The vocation of the warrior

Paul McCain quotes Martin Luther’s treatise Can Soldiers Too Be Saved?:

…In the same way, when I think of a soldier fulfilling his office by punishing the wicked, killing the wicked, and creating so much misery, it seems an un-Christian work completely contrary to Christian love. But when I think of how it protects the good and keeps and preserves wife and child, house and farm, property, and honor and peace, then I see how precious and godly this work is; and I observe that it amputates a leg or a hand, so that the whole body may not perish…

…The office of the sword is in itself right and is a divine and useful ordinance, which God does not want us to despise, but to fear, honor, and obey, under penalty of punishment, as St. Paul says in Romans 13 [:1-5]…

…Self-defense is a proper ground for fighting and therefore all laws agree that self-defense shall go unpunished; and he who kills another in self-defense is innocent in the eyes of all men…

…When the battle begins…they [soldiers] should simply commend themselves to God’s grace and adopt a Christian attitude…everyone should also say this exhortation in his heart or with his lips, “Heavenly Father, here I am, according to your divine will, in the external work and service of my lord, which I owe you first and then to my lord for your sake. I thank your grace and mercy that you have put me into a work which I am sure is not sin, but right and pleasing obedience to your will. But because I know and have learned from your gracious word that none of our good works can help us and that no one is saved as a soldier but only as a Christian, therefore, I will not in any way rely on my obedience and work, but place myself freely at the service of your will. I believe with all my heart that only the innocent blood of your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, redeems and saves me, which he shed for me in obedience to your holy will. In this faith I will live and die, fight, and do everything else. Dear Lord God the Father, preserve and strengthen this faith in me by your Spirit. Amen.” (American Edition, Vol. 46)

via The Death of Osama Bin Laden: A Teaching Moment on the Doctrine of Vocation and the Two Kingdoms | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be smarter for the soldier to pray this prayer the evening prior to the battle. I’m concerned that being absorbed in such a theologically sound but lengthy prayer at the onset of hostilities might result in the devout soldier being able to see God face to face sooner than he perhaps anticipated. I’m just sayin’.

  • Pete

    I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be smarter for the soldier to pray this prayer the evening prior to the battle. I’m concerned that being absorbed in such a theologically sound but lengthy prayer at the onset of hostilities might result in the devout soldier being able to see God face to face sooner than he perhaps anticipated. I’m just sayin’.

  • SKPeterson

    The problem isn’t the soldier, per se. It’s the generals and the politicians who send them to do some very questionable things and then excuse them as defending the homeland. World War I is a classic example – the generals and politicians wanted war at all costs, which did not act to preserve honor or peace.

    While the military vocation may be honorable, too often the purposes for which soldiers are used are not. They are questionable in regards to “protect[ing] the good and keep[ing] and preserv[ing] wife and child, house and farm, property, and honor and peace, …” . I think what we need is a vocational doctrine for soldiers and all military that addresses the will to power and evil that resides in the hearts of men and how that can skew the vocation of the soldier. A simple reading of Luther on this excuses all sorts of atrocities under the “just following orders” rationale.

  • SKPeterson

    The problem isn’t the soldier, per se. It’s the generals and the politicians who send them to do some very questionable things and then excuse them as defending the homeland. World War I is a classic example – the generals and politicians wanted war at all costs, which did not act to preserve honor or peace.

    While the military vocation may be honorable, too often the purposes for which soldiers are used are not. They are questionable in regards to “protect[ing] the good and keep[ing] and preserv[ing] wife and child, house and farm, property, and honor and peace, …” . I think what we need is a vocational doctrine for soldiers and all military that addresses the will to power and evil that resides in the hearts of men and how that can skew the vocation of the soldier. A simple reading of Luther on this excuses all sorts of atrocities under the “just following orders” rationale.

  • Jonathan

    @2, Soldiers are trained to follow the Law of War. They know that the “just following orders” does not excuse an atrocity that violates those laws–which they know well.

    As for whether to start a war, that is not ever for soldiers to determine. That is for our political leaders to determine. Soldiers swear to follow the orders of the President.

