"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.IV No.VIII Pg.6b-8
March 1942

The Christian And The Government

The Christian who does not know how to deport himself in time of war, does not know how to deport himself in time of peace—the instructions are the same. The attitude that causes a Christian in time of war to appear as a freak specimen of humanity, and to be placed in a concentration camp, or in a federal prison, when the world is in distress and there is so much work to do, is no more practical in time of peace. A crisis merely brings it to light. The only problems raised by war are in the application of the principles and instructions to what may be to the individual unaccustomed conditions. These principles do not change with map-making.

Romans 12--The Christian's Manual Of Personal Conduct The twelfth chapter of Romans is the Christian's manual. It contains the rules for the regulation of Christian conduct—instructions for the operation of the Christian life. In the closing five verses Paul gives the rules for keeping peace with one's neighbor. 1. Recompense to no man evil for evil. 2. As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 3. Avenge not yourselves. 4. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. In personal conduct the Christian must do these things all the time. Whether it will work or not is not our responsibility; Paul said, "as much as lieth in you."

But what of discipline and law enforcement? These are in other realms of God's authority. The New Testament recognizes these other realms and allows a Christian to operate in these realms of discipline and law enforcement, even though the methods used are not the same as those in the kingdom of Christ. If the offending party is a child, the parent, even though a Christian, must teach his child what is good and evil; and he must control, him, although it may require physical force to do so, which cannot be employed under the rules of Christian conduct in Romans 12. The parent, nevertheless, is operating under God's authority in another realm.

A case in point: Despite all of your efforts under the rules of love and kindness, one of these grown-up undisciplined, children of somebody's inflicts upon you a serious bodily injury. It is reported by you, or by someone else. You are called to testify. You tell the truth without coloring it by personal feeling. The guilty party is punished according to the law. Have you recompensed evil for evil? Have you broken the command to "be at peace" in Rom. 12? Have you disobeyed what "is written" that "vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord"? Have you been overcome of evil? The answer to these questions is, No. No evil has been perpetrated in the enforcement of the law. The employment of physical force in its proper sphere, and in the manner prescribed by God's authority, is good and necessary. The methods employed in a material realm are not rendered null and void, because they are not to be used in a spiritual realm. Force has no place in Christ's kingdom, because citizenship there is spiritual and voluntary. It would vitiate every act of worship and service. There is no virtue in doing what we are compelled to do. But a Christian can and is even commanded to operate in other realms than the church.

Another case in point: Of the qualifications of elders in the church, Paul says, "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?"). Now, a man cannot employ force as an elder in Christ's kingdom, but the only way he can prepare and qualify himself for the eldership, according to Paul, is by the experience gained in the wise use of force and discipline in the home!

Paul was born a Roman citizen. When he became a Christian he did not repudiate his citizenship in a civil kingdom; he exercised it. If any Christian has repudiated

his citizenship, he should in all honor an fairness register as an alien. The government is entitled to know the exact status of every one living within its borders during an emergency. Paul's conduct, when revealed with the implication of divine approval, constitutes a very good commentary upon his teaching. The Roman magistrates in

Philippi sent word to the jailor to release Paul and Silas: "Let those men go." Paul answered: They have beaten us openly, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out." On other occasions Paul used his citizenship to escape scourging, to avert a plot against his life, to escape an injustice in the lower courts; but on this occasion it was for none of those reasons. The beating was past; his freedom was offered; there was no emergency. His motive, therefore, was tactical—to escape the presumption of guilt in the eyes of the world, not for personal reasons but for the sake of the gospel.

On still another occasion Paul permitted an armed force to escort him to his destination to protect him from his enemies who had sworn to kill him. Had they attempted to carry out their threat, Paul knew that the soldiers would have used the force of arms, and if necessary would have killed the attackers in protecting Paul's life. Was Paul's practice here, as a Roman citizen, inconsistent with and contradictory to his teaching in the Roman letter? The answer again is, No. Paul had other realms of God's authority in mind when he penned the rules pertaining to peace in Romans 12, if the context proves anything.

Romans 13--The Christian's Obligation To Civil Government

It should be remembered that Paul did not divide the Roman letter into chapters. Romans 12 and 13 were not disjoined when he wrote the letter—it was all one argument. In the closing verses of the twelfth chapter when he forbids a Christian taking personal vengeance, he declared that "vengeance belongeth" to the Lord. The first verses of Romans 13, which follow immediately, tell how the Lord exercises this vengeance on the evildoer. Romans 12 and 13 are all one argument. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to evil... he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake."

