War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Moses Lard on War; Part 4 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For previous parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)
War Defined and Examined (Part 3 of 11)

War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong

My first argument in refutation of this proposition [Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war] is drawn from the source whence wars springs. The argument is, that war cannot be right when its cause is wrong. What now is its cause? The following from the New Testament supplies the answer:

Whence are wars, and whence battles among you? Are then not hence, from your lusts that war in your members?

James 4:1

Here lust is, in the word of Christ, set down as the cause of wars and battles; not as the cause of some wars and some battles, but as the cause of all wars and all battles. And I hesitate not to believe that, were we capable of tracing every war to the secret motive from which it originates, we should find the apostle’s remark to be in every case, and in the severest sense, true. Lust of territory, lust of power, lust of fame, lust of wealth – few will be found to deny that these are the great mainsprings of war. Extinguish all trace of these in the human breast, and unless Satan could muster some other passion into service, wars would universally cease. Now that lust is positively forbidden in the word of God, as a thing wrong in itself, no one will deny. Hence all acts which are strictly performed to carry it out and gratify it must be wrong. This includes war – all war. Hence all war must be wrong. But is it the object of the apostle in the passage to show merely whence wars come, and that they are wrong because lust is wrong? Is it not rather to show that lust is wrong, because it leads to war? Does he not take for granted that war is wrong; and the, as war is the effect of lust, reason from the effect to the cause show that the cause is wrong? Clearly, to my mind, his object is to condemn lust because it leads to war. But how can he condemn lust because it leads to war, if war itself be right? The answer is obvious. Hence from every view we can take of the passage the same conclusion results – war is wrong.

But in reply to this it will be said that the wars and battles of the passage are not war in the sense in which the word occurs in the question “Should Christians go to war?” but in that they denote merely the little feuds and contentions which from time-to-time spring up among the children of God. How, I ask, is this known? Or from what laws of language results such a narrowing of the terms? This view is clearly arbitrary, and taken for a special purpose. If the words “wars and battles” have not here their accustomed signification, it would be difficult, it seems to me, to show that they have it anywhere else in the Bible. I can certainly take them in no other than their usual sense; and must deny to others the right to do so, till they make good that they have that right.

But even granting that the wars and battles of the passage refer only to the little feuds and strifes which occasionally arise among Christians, does a better conclusion result? If Christians may not take part even in the small strife, which is free from the guilt of human blood, may they yet take part in the great battle where thousands are slaughtered? Is it the magnitude of a war which makes it right? Or is it right only when human blood runs, and wrong only when it does not? If an argument from the less to the greater ever sound, then must that be sound from which the wrong of the bloodless feud infers the wrong of the bloody battle? How Christians can be wrong when merely quarreling with their brethren, and yet right when shooting human beings down in battle, is something which I confess my utter inability to see.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s second argument here:
War Is Not of the Kingdom of Christ (Part 5 of 11)

War Defined and Examined (Moses Lard on War; Part 3 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly; April 1866. For earlier parts, read here:
Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)
The Absolute Character of War (Part 2 of 11)

War Defined and Examined

But what do we mean when we talk of an act of going to war? The language is vague and general. It strikes me that a sharper and more specific view of its import and implication is necessary before we can either test it by rules or apply to its arguments; and this we must certainly do before we can pronounce on it a very reliable judgment.

By an act of going to war, then, we mean, not to speak more particularly, an act of going out to subdue by force an enemy. Now the very first question which here arises is this: Is the Christian in any case allowed, to say nothing of his being bound, to use force against a human being? This is a hard question, lying on the very threshold of our subject. If a Christian may not use force at all, then the question is settled. He cannot go to war. May he, then, use force? Of course, the advocate of war must affirm it. Can he prove it? I ask the candid reader if he has no doubt? Does he feel sure that the advocate of war can make good on his case? I must say my doubts are large with heavy point. Indeed, I feel satisfied that he can never invest his cause with even a high degree of probability, far less can he make it good. On what ground, let me ask, may he use force, if on any? Let it be constantly borne in mind that the Christian man is not his own; that he has been redeemed by Christ, and consequently belongs to him. Christ’s will, then, and not his own, is the rule of his conduct. He has no rights on his own, and may do nothing save by sufferance of Christ. Has, then, Christ given him the right to use force against a fellow-creature? – especially has he given him the right to use it against him to the extent of taking away his life? Every precept of the New Testament, having the slightest bearing on the case, negatives the question. This is not the place to argue the question save on general grounds, yet even these appear enough. Suppose it to be admitted that the Christian may use force against his fellows, whom of them may he use it against? When the advocate of war says against the enemies of the State, this is an arbitrary discrimination. Why not equally against his personal enemies? Of course, the answer is: He is forbidden to use it against these, but not against the enemies of the State. But this is not satisfactory. For, in the first place, it is an assumption of the point in debate; and, in the second place, it implies a false ground of action. The Christian may not do things merely where they are not inhibited, especially where even this is doubtful. Mere non-inhibition can never justify an act such as that of going to war. It must rest on a far more solid and authoritative basis than this. The right to use force is hence far from being apparent.

But the act of going to war is more than the mere act of going out to subdue an enemy by force. It is the act of going out to take his life. Further than this, it is the act of going out to take many lives. When the Christian enters the ranks as a soldier, he enters expecting and waiting to be led into battle. And when led into battle, he intends to kill to the full extent of his power. Hence, every time he has a chance to shoot, he shoots; and every time he shoots he aims to kill a man. Suppose now he has a chance to shoot twenty times a day, and this is a very moderate estimate, twenty times in a day, then, he aims to take the life of a human being who was created in the image of God. These human beings are generally unprepared to die. They are hence hurried into eternity in the midst of passion, while their souls are thirsting for blood, and curses are on their lips. Yet twenty times in the day the Christian deliberately intends thus to hurry one off. Is it possible now that he can be acting with the approbation of Christ, and that his soul is pure in the sight of God? Whether he kills or not every time he shoots affects not the case which I am making. He intends to kill. This intent is the thing which I wish to have shown to be right. If this cannot be done, again I repeat, the question is settled. The Christian cannot innocently go to war.

Hence, when maintaining the right of the Christian to go to war, what he who maintains it has to do is, to maintain the Christian’s right to intend and actually to kill a human being, called his enemy, every time he gets a chance on the battlefield. I know not what proposition the New Testament may not be made to sustain, if it can be shown to sustain this.

