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Christians in the Military

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality' started by SCOTT DIAMOND, Apr 12, 2019.

  1. SCOTT DIAMOND

    SCOTT DIAMOND New Member

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    I’m not a Christian but I’ve had a question about the Christian faith for years and I hope someone in this forum can answer for me. My question is fairly basic and that is how can a Christian serve in the military? To me, Christian teaching points to pacifism as the only option. I realize that there are countless quotes one could provide in the old testament regarding war but I’d rather focus on the teachings of Christ. Can anyone imagine Christ pulling a trigger and killing someone? To me that seems like an anathema to all his teachings. And if the goal is to be Christ-like then wouldn’t that imply pacifism? Am I wrong on this? (Presumably I am since there are so many Christians that serve in the military.) Are their statements in the new testament in which Christ condones taking of another person’s life in war?


    I hope this doesn’t come across as goading or baiting. I am seriously trying to understand what I see as a contradiction. Thanks for all polite replies.
     
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  2. MariaJLM

    MariaJLM Crazy Cat Lady

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    We do have warrior saints who were literally martyred in battle, but I would certainly largely agree that for the majority of modern conflicts Christians should not be participating. Most are about things like nationalism and gaining resources. Nationalism is anti-Christian for obvious reasons while using force to gain resources is a form of greed.

    In the Orthodox Church specifically it used to be a rule that soldiers returning from battle could not partake in the sacraments for a time because they were in a state of sin. Why? For killing people on the battlefield.
     
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  3. SeventhFisherofMen

    SeventhFisherofMen Invisible Hero Supporter

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    I’ll be honest and say I’m fairly new to the whole Christians serving in the military. I do believe that we need a military for defense and I also believe that God wants everyone to be a believer, so following that logic it would make sense that God would want some form of defense for our country that could comprise of Christians. But I also know that Jesus was a non-violent person who said thos who live by the sword will die by the sword.

    It’s all kind of complicated and sounds like a question I’d love to ask once in Heaven. I believe there are spiritual battles but that is different from physical ones. Anyways ya it’s like I said: complicated.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  4. MariaJLM

    MariaJLM Crazy Cat Lady

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    If it's a case of protecting innocent people(like WW II was, a.k.a protecting minorities from the Nazi regime) then I feel like Jesus would be okay with it. Most of the current wars are not about protecting innocents, though, but rather about expanding one's influence in the world. That was also the case in Jesus' time too incidentally. The Roman Empire is a notable example. They went to war to conquer, not because they felt threatened.
     
  5. SeventhFisherofMen

    SeventhFisherofMen Invisible Hero Supporter

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    Ya I’d have to agree with you on that one.
     
  6. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Hi, SCOTT :) Welcome to Christian Forums :) God bless you, howsoever He pleases :)
    @SCOTT DIAMOND > I think what Seventh Fisher says here is a basic way that a number of Christians understand this. We understand how God can use ones of secular authority to resist evil > Romans 13:4, with James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. But we know how Jesus says the one who draws the sword will perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52).

    For a number of us, this is a contradiction or a conflict.

    For others, we resolve that when there is authority over the military killing, this is not the same as personal killing. Ones in secular roles consider ourselves to be God's instruments for fighting evil and resisting evil. But on a personal level, we might believe in turning the other cheek, but there are ones who would see things differently if it is a matter of a child being kidnapped or harmed.

    But what can work is if a person simply trusts God; God can have things work out so he or she does not get into a situation which could seem to justify killing someone who really is a threat and evil. Someone willing to not kill might be protected by how God has things work out. But the one getting fully committed to killing for some justification might indeed get into such a situation . . . or a person training to be violent could then vent that on a pet or a loved one.

    We have seen this happen, while Detroit was called the murder capital of the world . . . I was told > ones bought guns in order to protect their families, but then had fights and did a family murder-suicide thing. So we need to prayerful about how we really are preparing, because what we trust and how we prepare ourselves could be what comes out on our loved ones.

    You did not mention about if police can be Christians. Well, there is info out that police can have domestic violence problems. There could be a connection, between training to use and depending on violence, and then this venting at home. Of course, this in my opinion is not the case for every officer > I understand there are ones who appreciate how they are so trusted, often the first ones to help people in isolated and vulnerable situations, and this is more common than using force. And military people could find themselves in very important humanitarian action. So, this certainly would be good for Christians.
     
  7. Basil the Great

    Basil the Great Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Back during the Vietnam War days, high school and college years for me, I was essentially a pacifist. However, when I began to look at WWII in later years, I do not see any way that Christians could stand by and let such great an evil as Hitler succeed. WWII meant not just captivity, but genocide for Jews and others. Having said that, I do agree that Christians should try and avoid war, if at all possible. I certainly do not see any justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. For that matter, the American War of Independence, aka the Revolutionary War, was hardly a war of necessity. Even the Civil War could have been avoided, in my view anyway.

    The main reason that I take the name of St. Basil for my CF name, is that he recommended that those coming home from fighting in a war wait three years before being allowed to take Communion. He admitted that fighting for one's country was not the same as murder. However, he said that it had been passed on down to him from those before him, that even if they fight for their country, "their hands are unclean". The Catholic Encyclopedia says that his recommendation was never adopted. (It might have been accepted in parts of the East, but apparently not in the Church as a whole.)

