"...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 Second Exchange

Sheridan's Second Affirmative | McDonald's Second Negative

Sheridan's Second Affirmative

Brother McDonald and respected readers:

  Brother McDonald has taken issue with the wording of my proposition and arguments in my first affirmative. So be it. As for my proposition, I have merely restated what I intended to affirm all along. This debate has to do with violence committed on behalf of civil government, or I at least I thought that was understood. Jerry's comments about a hypothetical "boiler technician" are immaterial. Concerning my proposition, I think there is a difference between being merely enlisted in the military and participating in foreign combat. "Combat" means to fight. Boiler technicians, as far as this debate is concerned, do not fight.

  Jerry also quibbles about the phrase "national jurisdiction". I thought I was clear on this matter, too. What I simply mean by that phrase is one government being subservient to another (e.g., the state government of Arkansas is subservient to the federal government of the United States. Hence the United States has "national jurisdiction" over Arkansas.).

  Now to the crux of the matter. Jerry said I made no attempt to defend my proposition with affirmative arguments. I'll let the readers of this debate decide, for I definitely could take issue with that statement. At any rate, since Jerry seemingly fails to comprehend what I have set forth in my first affirmative, I will try to restate my arguments, etc. in simpler terms.

  I believe foreign combat, as I have discussed it, is sinful because Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15 forbid it. Now let Jerry negate me. What is he going to do? Is he going to say that the "carnal warfare" that he endorses is not murder? Let him give me the scriptures.

1. Will he go to the Old Testament?

  He said, "I would not use the fact that Israel fought wars to justify the US fighting wars." I am glad Jerry appreciates that fact. Many people who profess to be Christians don't. On to my next point

2. Will he cite the soldiers mentioned in the New Testament to show approved example or necessary inference for his doctrine?

  I think I've already proven he can't. Yet Jerry says I have prove to several things about the soldiers in Luke 3:14. No, I don't because I am not the one trying to wrestle necessary inference out of the passage. If my opponent believes these soldiers remained in the military after becoming Christians, let him prove it.

  As for Cornelius in Acts 10, Jerry assumes that Cornelius kept the law of Moses in it's entirety on basis of v. 4 and 30. Sorry, but "fasting", "fearing God", and giving alms are no indication that Cornelius refused to do a little emperor worship on the side. What should be noted is that despite the favorable things said about Cornelius, he was still an alien sinner in the eyes of God. Moreover, the requirement of Roman officers to engage in idolatrous practices is a historical fact (for reference, see Studies in Early Christianity, vol. 16, p. 226-227 : Garland Publishing, 1993).

  Jerry referred to my mention of Crispus (Acts 18:8), the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. He seems to agree with me that silence about one's vocation in a particular verse does not necessarily indicate God's approval. After all, he has to go over to Gal. 5:4 to get Crispus out of Judaism. Jerry then asks me for the scripture(s) to condemn "carnal warfare" as I have discussed it. Well, I'm afraid that: (a) He won't accept Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15, because from things he's written recently, I can only infer that he believes the soldiers in the New Testament prove his position. (b) And he implies that they prove his position because they could have remained in the military. (c) He, furthermore, seems to suggest they could have remained in the military because nothing is said in the Bible that condemns soldiering. (d) This, of course, brings us back to point (a). It looks like circular reasoning to me. I fear that this kind of thinking is normative for those who take bro. McDonald's position on "carnal warfare". Contrast that to what I affirm: Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15 forbid the form of violence we are discussing; Luke 3 and Acts 10 do not refute my application of scriptures because there is NOTHING inherent in these verses which show, beyond all doubt, that the soldiers could stay in the military. They are parallel to Crispus in Acts 18:8.

3. Will my opponent rely on the various passages in the New Testament which mention civil government (Matthew 22:21, John 9:10-11, Acts 23:12-24, Acts 25:11, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-14)?

  I am certain Jerry will admit all of these verses refer to the power of civil governments to expect obedience from its subjects and/or punish those subjects who disobey. That would include the Jews in Acts 23. I defy bro. McDonald, however, to show that these verses are approval for soldiers participating in foreign combat against people they've never seen before. Please show the phrases or verbiage in these passages that support Jerry's doctrine. Even in Romans 13, the "evildoers" are clearly those who are breaking the law of their government, not some foreign enemy one arbitrarily marks for destruction. Will Jerry affirm that the infants present in the city of Hiroshima during World War II were "evildoers" and therefore needed to be bombed? No, let the Bible interpret itself. It's obvious from all the verse mentioned above that civil obedience is the issue, not "just war".

