"...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 Third Exchange
Sheridan's Third Affirmative | McDonald's Third Negative
Brother McDonald and respected readers:
I have one more affirmative in which to advance the reasons why I oppose carnal warfare. I have been instructed that I cannot introduce any new material, but must only use my last affirmative as a defense. Considering that my opponent has failed to deal with the crux of my previous two affirmatives, my task appears to be quite minimal. Let me draw the attention of our audience to the several straw man arguments Jerry made in his second negative:
Straw Man #1: That the first half of this debate pertains to whether or not Christians can defend themselves or their families.
Jerry says I believe all "physical combat is unscriptural" and suggest such is the "heart of my position." Jerry and everybody else needs to reread the proposition that I am affirming: ""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." I stated what I meant by that proposition: that a Christian cannot go off and commit violence on behalf of his government in offensive warfare. By offensive warfare, I meant in a foreign country, etc. over which the Christian's government has no rule. Simply put, Joe Christian cannot go over to "Banana Republic" and shoot up "Commies" he's never seen before simply because the folks back home think it's the "right" thing to do. Jerry thinks Joe Christian can do so (at least under some circumstances). Jerry needs to refute my arguments as to why Joe Christian couldn't. Jerry hasn't done this.
Why does he bring up questions about Christians defending themselves and their families? Is he trying to prejudice others against me? He might be successful in doing that, but he has failed to disprove the sinfulness of his "just war" doctrine. I don't need to discuss defending one's wife or children against immediate threats, etc. That's not my task as far as my proposition is concerned.
Let not my opponent deceive anyone into thinking that all acts of "just war" are mere defenses of one's family, friends, etc. What is my opponent going to say? That a Christian must kill a foreigner in combat because the foreigner would otherwise traverse the globe to molest the Christian's family. Imagine that: Destroying someone because it just MIGHT be possible for him to harm your friends and family. Why don't we just kill anyone that looks suspicious, then? Absurd.
A military does not exist just for the purpose of defending one's land, or innocent people back home. If it were so, then the U.S. Army Infantry would never leave our shores. No, military institutions exist to defend the INTERESTS of their governments. Does the existence of a government imply the need for a military to defend itself? If so, then it stands to reason that Japan had the right to repel the American invaders from its shores in 1945. Does that fact that Japan bombed and invaded us justify our bombing and invading them? How so? Let's have book, chapter, and verse because I have yet to hear any plausible argument on two wrongs making a right.
Straw Man #2: That I am guilty of circular reasoning.
In my last affirmative, I touched upon how many "just war" proponents use instances of New Testament characters as approved examples of soldiers, etc. Using Luke 3:14 as a sample verse, I demonstrated how the "just war" proponents consequently fall into the trap of circular reasoning. My opponent denied any circular reasoning on his part and then accused me of it. Well if what Jerry says is true, then he need only clear up the matter and tells us how to use Luke 3:14 and other similar passages responsibly. Surely he is not going to say Luke 3:14 is an approved example of soldiering because the scriptures are silent elsewhere, and then say Romans 13:9 doesn't apply because Luke 3:14 is an approved example of soldiering. No, if my opponent or anybody else wants Luke 3:14, there going to have to show that Luke 3:14 contains irrefutable evidence of soldiers remaining in their office.
I didn't have to prove the soldiers gave up their positions in Luke 3:14. I only had to show that it was a possibility. I did. Jerry needed to negate that possibility. He didn't.
Straw Man #3: That I believe "any kind of physical combat is unscriptural because of Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:15."
Now, respected readers, where I did say that? Jerry would have you believe that my affirmative proves too much and therefore proves nothing. I am afraid that his position proves too much and therefore proves nothing. As far as the New Testament is concerned, do I need to find express prohibitions for every act of violence committed by human beings? In that case, I am sure the Bible would turn out to be a lot thicker than it is now.
