"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.VI No.VIII Pg.14-15
March 1944

The Christian And Carnal War

T. B. Wilkinson

During the first world war I read many articles from brethren on both side of the war question, and I have been a close reader of such articles since the present war came up, and I think I was in a position at all times to consider what I read without the least bias towards either side. Now after about thirty years of such reading, and after long and careful study of the subject, I have some definite conclusions which I think the New Testament supports.

I know that the Christian armor is not carnal, and the Lord never expected us to use a carnal sword to advance the cause of his kingdom. As a Christian soldier I am to use the sword of the Spirit and no other, for the cause for which we fight can be advanced in no other way. But every Christian is also a citizen in some human government which government the Lord, "ordained" for the good of mankind, and while the Lord never placed a carnal sword in His spiritual kingdom, he did give it to civil government, and for a definite and specific purpose. That purpose is to maintain government, restrain evil, and to avenge wrongs. As a citizen of the human government I am commanded to "be in subjection to the powers that be", and obey them who have the rule over me for righteousness sake.

"Whosoever resisted the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil For he is the minister of God to thee for good, but it thou do evil be afraid for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is the minister of God, a revenger of wrath upon him who doeth evil". Read the entire thirteenth chapter of Romans which treats on our relationship to civil governments.

We see then a line of duties which we owe to our civil government as well as duties which we owe to God. They are not the same in every respect, and their objectives are reached in different ways. But they should not conflict, and will not unless some on one side of the line goes wrong. Either the civil government requires more of us than the Lord has entrusted to them, or we are unwilling to give it as much as the Lord demands of us. In this latter case we know what the penalty will be, Paul tells us in so many words, "he that resisteth the powers resisteth the ordinance of God", and such will receive to themselves damnation.

In the hands of legally constituted civil powers the Lord ordained the use of the carnal sword, therefore he gave it to them. Logically this restricts it to them, and the State alone has the right to use the sword, or have it used, which is the only way it can use it. No clique, clan, mob, or individual, has the right to use it, and to assume such a right they must constitute themselves judge, jury, and executioner, which involves too much authority. The command, Thou shalt not kill, will cover all such uses of the sword, and make them unlawful. The sword belongs exclusively to the State, and any other use of it is unlawful.

The evildoers might arise from inside of the State or they might be an outside power which attacks for the purpose of plunder, robbery, and murder. We have constituted officials in each State, peace officers of various kinds, judges, juries, sheriffs, marshals, etc., and for special occasions when more is necessary we have a regular army of militiamen, whose duties require them to maintain order, apprehend criminals, protect the lives of the people, and execute the laws. In case of aggression from a foreign power something often becomes necessary more than the protections I have mentioned, the country is forced to raise a great army and go to war, and put the entire country on a war footing.

It would be foolish to argue that there are no such nations since we know that our country is right now fighting for its life and the lives and property of its people from just such an aggressor nation. Informed people know this is true, and uninformed people should not rush into print. The cause of this war, and the infamy of Pearl Harbor are too well known to waste time arguing it.

After Pearl Harbor there was nothing our country could do but fight, or surrender our country and people to the murderers and robbers. They had in their hands a sword which the Lord had given to our rulers for the punishment of just such criminals and murderers as the Japs were. Had our government failed to use it, not only would it have been a disaster for our country and people, and a crime against all civilization, but also it would have failed the Lord who gave it the sword for that very purpose.

It is no answer to this argument to say that the Lord also gave Japan a sword, the Lord never gave any country a sword to use in aggression, and robbery, and murder, but only to suppress, and punish such crimes.

God only gave the sword to the nations for a single purpose, and that purpose I have already stated. If you cannot see a difference between the use Japan is making of the sword, and the use our country is making of it, you are to be pitied, and I do not think arguments will do you much good. The man who places our soldier boys on the same plane with Japanese savages and murderers needs information of the most primary kind, and I waste no time on such hopeless cases.

After Pearl Harbor our country had to fight or surrender a helpless people which God had entrusted to it to the most ruthless and cruel band of international bandits and cutthroats known in history. They delight in murder among helpless and innocent people, especially women and children, and Germany is no better. Robbery, and murder, ruthless destruction and burning of property, women ravished, and their children murdered before their eyes to get rid of them, that is the kind of thing our nation is called upon to resist. Should it use the sword God placed in its hands since that is the only kind of force that can succeed?

Do you say such things never could happen over here? There is only one possible thing to keep it from happening, and that is the sword which God placed in the hands of our nation. Pacifism will not stop them, we tried that too long before Pearl Harbor. Prayers will not stop them, they refuse to recognize our God, and defy him, and worship their son of heaven. The Lord will not stop them unless we are willing to use the means he has placed in our hands for that purpose, and if we refuse to use the means He has given, our prayers would be vain.

