Concerning Resolution #6, Part 4

Posted: October 31, 2011 in Resolution #6
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been waiting, you know…waiting for someone to make a good case for changing our current Articles of Faith regarding conscientious scruples. I’ve been waiting for someone to make a good Scriptural and spiritual case for Apostolics serving as military combatants, at the ready to abruptly propel other human beings into eternity. I’m still waiting.

The only Scriptural support anyone has expressed to me for Resolution #6 has been half-hearted at best, as if the one trying to buoy the pro-choice argument wasn’t really convinced of the Scriptural validity of his position. The most strongly worded statement I’ve seen in favour of the idea was patriotic and political, which would seem to indicate that even the issuer realized his Biblical position wasn’t strong. My best guess is that since evidently very little thought went into the development and writing of Resolution #6, that very little thought will go into supporting it. My prediction is that Resolution #6 will continue to be borne along by tepid waves of indifference.

The only Scriptural support presented to me so far for Apostolic believers serving as military combatants is drawn entirely from the Old Testament, and references the battles of the Israelites. Essentially the argument goes thusly, “Well, God commanded the Israelites to go to war! And since obviously war means taking human life, God must be okay with His people taking human lives in war.” Hardly. It seems a good time for our ministerial constituency to refresh their knowledge of the New Testament book of Hebrews, the theme of which (as any student in any of our Bible Schools could tell you) is “something better.”

Better. It’s a matter of degree, you know, that reflects an improvement on what was before. We have a better hope, a better covenant, better promises, a better sacrifice, a better high priest, and a better inheritance. Better! Do we get that? What we have is better. What we’re promised is better. Where we’re going is better. Our covenant (agreement, law, rule) is better. We’re supposed to be better, too, and transcend what was before. We don’t stone rebellious sons, we intercede for them in prayer…because we’re better. We don’t burn witches at the stake, we live in the authority of the Holy Ghost and pray in the Spirit…because we’re better. We don’t execute adulterers, we pray for conviction, repentance, and restoration…because we’re better. We don’t engage in ethnic cleansing, we send missionaries who preach the Good News of our Saviour…because we’re better.

We’re not the contemporary manifestation of ancient Israel; we’re better. We’re an improvement on what was before. It doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch that the idea of the Church and her Covenant as better lends itself rather neatly to the idea that Christians should not “shed blood nor take human life.” That the ancient Israelites were instruments of God’s wrath upon the vile occupants of Canaan shouldn’t be misconstrued as God’s blessing for Apostolics to serve as combatants in the wars of contemporary nations. The Church isn’t the “sword of the Lord” upon the world, and neither are her members; we are ambassadors of grace. We are not the visitation of God’s justice upon evildoers, either as a Body or as individuals; we are ministers of mercy.

As a church more or less committed to dispensationalist theology, don’t we recognize ourselves as part of a different dispensation? And isn’t that different dispensation called “grace” or something? Yes…yes…I think that’s actually what it’s called; the Dispensation of Grace. At least, that’s what it was called in the old Search for Truth home Bible study. But it’s been awhile since I’ve used Search for Truth. Maybe a resolution or something was passed on the quiet, and it’s been changed. Maybe now it’s called the Dispensation of Taking Human Life If Your Conscience Allows.

Look, even the most cursory of glances through the New Testament reveals a lexicon of peace that demonstrates how much better the Church Age is designed to be. Ideas like grace, joy, love, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation leap from the pages. The Spirit, we’re told, produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good behaviour, faith, and self control. All will know we’re His disciples by our love, we’re told. Do good to all, we’re commanded, especially to the Family of God. The world will glorify God when they see our good works, it says. Know what’s clearly missing? What’s missing is the idea that, for a Christian, violence is an accepted method of resolving anything. There’s not a shred, not a hint, not the tiniest indication, that for a child of God an accepted way to deal with enemies of the secular state is to kill them.  Wrath, anger, and malice are presented as works of the flesh. Even mere local church disputes are presented as the result of a lack of inner peace.