The subject in discussion being now pretty fully stated, and the proposition to be opposed being fairly before the mind, I may, I believe, next proceed to adduce my arguments. The proposition to be opposed, let it be borne in mind, is this: Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war.

Continue reading to Moses Lard’s first argument here:
War Cannot Be Right When Its Cause Is Wrong (Part 4 of 11)

The Absolute Character of War (Moses Lard on War; Part 2 of 11)

Originally published in Lard’s Quarterly, April 1866. Read Part 1 here.

The Absolute Character of War

Now let all my brethren suppose me to have affirmed this proposition [Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war], and to be standing before an audience about to attempt its proof. Just at this juncture, let them imagine an angel to appear and to take his stand beside me. Let them now suppose him to say to me: “You shall die before tomorrow morning. If from the word of God you make good the proposition you have affirmed, you shall be saved; if not, you shall be lost.” What would be their sensations on hearing this announcement? The universal feeling would be – lost, forever lost. But why? Because not one passage in the word of God binding me as a Christian, or in any other sense, from not one incident in the life of the Savior, from not one in the life of any apostle, would it occur to them that I could make good my task. They would at once appeal to their memory of the New Testament to suggest them the proof; and this their memory could not do, for the proof is not there. But one feeling would pervade every heart, and that one of universal horror. They would believe me to be as certainly doomed, as they believe the Bible to be the word of God. Even he who most confidently affirms it to be the duty of the Christian, in certain contingencies, to go to war, would involuntarily utter: Lost. But this would not be the case if the New Testament, in any form or in any way, supplied the requisite proof. I must hence feel the proposition, in the only form in which it really ought to be stated, to be difficult indeed, if not wholly incapable of proof.

But let me present a similar case. The proposition to be discussed, allow, is this: The New Testament makes it the duty of Christian parents to have their infants sprinkled. Let us suppose the person who affirms this proposition to be a Methodist Episcopal Bishop, venerable for his great age and pure life. He is before an audience to begin its defense. An angel appears, as supposed in the preceding case, and the same startling announcement is made. Instantly my brethren would shriek: Gone. But does not that bishop as firmly hold his proposition to be grounded in the word of God as you, my brother, who affirm that Christians should sometimes go to war? Men may be mistaken. And I am free to say that I see quite as much in the Bible to favor the bishop as I do to favor by brother who stands for war; and that I think their mode of treating the Scriptures is alike.

Let is constantly be borne in mind, that to be either bound or permitted to go to war, is to be either bound or permitted to take the life of human beings. When, then, the question is reduced to its simplest form it amounts to this, that Christ binds or allows his followers to take human life. Are we not shocked at the very announcement of such a thought? That He who came into this world, not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, has yet ordained that in certain cases his disciples shall not save them, but destroy them, is a tough position for the Christian to defend. The mode in which this is done alters not the case. I hold that I have just as good a right to step out into the street and in cold blood shoot my enemy dead, and I have to do it on the battlefield. On the battlefield, every time I shoot I aim to kill a man; in the street I could do no more. But it will be replied, that in the street I shoot from malice, but not so on the battlefield. Perhaps so. The only difference I see is, that in the one case the malice is directed against a single individual, in the other against a troop; in the one case I aim to kill only one man, in the other as many as I can. I apprehend that the human heart is capable of no more deadly hate than adverse warriors carry into the melee of the battlefield; and hatred is as intense as it ever becomes, only the code that regulates it is different. Its mode of actions is not the same; itself is not the less real.

Before proceeding to adduce the arguments which are hereinto follow, and as much as possible to guard against the influence of prejudice, I wish to say, that the position will not be here taken that the Christian by going to war necessarily unchristanizes himself. If Christ neither binds him nor permits him to go, then by going it is held that he does no wrong; unless, as already said, war is in itself a thing so harmless and indifferent, that he may go or not, as he chooses. But the wrong of going to war can be allowed to have no other effect on him than any other wrong act. It is a thing to be forgiven, as is every other wrong; and hence is not necessarily decisive against him. If not forgiven, of course, it is fatal; but this is not because it is an act of going to war, but simply because it is in itself wrong. Any other wrong act, if unforgiven, would have precisely the same effect.

But to do this it will be replied, that many Christians go to war who not only do not believe their act to be wrong, but positively believe it to be right; and that in all this they must be allowed to be strictly conscientious. Granting this, which must be true before the Christian can act with his own approbation, and still the nature of the act remains the same. The act has its own absolute character, as right or wrong, independently of the convictions of him who engages in it. To go to war and take men’s lives is not at thing made right or wrong merely be the accident of being believed right or wrong. It is right in itself, or wrong in itself; and no human convictions can divest it of this attribute. If wrong, though all men believed it to be right, still it is not right. How far conscientiously believing it to be right, when it is wrong, will go to soften the rigor of Heaven’s sentence against it, is a question which I am wholly incompetent to decide.  That it will have its effect I am glad I have not the inclination to deny. We have all long since learned how extremely dangerous it is to decide acts to be right simply from the motives which control them. Few acts could be named which could not be shown to be right in some part of the world, if this were to be accepted as the standard. An act may be right in itself, but if controlled by wrong motives it will not be accepted. The wrong motives affect not the act, however; they affect only the actor. He will be rejected, not because his act is wrong, but because his motives were wrong. To be accepted himself and have his act accepted, two things are necessary: the act itself must be right and the motives which control it must be right. If the act be right and the motives wrong, the actor is rejected, and the act goes for nothing. But if the act be wrong and the motives right, still the actor can not be accepted; for it was his duty not to act till he knew his act to be right. Had he been at the proper pains to investigate the nature of his act before he performed it, he would have learned that it is wrong. For this neglect his motives can constitute no sufficient excuse, at least they can constitute none so far availing as to render an act wrong in itself right. Acts, in the case of the Christian, have not their character as right or wrong from the convictions of him who performs them, but solely from the will of Christ. They hence have a character which is absolute and positive; and this no motives or convictions of men can change. Though all the men on earth believed the act of sprinkling water on an infant in the name of Christ to be right, and to be baptism, still would it be a crime and deeply offensive to the Savior? So with the act of going to war. If it is right, it is because it is either commanded or in obvious and necessary accordance with the will of Christ; if wrong, it is because it is contrary to his will; and in this case nothing can render it right, but it remains a sin forever. Hence what remains is to determine the character, under Christ, of the act of going to war. Is it right? Is it wrong? Or is it indifferent?

