"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.IX Pg.1
April 1943

"The Attitude Of The Church Towards War"

Cled E. Wallace

In view of what led up to it, Brother Brigance's article, which appeared on the editorial page of the Gospel Advocate, seems to call for some further remarks from us. My regard for Brother Brigance is such, that as far as I am concerned, anything he writes is worthy of the most serious and courteous consideration.

As a sort of diversion, the question of the "spirit" and style of our writing obtrudes, almost if not always from those who do not accept our conclusions. Premillennialists have been howling their heads off about our barbarous style and unholy spirit from the very beginning of our attack on their vagaries. Everybody knows what is the matter with them. I read an article in the Christian Standard some time back in which a writer adversely criticized Brother McGarvey's style in his attacks on certain theories and their advocates. I knew instantly what was the matter with him. Brother Lard received an article from Brother Shackleford in reply to his article on "Should Christians Go To War?" "He said the spirit and courtesy of it were faultless." To which Brother Brigance adds parenthetically ("Quite different from some of our replies today."). We do not claim that our style is "faultless," nor have our critics "commended it warmly." Come to think of it, we have been quite freely slugged "at" by some brethren who do not wear regulation gloves nor try to adhere rigidly to Hedge's rules of logic. The point of view seems to have something to do with it. I recall that a few years ago Brother Brigance laughed heartily over a good-natured punch I took at a rather prominent preacher. He, seemed to think it quite all right. A little later another prominent preacher denounced the same thing in the paper as barbaric and unchristian. I think any effort however much prolonged to make me as nice as some preachers and writers would be hopeless, and it would be a joke to call me meticulous, but I really do try to stay within reasonable bounds, write so as to be understood and not miss-spell too many words. I took spelling under Brother Freed.

Brother Brigance considers it "inopportune" to discuss "the attitude of Christians toward war" and proposes to give us the historical attitude of the church toward it. Then he went ahead and discussed it. Brother H. Leo Boles evidently thinks it ought to be discussed as he has challenged several of us for a debate in the Gospel Advocate and the editor of the Advocate had some derogatory remarks to make about our "valor" because we did not grab up the challenge, unfair proposition and all. Then he puts, Brother Brigance on the editorial page of his paper to tell us that the question of whether a Christian should go to war or not is purely an individual matter to be settled by each one's conscience, left there and not agitated anywhere else. He classes us with premillennialists in pushing the question. When as a matter of fact, he admits what we have been contending for all along. Who started the pushing? We didn't. We have resisted the effort to push the personnel of our armed forces into the category of murderers. We have no disposition whatever to insist on anybody manning a tank, flying a plane, or shooting a gun in combat if he cannot conscientiously do so. But we do object to him mounting a rostrum or an editorial desk and denouncing as murderers all who do so. We are glad to have Brother Brigance agree with us in this connection.

This may, or may not, answer the question Brother Brigance would so much like to hear answered. "Is it a sin for Christians to refuse to kill their fellow-man when the government calls on them to do so?" It appears on the face of it that if this question were answered the way Brother Brigance, would like to have it answered, it would make a murderer out of every soldier. If so, I counter by asking another question I would like to "hear" him answer. Is it an individual matter to be settled by "each one's conscience" whether or not he becomes a murderer? Brother Brigance seems to be a little unsteady in his reasoning just at this point.

As to the pioneers among us, it makes little difference. We respect them and their views but could not agree with all of them for they were not agreed among themselves. They concede us Shackleford and M. C. Kurfees, who rank along with McGarvey. They gather comfort from Campbell, Franklin, Lipscomb, Fanning, Lard and McGarvey. We bend slightly but do not bow before such names. It may be that Shackleford cancels out Lard inasmuch as when he received a reply from Shackleford he "himself commended it warmly." Were we to receive such a commendation from Brother H. Leo Boles, or the editor of the Gospel Advocate, we would think the war was about over.

As to that manifesto on the Civil War, it was drafted and signed by some illustrious men, but one of them Brother Brigance relies on rather heavily, said that sentimentally his answer was NO but intellectually, he had to admit that the argument was on the other side. He said that his heart said NO but his intellect conceded the argument. That was in the midst of a civil war between the States. Had it been now when the whole nation is united in defense of its existence, his heart would undoubtedly have joined his intellect.

As for Alexander Campbell, he voted and held office. He was a delegate to the convention from Virginia. He helped write the constitution of Virginia. If he framed it, could he help maintain it? He further conceded that it was moral and right, even necessary, for a government to make and enforce laws, and contended that capital punishment is both right and expedient and proved it by the Bible. He is not much comfort to those who hold the view that government is of the devil and Christians cannot afford to participate in its legitimate functions, if indeed they are legitimate.