I find it hard to imagine the Apostles of the Lamb engaged as combatants, swinging the sword in the name of the Lord against the enemies of Rome. But maybe I’ve missed something. I’ve got to admit the possibility that all those years I was teaching about patience, turning the other cheek, and manifesting the nature and Spirit of Christ in a troubled world, that some energetic Pentecostal scholar parsed a rare Greek verb form that directly translated into English means “shoot to kill.” Hey, it could happen! After all, who would have ever guessed that Apostolic believers would granted authority by our ministerial constituency to issue passports to hell (or heaven, perhaps?) from the muzzle of an M4A1 assault rifle? (If their consciences allow, of course.) My goodness! How far we’ve come! How advanced philosophically! It’s wonderfully spiritually pragmatic of us to make this allowance, don’t you think?

Yeah. Somehow I doubt this is the kind of “better” that the writer of Hebrews had in mind.

  1. Tom Brooks says:

    Excellent point, keep going.

  2. Lyn says:

    What are you thoughts on those that serve as police officers or those that started living for the Lord while in the military? I’ve thought of that question often and would like your opinion! Thank you for stating your position on this subject and backing it with Bible!

    • Dennis Munn says:

      Worthy questions, Lynn.

      First, I think we’ve got to recognize that following Jesus means we follow Him everywhere, in everything. We’ve gotten used to not hearing the radical nature of Christ’s call, and gotten used to the idea that discipleship can be molded to fit our life as we choose to live it. But you and I both know that’s not true.

      As to police officers; while their role may call upon them to take a life in an extreme circumstance, this isn’t their primary duty or function. The more immediate questions for an Apostolic serving as a police officer may be, “Can I serve in this capacity and reveal the nature of Christ? Can I serve as a police officer while doing violence to no man, without intimidating, bullying, or otherwise abusing people? Can I serve as a police officer and still see those lawbreakers I encounter as worthy of redemption and the grace of God? Can I serve as a police officer and function as an emissary of God’s mercy?” Of course, an Apostolic serving as a police officer may be required to take a human life to protect the lives of fellow officers or other citizens. Is this the position that Christ desires His disciples to be in? I can’t imagine that it is. The upshot is that serving as a police officer may not be a career choice suitable for an Apostolic believer.

      As to military people; it’s hard to escape the fundamental fact that soldiers kill people. That’s what they’re trained to do. For an Apostolic, this is unacceptable. So, a military person who converts while enlisted has some very hard choices to make…and those choices come with consequences. My father, in the US Army in the Vietnam Era, laid down his rifle and declared himself to be a conscientious objector. After a horrific experience of intimidation, humiliation, and being threatened with years in prison, he was officially recognized by the US Army as a conscientious objector and served many more years honourably before being medically retired. While this was a hard choice for him to make, he felt it was his only option as a Jesus name, Spirit-filled Christian.

      A military person who converts may be serving in a role in which they will not be called upon to take human life, and may be able to finish out the rest of their enlistment without difficulty. But for combatants who are saved while serving, there is no escaping the difficulty of the choice they must make. But do you remember what John the Baptist told the soldiers who came to him to be baptized? “Do violence to no man.” And, let’s not forget that we serve a God who delights in answering the prayers of his Children. So those who convert while serving as combatants need to be encouraged to seek the Lord, and pray that He would make a way for them to live in a manner that above all things pleases Him.

  3. Dennis Munn says:

    Having said all of this, Lynn, let me also say that I have great sympathy for those combatants who convert while serving. They need all of the love, prayer, and understanding that we can offer. What I struggle with, however, are those Apostolic believers who deliberately enlist as combatants.

  4. Lyn says:

    thanks for clarity on this subject! I agree 100% and feel that a person who becomes a christian while serving in the military should take advantage of the opportunity to move to another area of their field of service away from combat and into a support position until their time of service is completed. It’s refreshing to hear these topics discussed with Bible to back up your thoughts to counter those that try to justify wrong-doing with ‘politically correct’ opinions. Thanks again.

  5. jebeach says:

    this is very intriguing

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