay down his life for his brothers rather than harming them and killing them because they happen to live in another country.
- “A new commandments I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; cf. 15:12).
- ” We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
See also: 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:10, 14-16; 4:7, 11-12, 20-21; 1 Thess. 4:9-10; Heb. 13:1.
(4) Does war tend to brutalize and harden the participant?
War definitely does cause the soldier to lose compassion, tenderness, kindness, and sympathy. Many men testify that they learned to hate, to injure, and even to kill others while learning to fulfill the duties required in the military. Men harden their conscience so they can carry out brutal acts of violence against other people.
- “Holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12; cf. vv. 13-15).
- ” Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).
- ” Let your gentle spirit be known to all men” (Phil. 4:5).
(5) Did Jesus refuse to become involved in the political and nationalistic issues of His day?
Jesus maintained a neutrality in the kingdoms of the world for He represented a spiritual kingdom while dwelling on earth. Although nationalistic fervor was intense during the period in which He lived, Jesus did not become embroiled in this attitude. He even prophesied that his nation would soon be destroyed because of their sin (in AD 66-70; cf. Luke 19:43-44; 21:20-24; 23:27-31), but His followers should escape Jerusalem and not join the rebellious resistance force (Luke 21:21; cf. Matt. 24:15-22). His disciples maintained the same perspective of neutrality and partook of a heavenly citizenship where their ultimate loyalty belonged. The body of Christ itself was a spiritual nation, scattered as pilgrims in the midst of the corrupt nations of earth.
- “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36-37).
- ” Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21; cf. vv. 17-21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25). (Give to Caesar that which bears his image [the coin = taxes that are due], but give to God that which bears His image [man himself who bears the image of God].)
- ” Our citizenship [commonwealth, homeland] is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
- ” You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9a; cf. Matt. 21:43).
(6) Were the early Christians instructed to flee when persecuted or were they told to defend themselves?
When confronted with armed resistance, the early followers of Jesus were to flee to another place rather than fight with earthly weapons. When the cruel and idolatrous Romans would come upon Jerusalem, believers were to flee rather than fight.
- “Whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next” (Matt. 1023a).
- ” When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies . . . . Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:20-21; cf. Matt. 24:16; 13:14).
- See: 2 Cor. 11:32-33; Acts 9:23-25; 12:17; 14:6; 17:10; 20:3; 22:18-21; Matt. 12:14-15).
(7) Is the spirit or attitude of Christ in harmony with the spirit of warfare?
Indeed, the spirit and demeanor of the Lord Jesus is in complete contrast to the violent spirit of war. Nearly every characteristic that makes a good soldier (except order and discipline) is in conflict with the traits that make a worthy follower of Jesus.
- “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16; cf. Luke 10:3).
- ” [War is] a brutal, dirty, deadly affair” (General Thomas D. White).
- ” I want every devilish, subtle device and every upper-handed operation possible to use against the Germans and Japs” (General William J. Donovan).
- ” War is the trade of barbarians” (Napoleon).
- ” The profession of a soldier is a damnable profession” (Sir John Sinclair).
- ” War is nothing less than a temporary repeal of the principles of virtue” (Robert Hall).
- ” God is forgotten in war; every principle of Christianity is trampled upon” (Sidney Smith).
- ” War is antagonistic to Christianity for many reasons, but chiefly on account of the ugly passion it excites and the untold misery that it inflicts” (J.B. Remensnyder).
- ” War is the concentration of all human crimes. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew men, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey” (Dr. Channing).
- ” Its destructive effect upon the moral character of the nation that wages it is war’s final condemnation” (Walter Walsh).
- ” Yes, war is hell, as General Sherman long ago told us; but he did not go on to tell us why. There is only one possible reason. Hell is not a geographical term; it is merely the expression of the spirit or condition of its inhabitants. War is hell because it transforms men into devils” (E.H. Crosby).
(8) Is war a blatant violation of Christ’s “Golden” commandment and does it negate the principle of mercy or compassion?
Do you want others to harm you or kill your loved ones? Then you must not destroy others or their loved ones. War does the opposite to the enemy nation as you would want that nation to do to yours. Instead of harming or killing our enemies, you must love, bless, and care for them.
- “Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them” (Matt. 7:12). “Just as you want men to treat you, treat them in the same way” (Luke 6:31).
- ” Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7; cf. James 2:13).
(9) Do Christ’s servants fight fleshly battles for human state governments?
Rather than fighting carnal battles, the Christian engages in spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies (evil demonic powers at work in the world, particularly in the lives of the unsaved).
- “We do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:3b-4; cf. John 18:36-37).
- ” Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52; cf. vv. 53-54; John 18:11). (Notice that Jesus here forbids a defensive sword for a just cause.)