Continue reading here:
War Defined and Examined (Moses Lard on War; Part 3 of 11)

Moses Lard: “Should Christians Go To War?” (Part 1 of 11)

Editor’s Note: This article begins an 11 part series of posts authored by Moses E. Lard, an important leader in the American Restoration Movement. Learn more about Moses Lard’s background here.

This series is entitled “Should Christians Go To War?” and it was originally published as a single article in Lard’s Quarterly in April 1866 as the great war was finally reaching it’s conclusion. In the opening paragraph, Lard mourns that the subject had not received more serious attention, and wonders if it would have made a difference if the question had been addressed more thoroughly. In these days of sharp political division, it is not uncommon to hear people wonder if we are not destined for a similar conflict in our future. I feel confident that Brother Lard would be eager for an opportunity to share these arguments with the church of today.

In Parts 1-3, Brother Lard introduces his proposition, defines his terms, and carefully nuances the issue to be discussed. Parts 4 through 10 represent the heart of his article, as he lays out seven arguments for why Christians should not go to war. In Part 11 he addresses one of the most common objections to his position and concludes his paper.

The reader should find it noteworthy that Brother Lard never directly addresses the war which he had just experienced, and writes with a calm, respectful, and reasonable temperament which would have been offensive to neither side of the conflict. May the thoughtful reader carefully ponder these arguments in their bearing on the peace, unity, purity, and destiny of the church, and examine them with an open Bible and an open heart to determine if his position is true.

“Should Christians Go to War?” by Moses Lard

The question: “Should Christians go to war?” is not just now for the first time coming up in our ranks for consideration. Many a time in the pulpit it has been the subject of a few perhaps ill-digested and hasty remarks; seldom the subject of a well-prepared and pertinent speech. We now have reason to mourn its neglect. How it might have been decided, whether at all or not, had it been more thoroughly discussed, of course we have no means of knowing. Still we regret the comparative silence in which it has been allowed to pass. Had we been able to foresee the consequences to which our neglect has led, or to anticipate that indecisive views in regard to the question would at any time lead even to questionable conduct in our brethren, to say nothing of such is surely wrong, the question would certainly have received the serious attention to which it is entitled. But this power of foresight we did not have, neither the ability to anticipate.

But the question has received more attention from us than these remarks would seem to imply. It has occasionally been the subject of an article in our current literature, and now and then of a tract. Near twenty years ago it was carefully and somewhat fully discussed in an address by our venerable Bro. Campbell. Would that the views then set forth by that large just brain had taken complete sway of every heart among us, and had kept it with tyrannous power to the present instant. But such was not the case; and many a heart since then has felt the pang of unheeded advice.

That our brethren have generally in large part inclined to the view that a Christian can, in no case, go to war with the approbation of Christ, may, I believe, be truthfully said. Still they have not so inclined as to control, in all cases, their action. And then not a few have boldly taken the ground, not merely that the Christian may go to war, but that he is bound, even by Christ, in certain cases, to do so. From this, it at least appears that the question is not with us a settled one. Should it longer remain in doubt? I think not, provided the means is at our command to settle it. Let us have it decided, yes or no; and then let us life-long abide by this decision. Let us teach the decision to our children, train them to it, mold their hearts after it, and so infix it in their young natures that no contingency can ever arise which will lead them to set it aside. If he who says the Christian is permitted by Christ to go to war is right, he who stands in the negative is certainly wrong. Let the issue be fully joined, and the question forever set to rest.

The question I propose to discuss is this: Does Christ in any case permit his followers to go to war? This question I unhesitatingly answer, No. Let, now, the question be fully understood, and the issue it raises be fairly stated. Moreover, let the relative position of parties to it be well understood; that is to say, let their logical position to it be well understood. Then we shall have no false issues raised, nor any irrelevant disputes introduced.

The Question

I have aimed to so state the question as to involve the precise point in doubt; to involve all that is in doubt, and nothing that is not; in other words, to exclude from that proposition all that is foreign to the issue, and to include only that which is essential. The question, then, is not whether all wars are in themselves wrong, or whether some wars are right; not whether Christ sanctions war, or whether he never sanctions it; not what men not under Christ may or may not do; nor what governments may or may not do, – the question raises none of these points. But a state of war actually existing, no matter by whom or what induced; no matter from what cause arising; no matter for what end waged, – does Christ permit his followers to fight therein? This is the question.

The Issue

Is not what Nimrod did, nor what God sanctioned in his day; not what Israel did in or out of the wilderness; not what Moses commanded, or Joshua did; not what Saul did, nor David did, nor Samuel did. These are not the issue. Neither is it, whether some wars have not resulted well; whether nations have not been blessed by them; whether the wicked have not been justly scourged by them; whether all this may not justify them; and whether, if, on such grounds they are justified, Christians may not allowably take part in them. Neither are these the issue. But does Christ permit a Christian to fight in any war? Not whether he may permit it; but whether he does permit it. This is the issue.

The Logical Position

Let it be carefully observed that the relation we sustain to the question is strictly negative. We do not affirm that no Christian can with Christ’s approof fight in war; we deny that any can. We are, consequently, not to prove anything. Our business is to show that others prove nothing; that is, that they prove nothing whom affirm the proposition.  This we confidently expect to show. Those, then, who affirm that Christ permits his followers to fight in war, take on them the burden of proof. Our denial stands good against their affirmation till they adduce the evidence on which they rest their conclusion. If we show that that evidence is impertinent or inadequate, or that it is in any other respect so defective as not to necessitate the conclusion it is designed to establish, then the proposition must be held, as to this evidence, to be false, and a verdict is to be rendered for us. And if, on still further investigation, no evidence necessitating the conclusion is adduced, then the proposition must be held to absolutely false, and all Christians should eschew it.

Nor must be proof adduced to sustain the proposition in hand be such as to leave it in any sense doubtful. War is a shocking thing. It is abhorrent to the feelings of all humane and tender hearts. Its effects on the morals of people, its waste of human life, the misery and suffering it entails – these show it to be a horrid thing. Now surely, no doubtful proof can justify the Christian taking part in it. The case should be both clear and imperative. If even the vestige of a doubt hangs over the case, I hold that the Christian is bound to decide against the proposition. It is not enough that the Bible may merely say nothing against it. To make the step right, the Bible must enjoin it, and that in the clearest terms; or if it enjoin it not thus, at least must do it in some not less binding form. These principles seem to be so obviously correct that simply to state them is enough; and if correct, it will hardly be denied that they lie heavily against the proposition in hand.