4. Will Jerry try to use Luke 22:36-38? Even if I were to concede that this verse is an approved example of self-defense, how does defense of an individual against immediate danger justify all that is involved in a full scale conflict between independent governments? How can anyone bomb cities, kill people he's never seen before, and then claim he was defending himself, friend, or a family member? With all due respect, such a line of reasoning is ridiculous and amoral.

  Now what is Jerry's answer to all of this? Will he say that 1 John 3:16 mentions nothing about combat soldiers? What does he want from me? A verse that says "Thou shall not engage in foreign combat against a citizen of an independent government?" Well, he can't find statements which say "Thou shall not abort your baby or pull the plug on your terminally ill grandparent." It seems that bro. McDonald never before considered the ramifications of the major premise I presented earlier (see the syllogism in my first affirmative): That is, no one can intentionally take the life of another without command, example, or necessary inference for such an action. Interestingly enough, he tried to deny my major premise, yet turned around and quoted Romans 13 as approval for policemen. Well, if my major premise is wrong, why go to Romans 13? Jerry didn't refute my major premise, he affirmed it!


  My opponent also appears to overlook the fact that God holds INDIVIDUALS accountable for their actions (2 Corinthians 5:10). On what basis can anyone say the because a soldier acted as an agent of civil government in war time and merely "followed orders", that he is not personally responsible for he did? Who can say a person is a criminal, as far as Romans 13 is concerned, because he is a citizen living in enemy territory? Jerry says, "God still punishes nations for their wickedness." What does he mean by this? That war is justifiable when God uses it to punish sin? How does Jerry know who is getting punished? God may use people to carry out his will and still find them guilty of sin. After all, how did God view the people he employed to crucify his Son? Am I supposed to believe that even though innocent people are killed in war, such is a necessary evil so that good may come? I don't think so (Romans 3:8). I'm sorry but violence in military combat is intentional; its participants have agreed to such by their willing involvement in active duty.


  Now, I will deal with some other things mentioned in Jerry's first negative:

1. He wonders aloud "Would it be right for us to sit silently by while a larger nation runs over a smaller and weaker nation?" That's interesting that Jerry should ask this. After all, the United States overran the Native Americans, Mexico, and Japan. I think Jerry needs to answer this question himself and try to do so with the Bible.

2. He tells me to stop "beating around the bush" on the fellowship issue. I thought I was pretty clear on that. To be candid, I would feel uncomfortable worshipping in church where my opponent's doctrine was taught from the pulpit. I would also feel uncomfortable financially supporting any evangelist or employing him in a corporate work of a local congregation (such as a gospel meeting) if he continued to teach error on the "civil government" issue. I am sorry if my hard stand on this hurts the feelings of some. Nonetheless, those who would practice what my opponent teaches in this debate need to read 1 John 3:15 and Romans 13:9. Those who would teach as Jerry does on the Christian's relationship to civil government, etc. need to read Mark 9:42. People may spend an eternity separated from God because of the errors taught on "just warfare", etc. A long time ago, brother Rex Turner said the just war doctrine was "just devastating and damning in effect as premillennialism could ever be." Also, there are quite a few restoration pioneers and well-respected preachers who would oppose Jerry's doctrine if they were alive today (e.g., Barton Stone, Tolbert Fanning, David Lipscomb, Moses Lard). All of this should give the readers a clear idea of how strongly I feel about this matter. Anyway, me being in fellowship with Jerry is not the main issue. Him being in fellowship with God is the real issue. Jerry should think about that.

3. Jerry asked me some questions. Here are my answers: (1) Yes, it's sinful for an alien sinner to participate in foreign combat against those over whom his government has no national jurisdiction. (2) No, I don't believe a Christian can participate in combat against a government over which his country national jurisdiction. (3) No, I don't believe a Christian can defend his country against an aggressive nation, etc. It should be noted that in questions #2 and #3, Jerry is asking my opinions on matters which stand apart from the proposition I am affirming.

   Now I've put forth my affirmative and shown why I think it is sound. Let my opponent answer me. Jerry said I was "running out of time." I think he's run out of Scriptures to defend his views on "just war."

McDonald's Second Negative

Brother Sheridan and respected readers:

  I want to respond to brother Sheridan's answers to my questions before I begin. Question #1: "Yes, it's sinful for an alien sinner to participate in combat against those over whom his government has no national jurisdiction." At least he is consistent here, so we will let the matter drop. Question #2: "No, I don't believe that a Christian can participate in combat against a government over which his country [has] national jurisdiction." So all this discussion about national jurisdiction is a moot issue because Terry doesn't believe that a Christian could participate even if his country did have national jurisdiction. Question #3: "No, I don't believe a Christian can defend his country against an aggressive nation, etc." So there is no reason that would allow a Christian to participate in combat against any nation, even if this nation was to make moves to overpower the Christian's nation. So when this aggressive nation's soldiers come to the Christian's home to overpower it he is scripturally powerless to even try to stop them. He says that questions 2 and 3 deal with matters which stand apart from the proposition he is affirming, but I believe that they get to the heart of his position, and we have learned from him that there is no reason for a Christian (or even an alien sinner) to scripturally be engaged in combat against anyone. So if Saddam Hussien decides, next month, to overpower the USA all anyone can scripturally do is to stand back and let it happen.