  • Jonathan

    @2, Soldiers are trained to follow the Law of War. They know that the “just following orders” does not excuse an atrocity that violates those laws–which they know well.

    As for whether to start a war, that is not ever for soldiers to determine. That is for our political leaders to determine. Soldiers swear to follow the orders of the President.

  • Jonathan

    @1, yes indeed, it is much more brief on the cusp.

  • Jonathan

    @1, yes indeed, it is much more brief on the cusp.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jonathan @3,
    Right.
    On the other hand, there are some who seem to think there is never a good reason to go to war. And so don’t see the office of soldier as valid. Who for some reason, even when we are talking about taking our Osama bin Laden, in the back drop of Afghanistan want to talk as if the actions were illegal, and immoral even if the soldiers were just following orders. I do lose my patience here.
    Lets not forget we court martial soldiers for not following orders too. Deserting your post in war time is a capital offense, or can be.
    Yes, war is ugly. I remember vets telling me that as a kid. But it was always followed by the only thing uglier is not being willing to fight when the war needs to be fought.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Jonathan @3,
    Right.
    On the other hand, there are some who seem to think there is never a good reason to go to war. And so don’t see the office of soldier as valid. Who for some reason, even when we are talking about taking our Osama bin Laden, in the back drop of Afghanistan want to talk as if the actions were illegal, and immoral even if the soldiers were just following orders. I do lose my patience here.
    Lets not forget we court martial soldiers for not following orders too. Deserting your post in war time is a capital offense, or can be.
    Yes, war is ugly. I remember vets telling me that as a kid. But it was always followed by the only thing uglier is not being willing to fight when the war needs to be fought.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Just war is always sticky theologically because war has its roots in the fall. Legitimate arguments can be made on all sides of the debate.

    God did grant the power of the sword to governments this cannot be denied as it is written in plain straightforward language, how the sword is applied is the matter of argument. I, myself, lean towards the idea of in defense of self and others as a guiding principle in determining need to go to war.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Just war is always sticky theologically because war has its roots in the fall. Legitimate arguments can be made on all sides of the debate.

    God did grant the power of the sword to governments this cannot be denied as it is written in plain straightforward language, how the sword is applied is the matter of argument. I, myself, lean towards the idea of in defense of self and others as a guiding principle in determining need to go to war.

  • Porcell

    The fault of political leaders who sometimes involve warriors in bad wars does not spill over to the warriors. A good example would be the Germans and Japanese in WWII who did their duty.

    I once visited A German cemetery for warriors who fell mostly during the Battle of the Bulge and was moved looking at with the headstones with the description Ein Deutshland Soldat [sp.?]

  • Porcell

    The fault of political leaders who sometimes involve warriors in bad wars does not spill over to the warriors. A good example would be the Germans and Japanese in WWII who did their duty.

    I once visited A German cemetery for warriors who fell mostly during the Battle of the Bulge and was moved looking at with the headstones with the description Ein Deutshland Soldat [sp.?]

  • Michael Z.

    Porcell @7
    That is something that is hard for modern/Post-modern people especially younger people of my millenial generation to swallow. When we see nazi/german soldiers we see evil, Jew killing monsters (as we have been trained to by our culture). In our movies and books evil-ness spreads down to all levels of a society. That is why we love the Elf/Orc divide in Tolkien, All elves are good, all orcs are bad.
    It isn’t that way in real life.

  • Michael Z.

    Porcell @7
    That is something that is hard for modern/Post-modern people especially younger people of my millenial generation to swallow. When we see nazi/german soldiers we see evil, Jew killing monsters (as we have been trained to by our culture). In our movies and books evil-ness spreads down to all levels of a society. That is why we love the Elf/Orc divide in Tolkien, All elves are good, all orcs are bad.
    It isn’t that way in real life.

  • Richard

    “Gott mit uns” was something traditionally inscribed on the belt buckles of German soldaten. Perhaps they had a better idea of the scriptural power of the sword than we do?

  • Richard

    “Gott mit uns” was something traditionally inscribed on the belt buckles of German soldaten. Perhaps they had a better idea of the scriptural power of the sword than we do?