But still further in regard to the form in which the proposition should be stated. I have phrased it thus: Does Christ in any case permit his followers to go to war? But I much doubt whether this is the true form for the proposition. Is not this rather it? Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war. It so strikes me. For if they are not bound to go, then it seems to me intuitively clear that they are bound not to go. Such is the nature of war that it can not be a matter of indifference whether we go or not; and if it is not a matter of indifference, then it is a matter of duty one way or the other. It is either a duty to go, or a duty not to go. This I shall take for granted. The proposition, then, let us allow, is this: Christ in some cases binds Christians to go to war.

Continue reading here:
The Absolute Character of War (Moses Lard on War; Part 2 of 11)

I Will Not Weep for Babylon (A Poem)

The angel proclaimed the gospel,
To each nation, language, and tribe:
“Your kings and merchants will regret
The day they took her bribe.”

“Come out of her, my people!
Don’t yoke unequally!
Her friendship looks so promising,
But it won’t end peacefully.”

“Her sins, you see, they pile high,
A tower built to heaven.
When God comes down, she’ll lose her crown,
In confusion, death, and famine.”

“Gold, silver, and human lives,
The fruit which she desired,
It looks delightful to the eyes,
Until payment is required.”

Abortion, sex, war and greed,
Taxation and aggressions,
I will not weep for Babylon,
When she pays for her transgressions.

My tears will be for those who mixed,
God’s will with her oppressions,
Who really thought, good could be sought,
By means of earthly nations.

Praise God, all you who fear Him!
His exiles great and small!
Our hope’s in New Jerusalem,
When Babylon shall fall!

Christianity and Social Movements

In their sincere passion to fight against evil, many Christians try to promote and uphold whichever social and political movements they feel best represent their Christian values. Far too often, this results in Christians fighting against one another about which social movements best reflect Christian values, rather than actually uniting with one another to fight against Satan.

There are debates over racism, politicians, political parties, facemasks, vaccines, immigration, economics, the narrative presented by the mainstream media, education strategies, and on and on. Whenever these innumerable social debates occur, Christians can usually be found on opposing sides, with each side arguing that their side best reflects Christian values. Christians latch on to whichever side seems the most right, and they do their best to actively support the right side, with the goal of defeating the wrong side.

The Christian Response to Ungodliness in Culture

As people who live in a democracy, Christians are for the most part free to voice their opinions however they see fit. But, when Christians choose to actively support and participate in various political and social movements, it is crucially important that they realize that there is nothing distinctly Christian about their activism. Their opinions may be completely correct. They may even be founded on godly ethical principles taken straight from Scripture. The wrongs they seek to address may in fact be very real and harmful evils. But being correct and noble does not mean that a particular social movement is “Christian.”

Being a “Christian” means being “Christ-like”. Don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. Jesus Christ most certainly fought against the ungodly aspects of his culture. Christ encouraged his disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt. 5:12-16). The movement led by Christ was so successful in doing just that, they were accused of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). But Jesus never showed the slightest interest in joining in any of the various social movements of his day. Nor did his earliest disciples.

Jesus’s complete lack of interest in picking sides between the various social movements becomes even more significant when we remember that he lived in political volatile times that were filled with competing social movements. Not surprisingly, as Jesus gained popularity and influence, Jesus was continually challenged to voice his opinion on the various movements of his day to see which side he would choose. But Jesus continually refused.

The Taxation Debate

For example, on at least one occasion Jesus was asked about the divisive issue of whether or not the Jews should pay taxes to the oppressive Romans. Notice Jesus’s response:

Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Matthew 20:19-21

Some have mistakenly thought that Jesus was saying “Yes, be a good citizen. Pay your taxes, vote, do whatever your country asks of you.” But if we pay attention to Jesus’s response in its original context, it means nothing of the sort.

The coin bore the image of the emperor, which the Jews saw as a direct violation of God’s law (Ex. 20:4; Lev. 26:1). The coin bore an inscription claiming that Caesar was the High Priest and Lord. Scripture teaches that the God alone is the only true Lord, and everything rightly belongs to Him (Ps. 24:1; 50:10; Hag. 2:8) and man is created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).

By holding up the coin and asking about the image and inscription, Jesus skillfully pointed out that the claims of God and the claims of Caesar are mutually exclusive. If one’s loyalty is to Caesar, Caesar is owed everything, beginning with the coin that bears his image. If one’s loyalty is to God, God is owed everything, beginning with man himself who is created in His image.

In this way, Jesus transformed the question pertaining to the political and social movements of his day into a question that pertained to the kingdom of God.

The Uniqueness of Christianity

This episode and others (e.g. Lk 12:13-16) make it clear that Jesus did not come to answer our political questions or offer a new and improved way of running the kingdoms of this world (Mt. 4:8-11). Rather, Jesus came to establish a radically different kind of kingdom, one that is “not of this world” (John 18:36). The only instructions Christians are given in connection with governing authorities are to respect and submit to them, pay taxes to them, and pray for them (Mk. 12:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). And even these instructions are given not out of concern for how the government should be run, but rather to facilitate the spreading of the gospel (1 Tim. 2:1-6).

The point of all this isn’t to argue that Christians can’t have opinions about the various social movements that divide our society. The point isn’t to say that Christians can’t vote, can’t peacefully protest, and can’t voice their opinions. But Christians must remember that when they engage the problems of the world using these methods, they are not being unique from the world.

Anybody can add their two-cents on social media about the problems in the world. Anybody can donate to a political campaign. Anybody can rally support for a particular cause they believe in. This approach is not a uniquely Christ-ian approach, because Christ himself did not take that kind of approach. Our unique call as disciples of Christ has nothing to do with gaining enough influence to run the kingdoms of the world, and has everything to do with our unique way of living under the authority of God’s reign.

Ultimately hope for the world does not reside in the success of failure of our particular political or social movements. It resides in the willingness of Jesus’s disciples to follow His example by keeping His kingdom set apart from the world (the Bible’s word for this is “holy”). We are to be unique from the world by not getting sucked into the innumerable social and political conflicts that characterize the world.

Our citizenship is in a kingdom that is not of this world. The heavenly kingdom is a unique one, where we believe the world is changed, not by gaining enough power and influence to defeat our enemies, but by trusting in God’s righteous judgment even when our enemies defeat us. In Jesus’s kingdom, we find greatness, not in ruling over others, but rather in serving them (Mt. 20:25-28).

