Concerning Civil Government And Carnal Warfare
I. Does H. Leo Boles Want A Debate?
I have been trying to arrange a debate with Brother H. Leo Boles on the war question. I had been informed by brethren who agree with his position that he wanted such a debate, and had a standing challenge to certain able brethren, and it was suggested that I might want to take it up. Also, in various papers I saw articles by certain brethren that Boles had backed the field down seemingly, and no one was willing to measure sword with him.
Then I received a challenge from a young preacher on his side, who challenged me to debate with him, or rather challenged me to take up the Boles challenge, and debate with him. Some able brethren on my side had expressed a desire to have me meet Boles on the question, and thought such a debate would do good. After I received the challenge, I wrote Brother Wallace about the matter and sent him some correspondence I had received. He replied that he would be interested in such a debate if I could manage to take Boles on, and in another letter said that I would be his choice—if he had a choice—to meet Boles in such a debate.
But Brother Wallace said Boles would not debate, that he had never meant to debate the question from the beginning. He said Boles had a hand-made proposition which he had written, and which he demanded that his opponent accept, or none. He said this hand-made proposition did not state the issue between us, and Boles knew it, and he wrote it that way on purpose to keep from debating, and refused to even consider a proposition which stated the issue between us.
I have known some would-be great debaters who seek a kind of cheap reputation in that very way, and it was hard for me to believe Boles would be that cheap, or needed that kind of reputation. It is a trick the sects often work, and is an evidence of weakness in a debater. No man ever seeks an advantage in the wording of a proposition unless he feels like he needs it, and lacks confidence in his own position. Such debaters are whipped before the debate begins, and I sometimes grant them some advantages, knowing I can force them to defend their true teaching or— make them look small before their own followers. Whether Brother Boles knows what the real issue is, or not, his brethren do, and any effort on his part to evade defending it will betray a weakness that he cannot hide.
I sent Brother Boles a proposition which had been accepted by two men on his side of the question as properly stating the issue, and I have their signature to the proposition. I had already learned that Brother Boles would not affirm anything in the debate, and insisted on being in the negative all the way through. Of course, this is always an evidence of weakness in a debater, but I was willing to grant him that much advantage. In the proposition I sent him I agreed to affirm that the Christian on the call of his country is required to bear the sword for all God-ordained purposes. He replied that he could not accept this proposition for it would make him deny that a Christian should do what God ordained for him to do, and he then sent me his own hand-made proposition.
This was a mere quibble. He knows that he teaches the same as I, that there is a God-ordained use for the sword, and that Paul said so. He teaches that the Lord only uses children of the devil to use it, while I had agreed to prove that Christians are also required to use it. His brethren know that this is the issue between us, and I think he knows it, and my proposition stated the real issue. I was assuming the burden of proof all the way through, and giving him the unfair advantage of arguing from a negative standpoint. But I waived this point and sent him another, in which I embodied some of the pet phrases he included in his hand-made proposition, which he had written for his opponent.
In this proposition I agreed to affirm that the Bible teaches that a Christian on the call of his country must bear the sword to execute wrath upon evildoers, and protect the lives and property of the righteous: and when military necessity requires, to kill his country's enemies, and destroy their property. These last two phrases I copied from his hand made proposition. Now, I thought he would not return a word and we could proceed with the debate.
I wrote him as nice a letter as I knew how, and even offered to discuss it with him without a formal proposition, each one of us setting out our views in an exchange of articles on the subject. This is what we do when we debate the general church question with the sects, and this leaves each opponent free to bring out any point in which he believes his opponent is unscriptural.
Finally I received the following reply which I quote in full. "Dear Brother Wilkinson: Your letter of Feb. 8 received. Do you believe that the Bible teaches that Christians should respond to the call of their country to destroy the property and kill the citizens of another country? If you do believe this why not affirm it? If you do not believe the above statement, then you should not affirm it. I have no disposition to ask a man to affirm that which he does not believe. Yours fraternally, H. Leo Boles."
He has no disposition to ask any man to affirm what he does not believe, and yet that is what he is doing in this very short letter. That is what he has been doing with a number of brethren for years, even insisting that they do believe it, like he has stated it, and are so teaching it.