  • Jon

    Porcell’s comment is subtler than he knows; these authoritarian comments by Luther justified the mindless obedience of the German soldiers in WW2. They are not Christian in nature.

  • Jon

    Porcell’s comment is subtler than he knows; these authoritarian comments by Luther justified the mindless obedience of the German soldiers in WW2. They are not Christian in nature.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Luther actually had quite a bit more to say about the morality of war in general. He was actually more restrictive in his view of what wars were permissible than the just war theory. He approved only of “wars of necessity,” which were essentially defensive wars that could not be avoided. He was a harsh critic of the Crusades. Elsewhere in his discussion of the vocation of the soldiers, he even said that soldiers should disobey evil orders and run away rather than commit them. None of this minimized the fact that being a soldier is a valid vocation from God.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Luther actually had quite a bit more to say about the morality of war in general. He was actually more restrictive in his view of what wars were permissible than the just war theory. He approved only of “wars of necessity,” which were essentially defensive wars that could not be avoided. He was a harsh critic of the Crusades. Elsewhere in his discussion of the vocation of the soldiers, he even said that soldiers should disobey evil orders and run away rather than commit them. None of this minimized the fact that being a soldier is a valid vocation from God.

  • DonS

    Elsewhere in his discussion of the vocation of the soldiers, he even said that soldiers should disobey evil orders and run away rather than commit them.

    I certainly agree that being a soldier is a valid vocation from God. Since, in the U.S., soldiers serve as volunteers, an initial decision must be made that the U.S. government is a worthy authority, and the mission of defending the U.S. is a worthy mission, or else one should not volunteer. However, once a soldier has placed himself under the authority of the military, and, ultimately, of the Commander-in-chief, then he is biblically obligated to respect that authority, unless he receives an order which is clearly sinful/evil, violating God’s higher authority. With respect to the quotation above, my caveat is that the soldier, having determined to disobey an evil order, should not run away, but rather face the consequences of obeying God. Discipline is essential to a successful military, and encouraging soldiers to run away and avoid obeying any order they deem “evil” is not a sufficient check on their consciences to ensure that they really believe the order is against God’s law. The choice to disobey a military order is a very serious and consequential one.

  • DonS

    Elsewhere in his discussion of the vocation of the soldiers, he even said that soldiers should disobey evil orders and run away rather than commit them.

    I certainly agree that being a soldier is a valid vocation from God. Since, in the U.S., soldiers serve as volunteers, an initial decision must be made that the U.S. government is a worthy authority, and the mission of defending the U.S. is a worthy mission, or else one should not volunteer. However, once a soldier has placed himself under the authority of the military, and, ultimately, of the Commander-in-chief, then he is biblically obligated to respect that authority, unless he receives an order which is clearly sinful/evil, violating God’s higher authority. With respect to the quotation above, my caveat is that the soldier, having determined to disobey an evil order, should not run away, but rather face the consequences of obeying God. Discipline is essential to a successful military, and encouraging soldiers to run away and avoid obeying any order they deem “evil” is not a sufficient check on their consciences to ensure that they really believe the order is against God’s law. The choice to disobey a military order is a very serious and consequential one.

  • SKPeterson

    Michael@8/Jon @10 – you’ve picked up on what I was trying to relate in my previous post, which is how does a Christian who is a soldier address the potential moral conflicts that will arise from seeking to fulfill one’s oaths and vocational responsibilities in a context where orders may be immoral or evil? The Nazi argument is the extreme, but it does give one pause to think how many good Lutheran boys were complicit in mass murder, while many others fought bravely and with honor, or even opposed the regime a la Bonhoeffer. Perhaps drawing on Luther’s comments as noted by Dr. Veith and Bonhoeffer’s letters to a young parishioner who was a German soldier might offer a map through the minefield.

    Jonathan @3 – the oath of a soldier is first to the Constitution, then to the President. If those two come into conflict – who wins? The answer is not the Constitution.