Next time social division raises its ugly head and we are tempted to pick a side and join the fight, let’s pick the holy side. Let’s pick the unique side. Let’s pick the sides the wins the same way Jesus won; by self-sacrificial love. Let’s pick the Kingdom of God.

How Christians Can Prepare for the 2020 Election

It’s election time again. Should Christians vote for Trump? Biden? A third party candidate who doesn’t have a chance? Or should we abstain from voting at all? What should a Christian do?

1. Remember the Bible is silent about voting

The Bible doesn’t say one word about voting. (And no, this isn’t because they didn’t have elections in the Roman Empire.  They did). We must abstain from making commandments where God has not spoken, and from passing judgment on other Christians who approach their opportunity to vote differently than we do (James 4:11-12). If you decide to vote for one candidate or another, there is no Biblical authority to require others to do so (or for that matter, to require others to vote at all).

2. Keep your confidence in God’s sovereign choice

Recognize that

The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. (Daniel 4.32)

Jesus said to Pilate,

You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above. (John 19.11)

Paul reminded the Roman Christians who were living under the dreadful rule of Nero,

There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. (Romans 13:1)

Sometimes it can truly baffle the mind to understand why God would exalt certain men to their thrones. Why did God exalt the Babylonians? Why did God exalt the wicked Assyrians? Why did God exalt Pilate? Nero? King George III? Adolf Hitler? Barack Obama? Donald Trump? Joe Biden?

We may not always understand God’s reasons, but if there is one Being in the universe in whom we can fully trust, it would be the God who is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Yahweh. Although our votes may be wasted on candidates who will not end up winning, we can be thankful that His vote counts most.

3. Keep your confidence in God’s sovereign authority

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury

Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations

Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it?
Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?
That would be like a club wielding those who lift it,
Or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.” – Isaiah 10. 5, 7, 15

In speaking of the same Assyrians, Habakkuk wrote,

You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct. – Habakkuk 1.12

Although our rulers may (like Assyria) have no intention of willingly submitting to God, God still uses them to accomplish His will. (Also consider Jeremiah 25:9-12, where God calls Nebuchadnezzar “My servant“). Paul confirms that God continues to function in this manner, even in the era of the New Testament, when he spoke the following words in regard to the wicked emperor Nero:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God, and avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. – Romans 13.3-4

We can take great courage in knowing that while our rulers may think they are in charge, the Lord Most High still rules in the kingdoms of man.

4. Remember that governing authorities exist for the good of God’s children

It is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13.4)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8.28)

God used the wicked Assyrians and Babylonians to punish His children for their unfaithfulness, and ultimately to preserve a remnant who would put their faith in God. God used Pilate to crucify Jesus, thus giving us the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Through the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the early church learned to place their hopes firmly in the heavenly city, whose ruler and maker is God. Through their persecutions, God taught His children patience, thus helping them to grow in their maturity. As wicked as these rulers were, God chose them for a purpose, He used them to accomplish His purpose, and ultimately these authorities served as ministers of God for the good of His children. With this confidence, we can rejoice in whoever God chooses as the next president, however wicked he or she may be.

5. Be prepared to submit to whoever God selects as president

We are not merely commanded to submit to those rulers who we think do a good job ruling. In keeping with the historical and textual context of Romans 13, even if our next president ends up being the modern version of Nero, the worst enemy Christians have faced in decades, our responsibility remains the same:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are appointed by God. (Romans 12.29-13.1)

Yet as Peter makes it clear, our submission is not motivated out of our support for the person in power, but rather:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise o those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2.13-15)

This is not a time to grab our pitchforks and torches and charge the White House lawn. To rebel against whoever is elected is to rebel against the Lord’s ordained authorities. Rather than overcoming their evil with evil, we are to overcome their evil with good. We do this through our peaceful submission to them.

6. Pray

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness  and dignity. (1 Timothy 2.1-2)

As Christians, we are commanded to pray for world rulers. It should be noted that our prayers should be for “all who are in authority”, and not just for the ones we want to be in authority, and not just for those under whose authority we ourselves live. It is therefore a prayer for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, and not for the advancement of one particular kingdom of men, for the purpose of the prayer is for the welfare of the saints, that they may flourish in peace, godliness and dignity under the reign of those rulers.

Jeremiah expressed similar words when he said:

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. – Jeremiah 29:7

No passage in Scripture even remotely suggests that we should be praying for our leaders for the purpose of advancing the cause of earthly kingdoms. Yet we must be in constant prayer for our leaders  for the sake of the advancement of God’s kingdom.


See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give  thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.15-18)

Regardless of who you vote for, or if you even choose to vote at all, may we never stop rejoicing in Christ our King. God is in control, and in this we can have great confidence. May we continue to trust in Him while laboring for the advancement of His eternal Kingdom.

A Taste of the Age to Come

We live in an evil age. This much is clear. When we are surrounded by continual sickness, anxiety, sin, and death, it can make us long for the day to come when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Rev. 21.4).

What may not be as clearly realized is that for those who are in Christ, we can actually already experience what that age to come will be like (at least in part). Even when this world is at it’s very worst, in Christ we can already taste the age to come. We can see and experience what our promised inheritance will be.

Two Distinct Ages

The Bible describes the world in terms of two distinct ages. For example, in Jeremiah 31:31, the Lord says “the days are coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” There are two ages. The present age, and the age to come when God’s laws would be written on the hearts of his people.

Similarly, Ezekiel 36:26, the Lord speaks of a day that is coming when “I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you.” Again, we see two distinct ages. The present age, and the age that is coming, when God’s people will be given a new heart to walk in obedience.

While Old Testament examples such as these could be multiplied, it is important to notice that this “two age” concept continues into the New Testament.

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Mt. 12:32)

There is no one who… will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mk. 10:30)

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” (Luke 20:34-35)

Paul frequently uses this two-age concept as well.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12.2)

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away…. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (2 Cor. 2:6, 8)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age; according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5)

Throughout the pages of the Bible there are two distinct ages, the present evil age, and the age to come. We are living in the present age, the age of corruption and death. But we anticipate a better day to come, a day when things will be different, a day when things will be as they should be.

Which Age Are We In?

Although the Bible is clear that there are two distinct ages, it would be a mistake to overlook the way the Bible claims that in a very real sense the age to come has already begun.

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mt. 12:28)

Yes, Satan’s ultimate defeat still lies in the future. The “present evil age” continues. But Jesus made the claim that the age of God’s Kingdom has already come.