Jerry seems to suggest that the major premise of my first affirmative would rule out any use of force to protect others. Let's read it again: "All intentional taking of human life not specifically authorized by God is murder and therefore sinful (see Romans 13:9 ; 1 John 3:15)." Pray tell, how do we establish SPECIFIC AUTHORITY? Is it not through direct commandments/prohibitions, binding examples, and/or necessary inferences? My opponent says Romans 13 gives approval for police officers, but it doesn't give kind of authority for which I looking. I was merely looking for direct commandments/prohibitions, binding examples, and/or necessary inferences for when people can take the life of others. Is my opponent saying that far as police officers are concerned, that Romans 13 fits NONE of the above? Is that rather self-incriminating for Jerry to say this? Or am I to believe that the matter of life and death is one of GENERIC authority? That is, do WE decide who gets axed because of the causes we FEEL to be right? Do we define "murder" and "justifiable homicide" according to our own criteria? Thank you, but I don't want any part of such a man-centered, arbitrary doctrine that would give sway not only to every gun-touting jingoist, but also to the abortionist, homicidal eugenicist, and euthanasia proponent. If anyone thinks they can go beyond what is written in this matter, then they should read Jeremiah 19:4-6 and see what God's attitude is (esp. verse 5).
Straw Man #4: That I have not advanced any arguments to affirm my proposition.
If I have not advanced any arguments to affirm my proposition, as Jerry claims, then why has he even tried to respond to me? Why doesn't he simply say "You haven't advanced a tenable affirmative, therefore I have nothing to negate." Apparently, he wants take issue with the arguments I do advance, but then enjoy the safety net assertion that I haven't affirmed anything. That sounds self-contradictory to me. I hope he is not saying that I haven't affirmed anything simply to excuse his failure to demolish my arguments.
The fact is that I have affirmed several things and my opponent has yet to negate them in any meaningful manner. I advanced a three part syllogism in my first affirmative. All Jerry could do was take a few shots as the major premise by misrepresenting my position. Then I affirmed that Romans 13:9 and 1 John 3:16 forbid the kind of "carnal warfare" discussed in the first half of this debate. At present, all Jerry needs to do is show how I misapplied the Scriptures. Surely he could try to use one of the "just war" proponents' favorite passages against me (e.g., Romans 13:1-7; John 19:11; Luke 3:14, etc.). Jerry has used them before; why is it so hard for him now? Because I took them away from him, that's why.
Jerry does try to prop up his case by distinguishing between euthanasia and "just warfare". We are led to believe that euthanasia involves the murder of innocents, but "just war" does not. But how do we decide who is WORTHY of death? What passages in the Bible will Jerry use to distinguish between those innocent and NOT innocent? Could he use any of the Bible verses that touch upon civil government, even though the context of those verses argue against him? Consider this example: If a man rapes and kills my mother and he is imprisoned for life, can I then go into his prison cell and shoot him? No, because that would be taking the law into my own hands. I have no Biblical authority to kill the prisoner (Romans 12:19; Romans 13:1-4), even though he is NOT innocent. One can thus see that the Bible should resolve the question of who should die and who doesn't, and I am waiting for my opponent to go the Bible on that matter.
Where is there any hint that Christians can fight people in a foreign land, even though the Christian's government does not even to claim to exercise dominion over those people? Readers, there can be no evildoers as far as Romans 13:4 is concerned if there are no broken laws, and there can be no broken laws unless there are a group of people who are amenable to them. Foreigners in another land are not amenable to our laws! All this talk about "innocent" people versus "soldiers" is not doing Jerry any good.
Now, I will address some other things Jerry brought up in his second negative. First, he asks me three questions. Here are my responses:
Answer to Question #1: Perhaps a Christian can serve in a non-combatant role in the military, though I wouldn't advise it. Anyway, that isn't the point of this debate. The actions of a person speak louder than the title of his position.
Answer to Question #2: I don't think a Christian should stand by while others harm his family, but I could be wrong on this.
Answer to Question #3: There is only reason for a Christian to fight for anyone, and the reason is summed up in the major premise of my first affirmative. It's called AUTHORITY, folks. I'm waiting for my opponent to produce it for his beliefs.
How do these questions help Jerry? If he thinks I have strayed from the proposition at hand, he should check himself. I have already shown that the first half of this debate is not about immediate threats to friends, family, etc. Why does Jerry try to make it otherwise?