The sword is an instrument of death. The officer of the law is the officer of God when he beareth not the sword in vain. Verse six says: "For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they (the officers) are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing." Administering death, or capital punishment, therefore is divinely sanctioned as a prerogative of government in punishment of evildoers. The idea that some members of the church have in these matters would make every peace officer, sheriff or policeman, a murderer, whether he is ever actually forced to kill or not, for he beareth not the sword in vain, and he is sworn to do what his office would in case of necessity require, just as in case of the soldiers who furnished the armed escort for Paul. The administration of capital punishment in the prosecution of the evildoer by the government does not differ in principle from a defensive war which the government must prosecute to protect the lives and liberties of its citizens. The idea that some of the members of the church have in these matters would also make every soldier in the service of our country a murderer. It is undoubtedly a false idea.

But the Bible says "thou shalt not kill," we are told.

Yes, that is the sixth commandment. The fourth commandment said: "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy"—so the same God that said "thou shalt not kill," in the sixth commandment provided the death penalty for violation of the fourth commandment to keep the sabbath holy! Did the sixth commandment contradict the penalty the fourth? Not at all; somebody's reasoning is just lame. If capital punishment is murder, and if peace officers and soldiers are murderers, then one commandment prohibited what the other commandment required! But since both capital punishment and war, under certain conditions, were divinely required under the same law that said "thou shalt not kill," it follows that there is a difference between both of those things and murder. Some people need to look up the definition of murder.

Brother R. L. Whiteside recently made a brief but clear and scriptural distinction on this point in answer to a question in his query department of the Gospel Advocate, which may be profitably inserted here. Read it:

The command, "Thou shalt not kill," was one of the Ten Commandments, and was a prohibition against murder. It applied to individuals, and not to governments. And while the Ten Commandments were in force, the individual was allowed, under certain circumstances, to take human life. "If the thief be found breaking in, and be smitten so that he dieth, there shall be no blood guiltiness for him." (Ex. 22:2.) Such taking of human life is not a violation of the command, "Thou shalt not kill." God does not give a law and then license a man to violate it. The command, "Thou shalt not kill," has been used as an argument against capital punishment, and yet under that law the authorities were required to punish by death many sorts of criminals. And under that law, the Lord required his people to make war on certain nations. In doing so, they were not violating the command, "Thou shalt not kill." The way some preachers, and others, argue, it would seem that they never read any of the Old Testament excepting the command, "Thou shalt not kill."

But I do not read anywhere that the Lord ever permitted any man to commit adultery for his own protection, or that a nation was required to commit adultery! It is plain that individuals are prohibited from doing some things that governments are required to do.

Brother Whiteside is right. The idea that men who are not Christians can be soldiers and officers to protect the Christian by doing that which a Christian himself could not do is about the most conveniently selfish and cowardly convenient doctrine ever propounded by good men. There is just one thing wrong with it—it is not true.

The Two Realms-Civil and Spiritual

But again we are told that Christ said: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." According to the theory of some, the same things belong to the devil that belong to Caesar. Then it could just as well read: "Render unto the devil the things that are the devil's." It certainly would be wrong to render anything to the devil, yet we could not honestly withhold anything from the devil that belonged to him. But Satan never owned a foot of ground on this earth. He never possessed an abstract of title to anything. Obligations are based upon value received, and if any man ever received anything worthwhile from the devil, he is obligated to the devil. We are told that the devil is ordained of God in the same way that governments are. Satan is wrong, and there is nothing right about him. If that is true of governments, God could not be consistent with his divine attributes and command us to pay taxes to the government.

Some go to the temptation of Christ to show that the devil possessed the kingdoms of this world. It is said that

if he did not possess them, his offer would have been no temptation to Christ. Very well, but did Christ want the kingdoms of this world? If so, what did he want with them? He was building a spiritual kingdom in which force would have no place. He could not salvage one thing from the kingdoms of this world for his spiritual kingdom. If Satan offered him something he did not want and could not use, how could that have been a temptation to him? But Christ was tempted; therefore, Satan did not offer him the kingdoms of this world as such. The kingdoms of this world meant what Jesus meant when he commanded his disciples to go and teach "all nations." They did not go to the civil governments; they went to the people who composed them. Christ could use the people in his spiritual kingdom. The devil was in possession by voluntary sufferance. What the devil offered was a withdrawal of opposition to Christ's work. He could have done the thing that he offered, because he was in control of that opposition. Let us not pervert scripture to support wishful thinking on a Christian's obligations to civil government. The theory that God uses the devil and wicked men to do some necessary evil work, such as law enforcement and warfare, so that his spiritual children do not have to soil their holy hands makes God particeps criminus to evil. To support this theory they go back to the Old Dispensation where it is said that "the Most High God ruleth in the kingdom of men, and that he setteth up over it whomsoever he will." But under the same dispensation God commanded his own people, under certain conditions, to wage warfare. So it proves too much. If we go back there for an example of one, we get an example of the other!