The demons were aware that Jesus was already doing things that were characteristic of a coming age.

And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Mt. 8:29)

We live in the present evil age, but even now, those who are in Christ have already “shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6.4-5). There is a very real sense in which we have already been delivered from the “present evil age” (Gal. 1.4).

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1.13-14)

Did you catch what Paul said? We are living in a present evil age, what Paul calls “the domain of darkness.” This much should be self-evident. Funeral homes are still in business. Sin continues. Pain continues. Satan continues to oppose God’s people. And yet, at the same time, in Christ we have already tasted the powers of the age to come, we already share in the Spirit, we have already been delivered from the present evil age, and we have already been delivered from the domain of darkness.

So which age do we live in? There’s a sense in which we experience both at the same time. We live in the present evil age, surrounded by the domain of darkness. But we have been delivered from that age. We are not to be conformed to this age. For those who are in Christ, they are already able to taste the age to come.

Two Word Pictures

The idea of experiencing both the current age and the age to come at the same time can be a little confusing. It can be helpful to consider two pictures given to us by Paul.


We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:23)

It is by the Spirit that Jesus was raised from the dead (Rom. 8:11). When we put to death the deeds of the body (8:13), and when we are willing to suffer with Christ (8:15), there is a very real sense in which we are already the beginning of God’s new creation.

Although creation is currently groaning, longing to be set free from the bondage of corruption (8:18-22), Paul says the firstfruits of the Spirit are already present in the children of God.

A Down Payment

Similarly, Paul describes the Spirit as a down payment, the first installment, or a guarantee of what is to come.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 5:5)

In him you have heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and believed in him, and were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14)

When a bank is looking to make a loan, one of the first things they look at is the down payment. They want to know the borrower has “skin in the game.” If a borrower is willing to put 20-30% down on the front end, the lender can have confidence that the borrower is serious in his intentions to repay the loan.

If we want to know that God is serious about his intentions for the age to come, look no further than the Spirit. In the Spirit, God has given us a portion of the age to come. When we see the Spirit working in the lives of Christians, this should give us confidence that God will complete what He has begun.

A Taste of Heaven

We are surrounded by the present evil age of sin and death. And yet, the harvest of the age to come has already begun. The firstfruits can already been seen. The down payment is already in the books.

We have already been delivered from the present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Jesus Christ came “so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14). “God has sent his Spirit into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Gal. 4:6-7).

But what does this look like? What is the evidence that we have the Spirit in our hearts? Paul tells us in Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-23)

The Spirit is not something that just automatically happens to Christians, as if we lose control of ourselves. It’s quite the opposite. The Spirit is evident in the lives of Christians when we do control ourselves. It takes continual effort and practice, which is why Paul says “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). We must continually cultivate the fruit of the Sprit in our lives.

When our lives are filled with the fruit of the Spirit, there is a very real sense in which we are the firstfruits of the age to come. We are God’s down payment – the guarantee that something greater is coming. We are, as Paul says, “a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).

Do you want to know that the age to come will look like? Look for the fruit of the Sprit in the lives of God’s children. Look for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. Look for those who crucify their own fleshly desires. That is the work of the Spirit. That is evidence that a new age has begun.

The firstfruits are already in the garden. The down payment can already be enjoyed. And At least in small part, we can already taste heaven, and it should encourage us to long for the age to come.

The Meaning of Authenteo: A Must-Read Word Study in the Gender Roles Debate

The role of women in the church has been the subject of many passionate debates over the last several decades. Perhaps the most debated verse in this controversy has been 1 Timothy 2.12. The most debated word in this verse is the Greek word “authentein”, which comes from the Greek verb “authenteo”. In our English translations, this word is commonly translated as “exercise authority” (ESV, NASB), “have authority” (NKVJ) “usurp authority” (KJV), or “assume authority” (NIV).

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. (1 Tim 2.12, ESV)

It is sometimes argued that “authenteo” refers to a specific kind of negative or violent authority; perhaps something closer to what we might call “dominate”, “control”, or “bully”. If this is the case, it could suggest that Paul was not simply restricting women from exercising any general type of authority, but rather he was only restricting those women who would attempt to completely dominate an assembly in a loud, assertive, overbearing, and controlling manner.

For example, in the book “Women in the Church’s Ministry”, R. T. France translates the verse “I do not allow these ignorant women to batter the men. They are to stop shouting and calm down.” I’ve seen this basic argument appear in numerous blogs posts in recent years.

As Christians wrestle with the meaning and application of this particular verse, I recommend the book “Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 3rd Edition” by Andres Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner. In this book, Al Wolters has written an entire chapter on the meaning of the word authenteo. In this chapter, Wolters convincingly demonstrates that the word “authenteo” has neither negative nor violent connotations (“domineer”), nor does it refer to “assuming” or “usurping” previously unpossessed authority. He thus defends the widely accepted translation, “have authority.”

Here is a summary of some of Wolter’s helpful insights.

Related Greek Words

It is rightly observed that the verb “authenteo” almost certainly derived from the noun “authentes.” “Authentes” was a noun that was often used to mean “murderer.” Here, however, many tend to run into confusion. Although the noun “authentes” can in many instances mean “murderer”, it should be noted that the noun was used in two very different, very distinct ways. In some contexts the noun refers to a murderer. In other contexts the word refers to a master. In other words, “authenteo” was a homonym. For an English example of a homonym, think about the words “ear” (of grain) and “ear” (of hearing).

Wolters writes:

It is a serious error to assume that the meaning of one (and the meaning of its derivatives) must be understood in light of the other. After all, no one thinks that an ear of grain has connotations of hearing… By the same token, it is a basic methodological mistake to assume that we should understand the verb authenteo in light of both “authetentes”/“murderer” and “authentes”/“master”, leading to the conclusion that it [authenteo] means “instigage violence.” (p. 68-69)

Occurrences of Authenteo before 312 AD

The most significant evidence for the meaning of the word “authenteo”, apart from the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2, is how the word was used in other contexts around the same time. The difficulty with the word “authenteo” is that it appears very rarely – only seven (or possibly eight) times – prior to 312 AD. Wolters provides a detailed analysis of each of these occurrences. Based on this survey, Wolters demonstrates a range of meaning which includes “have authority”, “be superior to”, “originate”, “rule” and “act on one’s own.”