  • SKPeterson

    Michael@8/Jon @10 – you’ve picked up on what I was trying to relate in my previous post, which is how does a Christian who is a soldier address the potential moral conflicts that will arise from seeking to fulfill one’s oaths and vocational responsibilities in a context where orders may be immoral or evil? The Nazi argument is the extreme, but it does give one pause to think how many good Lutheran boys were complicit in mass murder, while many others fought bravely and with honor, or even opposed the regime a la Bonhoeffer. Perhaps drawing on Luther’s comments as noted by Dr. Veith and Bonhoeffer’s letters to a young parishioner who was a German soldier might offer a map through the minefield.

    Jonathan @3 – the oath of a soldier is first to the Constitution, then to the President. If those two come into conflict – who wins? The answer is not the Constitution.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 13: “the oath of a soldier is first to the Constitution, then to the President. If those two come into conflict – who wins? The answer is not the Constitution.” — Yes. Unfortunately, this is an increasing problem with our recent tendency toward internationalism and a bad habit of placing our troops under the command of foreign or international authorities.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 13: “the oath of a soldier is first to the Constitution, then to the President. If those two come into conflict – who wins? The answer is not the Constitution.” — Yes. Unfortunately, this is an increasing problem with our recent tendency toward internationalism and a bad habit of placing our troops under the command of foreign or international authorities.

  • Porcell

    Michael Z, at eight, unless one is a conscientious objector to war, most citizens of any nation , including those who understand the evil of extreme nationalism, will fight for their nation if called on in a general draft.

    The American Uniform Code of Military Justice does have a section [809] that requires warriors to disobey unlawful orders including those up to the president. Essentially, the Code’s moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders.

  • Porcell

    Michael Z, at eight, unless one is a conscientious objector to war, most citizens of any nation , including those who understand the evil of extreme nationalism, will fight for their nation if called on in a general draft.

    The American Uniform Code of Military Justice does have a section [809] that requires warriors to disobey unlawful orders including those up to the president. Essentially, the Code’s moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders.

  • Porcell

    Don S, I take it we’re agreed on this. I hadn’t read yours at fourteen before making fifteen.

  • Porcell

    Don S, I take it we’re agreed on this. I hadn’t read yours at fourteen before making fifteen.

  • SKPeterson

    DonS @14 – I find your argument for soldiers to stand firm and face the consequences for adhering to conscience to be compelling, especially for soldiers willingly serving in a volunteer military.

  • SKPeterson

    DonS @14 – I find your argument for soldiers to stand firm and face the consequences for adhering to conscience to be compelling, especially for soldiers willingly serving in a volunteer military.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It seems to me there is a tendency to overly laud the vocation of the soldier. Of course, my even saying that will likely bring about responses that will largely prove my point.

    Of course, being a soldier is as much a legitimate vocation as any other vocation — say, politician. But I can’t help but notice that far fewer people seem to have qualms about besmirching the reputation of any (or all) politicians than they do with soldiers. With soldiers, we are frequently told, they all put their lives on their line for me in particular, or for high-minded things like freedom. Politicians, on the other hand, rarely get such a benefit of the doubt. I just find it strange. As if there were no soldiers out there who were doing it for money (it was their best job option, perhaps), or glory, or because they love to fight. Not that those are all bad reasons to become a soldier.

    But while the details of the soldier’s vocation may be quite different from those of others, I don’t think it is all that different when it comes down to the point under discussion: we are all under authority, and must submit to that authority … until we are compelled by conscience that we must not. And by “conscience”, I mean that we are convinced that the immediate authority is asking us to violate the Law of the Ultimate Authority, inasmuch as we are no longer showing love to neighbor (understood properly in the full scope of Scripture, and not merely in a reductionistic, pacifist way, thank you).

    Which means there is no simple answer, either for the soldier or the civilian. You can never merely argue that you were following orders or feared retribution for not following orders — whether for cooking the financial books or for shooting civilians you know are innocent. But if you aren’t convinced that your orders are morally wrong, then you should obey them, and trust all the more in God to forgive you.

    Still, this calls for judgment and discernment for all. I do not deny that these things are hard to come by — all the more so in the fog of war.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It seems to me there is a tendency to overly laud the vocation of the soldier. Of course, my even saying that will likely bring about responses that will largely prove my point.

