"...but try the spirits whether they are of God..." (1 Jno. 4:1)


McDonald - Sheridan Debate:
Christians In The Military and On Police Departments

The First Exchange

Sheridan's First Affirmative | McDonald's First Negative


Sheridan's First Affirmative

  The proposition that I am to affirm is that it is sinful for a child of God to kill someone in foreign combat. That is, no faithful Christian can enlist in the military, go abroad to another land over which his government has no jurisdiction, and shoot someone he's never seen before simply because his government mandates it. It should be noted that issues I am debating has always been a matter of faith with me ever since I became a Christian. That is, my beliefs are not so much based on personal qualms as they are on what the Bible reveals. I cannot but conclude that those who take my opponent's views on "just warfare", etc. are out of harmony with what God expects from his people. Some may say that since my scruples do not concern the collective activity of Christians (such as using instrumental music in worship services would), I should be able to extend fellowship to those that disagree with me on the "civil government" issue. I beg to differ. To me, this is a moral issue that has bearing on the fate of people's souls just as other moral issues do (gambling, pornography, homosexuality, etc.). It is immaterial to me that many preachers have proverbially swept this issue under the rug, calling it a matter of "opinion". It is immaterial to me that many Christians do not share my views. What is important is what the Bible says about the matter.

  I am opposed to this kind of "carnal warfare" because it is evident that the intentional destruction of human life falls within the realm of what is commonly known as "specific authority", as opposed to "generic authority". That is, a person cannot take the life of another unless God specifically authorizes the reason for the killing. In the Old Testament, one can find several examples of conditions where God specifically mandated the taking of human life. Some examples that come to mind are the punishment of blasphemers (Leviticus 24:16), adulterers (Leviticus 20:10), and practicing homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13). In each of these cases, God made his will explicit to his people. Even when Israel waged warfare against other nations, it was a matter of specific authority. Consider the following statement:

  "Many Biblical passages (especially in Deuteronomy) are dominated by the idea of the HOLY WAR [emphasis original]; and the religious character of ancient Israelite warfare is also otherwise clear. Israel's wars were 'wars of the Lord' (Numbers 21:14); the Lord of Hosts was 'the God of the armies of Israel' (1 Samuel 17:45 RV, RSV) and to Him belonged of right the population of a conquered city an idea which explains the ruthless demand for complete destruction of the Canaanites and the other peoples in Palestine before the Conquest " (Hasting's Bible Dictionary, p. 1029)

  The religious nature of Israel's wars is all the more understandable when one considers Deuteronomy 9:1-6 says and the fact that God was interested in the physical preservation of his earthly kingdom through which a Savior for men would come. All of this lies in stark contrast to the secular and materialistic reasons for which nations war today. After all, can any nation claim today that they received express approval from God for their military activities? Since the reasons for Israel's warfare have been abrogated by the New Testament, no one can rightly claim Israel actions serve as justification for carnal warfare today. Those who do so will find themselves supporting the position that Christ's kingdom is physical theocracy. Such is rank doctrinal error, smacking of Russellism and premillenialism.

  The idea of specific authority for the taking of human life is also, I believe, present in the New Testament. After all, we don't find passages in the New Testament that specifically condemn euthanasia, suicide, abortion, religious genocide, etc. We don't need to. The fact that God did not specifically authorize these acts in light of what Romans 13:9 says is prohibitive enough.

  So, my opposition to Christians participating in foreign combat can thus expressed in the following syllogism:

Major premise: All intentional taking of human life not specifically authorized by God is murder and therefore sinful (see Romans 13:9 ; 1 John 3:15).

Minor premise: Participating in foreign combat involving the taking of human life is not specifically authorized by God.

Conclusion: Participating in foreign combat involving the taking of human life is sinful.

  When considering the minor premise, I need only demonstrate the absence of any approval for foreign combat in New Testament. In other words, I maintain that there is no command, example, or necessary inference that would lead anyone to conclude that a child can go abroad and kill someone in combat for his country's sake. The burden of proof is on my opponent to show otherwise.

