Recently I asked Brandon Adams, “As a veteran and a Christian, perhaps you can help me. I am asking for reasons based on the teachings of Jesus that support a Christian serving in the military.
Brandon answered my question with an excellent blog post “Can Christians Serve in the Military.”
My response to Brandon Adams
I would like to thank Brandon for so kindly taking the time to thoughtfully answer my question.
I like to use the example of George Whitfield and John Wesley who had great theological differences. George Whitfield taught eternal security and John Wesley taught Armenianism. When one of Whitfield’s followers suggested they would not see Wesley in Heaven, Whitfield said, “Yes, you’re right, we won’t see him in heaven. He will be so close to the Throne of God and we will be so far away, that we won’t be able to see him!” I can hardly compare myself to George Whitfield, but I suspect from reading his blog that Brandon may be close John Wesley.
And as John Wesley said about George Whitfield, “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature with regard to which even the most sincere children of God…are and have been divided for many ages. In these we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’”
We must remember that we see things differently when we disagree and that loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is far more important than demanding someone agrees with our interpretation of scripture. Dialogue with other Christians about Christian military participation can be very useful to all involved.
I noticed first of all that Brandon and I agree on many things. We agree far more than we disagree.
Perhaps one the greatest areas of agreement between Brandon and me is the authority of scripture. Brandon says, “It should be noted that the belief that Scriptures outside the four Gospels carry a lesser authority than Jesus’ words is a position this blog does not entertain.”
We agree that the Bible is our authority. God has spoken to us through his word. However, I think we need to be careful that we are correctly interpreting scripture.
We are followers of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God, the final authority. If our interpretation of scripture is different than the teaching of Jesus or how Jesus would have interpreted that passage, we must question our own interpretation of that scripture. We must be sure we correctly understand the teaching of Jesus. We can do this by making sure we understand what the Biblical writer was saying in context of culture and context of the writer’s situation.
The New Testament Biblical writers were closest to Jesus. The men who were taught by Jesus had a much better perspective than we as to how Jesus taught. We can see how these men interpreted the teachings of Jesus by reading the New Testament.
Also closer to Jesus than us, were early Christian writers. We can use writings of the early Church writers to gain an understanding of how what Jesus taught fit into the culture of their day and how they understood that teaching to affect their lives. For example Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle. Polycarp would have a much better understanding of how John understood the teaching of Jesus than we do because we are so far removed in time and culture from Jesus.
Brandon says, “But for me, the strongest evidence that Christians can join the military in good conscience is God’s command to protect the innocent.”
This may be our strongest area of disagreement. I would agree we need to protect the innocent. Yet, I would strongly disagree that joining the US military necessarily means we will be protecting the innocent.
Soldiers must follow the orders of their superiors and cannot refuse if they think the orders are unjust. Often soldiers and their commanding officers are not aware that they are participating in injustice. Serving in the military is the wrong method for Christians to use to protect the innocent.
I believe that most soldiers who have served in the United States military felt they were doing the right thing. For me there are just too many examples where American soldiers were required to participate in injustice. It is far easier to see the injustice of those situations now than it was at the time these wars were fought. Examples include:
- The Revolutionary War was a direct disobedience to Romans 13. Nero was Emperor of Rome when the epistle of Romans was written. Nero was a much harsher tyrant than King George the III and Paul says Christians must not rebel.
- Stealing land from Native Americans during the Indian Wars. The Wounded Knee Massacre was one of many examples of military and US Indian policy injustice.
- I question the justice of our fighting in World War II, especially dropping nuclear weapons on Japan. Hiroshima Mass Murder? And perhaps the US could have prevented World War II if they had not participated in the Starvation Blockade? See “What About Hitler?”
- According to Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich we have been fighting a 40 year war in the Middle East for cheap oil. See “Book Review: ‘America’s War for the Greater Middle East.’”
- When I read Osama Bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” I asked myself, “Who is fighting the more just war?”, the United States or groups fighting against the US in the Middle East.
- I could give many, many more examples.
Sometimes United States soldier’s fighting seems to have done good, but that seems to be the exception. Often soldiers have helped in natural disasters and rebuilding, certainly honorable endeavors.
When Jesus died on the cross he was the most innocent person to ever live. If Jesus refused to use violence to protect the most innocent how can we in good conscience use violence. Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” If we are fighting, it will be difficult to take up our cross.
Brandon also discussed Romans 13, Ephesians 6 and God’s use of war to conquer Canaan. I have addressed these in other blog posts: “Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?;” “The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17;” and “7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence.”
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Picture: Copyright © 2019 by Leon Kauffman