"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.XI Pg.1,3b
June 1943

Concerning War

R. L. Whiteside

Some time ago I wrote an article to show the command, "Thou shalt not kill had nothing to do with government action against criminals or in matters of war, but was a prohibition against murder. Letters have come to me about the matter. Some accuse me of appealing to the Old Testament in support of legal executions and war. Not so; I was showing that those who appeal to that Old Testament command to prove that legal executions and war are wrong, are miserably perverting that command. One good brother wrote me that he was surprised that I would admonish Christians to go to war. Is a man admonishing Christians to go to war when he proves that a passage has been misused against war and legal executions? I have an idea that this brother expected his letter to be published, but that might get, both him and the Gospel Advocate into trouble with the government. It seems to me that the government has been too forbearing for its own safety.

Cannot this question of war be discussed without calling people ugly names? If I should say that a Christian, in obedience to his government, may go to war, am I therefore a warmonger? One preacher applies that term to brethren, and others, who think they can go to war. Of course, he did not know the meaning of the word monger. I have it on reliable authority that a certain preacher said in a sermon, "Let the alley rats do "the fighting we Christians have nothing to do with it." Whether it be right or wrong to engage in a defensive war, the fact remains that the very flower of the manpower of our nation is in this war. "Alley rats"! and yet he is preaching every Sunday, morning and night, to fathers and mothers who have sons in the armed forces of this nation! When I started in the Christian life I soon became saturated with the idea that Christians should not go to war. I saw that to vote was to pledge myself to back up my vote with whatever power I could use. I still think that to vote for men to fill our offices is to pledge myself to sustain them in all legal affairs of government. As I learned more I kept meeting up with other truths and facts that I could not ignore.

1. The law of self-preservation is imbedded in our nature, God made us that way for our own good. We may never feel the need of resisting evil men further than to lock our doors; that is resisting evil men. I have never heard any man argue that it is wrong to lock our doors. Self-preservation is a law of our being--it is a God-given law. I cannot believe that God is the author of two conflicting laws.

2. God has not changed His nature, I can see how God can change His laws respecting service and worship without changing His nature, just as a government may change some laws without changing the fundamental nature of the government; but there are fundamental principles in a government that cannot be changed without changing the nature of the government. That, it seems to me, goes without argument. And so with God and His government. Will anyone say that God has fundamentally changed with reference to war and legal executions?

3. The war on criminal nations, war of defense, is not different from war on criminal individuals and gangsters. Shall all efforts to suppress crime cease? Would you be a "conscientious objector" to appearing in court as a witness against a man accused of a capital crime? But you may say you would have to appear. Now would you? If so, you could refuse to give any evidence that would hang the criminal. Would you do anything to protect your wife and little children from a beast in human form? You may argue that you would not, but you would.

4. Paul's example weighed much with me. Paul was a Roman citizen; and so far as we can learn, he was the only writer of the New Testament that was a Roman citizen. When the Roman soldiers rescued him from the mob in Jerusalem, did he tell them that he did not want anyone to be hurt on his account? He saved himself from a beating by avowing his Roman citizenship. When he learned that the Jews plotted to kill him, he promptly called on the chief captain for protection. The chief captain sent him to Caesarea with soldiers to protect him. (Acts 21:27-36; 23:12-33.) Here is a case wherein sinners, heathen, did a good deed to a servant of the Lord, in fact, two good deeds--they rescued him from death, and then protected him from death. And Paul had called for that protection. And yet we are told that Paul would not be allowed to protect anyone from violence, not even one of these soldiers. Paul would enjoy the fruits of what others did, but would not be allowed to do a similar good deed. Oh, yes, I know your answer; they are sinners, and it was their duty to do what they did. And that makes a strange situation--sinners may do good deeds that Christians are prohibited from doing! Here is the picture: A Christian is being unmercifully beaten while Paul stands by; the Christian calls on Paul for help. But Paul says, "No, I am a Christian; call on some of these sinners for help." We enjoy the fruits of what sinners do for us, but must have no part in gaining these fruits! It reminds me of a story I heard years ago. A group were going to raid a watermelon patch. When they got to the fence, one said, "You boys go on in and get the watermelons, and bring them out; I will wait here; you see I am a member of the church." I think you see he point.

I know that Paul says that we should not return evil for evil, nor avenge ourselves, but to give place to the wrath of God, and that vengeance belongs to God. But that, like the command of the Old Testament, "Thou shalt not kill," is a command against an individual's taking matters in his own hand; Paul goes on to show that God executes wrath on evil doers through the agency of the civil government. And here is one work in which some brethren will not cooperate with God; they will have no fellowship with Him in that sort of thing.

5. And here is another thing that confronted me. I am a citizen of the United States. Can a man afford to be a member of any organization of any sort unless he is willing to perform all the duties that belong to members of that organization?

I would not be radical on the subject; I merely state some problems. But I must not close without this one other note about Paul: When Festus, at the request of the Jews, would send Paul to Jerusalem to be judged there, Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou also very well knowest. If then I am a wrong-doer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if none of these things is true whereof these accuse me, no man can give me up unto them. I appeal unto Caesar." (Acts 25:9-11.) In that appeal Paul invoked all the powers of the Roman government both civil and military. And also in that plea he was resisting the evil designs of the Jews.