Let's look at some of the scriptures that "just war" theorists try to use to support their case:

LUKE 3:14

  Here John the Baptist is giving spiritual advice to some soldiers that come up to him. John the Baptist tells them "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." Just war theorists point out that John the Baptist did not condemn soldiering in this passage, so one can only conclude (or so it seems) that being a combat soldier is scriptural. This argument presumes:

  The soldiers were not at the end of their commission in the army and would stay in it after Jesus was nailed to the Cross.

  The soldiers were not Herod's soldiers or in any manner under the jurisdiction of the Jewish political system. Because if such was the case, then how can two soldiers of an Old Testament theocracy be used as an approval for those under the New Testament?

  Part of the soldiers' duties involved foreign combat.

  On what basis can anyone make the above presumptions? Luke 3:14 doesn't say one iota about the soldiers remaining in the army and performing combat duties. If these were Roman soldiers, then why I am expected to believe that John the Baptist delivered all counsel that "pertain to life and godliness" to two men who were Gentiles, a people with which God had limited dealings before the Cross (Acts 17:30)? Also, if these were Roman soldiers, why should I take John the Baptist's silence on their profession as an approval for being a combat solider? He didn't say anything about the idolatrous practices prevalent in the Roman military either. Is silence a form of approval on that matter as well?

ACTS 10 (THE CASE OF CORNELIUS)

  In Acts 10, we have a case of Roman centurion named Cornelius becoming a Christian. Just war theorists maintain that since nothing in the Biblical account called Cornelius' office into question, then it must be scriptural for a Christian to be a soldier. As is the case in Luke 3:14, the just war theorists presume something that isn't implied: the Cornelius could remain in the army. But why stop there? Acts 10 says nothing about the idolatrous, heathen practices required of Roman officers at that time, either. If Cornelius is an approved example of a soldier, he is an approved example of soldier in an aggressor government which would require him to do that which is abominable (1 Corinthians 10:14). Will the just war theorists affirm that?

  The problem in how just theorists handle Acts 10, Luke 3:14, and similar passages is that they claim nothing negative is said about any of the soldiers in the New Testament that believed in Christ. The just theorists translate the absence of condemnation into approval for the soldier's profession. On what basis do they do this? Would they do this with the synagogue rulers in the New Testament that believed in Christ? What about Crispus in Acts 18:8? Could he remain a synagogue ruler since nothing negative was mentioned about his position?

  The Bible teaches by command, example, and necessary inference, not by speculation. When just war theorists use Luke 3:14, Acts 10, etc. and speculate on what the soldiers did after they became Christians, they become guilty of practicing sloppy hermeneutics. They are like the people who justify instrumental music in worship, polygamy, abortion, euthanasia, gambling, etc. because the New Testament doesn't explicitly condemn these things either. Is there a command for foreign combat in the New Testament? No. Approved example? No. Necessary inference? Where? I have shown it's not in Luke 3:14 or Acts 10. So, in the absence of any scriptures to support the just war theorists position, foreign combat stands condemned as being unauthorized and therefore sinful.

McDonald's First Negative

Brother Sheridan and respected readers:

  I am happy to be able to respond to brother Sheridan's first article, but there are some things that I believe should be clarified before I do. {1} Brother Sheridan failed to state his proposition. He says: "The proposition that I am to affirm is that it is sinful for a child of God to kill someone in foreign combat." This is the actual proposition: "It is sinful for a child of God to participate, as a member of his government's military, in foreign combat against any nation over whom his country's government has no national jurisdiction." The difference between what he is to affirm and what he says that he is to affirm is as follows: The proposition as he gives it only condemns the taking of human life in the military, while the actual proposition condemns participating in the military in any form or fashion, during foreign combat. In other words, a Christian could not scripturally be a boiler technician on a ship which goes into foreign combat against its enemies. When you take this into consideration, you can see that he has not even begun to affirm his proposition.