    Of course, being a soldier is as much a legitimate vocation as any other vocation — say, politician. But I can’t help but notice that far fewer people seem to have qualms about besmirching the reputation of any (or all) politicians than they do with soldiers. With soldiers, we are frequently told, they all put their lives on their line for me in particular, or for high-minded things like freedom. Politicians, on the other hand, rarely get such a benefit of the doubt. I just find it strange. As if there were no soldiers out there who were doing it for money (it was their best job option, perhaps), or glory, or because they love to fight. Not that those are all bad reasons to become a soldier.

    But while the details of the soldier’s vocation may be quite different from those of others, I don’t think it is all that different when it comes down to the point under discussion: we are all under authority, and must submit to that authority … until we are compelled by conscience that we must not. And by “conscience”, I mean that we are convinced that the immediate authority is asking us to violate the Law of the Ultimate Authority, inasmuch as we are no longer showing love to neighbor (understood properly in the full scope of Scripture, and not merely in a reductionistic, pacifist way, thank you).

    Which means there is no simple answer, either for the soldier or the civilian. You can never merely argue that you were following orders or feared retribution for not following orders — whether for cooking the financial books or for shooting civilians you know are innocent. But if you aren’t convinced that your orders are morally wrong, then you should obey them, and trust all the more in God to forgive you.

    Still, this calls for judgment and discernment for all. I do not deny that these things are hard to come by — all the more so in the fog of war.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    re. Veith #11, Does anyone know if Luther gave any examples “evil orders” a soldier should run from? Where can I read about this in Luther’s Works?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    re. Veith #11, Does anyone know if Luther gave any examples “evil orders” a soldier should run from? Where can I read about this in Luther’s Works?

  • Porcell

    The reason why most people have a higher respect for warriors than most other vocations is that these people are in a vocation in which their lives during wartime are on the line. Just now, the American people are aware of the extraordinary skill and bravery of the Seals who took out Bin Laden.

  • Porcell

    The reason why most people have a higher respect for warriors than most other vocations is that these people are in a vocation in which their lives during wartime are on the line. Just now, the American people are aware of the extraordinary skill and bravery of the Seals who took out Bin Laden.

  • Jon

    @20 “Just now, the American people are aware of the extraordinary skill and bravery of the Seals who took out Bin Laden.”

    And of the US president who got it done.

  • Jon

    @20 “Just now, the American people are aware of the extraordinary skill and bravery of the Seals who took out Bin Laden.”

    And of the US president who got it done.

  • Another Kerner

    Miliitary officers accepting a commission take the following oath:

    “I, (name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance; that I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or any purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

    It is my understanding that the military code of justice applies to enlisted personnel.

    The oath taken by officers does not include a provision to obey orders.

    Officers are bound by their oath to disobey unlawful orders which would be any which violate the US Constitution.

  • Another Kerner

    Miliitary officers accepting a commission take the following oath:

    “I, (name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance; that I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or any purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

    It is my understanding that the military code of justice applies to enlisted personnel.

    The oath taken by officers does not include a provision to obey orders.

    Officers are bound by their oath to disobey unlawful orders which would be any which violate the US Constitution.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    whereas Wars of necessity might be considered more restrictive than “defensive” wars, might it also be considered less restrictive than Just war theory?
    And one might argue for the necessity of the crusades, even while one condemns the accompanying bad theology. But the Emporer of Byzantium thought the first one at least to be very necessary. Was it necessary for western Christendom? it may not seem so to some. But Lets not forget that those crusades put a check to the militant advance of Islam, even if they failed, they did slow down the process long enough for the west to develop better methods of warfare that ultimately saved Rome from the same fate as Constantinople.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    whereas Wars of necessity might be considered more restrictive than “defensive” wars, might it also be considered less restrictive than Just war theory?
    And one might argue for the necessity of the crusades, even while one condemns the accompanying bad theology. But the Emporer of Byzantium thought the first one at least to be very necessary. Was it necessary for western Christendom? it may not seem so to some. But Lets not forget that those crusades put a check to the militant advance of Islam, even if they failed, they did slow down the process long enough for the west to develop better methods of warfare that ultimately saved Rome from the same fate as Constantinople.