Take the example of Samuel. Among the Old Testament characters there is none that outshines Samuel for personal piety and saintly faithfulness. His consecration began before his birth. The last of the judges, and in a sense the first of the prophets, this venerable priest's last days were saddened by the clamor for a king and by the mistakes of Saul, the first king. Saul could not tell Samuel that he had obeyed the Lord when the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen were sounding in his ears, and when old king Agag stood there before him alive! God had commanded Saul to kill them all. Saul had not done it. Whom did God ordain as a minister to complete the obedience in which Saul had defaulted? An evil, wicked man, some confirmed old sinner that was going to hell anyway? No, he appointed Samuel, the preacher and priest, one of the best men that ever lived, for that task, and he called for Agag to be brought before him. "And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall my mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." But that was in the Old Testament! To be sure, but that is where they go to prove that God used evil men to do some of God's evil work that good men could not do—and this example proves that their argument is wrong. Here their contention is reversed.

It seems to me that some of the brethren have dipped their pens in the ink of speculation and propounded a Calvinistic theory of civil government—namely, that they are all born totally depraved! Had not man rebelled against God, they say, there would have been no civil governments. Neither would there have been any clothes worn! Neither would there have been any church—nobody lost, nobody to be saved, no gospel to save them. But man did rebel. As a result God has two institutions, operating under his authority. To civil government he has given the responsibility of discipline as it pertains to the physical life. To the church he has committed the spiritual resources, and given the responsibility of order and discipline as it pertains to the spiritual life within the spiritual kingdom. One of these ordained institutions employ physical force because the nature of its work demands it. The other uses love and persuasion, because the nature of its work demands it.

The Individual Responsibility

The government deals with the individual. The church cannot speak for its members; and if it did the government would not accept it, but would still examine each individual in the case The government is fortunately very reasonable. There are many branches of non-combatant service in which a "conscientious objector" may enlist, but if he refuses to do anything in an emergency like this, he will be placed in a concentration camp. Appeals are being made partly on the basis of "denominational pride" for churches of Christ not to let some other church support our members in these camps. If one's convictions are so impractical as to force him to go to a concentration camp, we may respect them but we are certainly under no obligation to support them. Some are even glorifying these misguided young men, and making heroes out of them. But it is not a thing to be proud of that we have members of the church with such impractical convictions. The New Testament certainly teaches a different conception of the responsibilities of citizenship and service. If the New Testament teaches the course they pursue, then every Christian in the land must follow that course, and the church of Christ will go out of circulation into a concentration camp for duration! If the New Testament does not teach that course, then why should the church support those who follow it?

Let us be consistent. It is said that the president of a Christian school was opposed to Christians participating in civil government, but the school of which he was president employed an officer to carry a gun and guard the property of the school! Another preacher said that if his home and family were attacked, he would just shoot the attacker in the leg! No, not if his argument is right, he could not resist, he could not even push him off the porch! Nor could he consistently call for the sheriff, deputy or policeman to protect them from a killer, for it would make a murderer of them. It is a peculiar quirk of mind that argues that a Christian can work in perfect co-ordination with the other fellow up to the final and necessary act, but say to the: officer or the soldier, you are going to hell anyway, so you pull the trigger! God is no such respecter of persons. If the thief be found breaking in, and be smitten so that he dieth, there shall be no blood guiltiness for him."

Every passage used to prove that a Christian cannot participate in defensive warfare, under any conditions, applies to the spiritual realm and not the material. The conclusions are therefore based on a misapplication of the scriptures used.

In every congregation there are many parents who have noble sons in the service. Harrowing it must be to their hearts, indeed, to have to sit and listen to a misguided preacher harangue against their participation in the defense of the life and liberty that he and all the rest of us enjoy. It is a serious mistake to make heroes of men with a dwarfed conscience in concentration camps and murderers out of noble sons in army camps who bravely give their all in the defense of not only the freedom of the nation, but the very virtue of our mothers, wives and sisters—and the sanctity of all our homes.

Rather let us, as Christians, bend every effort and stretch every resource in the all-out task to aid the government in its efforts to protect our homes and preserve our liberties. At the same time, let us augment our efforts in spreading the kingdom of Christ, knowing that the church has the only thing that will permanently improve and save the troubled world. In this way alone can the Christian discharge the duties of his dual relation in this world.