  {2} He also failed to define the key terms in the proposition so we don't know what he means by terms such as "national jurisdiction." The idea of the affirmative defining his proposition is so that all can know just exactly what it is that he is talking about. So he needs to do that in his next affirmative. {3} He made no attempt to defend his proposition with affirmative arguments. Every argument that he gave was a negative argument. He surmised what the "just warfare" opponent might use in defending a proposition that it is scriptural for a child of God to participate in the military and tells us:

  "I maintain that there is no command, example, or necessary inference that would lead anyone to conclude that a child can go abroad and kill someone in combat for his country's sake. The burden of proof is on my opponent to show otherwise" (Sheridan's First Affirmative, p.4).

  Terry is wrong about the burden of proof. I have no such responsibility in this part of the debate. He is supposed to be showing that to participate in the military in foreign combat is sinful for the child of God. I have the burden of negation, not the burden of proof. As the affirmative in this part of the debate, he has the burden of proof. After dealing with three arguments he concludes that there is no authority for the child of God to participate in the military during foreign combat, and says: "So, in the absence of any scriptures to support the just war theorists position, foreign combat stands condemned as being unauthorized and therefore sinful" (Ibid, p.7). He deals with two scriptures and the theocratic government of Israel having been done away and concludes that there is no authority for such; as if those were the only scriptures that one could use.

  {4} I also want to point out that according to the rules of this discussion, brother Sheridan only has one more opportunity to affirm his proposition, because the final affirmative is to be used exclusively for defense. He cannot introduce any new material in his final affirmative, so he had better get busy if he intends to present affirmative material because his time, to do that, is quickly diminishing.

  Now, I would like to ask three (3) questions. [1] Is it sinful for an alien sinner to participate in his government's military in foreign combat against nations over which his nation's government has no national jurisdiction? [2] Is it scriptural for a Christian to serve in his government's military in foreign combat against nations over which his government has national jurisdiction? [3] Would it be scriptural for a Christian to defend his country against an aggressive nation who is trying to overpower this Christian's nation?

  Now to respond to his article. Brother Sheridan first tells us that this is a matter of faith to him and is, infact, a matter of morality just like gambling, pornography and/or homosexuality. The things he has mentioned are inherently sinful and brother Sheridan would quickly withdraw fellowship from anyone participating in them. However, as far as I know, he has not withdrawn fellowship from those of us who believe that it is scriptural for a Christian to participate in the things his proposition says is sinful. What he needs to do is to quit beating around the bush and just draw the line of fellowship.

  Next he talked about how this falls into the area of "specific authority" and therefore we must have command, example, and/or implication for what we do. I believe that this is a matter that is left up to our judgement just as voting or any other responsibility that we have as citizens of the US.

  He goes into the theocratic government of Israel and shows that they were commanded to fight these wars and I would agree with him on that. I would not use the fact that Israel fought wars to justify the US fighting wars. However, after having said that, I would also point out that the wars that the Israelites were involved in shows that God did, at least at one time, authorize going to war. To listen to some people one might get the idea that God is so confined to his attribute of love that he cannot appease his attribute of justice or anger, a viewpoint with which I strongly disagree. I think that if these wars show anything they show that war is not necessarily in opposition to God. He might bring up Isaiah 2:2-4 and show that God's people would change into a people of peace and not war, but I would point out that this is talking about the church, not an individual Christian who was a citizen of a country.

  He brings up Deuteronomy 9:1-6 which shows that Israel would go against nations for those nations wickedness and then states: "Since the reasons for Israel's warfare have been abrogated by the New Testament". Does he think that God's punishing wicked nations stopped with the Old Law? It is true that Israel's theocratic government ceased with the Old Law, but God still punishes nations for their wickedness. It is my belief that God has had his hand in, at least, some of the wars that our country has been involved in. The Civil War may very well have been God's way of abolishing slavery.