If I will defend Christians fighting in armies engaged in a war of conquest and murder, like the armies of Japan and Germany in this war, then he will debate it with me. No Christians are fighting in the armies of either of those countries and murdering innocent women and children, as well as men, for Christians do not commit murder. If they do, they cease to be Christians and ought to be killed. But the Bible teaches that Christians should fight in the armies which execute wrath upon these murderers, and I am ready to prove it. Do you believe this statement? If not, then why will you not deny it? That is what I teach on this question, and it is what the Bible Banner teaches, and also what the Bible teaches. Are you afraid to discuss this issue, or was it a mistake when the impression got out that you wanted a debate? You know we are not teaching that Christians should fight to help murderers and robbers and will not affirm a proposition which forces us to do it. Our country is not engaged in murder and robbery in this war, but in defense of right and justice.
Brother Boles may not be able to see the difference between a war waged for murder, rape, and robbery, and one waged to put an end to this murder, rape, and robbery, but his brethren can. He may not be able to see any difference between the sword Satan has raised in the land, and the one the Lord ordained to put down this sword of Satan, but most brethren can. This is the sword we teach a Christian is required to use, and we are ready to prove it by the Bible. Brother Boles does not believe a Christian can use any kind of sword, in any kind of war, but refuses to affirm it, and even refuses to deny our proposition when we agree to affirm our teaching. Does he really want a debate?
I am publishing the proposition I have agreed to affirm, and some of the arguments by which I seek to prove it, for the benefit of Brother Boles, and some of his admirers, who say he wants to debate. This is what I teach in all of my writings on the subject, and what the Bible Banner teaches. It is also what Brother Boles has been fighting in his writings, what Lipscomb fought, and what all conscientious objectors are fighting. Will he debate it?
If he wants to reply to this article he can do so and I think I promise him space in the Bible Banner for a reply of equal length, of course, on the condition that both my article and his reply are published in the Gospel Advocate. Then, if he wants to continue the debate to a reasonable length I am sure arrangements can easily be agreed upon between us. Shall we have the debate? The decision is up to him. If he believes the things I have argued in this article he ought to come out and say so for the sake of peace. If he does not believe them, he should be willing to give his reasons in a brotherly way, or quit talking about a debate, and plainly say that he does not want it. I may have more to say later about my efforts to arrange a proposition with Brother Boles, but that too will depend on what he has to say in the future.
"The Bible teaches that a Christian on the call of his country is required to bear the sword, to execute wrath upon evildoers, and protect the lives and property of the righteous: and when military necessity requires, kill his country's enemies, and destroy their property."
I will define this proposition. The Bible is the word of God, contained in the Old and New Testaments. Teaching is by command, precept, example, or necessary inference. He is called by his country, as in the selective draft, or in other ways. Required: By this I mean it is his duty to respond to such call, and perform such duties as may be required of him. His country is the civil government under which he lives, and is a citizen by birth, or otherwise.
To bear the sword includes any use of force necessary to secure law and order, and includes military service in time of war. He is required to bear the sword for the purposes mentioned in the proposition, to protect the lives and property of the righteous, and execute wrath upon evildoers. He may kill his country's enemies when they have raised the sword in aggressive war, and may destroy their property when it will contribute to the prosecution of the war. This does not imply a wanton destruction of life and property in a spirit of retaliation, but only such as military necessity will require.
My first argument would be based on the fact that the Christian is a citizen of the civil government, a partaker of its benefits including protection in his life and property, and he owes it the duties which belong to citizens. It is a matter of debt, or dues, which all citizens owe to each other through the civil government, as a mutual obligation. Jesus required his disciples to render the duties of citizenship to their country. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesars." (Matt. 22-21.) The things which belonged to Caesar were the things which belong to civil government. Bearing the sword for the execution of wrath upon evildoers, and preserving law and order for the good, was one of those duties. There is no Scripture which exempts the Christian from this duty, or any duty which belongs to civil government properly.
The citizen is a part of the civil government, and only through them can the government use the sword the Lord gave it, or execute wrath upon evildoers. Therefore God ordained for the citizens to use the sword under their rulers to execute murderers, preserve law and order, and protect the lives and property of all citizens. The Christian is a citizen of civil government either by birth or in some other manner. Paul was a citizen of the Roman government by birth, and claimed its protection on this ground, and got it. (Acts 22-25-28). Therefore, the Lord ordained for Christians, as citizens of civil government, to use the sword.