  • Jon

    Is the ‘just war’ theory even relevant in the nuclear, drone age? It’s one thing to pit man against man in battle; it’s another altogether to wage war in a way that inexorably leaves civilians dead, due to the weapons involved. Why doesn’t the Church say, with Sherman, that “War is hell”? Sherman, with US Grant, seemed, ultimately, to loathe their warrior vocations.

  • Jon

    Is the ‘just war’ theory even relevant in the nuclear, drone age? It’s one thing to pit man against man in battle; it’s another altogether to wage war in a way that inexorably leaves civilians dead, due to the weapons involved. Why doesn’t the Church say, with Sherman, that “War is hell”? Sherman, with US Grant, seemed, ultimately, to loathe their warrior vocations.

  • SKPeterson

    Bror @23 – Byzantium fell in large part to the fecklessness of the emperors, who did whatever they could to sabotage the efforts of the Western Christians they had asked to come to their aid. After several centuries of this duplicity, the East could no longer call upon the West to save it once the Islamic forces had regrouped under the Ottomans. Even during the First Crusade the West had better naval technology and were largely superior on the battlefield, despite Orientalist fantasies of Saracen prowess. Western efforts were generally checked by the stupidity and lack of foresight displayed by many of the commanders in the field. Islamic forces were also checked by their own internal divisions, rivalries and poor leadership. It took the non-Arab Turks to finally see the Islamic cause through to the fall of of a weakened and dissolute Constantinople, yet they were an exhausted force by the time they withdrew from Vienna several centuries later. The Middle Eastern world then retreated into the cultural and political backwater that it has become under the ascendancy of Islam.

  • SKPeterson

    Bror @23 – Byzantium fell in large part to the fecklessness of the emperors, who did whatever they could to sabotage the efforts of the Western Christians they had asked to come to their aid. After several centuries of this duplicity, the East could no longer call upon the West to save it once the Islamic forces had regrouped under the Ottomans. Even during the First Crusade the West had better naval technology and were largely superior on the battlefield, despite Orientalist fantasies of Saracen prowess. Western efforts were generally checked by the stupidity and lack of foresight displayed by many of the commanders in the field. Islamic forces were also checked by their own internal divisions, rivalries and poor leadership. It took the non-Arab Turks to finally see the Islamic cause through to the fall of of a weakened and dissolute Constantinople, yet they were an exhausted force by the time they withdrew from Vienna several centuries later. The Middle Eastern world then retreated into the cultural and political backwater that it has become under the ascendancy of Islam.

  • Porcell

    Grant, Sherman, Lee, and Eisenhower among other great warriors understood the terribleness of war, though they were all proud soldiers and fully understood its necessity.

    Anyone who has read Grant’s Civil War memoirs knows that he didn’t loathe war. Lee understood both the glory and the hardness of war as follows: It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it. This was said after he had won the three day battle of Frederiksburg in which there were a total of 18,030 casualties including 1,892 men killed.

    Most sensible men of the church understand with Paul, Augustine, and Luther that given the reality of fallen men war is necessary. Jesus healed the Roman’s Centurion’s servant and said not a word against his vocation.

  • Porcell

    Grant, Sherman, Lee, and Eisenhower among other great warriors understood the terribleness of war, though they were all proud soldiers and fully understood its necessity.

    Anyone who has read Grant’s Civil War memoirs knows that he didn’t loathe war. Lee understood both the glory and the hardness of war as follows: It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it. This was said after he had won the three day battle of Frederiksburg in which there were a total of 18,030 casualties including 1,892 men killed.

    Most sensible men of the church understand with Paul, Augustine, and Luther that given the reality of fallen men war is necessary. Jesus healed the Roman’s Centurion’s servant and said not a word against his vocation.

  • Stephen

    I recently discovered my last name, which is extremely rare in German, is on a monument in northern Germany to WWI soldiers. I know now that my people were farmers and fisherman who lived along the North Sea and came from a couple small hamlets. I suspect this man was somehow related to me, and was a farm boy or fisherman who went off to fight like so many have done. They believed the cause to be good simply because it was a war their homeland was involved in. It was their homeland after all. The same was true in WWII.