(10) What does Christ’s death on the cross demonstrate?
When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He manifested the epitome of nonresistant love. He laid down his life not only for his friends but also for His enemies. He offered Himself without retaliation, without reviling, and without bitterness.
- “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps . . . while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21, 23; cf. 3:9; 4:19; Matt. 26:53).
- ” He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth” (Acts 8:32; cf. Isaiah 53:7).
- ” I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6).
(11) What does the Great Commission have to do with carnal warfare?
When one engages in carnal warfare, he violates Christ’s parting commission to proclaim His good news to every creature on earth. Instead of sharing the glad message of redeeming love, war sends a message of bloodshed and death. We cannot tell the gospel of peace and love to one we have killed!
- “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
- ” Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19a).
- ” Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 1:8).(12) What is the result of killing an unsaved enemy?
If one kills a lost or unsaved enemy in warfare, this will result in his eternal condemnation and will send him to an everlasting hell. Can I have part in this dreadful finality to his opportunity of responding to Christ for salvation?
- “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
- ” The rich man . . . died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment” (Luke 16:22-23).
- ” He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36b).
(13) Is the Christian to be peaceful and be a peacemaker?
The believer definitely is to be characterized by a peaceful disposition and he is to seek peace with others and between others. He is to be a peace-maker and not a war-maker.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
- ” If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
- ” Pursue peace with all men” (Heb. 12:14a).
(14) Should the Christian retaliate against his personal enemies?
The disciple of Christ must not pay back evil for evil. Then how can he be used as a pawn of the earthly power to retaliate against national enemies? Retaliation is part of the very makeup of warfare. Personal ethics must not be abdicated in acquiescence to the state.
- “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 19-21).
- ” Do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39; cf. vv. 38-42; Luke 6:29-30).
- ” You [wicked rich men] have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you” (James 5:6; cf. 1 Peter 2:18-24; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Cor. 4:12).
- ” Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Peter 3:9a).
(15) Should the Christian be used as an arm of the state in bearing the sword?
The Christian is commanded to be subject to human civil government, but he is not instructed to participate in civil affairs nor bear the sword for the governmental powers. The believer must be absolutely submissive to the requirements of the civil authority (e.g., paying taxes, obtaining licenses, observing speed limits, etc.)—unless such submission violates the will of God (cf. Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).
- “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2; cf. vv. 3-7; contrast 12:41-21 with this).
- ” Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities” (Titus 3:1a).
- ” Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. . . . fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17b; cf. Matt. 22:21).
(16) Could the Christian pray to God to bless his participation in waging carnal war?
Obviously a disciple of the Lord could not pray for the blessings of God to rest on his taking the life and destroying the property of his enemy.
- “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14b).
- ” Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28b).
- ” Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44b).
- ” I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made in behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1-2; cf. vv. 3-4; Eph. 6:18).
(17) Can the Christian wage a deadly, bloody, wicked war in the name of Christ his Lord?
A believer really cannot participate in carnal warfare and do so by the authority of Christ, under His direction, according to His spirit of love, and as a follower of Him.
- “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17a).
(18) Is the Christian justified in doing wrong so that there might be a positive result?
No, we must never do evil so that good may result. We must never do wrong in order to do right. We (Christians) must not wage carnal warfare (or prepare war materials, weapons, and munitions to support war) in order to overthrow an evil national ruler and secure earthly peace. (For instance, according to Christ, was killing hundreds of thousands of defenseless Germans or Japanese civilians justified in order to bring a more speedy end to the war? Or was rebelling against the British crown, thereby taking up arms, justified in order to secure political representation or obtain political liberty?)
Paul said that some misguided people “slanderously reported” that he affirmed, “Let us do evil that good may come.” His response was unequivocal: “Their condemnation is just” (Rom. 3:8). The doctrine that we are justified in doing wrong in order to bring good is false! We are never justified in doing evil to secure good. For the Christian, the means must be good as well as the end.
(19) What does early church history demonstrate?
History tells us that the early Christians refused to participate in warfare for one hundred years or longer after the days of the apostles. Some strong opposition continued for the next century, but a leavening influence had begun with some professing “Christians” in the military ranks. After the time of Augustine (AD 400-430), opposition, for the most part, ceased because of his “just war” doctrine.
- “No Christian ever thought of enlisting in the army after his conversion until the reign of Marcus Aurelius” around AD 173 (C.J. Cadoux).
- ” It is quite clear that prior to about A.D. 174 it is impossible to speak of Christian soldiers” (Guy F. Hershberger).
