Thursday, December 03, 2009

Should soldiers who are Christians enjoy killing people in war?

Ben Myers highlighted Gene Edward Veith's recent article at I am disgusted after reading it:

Should a Christian soldier take pleasure in killing people?

Luther wrote a booklet titled Whether a Soldier Too Can Be Saved, taking up the issue of whether a Christian, who is supposed to love his enemies, should join the military, where he has the duty of killing them. According to Romans 13, Luther argued, God has appointed earthly rulers to restrain sin and has given them the authority to "bear the sword." The soldier, acting under a lawful chain of command under the authority of the state, therefore has a legitimate calling from God, who Himself acts through human vocations. Luther says the soldier should look at it this way: "It is not I that smite, stab, and slay, but God and my prince, for my hand and my body are now their servants." The Christian soldier, living out his faith in his vocation, loves and serves his neighbors by defending and protecting them. Yes, soldiers can abuse their license to kill. Luther goes so far as to say that soldiers should refuse to fight in wars that are clearly evil. But those who have the Christian vocation of being a soldier may fight "in good conscience." Before God soldiers should be humble and repentant. But before the enemy, they should "smite them with a confident and untroubled spirit." Soldiers, Luther says, should go "forward with joy!" As in other vocations, so in the military, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's work. (Bold added).

In short, Veith is saying that soldiers who are Christians should enjoy killing people in war. He alluded Luther's understanding of Romans 13. But two problems:

1) Stanley Hauerwas has been pointing out that those who cite Romans 13 to justify killing people in war simply don't read Romans 12 (especially verse 21 the verse before the start of Romans 13):

"...people always ask about Romans 13. ["Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience."] But the answer is in Romans 12, which says to do good to your enemy and to overcome evil with good. In World War II, after all, there were many Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who used Romans 13 to justify fighting for the Nazis."

2) Veith, an influential Evangelical, understands 'neighbor' as someone staying in the same country as you. But Jesus' allusion to 'neighbor' (Matt. 21.39) is not only those staying near you but also includes one's enemies, referring back to Matt. 5.43-47. (See R.T. France, Matthew - Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series, [USA: IVP, 1985, reprint 2008], 323).

Are you as disgusted now? Or you actually agree with it and going to quote other commentaries on Matthew and Romans?

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