    I sometimes do not like the way Germans are represented in films as cardboard characters. We are only now beginning to see films where there are characters in the Germans and Japanese armies of WWII that were human beings faced with the consequences of being soldier on the losing side. That is not to diminish the evil that was done, and oh, how we bristle when such is depicted about our own soldiers in films.

    As someone who has never served in the military, what makes being a warrior’s vocation so difficult and also intriguing is that what they do brings seems to have so much of the “softness” of life sheered away and they face stark reality. Todd was right. We are all under authority, and in a way, their vocation is not any different in this sense than any other. But the stakes are so much higher, and therefore, the discipline and even virtue that is expected and needed is that much more obvious. There is a sense in which we would all like to live this way. That’s why cop shows are so popular – it’s the intensity of it. It really tests all these things we things we know or believe.

    So, for those reasons, I think we do make much more of what they are up against, and yet, in a way, it is a life and death struggle for all of us. That we would consciously decide to make that struggle about service and do it on those terms is what elicits so much fascination and respect. It really is or can be the vocation of everyone though. We just don’t see it as clearly as we do in military people. I think in some ways they mock us as much as they do remind us of what we aspire to be in what they represent.

    It is important, I think, not to over-sentimentalize people who serve in the military or underestimate what they sacrifice. I have no instructions on how to do that.

  • Stephen

    I recently discovered my last name, which is extremely rare in German, is on a monument in northern Germany to WWI soldiers. I know now that my people were farmers and fisherman who lived along the North Sea and came from a couple small hamlets. I suspect this man was somehow related to me, and was a farm boy or fisherman who went off to fight like so many have done. They believed the cause to be good simply because it was a war their homeland was involved in. It was their homeland after all. The same was true in WWII.

    I sometimes do not like the way Germans are represented in films as cardboard characters. We are only now beginning to see films where there are characters in the Germans and Japanese armies of WWII that were human beings faced with the consequences of being soldier on the losing side. That is not to diminish the evil that was done, and oh, how we bristle when such is depicted about our own soldiers in films.

    As someone who has never served in the military, what makes being a warrior’s vocation so difficult and also intriguing is that what they do brings seems to have so much of the “softness” of life sheered away and they face stark reality. Todd was right. We are all under authority, and in a way, their vocation is not any different in this sense than any other. But the stakes are so much higher, and therefore, the discipline and even virtue that is expected and needed is that much more obvious. There is a sense in which we would all like to live this way. That’s why cop shows are so popular – it’s the intensity of it. It really tests all these things we things we know or believe.

    So, for those reasons, I think we do make much more of what they are up against, and yet, in a way, it is a life and death struggle for all of us. That we would consciously decide to make that struggle about service and do it on those terms is what elicits so much fascination and respect. It really is or can be the vocation of everyone though. We just don’t see it as clearly as we do in military people. I think in some ways they mock us as much as they do remind us of what we aspire to be in what they represent.

    It is important, I think, not to over-sentimentalize people who serve in the military or underestimate what they sacrifice. I have no instructions on how to do that.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Bryan, you can read the rest of what I was referring to about Luther’s views on warfare in the rest of “Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Bryan, you can read the rest of what I was referring to about Luther’s views on warfare in the rest of “Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved.”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Thanks

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Thanks

  • Mike Baker

    @ Pete 1

    When the heat is on, there are very few Soldiers who need guidence on how to pray and what to pray for. It’s the long time in which one is left to think before, after, and in between where the help is needed. ;)

  • Mike Baker

    @ Pete 1

    When the heat is on, there are very few Soldiers who need guidence on how to pray and what to pray for. It’s the long time in which one is left to think before, after, and in between where the help is needed. ;)

  • katy

    When a soldier stops seeing the enemy as human (soul + body) and his equal before God (a sinner; potential recipient by faith of the benefits of the Cross), then you end up with either a pacifist, only concerned about physical well-being, this life–or a monster, the likes of which we saw in Lynddie England at Abu Ghraib (I suppose also in a way only caring about the physical).