    Welcome to the forums by the way, Scott.
     
  8. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Each person must follow their own conscience.

    My denomination recognizes military service as honorable but we also have a tradition of recognizing conscientious objection. Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pr. Kurt Reuber come to mind immediately as Lutherans that resisted participating in war. Pr. Reuber served as a medic at Stalingrad.
     
  9. usexpat97

    usexpat97 kewlness

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    This would be my chief argument for a Christian theocracy. Man cannot serve two masters. Nor can he serve in two armies at the same time. You raise your right hand for a nation with free religion, or no religion, and you are trying to divide your loyalties.
     
  10. mnphysicist

    mnphysicist Have Courage to Trust God!

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    The words of Jesus do seem pretty clear as far as pacifism goes... and thus was the teachings of the early church fathers. However, once Christianity shifted from small persecuted groups to a serious political power in the world, pacifism became problematic.

    The early church view... you can't very well love your neighbor, if you kill him, you cant follow Jesus words on the sermon of the mount if you kill your enemy.

    Societal changes and now Christianity is powerful and part of govt.... sometimes your neighbor is so dangerous to your innocent neighbors, that some are killed, and some are in immediate danger of being killed. As a power of govt, there is a duty to protect ones citizens. Paul talks about this in Romans 13:4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

    This caused no small amount of heartache... how can you ascribe to the sermon on the mount from Jesus, and how can you be God's servant at the same time, knowing you may need to bring the sword to bear?

    Enter in Augustines Just War Theory... which relies heavily on the above text from Romans but also the story where Jesus heals the daughter of the Roman solider in Luke 7. Notice the soldier was not condemned for his work, notice Jesus talks about the great faith of the solder.

    The challenge of this, as well as further expansions of Just War theory, is they get farther and farther from the sermon on the mount... and not too many military actions fall under the just war criteria. Add in US nationalism, and a co-mingling of church in state, plus a fear of churches and pastors publishing pacifist articles and coming under the fear of govt between the civil war and WWI... and that voice shrinks. Add in the experience of WWII and its atrocities... pacifism is pretty much gone from US Christianity.

    This is an academic piece which investigates how the Church of Christ (a very conservative Bible based US church) did a 180 degree turn on their theology over the years.
    https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1625&context=leaven

    The issue of Christians and the military is exceedingly complex and nuanced.
     
  11. SCOTT DIAMOND

    SCOTT DIAMOND New Member

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    Thanks for understanding what I see as a contradiction and for your thoughtful reply. Interesting point about differentiating between military and personal killing. I think your take is reasonable but I guess my question is then if there is "evidence" of this stance in the New Testament. I'm not that familiar with the bible does Jesus support a soldier in the military or in some way indicate your reasonable view above?
     
  12. SCOTT DIAMOND

    SCOTT DIAMOND New Member

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    I actually think that is a reasonable answer. Maybe there are many apparent contradictions that we cannot understand until in Heaven.
     
  13. SCOTT DIAMOND

    SCOTT DIAMOND New Member

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    Can you provide any "evidence" of why Jesus would be OK with it? Examples in the New Testament when he did not turn the other cheek?
     
  14. MariaJLM

    MariaJLM Crazy Cat Lady

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    Jesus tells us to hold compassion for and help the downtrodden.
     
  15. (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ)

    (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ) Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What does the Bible say about a Christian serving in the military?

    In the New Testament, Jesus marveled when a Roman centurion (an officer in charge of one hundred soldiers) approached Him. The centurion’s response to Jesus indicated his clear understanding of authority, as well as his faith in Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus did not denounce his career. Many centurions mentioned in the New Testament are praised as Christians, God-fearers, and men of good character (Matthew 8:5; 27:54; Mark 15:39-45; Luke 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1; 21:32; 28:16).

    The places and the titles may have changed, but our armed forces should be just as valued as the centurions of the Bible. The position of soldier was highly respected. For example, Paul describes Epaphroditus, a fellow Christian, as a “fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25). The Bible also uses military terms to describe being strong in the Lord by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), including the tools of the soldier—helmet, shield, and sword.

    Yes, the Bible does address serving in the military, directly and indirectly. The Christian men and women who serve their country with character, dignity, and honor can rest assured that the civic duty they perform is condoned and respected by our sovereign God. Those who honorably serve in the military deserve our respect and gratitude.
     
  16. W2L

    W2L Well-Known Member

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    If we were all believers would we need self defense?
     
  17. SeventhFisherofMen

    SeventhFisherofMen Invisible Hero Supporter

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    Good question.
     
  18. (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ)

    (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ) Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Luke 22:36 demonstrates that violence is acceptable for self defense.
     
  19. W2L

    W2L Well-Known Member

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    No it doesnt. He who lives by the sword will die by it.
     
  20. (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ)

    (° ͡ ͜ ͡ʖ ͡ °) (ᵔᴥᵔʋ) Well-Known Member Supporter

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    But the apostles are not "living by the sword". Jesus is commanding them in Luke 22:36 to purchase swords. What other purpose would those swords be used? Furthermore, Matthew 26:52 doesn't forbid people to "live by the sword", it is a warning that those who do should expect to "die by the sword". Contextually to the discussion this would mean, "Do not serve the military unless you are willing to risk your life in service to the military."
     
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