Benjamin Franklin "argued it as a question of Christian morals, aside from the particular issue of any war." In the light of the "issue" of this war, will Brother Brigance contend that it is immoral for our government to defend its position, existence and the liberties of its citizens against the encroachment, the immoralities of the Axis powers? I trow not! And I do not think he thinks that if a Christian makes it "an individual matter"--to help do it, he thereby becomes immoral. And this is about all we have contended for all along. And we do not think that so contending is going to cause a division in the church. We have too much confidence in the good sense of the brethren for that.

McGarvey signed a Manifesto against war during the Civil War and he also wrote this "Self-preservation is a law of God giving right, which under most circumstances, a Christian can claim. He may resist the robber, the assassin and all men of that ilk, and may protect his person and his possessions against the assaults of the violent and lawless."

McGarvey did not mean resisting him by reading the Sermon on the Mount to him, or kneeling before him in prayer. Brethren who like to quote the pioneers on war and think becoming a soldier is enlisting for murder can get little comfort from McGarvey. He was discussing some specific New Testament references on the "doctrine of non-resistance" when he wrote that.

A good writer recently went to some length to prove that the mission of the church in time of war is the same as it is in time of peace. Of course. I thought everybody knew that. I have not heard of any intention on the part of the government to ask the church to take over its task. Members of the church are also citizens of the government. It is no business of the church to run farms, schools, oil refineries, or munitions plants, but Christians may work on and in them.

The "inopportune" part of Brother Brigance's article in which he lapsed into "a discussion of what should be the attitude of Christians toward war" carried him to the New Testament. Now that is better than what Campbell, Lard, McGarvey or anybody else said, thought or wrote. He says

"The New Testament preaches the gospel of peace instead of war, of love instead of hate, of saving life instead of taking life. It teaches that Christians are under the leadership of the Prince of Peace. It teaches the doctrine of non-resistance."

We accept that and I'm sure Brother McGarvey, one of Brother Brigance's "pioneers" did also when he made his remarks on "self-preservation." The New Testament also teaches that civil government is ordained of God and bears the sword to keep order in society and that Christians should submit to it. Its legitimate functions are not evil or immoral. This discussion always comes back to where it belongs the functions of government. The manner in which it is ignored by some is revealing.

We are told that there is no example of a Christian_ becoming a soldier and ergo, he violates what the New Testament teaches if he does so. Then where goes the contention that "it is an individual matter, a matter of each one's conscience." and should not be discussed because it will "foment strife, dissension, and alienation"? My impression is that what the New Testament teaches should be discussed regardless of the consequences. Brother Brigance cannot have it, both ways. If the New Testament teaches it, it is not an indifferent matter for the individual to settle by his own conscience.

Paul, the Christian, requested and received an armed escort. Could a Christian have been one of the number that escorted Paul? The chief captain said that "great violence" was used. Paul asked for great violence. He accepted great violence. Could a member of the church have given what Paul asked for? If not, where does that put Paul? Was Paul loving his enemies while he was asking for violence to protect him from them? I'm sure Paul knew all about "the gospel of peace instead of war, of love instead of hate, of saving life instead of taking life," and he was "under the leadership of the Prince of Peace." Was Paul an advocate of war, hate and murder?

The New Testament leaves the Eunuch in a cabinet position and Cornelius a soldier. We find him one, and we leave him one. Cornelius was an army officer. Peter went to tell him what he "ought" to do. If one cannot be a Christian and a soldier, could he become one and be a soldier? Is it not remarkably strange that the New Testament leaves Cornelius a soldier, an army officer, if it was necessary for him to quit murder to become or be a Christian? Does the record leave out an essential of what he "ought" to do? Peter either did not tell him, or he did not tell us, and we ought to know it, too, if it is true. It is not enough to get Cornelius out of the army by assuming that he quit. That begs the question and we do not yield to begging.

Finally, we are not calling for, nor do we want any strife, alienation or division. We do not desire any of the evil consequences Brother Brigance fears. We are not even forcing an issue. We are only defending our boys and others against the charge of being murderers because they wear uniforms in the armed service of our country. We are told in substance: "Our soldiers are in the business of murder, but don't reply to it or you will be agitating. It is an individual matter, the boys are murderers, but you must not cause division by denying it"! We deny it! And there won't be any division, just a little moaning here and there.