    The Christian makes the best soldier because of this: He knows he is defending his country and family; and he knows the other guy is doing the same. The Christian soldier, in humility, doesn’t pretend the enemy soldier is an animal, but isn’t afraid to kill him, either. He is self-disciplined and obeys orders and acts honorably, and hopes the other guy does, too.

    I read an article a few years ago–a book review–about Nazi generals and their families. The general summary was shock that these subhumans had wives and held their own babies (there was even a picture of one holding a baby! gasp!) I don’t doubt that many of these men were complicit in the evil Nazi Germany propitiated. They were sinful men. I am disturbed that for all the sensitive admonitions we have re: WWII Germany, not many see the real lesson: that we are capable of similar atrocities (not our government is capable, not the tea partiers, or skinheads, or dems, or whomever, but me, as an individual thinking so wickedly of another human that I wish he didn’t exist, or think the world would be better without him, or he would be better off not being born).

    In the same section of the newspaper there was part of a 4-part series on the decline of Downs Syndrome births (because of abortion, the article admitted w/o irony or judgment on those who choose to terminate their handicapped babies). The article focused on the hardships and joys of those who do have DS children, and their feelings of isolation because so few are having handicapped children now. The article contrasted strongly with the self-righteous book review about Nazi families (“Thank God I’m not like that man.”) Lord have mercy!

  • katy

    When a soldier stops seeing the enemy as human (soul + body) and his equal before God (a sinner; potential recipient by faith of the benefits of the Cross), then you end up with either a pacifist, only concerned about physical well-being, this life–or a monster, the likes of which we saw in Lynddie England at Abu Ghraib (I suppose also in a way only caring about the physical).

    The Christian makes the best soldier because of this: He knows he is defending his country and family; and he knows the other guy is doing the same. The Christian soldier, in humility, doesn’t pretend the enemy soldier is an animal, but isn’t afraid to kill him, either. He is self-disciplined and obeys orders and acts honorably, and hopes the other guy does, too.

    I read an article a few years ago–a book review–about Nazi generals and their families. The general summary was shock that these subhumans had wives and held their own babies (there was even a picture of one holding a baby! gasp!) I don’t doubt that many of these men were complicit in the evil Nazi Germany propitiated. They were sinful men. I am disturbed that for all the sensitive admonitions we have re: WWII Germany, not many see the real lesson: that we are capable of similar atrocities (not our government is capable, not the tea partiers, or skinheads, or dems, or whomever, but me, as an individual thinking so wickedly of another human that I wish he didn’t exist, or think the world would be better without him, or he would be better off not being born).

    In the same section of the newspaper there was part of a 4-part series on the decline of Downs Syndrome births (because of abortion, the article admitted w/o irony or judgment on those who choose to terminate their handicapped babies). The article focused on the hardships and joys of those who do have DS children, and their feelings of isolation because so few are having handicapped children now. The article contrasted strongly with the self-righteous book review about Nazi families (“Thank God I’m not like that man.”) Lord have mercy!

  • kerner

    Sice the American Revolution, al of the wars of the United States have been wars of choice (with thwe possible exceptionsof the War of 1812 and the Pacific theater of WWII).

    Bror:

    Constantinople fell largely because the western Crusaders of the 4th Crusade never reached the Holy Land. They opted instea to sack Constantinople in 1204 (aided by Venice who coveted Byzantine trade with the east) and set up short lived Latin stateds in the former Byzantine territiory.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Crusade#Sack_of_Constantinople

    The Byzantines eventually regained control of their government, but they were so financially and militarily weakened, they could not withstand the Turks.

  • kerner

    Sice the American Revolution, al of the wars of the United States have been wars of choice (with thwe possible exceptionsof the War of 1812 and the Pacific theater of WWII).

    Bror:

    Constantinople fell largely because the western Crusaders of the 4th Crusade never reached the Holy Land. They opted instea to sack Constantinople in 1204 (aided by Venice who coveted Byzantine trade with the east) and set up short lived Latin stateds in the former Byzantine territiory.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Crusade#Sack_of_Constantinople

    The Byzantines eventually regained control of their government, but they were so financially and militarily weakened, they could not withstand the Turks.


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