"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.V No.VIII Pg.15b-16
March 1943

"The Weapons Of Our Warfare Are Not Carnal"


A certain brother has conscientious scruples against bearing arms for the government in this crisis, but who has no scruples against making these armaments in the factories, in stating his objections to combatant military service, writes: "I am doing all that I can to win this war in a non-combatant way." Another brother writes that he is "opposed to taking up carnal weapons, but will do any work necessary to win the war." What kind of weapons will these brethren use in a noncombatant way in doing the work necessary "to win this war"? Are the tools they use and the work they do to win the war spiritual? If not, they are carnal. A little reflection on this point will reveal to any thoughtful person that non-combatants are themselves using carnal weapons.

But those who are opposed to active military service in the struggle to preserve the independence of this nation very frequently and fluently quote II Cor. 10:3-5. The passage reads: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."

We are told by the authorities that it takes ten men doing non-combatant service to support one man in combat. There are brethren who argue that the one man in combat is violating II Cor. 10:4 in the use of carnal weapons in carnal warfare, but the ten men in non-combatant work who support him do not violate that passage. But the tools that are used by the ten men in making the armaments are just as carnal as the guns that are used by the one. Who can make himself believe that the ten men who use carnal tools to make carnal weapons to support one man in carnal warfare are innocent, but the

one man who uses them is guilty?

If the passage under consideration applies to members of the church participating in the military service of the government in which they are citizens, one thing is certain-the noncombatant participator is as guilty--as the combatant participator in this war. But that is not Paul's point. Such an application misses the meaning of the passage. What are the carnal weapons and warfare of II Cor. 10:4? Compare a few passages in which the same word is used. In Rom. 15:27 Paul says: "For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of these spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things." In this passage "carnal" is the opposite of "spiritual". Again, in I Cor. 9:11, Paul writes, "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" The same word in II Cor. 1:12 is rendered "fleshly." So any fleshly thing is carnal in this sense. It is in that sense that reference is made to the carnal ordinances of the law in contrast with the spiritual nature of the new covenant.

Then what is the meaning of Paul's assertion that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal"? He was simply -referring to the nature of the conflict in which the church at Corinth was engaged against the forces and influences of paganism, idolatry and Judaism-it was a spiritual warfare, not a carnal one. Preserving the play on the words of the preceding verse, in his illustration the members of the Corinthian church were serving as soldiers, but the nature of their campaign was spiritual, hence their weapons were not carnal.

Is non-combatant service spiritual? If not, it is carnal, and somebody loses a proof-text in the effort to condemn combatant service while justifying non-combatant service. It shows the inconsistency of the contention that the one man in combat service does wrong, while the ten men in non-combat service do right. The plain fact of the matter is that II Cor. 10:4 does not apply to participation in the civil and military services of the nation, and any such use of it is a misapplication of the text.

Commenting on the passage, B. W. Johnson says that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" means that the might of the church is not human strength and human armaments, but spiritual weapons by which souls are rescued from the philosophies of the false teachers. MacKnight, the translator and commentator, says that the passage refers to the weapons by which the church made war on heathen religions, that the gospel was not a weak, fleshly, carnal weapon, but the mighty instrument of Paul in overturning the fortresses of religious error and casting down human imaginations by the force of spiritual weapons.

Paul visualized a spiritual conquest, a pulling down of spiritual strongholds. The teachers of error, idolatry and Judaism were the invaders at Corinth. They had thrown up siege-works against the truth and had threatened the church with destruction. Paul regarded these adversaries of the truth as besiegers. He himself was the commandant of the faithful garrison and he declared his determination to wield his weapons against the besiegers and their strongholds and pull them down. But the nature of the conflict was spiritual, therefore the weapons of the warfare with which he would overthrow Satan's siege were spiritual weapons. He did not propose to machine-gun paganism out of them nor shoot the gospel into them. Nor does anyone propose to do so today. Being a spiritual warfare, his weapons were not carnal, so he would "lead" their "thoughts" into the "captivity of Christ." All who accepted the gospel were led into this happy captivity, but "the revenge of disobedience" would be inflicted upon the rebellious recalcitrants who rejected the gracious terms of the gospel.

If there is an argument to be derived from this passage on "combatant or non-combatant service" on the part of citizens of an earthly government, the forceful figure of military operations against aggressors would be in favor of the combatant service of a citizen rather than the conscientious objector to it.