  Now I have three more questions for Terry: (1) Can a Christian scripturally serve in the military if he does not directly take a life or harm someone? (2) Would it be scriptural for a Christian, after standing by and allowing an aggressive nation to overpower his country, to stand by while a soldier for that aggressive nation comes in and takes his wife and children away from him and harms them? (3) Is there any reason, short of God directly speaking to a Christian and specifically telling him/her to fight, for a Christian to fight for his family, home or country?

  Terry called my statement about boiler technicians "hypothetical." The word "hypothetical" comes from the word "hypothesis" which means, among other things: "an unproved theory" (Webster's New World Dictionary, p.692). He says "(b)oiler techicians, as far as this debate is concerned, do not fight." Well, maybe he ought to go find some boiler techicians from the WWII, US carriers Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet and tell them that they were merely hypothetical that they did not really fight in the battle of Midway in WWII.

  He says that he has affirmed his proposition, but he hasn't. All he has done is to attack certain scriptures that he thinks I might use in defense of a proposition if I were in the affirmative and then says that I need to prove my point. I do not have the burden of proof in this part of the debate. Terry has that burden while I have the burden of negation.

  He says: "I believe foreign combat, as I have discussed it, is sinful because Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15 forbid it." It would not make any difference if it was foreign combat or not because he believes that all physical combat is unscriptural. So let him just say that any kind of physical combat is unscriptural because of Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15. This would make the DEA's war against the drug cartels unscriptural even in our own country. What he has yet to do is to prove that Romans 13:9 covers all killing. It covers "murder", but it doesn't cover all killing and neither does 1 John 3:15. In Terry's eyes all intentional killing is murder; or at least this is the way it seems to me. He asks if I would say that "carnal warfare" that I endorse is not murder? Yes I would, but I would also point out that I do not endorse everything our government might do in warfare. I endorse capital punishment, but I don't endorse abuses of it.

  I stated that I would not use the fact that Israel fought war to justify going to war, but I also pointed out that this shows that war was not necessarily in opposition to God. He says that he doesn't have to prove anything about the soldiers in Lk. 3:14 because he isn't the one who is trying to wrestle necessary inference out of the passage. He's the one who brought them up and made several assumptions about them that he couldn't prove if his life depended on it. Now that he sees he can't prove these assumptions he attempts to take the easy way out and say that I am the one who is to prove. No, I don't have to prove anything, because I didn't bring them up. He produced the verse to support his position, so he needs to prove that it does indeed support his position.

  He says that "fasting," "fearing God" and giving alms are no indication that Cornelius refused to do a little emperor worship on the side. Well, I think they speak quite well of him especially since he kept the ninth hour of prayer and his prayers had come before God (something Terry conveniently overlooked). My point was that Cornelius (from all available Biblical evidence) was not an idolator. He may very well have practiced idolatry at one point in his life, but there is nothing to indicate that he was an idolator at the time of his conversion. Would his prayers have gone up before God had he been a practicing idolator? Terry says that Cornelius was an alien sinner, which means what, exactly? Anyone who had not obeyed the gospel of Christ by this time (Jew and/or Gentile) was an alien sinner. Before Paul became a Christian he was an alien sinner. What has that got to do with whether or not Cornelius kept his commission after becoming a Christian? Nothing!

  I have not agreed with any of his argument concerning Crispus. I merely showed that obedience to the law of Moses was specified as being sinful at that time according to Galatians 5:4. That proves that Crispus no longer followed the law of Moses. Where is the scripture or scriptures which specifies that one can no longer serve in the military after becoming a Christian?

  I have not implied anything about the soldiers of Luke 3:14. Terry assumed that they would not have stayed in the military after Christ arose and I asked for proof, and he gave none. He assumed that they were under Herod and I asked for proof and he gave none. I am not guilty of circular reasoning. Terry is guilty of that.