The Immediate Context

Even if we had no other occurrences of “authenteo” we could still guess based on the immediate context that the verb has something to do with the positive exercise of authority. When Paul writes “teach or exercise authority”, joining the two verbs together with a conjunction, it indicates that either both words are positive or both words are negative. Since the verb “teach” is generally used as a positive term, this indicates that in all likelihood, “authenteo” was likewise understood as a positive term.

Translations Made in Antiquity

Wolters then observes the ways 1 Timothy 2:12 was translated in antiquity by surveying multiple Latin, Coptic, Gothic, and Syriac translations. In these ancient translations, “authenteo” was translated by using words that carried meanings such as “command”, “lord”, “rule”, and “head”.

Some have pointed to the way that some Latin translations chose to translate “authenteo” with the Latin word “dominari” to suggest that the word referred to negative exercise of authority (similar to the English word “domineer”). But Wolters observes that unlike the English word “domineer”, the Latin word “dominari” carried a neutral or positive sense, simply meaning “rule”, “reign” or “govern.” In fact, the same word was used in Latin translations to describe the rule of God (Judg. 8.28; 2 Chron. 20.6; Ps. 59.13) and the rule of the Messiah (Rom. 14.9).

Early Christian Exegesis

Wolter’s in-depth word study also surveys the way “authenteo” was understood by early Christian authors such as Origin, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria, showing that these early Christians understood 1 Timothy 2:12 to be written in reference to the same kind of leadership and authority that is exercised in teaching. In other words, unlike many modern scholars, these early Christians did not understand the word “authenteo” to refer to a specific negative type of authority.

Occurrences of Authenteo after 312 AD

Although Wolter’s cautions against trying to understand Paul’s usage of “authenteo” based on how the word was used centuries after Paul, his work also includes a detailed survey of the uses of the word all the way into the late middle ages.

From this survey, it appears the word had a fairly wide range of meanings, but the word always refers to the exercise of authority in some way.

1 – “To be a master, be sovereign, have authority, reign” (Used this way 29 times from 1st Century BC to 10th Century AD)

2 – “Be master of, have authority over, be superior to” (Used this way 10 times from 1st Century AD to 12th Century AD)

3 – “To act on one’s own, to act on one’s own authority” (Used this way at least 51 times from the 2nd Century AD to the 10th Century AD)

4 – “To act on one’s own authority against (another authority), overrule, defy (the authority of)” (Used this way only 5 times, all in the 6th century)

5 – “To instigate or initiate” (Used this way only 4 times in the 4th and 5th centuries)

6 – “To instigate or initiate” a belief or action by a personal agent (Used this way only 4 times from the 1st century BC to the 8th Century AD)

7 – “Give authorization” (Used very frequently from the 6th Century AD through the late Middle Ages, used as technical legal terminology, and occurs only in discussions of Roman Law)

In conclusion of the survey, Wolters writes “we are hard-pressed to find a pejorative meaning anywhere.” (p. 110)

Two Dubious Kinds of Evidence

Wolter’s also cautions against two less than helpful lines of argument. One is an argument from epytimology (the history of the word formation). Not only is epytimology a poor guide for understanding word meaning, but scholars have achieved no consensus on what the epytimology of authenteo actually is.

Secondly, Wolters warns against using a speculative reconstruction of the background of 1 Timothy 2:12 as evidence. He writes:

Since Paul in this text forbids women to teach and exercise “authority” of some kind and tells them instead to be quiet and submissive, we can reasonably assume that he is addressing a situation in Ephesus where women were doing (or proposing to do) what he is here prohibiting. But this reasonable assumption is often expanded into the broader claim that women were doing these prohibited things in an aggressive or overbearing manner and by so doing were disturbing the church. However, the text, in fact, gives no evidence for such a reading. We have no reason to believe that the women in Ephesus were teaching and exercising authority in an aggressive or overbearing way. The women may very well have been teaching and exercising authority (or proposing to do so) in a responsible and nondisruptive manner… The negative portrayal of the Ephesian women teachers as strident demagogues is, in fact, a speculative reconstruction of the situation in Ephesus at the time, and cannot be used as evidence that “authenteo” carries a pejorative sense. (p. 112)

A Very Important Word-Study

Through his in-depth word study, Wolters powerfully argues that “authenteo” did not carry a negative sense, and was overwhelmingly used in a positive or neutral sense. While the debate surrounding 1 Timothy 2:12 and the role of women in the church will not likely disappear anytime soon, Wolters has certainly offered some valuable research and serious arguments that deserve consideration. Before Bible students argue that “authenteo” refers to a negative type of authority, they will first need to seriously wrestle with Al Wolter’s research and be prepared to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate the Wolter’s conclusions are incorrect.

While the entire book has many helpful insights, I agree with Kostenberger when he writes “Al’s chapter alone warrants the production of this third edition.” (p. 20). The book can be purchased on Amazon here.

Civil War Era Petitions from Churches of Christ

The churches of Christ in Middle Tennessee presented the following petitions to the governing authorities of the Confederacy and the State of Tennessee during the War Between the States. They have been preserved for us in David Lipscomb’s book “Civil Government.” The faithfulness and respectful submissiveness of these brothers serve as an example and a challenge for the church of today.


WHEREAS, A large number of the members of the churches of Jesus Christ throughout this and the adjoining counties of the State of Tennessee, feel a deep sense of responsibility they are under to recognize the Bible in its teachings, as the only infallible guide of their life, and the supreme authoritative rule of action, and as being of supreme authority to and more binding upon the subjects of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, than the rules and regulations of any human government or power, they would respectfully represent:

  1. That they are fully satisfied that God, through the Scriptures of Sacred Truth, demands of his servants that they should submit quietly, heartily, and cheerfully to the government under which they may live, in all cases, except when compliance with the civil law would involve a violation of the law of God. They are deeply impressed with the truth that when there is a conflict between the requirements of worldly government and the law of God, the duty of the Christian, is, upon the peril of his well-being, to obey God first, let the consequences be to him what they may.
  2. They are firm in the conviction of the truth, that no man who regards the authority of God, the spirit and letter of the Sacred Scriptures in their proper division and application, the life and teachings of the Son of God, or his Holy Apostles, as given for the guidance of his followers, can in any manner engage in, aid, foment, or countenance the strifes, animosities, and bloody conflicts in which the civil governments are frequently engaged, and in which they often involve their subjects.