The proposition of the initial editorial of some months ago on this issue holds: Every passage used to prove that a member of the church 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. I have not yet seen an argument that furnishes an exception to this proposition.

For an additional thought on carnal and spiritual weapons, the McGarvey-Pendleton Commentary suggests that "carnal weapons" referred to "methods of slander, detraction and misrepresentation" employed by the enemies of the truth that Paul preached, but Paul declared that he used no such carnal weapons in dealing with his opponents. In that view of it, there are some now who are certainly using carnal weapons in their opposition to carnal warfare. Conscientious objectors, mentioned in another article in this issue, who referred to Brother Whiteside as "an old devil", is an example. And he added that if it "sounded harsh" he meant it "at its worst." But they do not believe in carnal weapons! Wonder if they think that is spiritual!

A major trouble with some of these combatant non-combatants appears to be that their conception of a carnal weapon is restricted to gunpowder, bombs and bullets. But in all the premises of the case, one thing stands out: The ten non-combatant men who use carnal tools to make carnal armaments to keep one combatant man fighting are as much participants in carnal warfare as the one man is who fights for the ten who furnish him the arms. The argument is therefore reduced to an issue between the conscientious non-combatants and the conscientious objectors. Let them settle it among themselves. It is their debate.

If the editors of the Gospel Advocate, for instance, Goodpasture, Boles, McQuiddy, Brightwell, Nichol and Whiteside, were disagreed among themselves on the use and the non-use of instrumental music in the worship, why challenge the Christian Standard for a debate on the subject? The Standard editors could very properly say, debate it among yourselves if Goodpasture is on one side and Brightwell is on the other, or Boles is on one side and Nichol is on the other--let Goodpasture and Brightwell or Boles and Nichol debate it.

So it is with the government question. Some who have insisted that we ought to debate the "war question" with all who challenge us have attempted to draw a parallel on debating with representatives of the Christian Church the various issues on which disagreements exist. But their parallel is as pitiably short of being parallel as their arguments are short of logic and as the scriptures they use are short of proper application. There is no disagreement among us on the opposition to the innovations of the Christian Church. But there are vast differences, a bedlam of confusion, among those who oppose the Christian's participation in the war effort--a wide disagreement indeed among themselves. Some are all-out non-resisters, declaring that it would be wrong to even offer physical resistance in the protection of their homes against a murderous invader. Others are not full-fledged non-resisters but are noncombatants. Others aver that it is right to pay war taxes but wrong to buy war bonds. There are others among them who can conscientiously vote, run for office, hold jobs in the government of the people, but cannot have anything to do with the military end of it--except to receive its protection. Then there are those who consign the whole works, both the civil and the military government, to the devil, and will have nothing to do with any of it--except to receive the pensions or whatever the devil's government has to give them. All of these sentiments are represented among those who want to debate "the war question"--so let them debate it, among themselves.

A prominent man among us, whose name is as wide as the church, and incidentally who lives east of the Mississippi river, writes me that some of the young men seeking notoriety as editors "have much to learn" but are "evidently enjoying the attention" they are getting or think they are getting. That is perhaps true, but the younger ones should perhaps be pitied as much as blamed. Some older men of whom we were persuaded better things are the leaders in what the younger ones are doing. But no amount of abuse and badgering can aggravate the BIBLE BANNER into descending to the level of their discussions. We are not interested in the "carnal warfare" they are themselves waging. The BIBLE BANNER has withstood assaults of that kind, one after another, from the beginning. Some have been inherent foes of the Cause we defend; others are former friends who have fallen out with us because we did not see fit to commit the BIBLE BANNER to some of their fanatical extremes. There is nothing that could justify us now to engage in the kind of fight required to meet them on such a plane. Though fully confident that we could take care of any or all of them on any ground they might choose, I am personally not interested in doing so. Any consolation any of them may find in boasting of "pinning our ears back" or of "whipping them down" they can have in whatsoever measure they may be able to convince themselves of their ability to do such a thing. My personal sentiments toward the things they are saying and doing can best be expressed in the closing words of Moses E. Lard's review of J. B. Jeter's book on "Campbellism": "These are a few of the effects to be ascribed to Mr. Jeter's book; and with this simple statement of them we now take leave of both him and it, feeling that in one we part from a misguided man, in the other from a graceless thing." In much the same spirit we shall leave these lampooning papers and incondite editors to their own bad temper and bad manners.