God will only hear our prayers when we have used all the means he has placed at our disposal, and He will only give us more strength when we have used all that he has given us. I like the words of that song, Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, and that other, Coming in on a wing and a prayer. God expects us to use all that he has given us, and when we reach the limits of our power he will supply all we need if our cause is a righteous one.

Do you argue that our country should use the sword in mutual defense but should not require Christians to bear arms? I think the whole argument hinges right on the single point, should our country have gone to war with Japan and Germany? If it should then the obligation is as much upon one citizen as upon another, everything else being equal. Are not Christians citizens of the country, and equal partakers of the benefits and blessings of citizenship? Shall they become sponges, and bums, in the country in which they live, owing it no "Honor to whom honor is due, fear to whom fear, custom to whom custom, tribute to whom tribute is due, fear to whom fear, custom to whom custom, tribute"? If God gave the sword to the State for this purpose to punish evildoers, can Christians fulfill their duties to the country if they refuse their help?

If the defense of the lives and property of peaceful citizens from robbers and murderers was not the purpose of God when he ordained the sword, then what was that purpose? Why did he give the sword to the State if it is not to be raised against such ruthless criminals as Japan and Germany? "He beareth not the sword in vain for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

To quote, Thou shalt not kill, as an execute for not helping your country in perils like those we now face displays a weakness that is deplorable in men who claim to know enough to be a Christian. The same God who said, Thou shalt not kill, provided the death sentence for some twenty different offenses under the law. Who did he expect to execute those sentences? How could they do it without killings? The "powers that be" were to execute those sentences under due process of law. Did God contradict himself in his laws? Such arguments make him do it. That the Lord ordained the use of the carnal sword in civil government is easily established from both the Old and New Testament. Under the law the giving of statutes requiring capital punishment in a number of different offenses implies the use of the sword in the hands of the "powers that be", whoever those powers might be whose duty it was to uphold the law, "For there is no power but of God, for the powers that be are ordained of God". We can't argue that question with the inspired apostle, and unless we do the point is settled.

Perhaps the oft quoted, and badly misunderstood, and misapplied passage from the Savior himself is all the proof we should require. "My kingdom is not of this world, if my kingdom were of this world then would my disciples fight that I should not be delivered unto thee". He did not mean to teach that there are not some kingdoms which are of this world, and rightly so, for he Himself had taught his own disciples to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars, and unto God the things which are Gods. He did not seem to think there should be any conflict, and his own language clearly declares that if his kingdom had been of that kind his disciples would have been taught to fight for him.

He came to set up a different kind of kingdom, one above all such kingdoms, and which should be over all of them. But he never hinted that man could live without such organized government, or should live without them, and just so long as men live in the world there will be civil government, and some will be good and some bad, perhaps. God will bless and help the righteous rulers, and we are taught to pray for them, and be in subjection to them, and therefore we should work as we pray, for we should work to bring about an answer to our prayers.

"If my kingdom were of this world then would my disciples fight." That one passage settles the Christian attitude toward wars of the kind our country is fighting right now. We are citizens of our country, we owe it all we have, and when it is the subject of wrongful attack the Master has made it our duty to fight. What else can his language possibly mean?

I think the whole proposition settles around a single question, is a nation ever justified in going to war for any cause? Then there is another that is related in an essential way, Are Christians citizens of the nation in which they live? Do they owe it the same allegiance that other citizens do? Both of these questions can only be answered in the affirmative in the clear light of New Testament teaching. That can only mean that when a nation is justified in taking up the sword, its citizens, including Christians, are likewise justified in using it. Christians are not just part citizens of their country, they are full citizens. Whatever legitimate citizenship involves, Christians owe that to their country, and must give it.

This would only involve the use of the sword for the purpose for which the Lord ordained it, or gave it to the civil government. He did not give it for the purpose of aggression, robbery, or murder, but for the avenging of just such crimes when committed by others. If a nation is engaged in a war of aggression a Christian can not help in it without partaking of their nation's sins, and hence would become proper subjects for punishment themselves. I have heard something about one Christian killing another, or brethren fighting against each other, in wars. Some wars, maybe, but not in the present war. If you are a Christian boy in the army of Uncle Sam, I don't think you need to worry much about your bullet hitting some Christian brother in the Japanese army, or in the German army. If they ever had been, the cause in which they are fighting would be enough to condemn them.

Christians don't fight wars of aggression, and they do not rob, and murder, and burn down homes ruthlessly, or ravish innocent women, and kill their children like rabbits just to watch them kick. They don't bomb hospitals, and hospital ships, and sink them with wounded soldiers, or commit any of the horrors unnecessary to the winning of the war, and the restoration of peace to the world.