- ” Early second-century literature gives no direct evidence in regard to Christian participation in military service. The general statements which do occur imply a negative attitude. They reflect the Christian abhorrence of bloodshed and a general Christian affirmation about peace. . . . Only in the early 170’s do we find the first explicit evidence since apostolic times to the presence of [professing] Christians in the military service. . . . Finally Theodosius II in 416 decreed that only Christians could be in the army, for he wanted divine favor to rest with the armies of the Empire against the barbarian threat” (Everett Ferguson).
- ” From the end of the New Testament period to the decade A.D. 170-180 there is no evidence whatever of Christians in the army” (Roland H. Bainton).
- ” From about 174 A.D. on to the time of Constantine, about 313 A.D., there are indications that a few [professing] Christians were in the military service” (William Paul).
- ” The period from A.D. 180 until the time of Constantine exhibits both in the East and West a number of more or less explicit condemnations of military service” (Bainton).
(20) What did early church leaders actually write about warfare?
There are too many quotations to include them all in this short treatment. As the above quotations reveal, the overwhelming testimony of the second and third centuries is that professing “Christians” opposed war and participation in warfare. Even after there is evidence that some professing “Christians” were found in the army by the latter second century, leaders continued to write of the peaceful nature of the way of Christ. Several of these quotations follow.
- “You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man” (Didache, ca. AD 115).
- ” Do not seek to avenge yourselves on those who injure you. . . . And let us imitate the Lord, ‘who, when he was reviled, reviled not again’; when he was crucified, he answered not; ‘when he suffered, he threatened not’; but prayed for his enemies” (Ignatius, AD 110).
- ” We who were full of war and murder of one another and all wickedness have each changed his warlike instruments—swords into plows and spears into agricultural implements” (Justin, AD 153).
- ” I do not want to rule, I do not wish to be rich, I reject military command, I have hated fornication” (Tatian, ca. AD 170).
- ” We have learned not only not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us, but to those who smite us on one side of the face to offer the other side also, and to those who take away our coat to give likewise our cloak” (Athenagoras, AD 180).
- ” Since we consider that to see a man put to death is next to killing him, we have renounced such spectacles [gladiator contests]. How then can we, who do not look lest we be stained with guilt and defilement, commit murder?” (Athenagoras, AD 180).
- ” How will a Christian war, indeed how will he serve even in peace without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? . . . The Lord, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier” (Tertullian, ca. AD 200).
- ” A soldier of the government must be told not to execute men; if he should be ordered to do it, he shall not do it. He must be told not to take the military oath. If he will not agree, let him be rejected [from baptism]. A military governor or a magistrate of a city who wears the purple, either let him desist or let him be rejected. If a catechumen or a baptized Christian wishes to become a soldier, let him be cast out. For he has despised God” (Hippolytus, ca. AD 210-220).
- ” We have come in accordance with the counsel of Jesus to cut down our warlike and arrogant swords of argument into ploughshares, and we convert into sickles the spears we formerly used in fighting. For we no longer take ‘sword against a nation,’ nor do we learn ‘any more to make war,’ having become sons of peace for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader” (Origen, ca. AD 250).
- ” We fight better on behalf of the king. Indeed we do not fight at his side, even if he should command it, but we fight on his behalf, organizing our own army of piety through our petitions to God” (Origen, ca. AD 250).
- ” Christians decline public offices not in order to escape these duties but in order to keep themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God for the salvation of men” (Origen).
- ” When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence . . . but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare” (Lactantius, early 300s).
- ” If all without exception . . . would lend an ear for a little to his [Christ’s] salutary and peaceful rules . . . the whole world, having turned the use of steel into more peaceful occupations, would now be living in the most placed tranquility, and would unite in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties” (Arnobius, AD 310).
In view of these twenty weighty points against the Christian’s participation in warfare, we must determine to live nonconformed to the world. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We must choose to walk the “narrow way” that leads to life even when that way is far different from the “broad way” that the vast majority choose to walk (Matt. 7:13-14).
The narrow way is one of love, peace and kindness—not only to fellow-believers but also to one’s enemies. The broad way is one of selfishness, hatred, violence, hostility, retaliation, and brutality. Rather than participating in carnal warfare with carnal weapons for carnal objectives, the Christian is involved in a life and death spiritual war against Satan and his evil allies. This war involves spiritual armor and spiritual weapons. What side will you choose?
Questions for Your Consideration
(1) How should the true Christian who desires to follow Christ and glorify God view carnal, earthly warfare?
(2) What must the Christian do to keep from participating in a war effort if the entire nation is involved in a war on a massive scale?
(3) How should the believer view one’s relationship to the military establishment (e.g., Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard)?
(4) How should the believer regard military industries (production of planes, guns, tanks, bombs, missiles, and everything else directly used by the Armed Forces)?
(5) How should the Christian consider participation in the higher levels of civil government which rests on the use of carnal force and worldly means to accomplish its ends and maintain power?