Civil government is the oldest institution in the world, except the family in which it came into being, and it originated from the dominion which God gave to man in his creation. The word "dominion" means supreme power, sovereignty, rule, and man in this dominion was subject only to his creator. God's dominion over man was exercised through laws which He gave, which man was bound to obey, or suffer because he refused to obey, whatever
penalties the Lord required. Man's dominion allowed him the liberty of choosing to obey God's law, or if he preferred, disregard it, and choose a course contrary to it.
We know very little about the laws God gave to the people who lived before the flood. The law against murder must have been different to the one He gave Noah after the flood. We know he did not slay Cain for murdering his brother, and put a mark upon him to prevent others from slaying him. Moses account is very incomplete regarding the world before the flood, and the reason probably is because the Lord meant to make a new beginning with man in Noah's family, and under a new set of laws which would cure many of the evils which brought on the flood.
I agree with Alexander Campbell that all authority for war must come from God, and I would add that such authority must come through God's law, since He does not deal with man direct. Before the flood the world was filled with war. Moses called it violence, and this violence seems to have been the chief cause of the flood. This was a severe remedy, and as happens in all war the innocent suffered with the guilty, and all were destroyed.
Noah had lived for five hundred years in a world filled with violence and war, and raised his family in such a world. God wanted to prevent such wars from again corrupting the whole world so he gave man a law which would prevent it, if man would only regard God's law. It was a law which outlawed war and murder, and provided for himself to operate this law, and make it workable.
He delivered this law through Noah, the head of all living, and all government, and through him to his sons and their successors in government. From that date this has been God's law against murder, and against war, for war is murder on a mass scale. It reads as follows, "And surely your blood of your lives will I require . . . At the hands of every man, and at the hands of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso shall shed man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed For in the image of God made he man." (Gen. 9-5-6.)
This is God's law to prevent murder, and therefore to prevent war, which is mass murder. It pronounced the sentence of death upon all murderers, and made man His minister to execute the sentence, saying, I will require it of man. This makes it man's duty to execute murderers, and he said at the hands of every man, and the hands of every man's brother he would require it. God made man his ministers in executing the sentence of death passed upon all murderers by the Lord. It makes no difference whether it was mass murder as in war, or the murder of a single person, the sentence of death was pronounced by the Lord, and it was made man's duty to execute it. To execute the sentence of the Lord upon murderers, does not make the executioners murderers also, it makes them God's ministers to execute justice in the land.
From Noah this decree passed to his sons, and through them to their successors in government, and this placed it in every government in the world. Thus from the flood civil government has had divine authority to execute murderers of all kinds, therefore a divine right to wage war upon nations engaged in mass murder. It is even stronger than mere authority, it is a duty which the Lord requires, and a failure to render it is rebellion against God. It is not a choice with man, God made the choice, and requires man to execute it, by man shall his blood be shed.
This divine decree is what Paul had in mind when he said the powers that be are God's ministers, ordained to execute wrath upon evildoers. The powers that be, said David Lipscomb, are the civil governments of the world. The first war of which we have any account after this decree was delivered was Abraham's war against the four wicked kings who had raised a war of aggression against the five kings among whom Lot lived. He pursued them when he learned what they had done, and slaughtered them. He was God's minister in this case to execute wrath upon them, and restore the captives to their homes.
He had no direct command from God to slaughter these kings, but the decree issued through Noah was all the authority, he needed. God had said that by man should their blood be shed, and at every man's hands he would require it, and Abraham was the friend of God. They had shed innocent blood, and they had captured Lot, Abraham's nephew and had attacked three of Abraham's allies, and this seemed to make it all the more his duty to slaughter them. The only word that came from God on this war was after it was over and Abraham was returning home with the captives he had recovered, and stolen goods. Then he met Melchizedec, priest of the most high God, who blessed him, and thus placed the stamp of God's approval on his war.
This divine decree against murder and aggressive war has never been repealed, and the authority it gave man through civil government to execute murderers has never been taken from him. God still requires it of man, and what God requires is a duty which man can only shirk at his own peril. It had not been repealed when Paul wrote Romans thirteen, for he said they were still God's ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers. They were not Satan's ministers whom God had adopted because He had none, but Paul said they were God's ministers, and He ordained them.