Jerry said some other things in his second negative that demand attention. He tries to salvage his misapplication of the account of Cornelius (Acts 10). It's interesting that he makes Cornelius a practicing Jew even the Scriptures attest that he was a Gentile. How advanced was Cornelius understanding of true worship? Inquiring minds want to know.
Jerry also tries to play down my comments on fellowship, etc. He comments, "Then Terry says that his being in fellowship with me is not the main issue, but it is and he knows it." What an interesting statement. It sounds like Jerry is more interested in the approval of men than God. My opponent should be careful about what he says. If this wasn't bad enough, Jerry remarks that the "war question" is not "THAT terrible an issue" [Emphasis mine - T.S.]. It is as if we are supposed to believe that there are different of degrees of sin, etc. I do not find this to be true in the Bible (James 3:10-11). It doesn't matter how anyone views the issues under discussion; what matters is whether or not we have authority for the things we practice collectively as a church or in our personal lives.
Jerry has had time enough to get to the REAL heart of the matter in this first half of our debate. He has one more chance to negate me. He planted his straw men, knocked them down, and gave the illusion that he had me matched. Nevertheless, it is time for him to take a strike at the metal of my arguments. I await his answer.
Final note: In my last affirmative, I referred to John 9:10-11. I meant John 19:10-11, which is the account of Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate. I apologize to our readers for the confusion.
Brother Sheridan and respected readers:
I want to respond to the answers that brother Sheridan has given to my questions. Question #1: "Perhaps a Christian can serve in a non-combatant role in the military, though I wouldn't advise it. Anyway that isn't the point of this debate. The actions of a person speak louder than the title of his position." Response: Why wouldn't it be advisable? My reason for bringing this question in is to show the inconsistency of Terry's position. He will not allow someone to go into battle, but he will allow someone to send those people into battle, as long as they don't have to go themselves. Question #2: "I don't think a Christian should stand by while others harm his family, but I could be wrong on this." Response: Just what would you have the Christian do? He can't cause physical harm to the attacker because that would be wrong, according to Terry. The only other thing he could do would be to try and either hide his family or run with them, but those solutions are only viable if he has the opportunity to do so. However, Terry leaves the door open by saying that it is possible he is wrong. I can't imagine why he would think that it could possibly be right for a Christian to stand by and watch while his family is being harmed. Question #3: "There is only [one] reason for a Christian to fight anyone, and the reason is summed up in the major premises of my first affirmative. It's called AUTHORITY, folks. I'm waiting for my opponent to produce it for his beliefs." Response: I have produced it, but I have also shown that the kind of authority that Terry is looking for doesn't exist. He is looking for the kind of specific authority that the Israelites had, but as I said in my last: "God doesn't give that kind of authority to anyone today." He could not show one single thing in any realm of his life that is given to us by the kind of specific authority that God gave to the Israelites when he sent them to war. However, we do have authority for these things today. I pointed out that civil government has God-given authority to exist and is God's minister to execute wrath on them that do evil (Rom. 13:1-4).
I have given it, he just hasn't recognized it. He is waiting for me to give some passage of scripture that commands the US to go to war. It isn't there, and I have admitted that all along. However, he doesn't have that kind of authority for anything. Where is the scripture that says: "Terry Sheridan, you do this?" That kind of authority doesn't exist any more. God's word has principles and commands and examples and implications in it that apply to all ages. Terry needs to take a good course in Hermeneutics.
Terry says that I have erected four straw men and have been fighting them, rather than fighting his position. So let's look at them in turn.
"Straw Man #1: That the first half of this debate pertains to whether or not Christians can defend themselves or their families." Wrong, I have not made any such statement or even implied any such thing. I do believe that I am well within my rights (as the negative) to present negative arguments to show the weakness of his position. I have responded to his arguments (such as they were) I just didn't give him the answer he was looking for. I pointed out that in reality the "national jurisdiction" is a moot issue because he does believe that all physical combat (except where God specifically says to go to war--something that doesn't exist) is wrong. I understand what his proposition says, but I also know what his position is, and his position is exactly as I have given it.