  Would it be right for us to sit silently by while a larger nation runs over a smaller and weaker nation? If they asked us for help would it be right for us to say: "Sorry, it's not my fight. You aren't within my national jurisdiction, so I can't help."? He asks: "Can any nation claim today that they have received expressed approval from God for their military activities?" If by "received expressed approval from God" he means that God specifically told this nation or that nation to go to war, then the answer is "No, they don't." However I don't know of a single police department that has that kind approval either, but Romans 13:1-4 does give civil government the right to exist, even to the point of taking human life that is guilty of crimes worthy of death. If one has to have the kind of expressed authority from God that he says we have to have, then we don't have authority to do anything. He's boarding on the New Hermeneutic doctrine when he demands that we must have the same kind of expressed authority from God that Israel had.

  He says: "The idea of specific authority for the taking of human life is also, I believe, present in the New Testament." I'm not sure what it is that he means by this statement. I thought, at first that he meant that God does give specific authority for taking of human life in the New Testament, but then he wrote: "(t)he fact that God did not specifically authorize these acts (euthanasia, suicide, abortion jdm) in light of what Romans 13:9 says is prohibitive enough." So I'm not really sure what he is saying; maybe he can enlighten us in his next article.

  His argument about the intentional taking of human life not being specially authorized by God being sinful would make the putting to death of the murderer sinful because I don't know of a single case where God has specifically authorized the taking of one criminal's life today (and by that I mean that God has not said "put this criminal to death"). Romans 13:1-4 simply gives authority to civil government to do this, but that is not the kind of specific approval from God that Terry says we must have.

  Terry attacked Luke 3:14 where John told the soldiers to be content with their wages and do evil to no man neither accuse any falsely. He surmises that these soldiers may have been at the end of their commissions and would not stay in after Jesus was nailed to the cross. Well, if that's the case then why didn't John tell them to get out after their enlistment's were up? He also surmises that these soldiers may have been Herod's soldiers and under the jurisdiction of the Jewish political system. (1) He would have to prove that these soldiers were under Herod, but, even if he could, Herod was a king set in place by the Roman empire. (2) He would have to prove that these soldiers were Jewish soldiers and not Roman soldiers assigned to Herod by the Roman Empire. (3) He would have to prove that these soldiers were not the kind who went into the foreign battle field, because for all he knows these soldiers were between battles.

  Then he attacks Cornelius's position in the military and tells us that nothing is said about his stopping idolatrous, heathen practices required of Roman soldiers at the time. I don't believe that Cornelius practiced idolatry for he was a man who kept the works of the law of Moses in that he fasted and kept the ninth hour of prayer (Acts 10:30) and his prayers had come before God (Acts 10:4). Even if he had practiced idolatry in the beginning of his service in the military he, obviously, had stopped it by this time. Idolatry has always stood in opposition to God, while military efforts have not. Terry assumes that Cornelius gave up his military service after becoming a Christian, when he should have been proving that he did.

  What about Crispus being a ruler in the synagogue? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:4 that those who keep the law of Moses have fallen from grace. Now what Terry needs to do is to show us the scripture that says that if one serves in the military he is fallen from grace and he will have proven his point, but not until.

  We are not like the people who attempt to justify sinful things, we are asking for the scripture which shows that it is sinful for a child of God to serve in the military. I can show where instrumental music is sinful (Eph. 5:19); where polygamy is sinful (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:30); where abortion and euthanasia are sinful (Ex. 21:22-24; 1 Jno. 3:16); and where gambling is sinful (Gen. 3:17-19; 1 Tim. 5:8) and with the possible exception of instrumental music these have always been sinful under all of God's laws. What he now needs to do is to show where participating in the military is sinful. This is his responsibility, a responsibility that he has not carried out. I hope that he will do so in this next article because his time is quickly running out.


CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.


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