(6) How should the body of believers respond to one of its members who rebelliously joins the military or becomes involved in carnal warfare? (Cf. Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Matt. 18:15-17; James 5:19-20; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Cor. 5:1-13)
(7) If a person is in the military but chooses to come to Christ in repentance, how does he deal with his further commitment to the Armed Forces and his tour of duty?
(8) If the country should declare war on an enemy power and the draft becomes operative, what should the Christian do if he personally is drafted? What provision does the civil government make for those conscientiously opposed to participation?
(9) What can you do to understand more clearly God’s will regarding earthly warfare? What resources are available?
(10) What ten or fifteen verses could you commit to memory in preparation to answer those who would promote a Christian’s involvement in the military (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)?
(11) What arguments may be raised to support the Christian’s participation in the military? How may these arguments or verses be answered (cf. Prov. 15:28)?
(12) Why is it important for the believer to live a righteous, loving, and consistent life at present, under all circumstances, so that others will know that opposition to the military arises from sincerely held convictions and integrity of heart rather than ulterior motives (Acts 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19)?
(13) Read the accounts of those who opposed carnal warfare during the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War. How can their stand for truth and righteousness inspire those of our own day?
(14) Some professing “Christians” will openly join the military and merely refuse to personally bear arms and kill. They will maintain weapons, work in supply, serve as a medic or cook, or do other “non-combatant” service. Can you think of any inconsistencies in this choice?
(15) How do the Scriptural principles we have covered relate to other activities and relationships in life? Do they have bearing on whether a Christian should belong to a labor union? Do they relate to various political offices? What bearing do they have on whether a Christian should become a police officer? Do they relate to personal retaliation in word and deed?
(16) Consider how violence is glorified today on television, in the movies, in sports, in computer games, and in books (cf. 1 John 5:19). Discuss how the Scriptural passages we have cited have a bearing on all of these forms of violence in today’s culture.
(17) How should the body of Christ be radically different in regard to violence in today’s world? How should each member of the body radiate love, kindness, gentleness, and peace in this world of hostility?
(18) Does true manhood demand that one participate in carnal warfare? Since many do connect the military with manhood (e.g., the military appeal: “We need a few good men!”), discuss the difference between the two. Christ manifested what it means to be a true man—God’s ideal man. How can His example of nonresistant love be a pattern for us? (Also discuss how Jesus was willing to stand strongly against the forces of evil, including His cleansing of the temple, Matt. 21:12-17; John 2:14-22.)
Sources for Your Study
Some of the following books and pamphlets are available at the present time while a few of them may no longer be in print. If you cannot locate them, please write for further information about their availability. (You may also ask your library to obtain them through inter-library loan.) While each of these publications has merit, we cannot endorse all of the contents.
- William Paul, A Christian View of Armed Warfare! (P.O. Box 30526, Seattle, WA 98103).
- Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak (ACU Press, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX 79699).
- H. Leo Boles, The New Testament Teaching on War (Gospel Advocate Company, 1006 Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37210).
War: A Trilogy, Three Perspectives—One Biblical Position (Star Bible Publications, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas 76182).
- Handbook for Conscientious Objectors (Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, 2208 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146).
- J. C. Wenger, Separated unto God (Christian Light Publications, P.O. Box 1212, Harrisonburg, VA 22801-1212).
- Guy Franklin Hershberger, War, Peace, and Nonresistance (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- John H. Yoder, What Would You Do? (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- David Lipscomb, Civil Government (Gospel Advocate Company, 1006 Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37210).
- John Driver, How Christians Made Peace with War (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- Duane Ruth-Heffelbower, The Christian and Jury Duty (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- Lois Barrett, The Way God Fights (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- John Horsch, The Principle of Nonresistance as Held by the Mennonite Church (Eastern Mennonite Publishing, Ephrata, PA).
- Bennie Lee Fudge, Can a Christian Kill for His Government? (C.E.I. Publishing Co., Athens, AL).
- Jean-Michel Hornus, It Is Not Lawful For Me to Fight (Herald Press, Scottdale, PA).
- Roland H. Bainton, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace (Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN).
- Joyce Miller, War-Torn Valley (Rod and Staff Publishers, P.O. Box 3, Hwy. 172, Crockett, KY 41413-0003).
- Aaron M. Shank, Studies in the Doctrine of Nonresistance (Rod and Staff Publishing, P.O. Box 3, Hwy. 172, Crockett, KY 41413-0003).
- Kniss, Why I Couldn’t Fight (Christian Light Publications, P.O. Box 1212, Harrisonburg, VA 22801).
- Lee M. Rogers, God and Government (Lee M. Rogers, Sheffield, AL).