He says he is talking about "offensive warfare" but I have shown that he doesn't even allow warfare for defensive reasons. He wrote about how we overran Japan, and when I pointed out that Japan brought us into the war by their unwarranted attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 his response was:
"Does the fact that Japan bombed and invaded us justify our bombing and invading them? How so? Let's have book, chapter, and verse because I have yet to hear any plausible argument on two wrongs make a right" (Sheridan's Third Affirmative, p.2).
So defensive warfare is wrong too because that is what we did in WW2. We retaliated to keep Japan from doing it again. Does he honestly think that had we simply sat still that Japan would have backed off? Get real! Why does he think that their ambassador was in Washington typing up a declaration of War at the very moment the attack took place. They intended to come right on in to the mainland and overpower the US. He wants to know why I bring up about Christians defending themselves. Simply to show the real heart of his position. I am not trying to prejudice others against him as he claims.
He states that I have failed to disprove the sinfulness of my "just war" doctrine. Hmmm....I think the thing that needs to be pointed out is that he hasn't shown that it is sinful for Christians to participate in warfare. I have responded to each and every objection he has produced, but he hasn't affirmed anything. I can't negate what he hasn't affirmed. Where did he show from the scriptures that "(i)t 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 closest thing he made to an argument on this was to show that we have no "specific authority" from God to engage in foreign combat. However, by specific authority he means that God must expressly approve it. I have shown time and again that we don't have expressed approval for this, but I have also shown that we have no expressed approval (the kind he is looking for) for anything we do. This is something that he has constantly overlooked.
I am not attempting to deceive anyone into thinking that all acts of "just war" are mere defenses of one's family, friends. etc.,. However, I have shown that Terry would not even allow Christians to defend their homes or friends. Remember he is the one who says that he might be wrong and that it is possible that it is wrong to protect one's family.
He tries to show that I am stating that we should kill because of what someone MIGHT (emphasis) do. No, that is no part of my position. There was no "might do" involved in WW2 when Japan invaded the US. That is exactly what would have happened had the US not stood up and fought back. Again I wonder why he thinks that the ambassador of Japan was typing up a declaration of war at the very moment that Japan invaded the US at Pearl Harbor.
The military does exist for the purpose of defending one's land and innocent people back home. Some times we have to go on the offensive in order to keep oppressive forces out of our land, but it is all done to defend our homeland. Sometimes our nation is requested by a smaller nation to help them out as was the case in the Vietnam war. I wonder, and I have asked this before, if we should have said, "Nope, sorry, but you aren't within my national jurisdiction. It's none of my business what happens to you." I think if we had taken that attitude that communism would have spread much faster than it did.
Then he asked the question: "Does the existence of a government imply the need for a military to defend itself?" I don't know what to say to that one other than "Yes, it does." What good is a government without a military to defend it? God's church is a kingdom, it has a government, and it also has a military. We are the army of Christ. Why does it need a military? Because it is involved in a spiritual war and it needs a spiritual military to defend the church. It doesn't have a carnal military because it isn't a carnal kingdom, but you better believe that when God did have an earthly kingdom he had a carnal military.
Japan invaded us first, and had every intention of overpowering the US and marching into our homeland. We defended our home by taking the battle to their back yard. Let's not forget that little tidbit of information. Terry wants you to think that Japan was just some poor little country who was bullied around by the big bad USA. Japan had a right to have a government and even a military to defend their shores, but they gave up the right to claim self-defense when they invaded and declared war on the US. They were the ones at fault, not us. We were in the defensive mode.
Straw Man #2: "That I am guilty of circular reasoning." Terry brought up Luke 3:14 as proof that his position was true and assumed that the soldiers would have given up their commission after Christ died. I asked for proof and he gave none. He is guilty of circular reasoning because he has made an assumption with no proof for his conclusion. It's called "begging the question" which is what circular reasoning is. You see, he is asking us to assume that the soldiers gave up their commissions after Christ arose because he says it would have been wrong to keep them. He has not proven anything, just asked us to assume without his having to give any proof. He says that I should have shown the proper interpretation of Luke 3:14. The only responsibility I had in this regards was to show that Terry's interpretation doesn't necessarily fit. Remember he was in the affirmative, not me. He claims that he gave a possible interpretation. However, anyone can give a possible interpretation, but that doesn't make it the correct interpretation.