During the time of National Israel when God ruled them in person He still left the execution of this sentence in the hands of man. Moses law did not repeal it, even to Israel, but provided procedure through which the civil rulers could make it operate. No covenant made with a single nation could repeal a universal covenant made with all the nations of the earth. Israel's laws against murder were under the same divine decree delivered through Noah, and bound them to a stricter enforcement of the decree than was found in most nations. They could serve as patterns for other nations, and quicken them to a better enforcement of the law. They could even use the same procedure prescribed in the law if they preferred it to any they had been able to work out for themselves. Men still study the civil laws delivered through Moses, and the laws of many nations are patterned after them in some ways.
Jesus did not repeal this universal law when he came, or interfere in the ordinance of God whereby He had made civil government His ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers. He confirmed the decree to his disciples when
he told them, He that taketh the sword shall also perish by the sword. This is the same law spoken in different words. He taught his disciples, so far as civil government is concerned, to render unto Caesar the things which are his.
If an opponent argues that while wars were permitted, and even commanded, in Old Testament times, they are forbidden now, I reply that wars were forbidden then in every sense that they are forbidden now. God forbade killing then in the very sense in which he forbids it now. The execution of murderers was not forbidden then, and it is not forbidden now. The same kind of wars that God approved then, he approves now. To argue different is to assume that God ordained things, and provided ministers to execute them, which he disapproves. Under God's law if there had never been a murderer there would have never been an avenger of blood. If there had never been an aggressive war there would never have been any war.
At this point I want to introduce a quotation from an address delivered by Alexander Campbell, at Wheeling, Virginia in 1848. I find many things in this address that should be preserved, and this is one of them. "It is important to reiterate that God gave to Noah, and through him to his sons and successors in government, the right to take away in civil justice the life of a murderer. As the world of the ungodly antecedent to the flood during the first five hundred years of Noah's life was given to violence and outrage against each other it was expedient to prevent the same violence and blood shed after the flood, and for this purpose God gave to man, or the human race in Noah's family, the right to exact blood for blood from him who had deliberately, and maliciously taken the life of his fellow. Had not this been first ordained, no war, without a special divine commission from God, could have been sanctioned as lawful and right. Hence, as we say wars were first allowed against those who first waged war against his fellows, and hence were viewed by God as murderers." This address was printed in the Congressional Record at Washington by special request, and can be found there.
One point I am trying to establish is that there are two different kinds of war that men wage in the world, one kind of war which God condemns, and calls those who wage them murderers, and has pronounced the sentence of death against them. The other kind which God approves, and which He authorized, are wars waged against these murderers, and those who wage them are God's ministers to execute the sentence of death at His command. This is the kind of war Abraham waged, and for which he received God's blessing from God's own high priest, Melchizedec. Naturally this is the only kind of war God's children can engage in, and the kind my proposition calls for in which Christians can fight by God's authority.
Mr. Campbell goes back to Noah as the proper person through which such a decree could be delivered for the whole human race. It had to come through Noah to be universal, and include every nation that would ever exist in the world, for Noah was the head of all living men. Its object was not to cause wars, or promote them, but to prevent them from occurring, or failing at that point, to provide a sword which would be able to punish the guilty, and bring an end to their war. It was not to cause murder, but prevent murder by executing those guilty of it. Paul, in Romans thirteen, places this sword in civil government, and said they were God's ministers ordained for this very purpose, and warned Christians to not resist them.
The only way civil government can act as God's ministers is by the help of its citizens who are as much a part of the government as the rulers are. Had Abraham's servants refused the sword when he set out to arm them, and plead that their conscience would not permit them to slaughter these wicked kings his mission would have failed. If the citizens of our civil government refuse to use the sword on the same plea our government could not act as God's avenging ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers. His ministers would flunk, and his ordinance go up in smoke from the bombs of Hitler and Hirohito.
Christians as citizens of civil government owe it the duties of service which rightly belong to it. Jesus taught them to render those duties. Bearing the sword for these God-ordained purposes is one of those duties. Therefore, Jesus taught his disciples to bear the sword when demanded to do so, for any purpose for which the sword was given to civil government.
