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Saint Augustine
Biblical Perspectives on a Christian's Service in War - Reasoning from Biblical Truths
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Biblical Perspectives on a Christian's Service in War
Reasoning from Biblical Truths
Some Biblical Facts
Nonresistance and the Christian Soldier
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Most philosophical arguments are morally attractive, but many flounder when they stumble upon the truth that the nature of man is sinful. Simple human reason, however, even when it’s based on God’s revealed truth, is not enough. What God demanded of His own Son wasn’t logical by human standards, and His commands to His children frequently go far beyond the confines of our simple reasoning. It makes little sense to pray to a God we can neither see nor hear, to rejoice in tribulation, or to bless those who persecute us. But that is exactly what the Christian is commanded to do.

Perhaps God has said to us: “Look. There will be wars and rumors of wars and all sorts of evils until the end of the age. Even the power of My Gospel will not change that, because Satan is still loose in the world. But you are nonetheless forbidden to take up arms in the defense of yourself and others. Just as the Christian may not be a prostitute, neither may the Christian be a soldier.” Perhaps God has said this to us, but perhaps He has not. If He has, we ought to be able to prove it directly, because the consequences of the pacifist position are extreme, as we will discuss later.

Examining Scripture

As a starting point, the legitimacy of soldiering is generally assumed in Scripture. The Bible does not contain any direct condemnation of soldiering. It appears, then, that the positions of the policeman and soldier are biblically sanctioned positions in human society. Just as Christians may be doctors, teachers, bricklayers and homemakers, Christians may also be soldiers. We should then say to the pacifist: “The burden of proof is on you.” The pacifist has to dig deeper than the surface to prove his point.

Scriptures that May Appear to Support Pacifism

There are at least six general categories of Scripture that might appear to directly support pacifism for the Christian:

1. The Old Testament commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). That the Hebrew word translated “kill” in the King James Version would be better translated “murder” seems almost universally accepted by students of Hebrew and Greek. Furthermore, it is obvious to anyone who reads only the King James Version that it must mean something less than “under no circumstances may a man in God’s will kill another man.” If not, the God of the Old Testament is grossly inconsistent. This commandment, although often thoughtlessly used by secular pacifists, presents no problem to a serious student of the Scriptures.

2. The large number of verses that applaud men of peace, for example:

“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)

“Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14)

“The work of righteousness shall be peace” (Isaiah 32:17)

“Love and truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19)

“Follow things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19)

3. The New Testament commands of nonresistance:

“Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)

“Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath” (Romans 12:19).

From a human perspective, these commands don’t seem at all reasonable. “Wait a minute, Lord. In this sinful world I know some guys who would just love for me to turn the left cheek so they could complete the job they began on the right.”

“True,” our Lord might answer, “but have you forgotten what I told you? You must expect this and endure it. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (cp. John 16:33) So the principle of nonresistance appears to stand, and to argue against the soldier’s profession.

4. The command to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)> Can you love a man and yet put a bullet through his head—perhaps sending him to an eternity apart from Christ? Is this the love of 1 Corinthians 13 that “suffers long and is kind”? Such questions are not easily answered in the affirmative.

5. Christ’s command to Peter:

“Put up thy sword into thy place; for all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

6. Commands to trust in God, not in our own arms, for our personal and national security:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 118:8).

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in men” (Psalm 118:8)


Pacifists also use two other arguments to support their position:  They reason that Christ’s lifewas normative. He ought to be our example for Christian living. Yet to the best of our knowledge, He never killed anyone during His earthly ministry. Instead, He deliberately accepted unjustified torture and death rather than to physically resist.

"The classic Anabaptist position echoed by the Mennonite tradition today argues as follows: The Christian’s primary loyalty is not to any human kingdom, but to the Kingdom of God. We are but “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20), and “strangers and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11) on this earth. We are called to be obedient to human governments, but only within limits. One of the limits is that we are not to kill. Because of sin, there may be a necessity for secular governments to use force in governing. But in this age, prior to the full coming of God’s Kingdom to earth, the Christian community ought to mirror that kingdom to the society that surrounds it. Thus, while accepting the ways of the world—to include police and military—we show by our actions that there is, and will be, a better way.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 18:19