The measure and limit of their duty to, and connection with the governments under which they live, as laid down in the Sacred Scriptures, is not an active participation in the affairs to destroy or upbuild, but  simply a quiet and cheerful submission to its enactments, in the payment of tribute and any demands on our property or time, modified only, by the first and highest obligation to obey God.

With these considerations of what our duty to God requires at our hands, the enforcement of the ‘Conscript Act’ for the purpose of raising and maintaining an army, for the carrying on of this unhappy war, in which our country is involved, cannot fail to work indescribable distress to those members of our churches holding these convictions. Some of them will be driven as exiles from their homes, for no political preferences, but because they dare not disobey the commandments of God. Others may be thrown into seeming opposition to your government, suffering imprisonment and punishment as may be inflicted on them. Others still by the pressure of circumstances, may be driven to a deeply sadder fate, the violation of all their conscientious convictions of duty to their Maker and Master, whom they have under the most solemn vows, pledged themselves to serve.

In view of these things, we are induced to make a statement of these facts to you, with the hope that some relief may be afforded to those of our members thus distressed.

We are the more encouraged, too, in this hope, from the fact that we perceive that the Congress of the Confederate States of America, with a commendable regard for the conscientious convictions of its subjects, made provision upon certain conditions for the exemption of the members of certain denominations of professed Christians, from the performance of requirements repulsive to their religious faith. With the view, too, that this law might not act invidiously with reference to individuals or bodies of individuals, not specifically named in said act, the power was vested in the Honorable President, of making such further exemptions as, in his judgment, justice, equity, or necessity might demand. We respectfully petition of you that those members of our churches, who are now, and have been striving to maintain a position of Christian separation from the world, its strifes, and conflicts, may be relieved, on terms equitable and just, from requirements repulsive to their religious faith, and that they may be, at least, placed upon a footing similar to that in which denominations holding a like faith are placed.

BEECH GROVE, Williamson County, Tenn., Nov 13th, 1862

David Lipscomb goes on to comment:

This document was signed by the elders and evangelists of ten or fifteen congregations, and was the means of saving all those members of the church who would take this position, set forth above, and stand firmly to it, from service in the war through which we passed.

The following petitions are of similar nature, and were presented to Union Authorities when they were in power in the state of Tennessee:


WHEREAS, A large number of the members of the Churches of Jesus Christ feel a deep sense of the responsibility they are under to recognize the Bible in its teachings, as the only infallible guide and authoritative rule of action, and as being of superior authority to, and more binding upon the subjects of the kingdom of Jesus Christ than any human rules or regulations, they would most respectfully represent.

  1. That they recognize the necessity for the existence of civil government, so long as a considerable portion of the human family fails to submit to the government of God.
  2. That while God demands of his servants that they should submit cheerfully and heartily, to the government under which they may live, in all cases, except when compliance with the requirements of civil government involves the violation of God’s law, they are deeply impressed with the truth that when there is a conflict between the requirements of civil government and the law of God, the duty of the Christian is, upon peril of his eternal well-being, to obey God first, let the consequences be to him what they may.
  3. They are satisfied that the measure of their duty to civil government, as defined in the Bible, is to submit, not by personal participation in affairs of government, to uphold or destroy, pull down or upbuild, but simply, as a duty they owe to God, to submit, and in that submission, modified only as above to discharge the offices of good citizens in all relations of life.
  4. They are firmly impressed with the truth that no man who regards the authority of God, or of his Holy Apostles, as set forth in example and precept, for the instruction and guidance of his followers in the future ages of the world, can engage in, or in any way aid, foment, or countenance the strifes, animosities, and bloody conflicts in which civil governments are frequently engaged, and in which they involve their subjects.
  5. The spirit of the Church of Christ and the spirit of civil government are different. The one is a spirit of force, violence, and destruction of life. So they must maintain that existence by force. But we suppose the future, with slight variations, will repeat the history of the past. But Christianity permits not its subjects to use force or do violence, even in defense of its own existence; its guiding spirit is one of love, “peace on earth and good will toward man.”
  6. The difference in the spirit of the two institutions, the government of God and the government of man, together with the diversity of the means essential to the prosperity and success of each respectively, necessarily, at times, involves a conflict in their respective requirements. We, therefore, in behalf of the churches of which we are members, respectfully petition of you that the requirements which, as we believe, conflict with our duties to God, may be remitted to those members of our churches who have been, and are now, striving to maintain a position of Christian separation from the world, its conflicts and strifes, as set forth in the preceding articles.
  7. We firmly believe that the oaths of allegiance, and the oaths to support and defend the governments of the world, now imposed as necessary to the transaction of the common affairs of life, are contrary to the spirit and teachings of the Savior and his inspired Apostles, and involve, if strictly complied with, a violation of some of the plainest precepts of the Christian religion. We therefore, feel that in taking these oaths and obligations, and in performing those requirements that have an appearance of countenancing bloodshed and violence, we are violating the obligations of fealty we have taken with our Heavenly Master. We imperil the well-being of the church, dishonor God, and involve ourselves in eternal ruin. We, therefore, respectfully ask a release from the performance of these requirements, and others of similar character, assuring you again, that we recognize it as a solemn duty we owe to God, to submit to the government under which we may live, in all its requirements, save when that government requires of us something contrary to the letter and spirit of the Christian religion, as revealed in the Bible.


We, the undersigned, having been appointed a committee by an assembly of members of churches of Jesus Christ, met at Leiper’s Fork, Williamson County, Tenn., to present to your Excellency  their grievances, and in their and our behalf to petition of you a release from certain requirements made at their hands, would most respectfully represent that the mass of the members of the churches of Jesus Christ, in the counties of Davidson, Williamson, Maury, and Hickman, and many others scattered through other counties of Middle Tennessee, believe that all military service, or connection with military service, is utterly incompatible with the spirit and requirements of the Christian religion. Believing this, they cannot comply with the requisition made of them in common with other residents of the State, for enrolling themselves for military service without a violation of their solemn conscientious convictions of duty to their Lord and Master, and a violation of their vows of fealty to him. We, therefore, in behalf of these churches and members of churches, respectfully petition of you, in the exercise of your authority, a release from those requirements, that are repugnant to their religious faith, upon terms that you may consider just and right. We desire to assure you in this requires and movement, upon the faith and integrity of Christians, we are acting from no factious or political motive, but from a single desire of preserving our faith and profession of Christianity pure. Praying earnestly that your counsels of the of the rulers of our country may be so conducted as to restore to our country a speedy and lasting peace, we are most obediently and respectfully yours.

Signed by Committee