Brandon Adams, Veteran, Teacher

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.

The first Jim Lake is mostly grass by this time of year, but there was enough open water to give an evening reflection. Courtesy Leon Kauffman

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”
  4. 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.’”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”

Return to : Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Picture: Copyright © 2019 by Leon Kauffman

All My Posts (Links)

Neutering Male Courage

Peace Dove

By Jon Kauffman

One Christian wrote: “Pacifism is a satanic belief system designed to hurt innocent people and neuter male courage.”

When soldiers sitting in safe offices in the US “accidentally” kill innocent men, women and children in Pakistan with drones, are these soldiers demonstrating unneutered male courage? Does the US military drone system kill fewer innocent people than pacifism? Maybe the US military does people kill fewer innocent people than pacifism.

Thousands of Christians died as martyrs in 1st century Rome. It is more dangerous to be a Christian in many parts of the world today than it was to be a Christian in 1st century Rome. Christians in Rome did not die because the ran out of bullets or swords. They died because they refused to compromise with the Roman Government and they refused to use violence against their enemies.

The Christian Martyr’s Last Prayer by Jean Leon Gerome (1824-1904) Ancient accounts tell us that Christians often gathered together and prayed in the arenas as they awaited death. Rome culture was consumed by violence; the Romans loved a “spectacle,” an event in which a human life was taken before a cheering audience. Carla D. Sunberg

Jesus did not say following him would be safe. Jesus laid down his life on the cross when he had the power to physically defeat the soldiers.

Recently I listened to a Youtube video by Jordan Peterson. Professor Peterson says in reference to Jesus dying on the cross without resistance, “Jesus did the impossible.” Peterson further says we need to face the malevolence in our hearts before we take out the speck in our neighbor’s eye. See Jordan Peterson video.

Facing evil without violence is dangerous. Innocent people die. Jesus faced Rome and allowed the soldiers to kill him when he had 10,000 angels at his disposal. A pacifist position is not any less safe. Pacifism does not defend a country or political system of this world. Pacifism does not protect innocent people from terrorism.

Jesus said take up your cross and follow me. Jesus asks us to do the impossible and face evil through non-violence. I think being a pacifist takes far more courage than taking up the sword.

After Constantine came to power in 306 AD the 300 Bishops in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called Christians to leave the military and this seems to be the official view of the Roman church at that time.

“Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years.” 
Excerpt from Cannon 12 of the Council of Nicaea.

Why is it acceptable for Christians to change the teaching of Jesus and the early church? Does anyone have the authority to change the teaching of Jesus?

Christians in the US have the great strength of the US military at their disposal.  What if Christians followed Jesus’ example in fighting terrorism instead? Perhaps like 1st century Rome, 21st century terrorists would eventually become Christian?

Many enemy soldiers in the Middle East believe they are fighting an invading US enemy force far stronger than their strength. If we are soldiers fighting people protecting their innocent families are we demonstrating unneutered male courage?

When the US bombed Japan killing 1.2 million civilians, innocent men, women and children, were the pilots demonstrating unneutered male courage?

In the blog post, “What about Hitler?” I argue that if Christians on both sides had refused to fight in World War I, perhaps Hitler would not have been elected in Germany and World War II would not have taken place. In this supposition, if a Christian soldier had refused to fight and had been shot for treason, would this soldier be neutered of male courage?

When we follow Jesus we are in for the long haul with eternal significance. If we follow Jesus we will draw the line at violence against our enemies, following the example of Jesus. We would make peace, reaching out to our enemies to negotiate. We will be willing to die before we kill because we have the resurrection in mind. We will refuse to kill for temporary power, money and safety.

We as Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We may also be citizens of the USA or some other country. If we are serving Jesus, then serving the Kingdom of God must be a higher priority than serving our worldly kingdom. If we are fighting for the USA kingdom and kill citizens of the Kingdom of God who happen to also be citizens of a worldly kingdom that is at war against our worldly kingdom, how is that right? Perhaps Jesus would ask us to avoid killing citizens or potential citizens of the Kingdom of God even if it causes ourselves great pain?

Pacifism is dangerous. Should we expect those who are not Christians to be pacifists? We should not expect those who are not followers of Jesus to be pacifist anymore than we should expect them to follow Jesus teaching on caring for the poor or living a chaste lifestyle or forgiving those who have hurt them.

I John says we will know someone is a Christian if he loves his brother and sister(other followers of Jesus). Perhaps if someone refuses to kill Christians and innocent men, women and children in foreign lands even when his government commands him to do so, then he is a follower of Jesus?

Patrick Coffin says “If it’s true it can stand severe tire kickings.” The Patrick Coffin Show. Does this blog post’s opening quote stand severe tire kickings? I think not!

For an excellent essay on the Old Testament and peace see Old Testament Peace Vision by Ted Grimsrud

See “What about Hitler.”

Reasons why other Christians participate in violence : Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

All My Posts (Links)

%d bloggers like this: