Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 5, 1970

To Kill Or Not To Kill

Ralph Edmunson

In the August 21, 1969 issue of the Gospel Guardian was published the following request from me: "Information Wanted: Would someone please give me the scriptures that teach that a Christian should kill those whose political beliefs are different from his. I have three teenage sons, and before I send them to Viet Nam to kill Communists, I want to be sure that it is right" This also appeared in the Firm Foundation. From the readers of these two journals, I received a total of 19 responses; the greatest majority of them being from those who believed it to be wrong for a Christian to kill. Of those few who could be classed as "pro" war, nearly all were sympathetic to my situation. But none offered any scriptures.

Actually, I was not as undecided as my "request" implied. Although I have studied the "war question" for over 25 years, I still entertain the possibility that there may be some phase of the controversy that I have not considered. The reason I worded the "request" as I did is that in all my studies and conversations on the subject, the discussion ultimately boils down to politics.

In the December 4, 1969 issue of Gospel Guardian Kenneth Green had an article entitled "There's More Involved," in which he made a public answer to my request. One thing is outstanding in bro. Green's piece — he does not offer any scriptures at all.

Bro. Green says: — "If I were the father of a young man who planned to register as a conscientious objector, I believe I would be very interested in knowing that going to war was in violation of HIS principles and not just a reflection of my own scruples in the matter."

Reply: — The point is well taken, but "there's more involved." I have taught my sons "from the beginning" that war is not for the Christian. So, my interest is in knowing whether going to war is in violation of God's principles.

Bro. Green says: — "The above request indicates that the querist considers the Communist Party to be but a political party among other political parties. If I could produce the scripture that he is asking for, it would authorize me to kill Democrats! But IS Communism just another political party?"

Reply: — My use of the word "political" is in accordance with its usage in World Book Encyclopedia. Under the subject, "Political Science," it says that it is the study of government; that it deals with relationships among states and between citizen and state. "Comparative government" (the differences between governments of different nations) is included in Political Science. "A separate branch of political science deals with international politics. This includes international law, international relations, and the operation of international organizations such as the United Nations." (quoted from World Book). Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, published by the G & C Merriam Co., defines the words thus: "Politic" — of or pertaining to civil government, political. "Political" — of or pertaining to polity, or politics, or the conduct of government. "Politician" — one versed or experienced in the science of government. "Politics" — the science and art of government.

My use of the word "political" admits of only two realms to which we are exposed — spiritual and material. Anything that has to do with civil government is political; what has to do with the spiritual aspects is religious." May I ask bro. Green this pertinent question: Why are our servicemen fighting in Viet Nam? Is our government spending billions of dollars and are our boys giving their lives because the "Religion of Communism" is "materialism and militant atheism?" Why, our military couldn't care less about the religion of the Vietnamese; they are over there because (as bro. Green so aptly states) "Politically, Communism is totalitarian. Its goal is to control the world. . . ."

Bro. Green says: — "Communism is a world-wide conspiracy which has enslaved over a billion people and has killed millions."

Reply: — Let me alter my question slightly so it reads: "Where are the scriptures that teach that a Christian should kill the citizens of a 'world-wide conspiracy' that enslaves and kills?"

Bro. Green says: — "Religiously, it is materialism and militant atheism."

Reply: — I grant all this. Now where are the scriptures that teach that a Christian should kill the adherents of "materialism and militant atheism?"

Bro. Green asks: — "Would the Christian have a responsibility to render aid to a molested third party, the people of other lands who are endangered by the threat of Communism?"

Reply: — Aid, yes, to kill, no — unless you can supply scriptural authority that a Christian SHOULD KILL.

On this same point, one of my correspondents asked: "If I were to find myself in a situation where a life is about to be taken by a lawless criminal (as some have found themselves), could I make no effort to stop him from shedding innocent blood?"

To which I replied: Yes, I could make many efforts — short of killing — to stop him from shedding innocent blood. IF the criminal murders the "innocent" person, one soul is dead; IF I prevent the murder from taking place by slaying the criminal, one soul is dead. Am I God — that I can determine who is worthy to live and who deserves to die? If I take the life of the would-be murderer, I have sent a soul to hell; I have forever made it impossible for him to accept Christ and be saved. Certainly, I should try to prevent a murder, but not to the extent of simply exchanging one life for another.

In conclusion, let me point out that there are some very plain passages of scripture that can not be harmonized with the Christian's bearing the sword:

1. Love your enemies, Matt. 5:44. (If one kills his enemy because he loves him, what would he do to him if he hated him?)

2. Love works no ill, Rom. 13:10. (Is killing a family's loved ones; destroying their homes and property "working no ill?")

3. Thou shalt not kill, Rom. 13:9. (Under the Old Testament God made specified exceptions — commands — to the law against the taking of life.

(Thus Saul could not have marched against the Amalekites without a specific instruction from God. Nor could Israel have inflicted capital punishment on Sabbath-breakers and fornicators until God specifically COMMANDED it. No such exception is stated in the New Testament. Therefore, it is illogical, unreasonable, and unscriptural to say, "Christians MAY kill in time of war because God COMMANDED Israel to practice capital punishment on religious sins.")

4. The state is to bear the sword, Rom. 13:1-6. (The Christian is to bear the spiritual sword, Eph. 6:17.)

If the scriptures teach that the Christian is obligated to bear the sword and kill those of other nations whose politics, religion, economics, and goals are different from own, PLEASE point out to us this teaching. The eternal destiny of untold numbers of people is in the balance.