Peter and Paul taught Christians to obey their rulers in all things which properly belonged to them. Paul said, "Render to all their dues, honor to whom honor is due, fear to whom fear, custom to whom custom." He had just told them that they were God's ministers to execute wrath upon evildoers, and ministers of good to those who do good. He said they were ordained of God for this purpose, and that to resist them is to resist the ordinance of God, and they will be damned for resisting. This was no idle threat, but divine truth which was as old as the human race, dating from the family of Noah. He said they were not a terror to good works, but to evil, and those who do good will have praise for them.
These powers that be, of Romans thirteen, are the civil governments of the world. So said David Lipscomb, and he was right. Paul wrote to Titus for all the churches and told him to tell them to "be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to all good works." (Titus 3-1) From Peter I quote, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers." This submission to rulers means much more than not violating criminal laws, it means rendering to them the duties citizens owe them.
Of course, we are to obey them only in the things which belong to them; the things which God gave them. Things which He did not give them, He reserved to Himself, and we must render them to God. But keeping the peace, and the use of the sword to punish evildoers, God did give to them, and both Peter and Paul so teach in these passages. God has never taken it from them, or assumed the duty Himself. Jesus did not take it from them, or assume it while he was here in the world. He never gave his church authority to assume it, override it, or attempt to take it unto itself. He left it right where God placed it after the flood, and this makes it responsible for the execution of this divine law against murder just as it ever has been from the beginning.
This means war when a sword of aggression and murder has been raised in the land. We know this can happen for it has happened to us right now, and we thank God that he has provided us a remedy, and authorized us to use it. Without this sword God provided for us we would have perished in this war, civilization would have perished, and only an act of God like the flood could have ended it. We know it is bad, but still we are glad that God rules his world through law, and shame ourselves because we did not respond to His law sooner than we did.
The right to exact blood for blood was one of the things which Jesus did not commit to his church, or kingdom. It belongs to civil government, given to it by the Lord, and Jesus left it there. He never questioned civil government's right to it, not even when it unjustly required his blood. He did not place a carnal sword in his kingdom, but he did not take it out of the hands of civil government. To have done so would have rendered them helpless to keep law and order in the world. But since his disciples are citizens of civil government they have the same rights and duties in this respect that all citizens have.
Wars of conquest and aggression are the greatest evils that can beset man in this world. It is not only murder, but mass murder. The sword which God ordained for use against this mass murder is not an evil, but an avenger of evil. What God ordains is not evil, and man does not commit a sin when he obeys God's commands. Samuel, the prophet of God, slew King Agag with a sword at God's command, even when that command had been given to another, King Saul. What Samuel did pleased the Lord, and it was no sin. Saul failed to kill King Agag at God's command, and that was sin, he lost the kingdom and his soul for not doing God's command.
The Christian's obligation to use the sword to execute wrath upon evildoers rests upon his duties as a citizen of civil government. It is not a matter of choice with the individual Christian as to whether he meets these duties. God made the choice when He gave the duties, and civil government is bound by God's choice. Next to God, and between the citizen and God, civil government has the choice as to what citizens shall bear the sword in military service. Not every citizen can render the best service to his country in time of war in the military service. There are other duties to be rendered just as essential as armed service in the military branch, and the government alone is competent to judge such matters.
Paying tax is another duty, and a very essential one. But the individual citizen has no choice in the amount of tax he must pay, and no choice as to paying them. Like bearing the sword, it is one of the things which belong to Caesar, and Jesus said render it. Paul, too, said render to all their dues, and dues are duties, and a Christian has no choice in performing his duties. If the power to whom the duty is due is willing to forgive the duty, release the citizen from it, it has that power, but the one who owes the duty has no such power. If I owe you money, I cannot pay you, you can forgive me the debt, but I can't release myself from the obligation.
As a citizen we must render those duties on demand, and we cannot plead our obligations to the Lord as an excuse, for the Lord said render them. This is the point around which the question revolves. Is the Christian a citizen of civil government? Does he owe it the same duties that other citizens do? Does conversion to Christ free him from the duties and obligations of citizenship? Does citizenship in the kingdom of Christ cancel citizenship in civil government? Is the Christian still required to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's?