  Terry lists several scriptures and asks which one authorizes foreign combat. None of them give the kind of authority that he is looking for. Romans 13:1-4 not only gives the government's obligation to the Christian and the Christian's obligation to the government, but it also says that these civil rulers are ministers (servants) of God. Would God make someone a minister (servant) and then punish him for doing what God told him to do in the first place? Mt. 22:21 deals with paying taxes. Jno. 9:10-11 deals with Jesus healing a blind man. Acts 23:12-24 deals with Paul receiving protection from civil government (by the way I would like to know if Terry thinks that if the Jews had made an attempt on Paul's life and one of them was killed by a Roman soldier if this Roman soldier would have been guilty of murder and also if this would have made Paul guilty in some way as well). Acts 25:11 deals with Paul's defense to Festus and his appeal to Caesar. 1 Peter 2:13-14 deals with being subject to civil rulers. But, why stop with foreign combat? Terry has already admitted that it makes no difference if it is foreign or domestic combat.

  Do I think it was right for the babies in the city of Hiroshima to be bombed. No, I don't think it was, but just remember that Japan drew us into the war and because of that they suffered the consequences of their actions. Will he say that we were not defending our country against Japan in WWII? Does our action at Hiroshima make all war wrong?

  He wants to know what I want from him? I wanted him to make an argument in favor of his proposition (something he can no longer do because of the rules of the debate). I wanted him to show that the Bible forbids the Christian to participate in the military in foreign combat. However, that is not what I got.

  When we speak of abortion or euthanasia we are talking about murdering innocents for no reason other than convience. However, in war we are talking about killing soldiers on the battlefield. There have been instances when our country did do things wrong, but that doesn't mean that every instance of war was wrong. I do not endorse every battle and/or even every war, but I believe that God has used some of them to punish evil nations. He wanted to know what I meant by that, but I used the example of the civil war to show that this may have been God's way of abolishing slavery. He is looking for the kind of specific authority that God gave to Israel, but there is none. However, God doesn't give that kind of authority to anyone today. Some we got involved in to help a weaker nation from being overcome by a larger, more powerful and more agressive nation. You cannot take instances of war in which wrong was done and say that all instances of war is wrong anymore than you can take instances in which police officers unjustly use deadly force and say that it is wrong to use deadly force in any case.

  He says that God will use people to carry out his will and then hold them responsible for their actions and used those who crucified Christ as an example. Did God make those who crucified Christ do it? Did he make them his ministers to do this? No, God allowed it and they carried out his will, but never once were they acting as his ministers in doing this. I don't believe that we have the right to kill innocent people, and I do not condone such, but that does not mean that every war we fight we go into it for the purpose of killing innocent people. He says that violence in military combat is intentional, but he needs to see that not all intentional killing is murder

  We didn't overrun Japan, they started the conflict with us. Let's take a short walk down memory lane: Remember December 7, 1941 when Adm. Yamamoto sent his carrier taskforce to Pearl Harbor under the command of Vice Adm. Nagumo and bombed the harbor in an unprovoaked attack? Remember the Battleship Arizona sinking in the harbor along with the Oklahoma, the West Virgina and the California and other ships? Remember all the men that died that day? Yes the white man did overrun the Indians, and I don't endorse such. It was wrong to make treaties with them then break those treaties. But, we didn't overrun Mexico. Most of the inhabitants of Texas (which was in Mexico territory at the time) originally came from the US and wanted to be part of the US and Santa Anna decided punish them for their rebellion which brought the US into the matter.

  As far as fellowship is concerned he continues to liken this position to grevious sins and tells us that he would feel uncomfortable worshipping in a congregation where this doctrine was taught and/or supporting a work where this doctrine was taught. He would feel uncomfortable! Would he just feel uncomfortable about abortion or homosexuality, or would he draw the line of fellowship? He would draw the line of fellowship and he knows it. By virtue of the fact that he is still in fellowship with us shows that he doesn't consider it as bad as abortion or homosexuality.

  Rex Turner could say whatever he desired, but even he knew that there was a difference between Premillenialism and this issue. He wouldn't fellowship the Premillenials, but he did fellowship us. Even the early restoration preachers who stood against the issue I presently hold were careful about drawing the line of fellowship over it. Then Terry says that his being in fellowship with me is not the main issue, but it is and he knows it. He can talk about how my position is such a terrible position but he refuses to draw the line of fellowship over it, which shows that it is not that terrible an issue.

  I won't get into Luke 22:36-38 until I get into the affirmative. He says: "he tried to deny my major premise, yet turned around and quoted Romans 13 as approval for policemen." I was showing that Romans 13 does give approval for police officers, but it doesn't give the kind of specific authority that his major premise demanded.

  I have responded to his second affirmative and still he has not produced an argument to prove his proposition, and now he has run out of time to do that because he can only defend his previous statements in his final affirmative. I have not run out of scriptures to defend my view; I am not defending anything. He has, however, run out of time to make an argument which will support his proposition.

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

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