Straw Man #3: "That I believe that 'any kind of physical combat is unscriptural." Hmmm...isn't he the one who said that it would be wrong for a Christian to defend his homeland against an invader? Isn't he the one who said that it is possible that it would be wrong for the Christian to even fight off an attacker who was trying to harm his (the Christian's) family? I don't think this is a straw man either.
Now he wants to know how we "establish SPECIFIC AUTHORITY." In the first place we don't. God has already established authority, we can only ascertain it. Secondly he is now beginning to see that we don't have to have the kind of specific authority that God gave Israel for our actions. However, this is exactly what he required just before he gave his argument:
"...a person cannot take the life of another person unless God specifically authorizes the reason for the killing....when Israel waged warfare against other nations, it was a matter of specific authority....After all, can any nation today claim that they have received express approval from God for their military activities?" (Sheridan's First Affirmative, pp. 2,3).
He says that I said that Romans 13 gives authority for police officers but it doesn't give the kind of authority he is looking for. I have already shown what kind of authority he is looking for; expressed approval. In other words God must say "take that person's life for this reason" or there is none. He can say anything he wants, but he can't erase what he has already said. I am glad, however, to see him imply that Romans 13 gives authority for police officers. I shall use that concession when I get into the affirmative.
Straw Man #4: "That I have not advanced any arguments to affirm my proposition." He wants to know why I haven't told him that he hasn't advanced any tenable arguments to advance his position therefore I have nothing to negate. O my...I have done that in every article I have sent in. Notice:
"What he needs to do now is to show where participating in the military is sinful. This is his responsibility, a responsibility that he has not carried out" (McDonald's First Rebuttal, p.6). Then: "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" (McDonald's Second Rebuttal, p.2).
Why did I bother trying to respond to him? Simply because that was my responsibility. I cannot help it that he chose not to defend his proposition, but I still have the responsibility to respond to what he says.
He says that I am distinguishing between "euthanasia" and "just war." Yes, I do, and so does he. Do you think for a moment that he would be in fellowship with me if I was to say "kill" my aging mother because she is too old to be productive to society? No, he wouldn't. So even he sees the difference. He sees the difference between abortion/homosexuality and going to war for one's country. Do you think he would fellowship me if I were a homosexual or if I was an abortion advocate? Not for one moment. Yet, even though he tries to make out like fellowship has nothing to do with this issue, he will fellowship me even though I advocate Christians going to war.
He, as a civilian, does not have authority to kill a prisoner, but Romans 13:1-4 does give civil government the right to do this. Romans 13:1-4 does give civil government the right to have a military. And there is nothing that even indicates that it would be wrong for the Christian to function in those capacities as a member of the police departments or military.
He complained about my saying that the war issue is not that terrible an issue and says that I imply that there are different degrees of sin. I have never implied such a thing. I have shown, all along, that by virtue of the fact that Terry continues fellowship with us shows that this is not something sinful. If it was something sinful he would have quickly broken fellowship with us. Does anyone think he would fellowship me if I were a practicing homosexual or an abortion advocate? No! Why? Because those things are sinful and he won't fellowship sin. However, by virtue of the fact that he continues his fellowship with those of us who hold this position shows that he does not really consider this issue a bad thing; or in other words sin. If he contends that my position is sinful, then he is the one who believes in degrees of sin because he will fellowship me over this, but he won't fellowship homosexuals or abortionists.
Cornelius was a gentile, something no one denies, but he also kept the law of Moses. I wonder, if the law of Moses isn't what Cornelius was keeping, what is meant by: "And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house..." (Acts 10:30). I wonder why, if Cornelius was an idolater, the man told him: "Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God" (v:31). If Cornelius was a practicing idolater why had God heard his prayers? Why do the scriptures say that Cornelius was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house" (Acts 10:2) if he was indeed an idolater? I have tried to get Terry to respond to these things, and he has refused every time. His position still isn't proven by John 19:9,10. My argument still holds true.
I have responded to his objections and his so-called arguments because I believe that such was my obligation. However, I have tried to get him on task and he has refused every time. So his proposition stands unproved.
CHALLENGE is published quarterly by Challenge Publications.
Jerry D. McDonald, Editor; Michael P. Hughes, Associate Editor.