Backward Christian Soldiers

Backward Christian Soldiers February 23, 2018

As many Christians in America today loudly declare that they have been blessed with a “God-given right to bear arms”, here’s what Christians said about weapons, violence, and the military for the first 300 years of Church History – without exception:

“The Lord, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.” —Tertullian from “On Idolatry”

“Christians could never slay their enemies. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength.” —Origen Contra Celsius Book VII

“Wherever arms have glittered, they must be banished and exterminated from thence.”
—Lactantius’ Divine Institutes IV

“As simple and quiet sisters, peace and love require no arms. For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained.” —Clement of Alexandria Chapter 12 of Book 1

“Above all, Christians are not allowed to correct with violence.”
—Clement of Alexandria

“I do not wish to be a king; I am not anxious to be rich; I decline military command… Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it.”
—Tatian’s Address to the Greeks

“We who formerly used to murder one another now refrain from even making war upon our enemies.”
—The First Apology of Justin Martyr

“Whatever Christians would not wish others to do to them, they do not to others. And they comfort their oppressors and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies. Through love towards their oppressors, they persuade them to become Christians.”
—The Apology of Aristides

“A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.”
—Hippolytus of Rome

“There is nothing better than peace, in which all warfare of things in heaven and things on earth is abolished.”
—Ignatius of Antioch to the Ephesians

“The new covenant that brings back peace and the law that gives life have gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: “For out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and he will instruct many people; and they will break down their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and they will no longer learn to make war.” These people formed their swords and war lances into plowshares,” that is, into instruments used for peaceful purposes. So now, they are unaccustomed to fighting, so when they are struck, they offer also the other cheek.”

“We would rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another. As a result, an ungrateful world is now enjoying–and for a long period has enjoyed–a benefit from Christ. For by his means, the rage of savage ferocity has been softened and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow creature. In fact, if all men without exception…would lend an ear for a while to his salutary and peaceful rules,…the whole world would be living in the most peaceful tranquility. The world would have turned the use of steel into more peaceful uses and would unite together in blessed harmony.”

“Those soldiers were filled with wonder and admiration at the grandeur of the man’s piety and generosity and were struck with amazement. They felt the force of this example of pity. As a result, many of them were added to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and threw off the belt of military service.”
—Disputation of Archelaus and Manes

“We have rejected such spectacles as the Coliseum. How then, when we do not even look on killing lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death?”
—Athenagoras of Athens’ A Plea for the Christians

Isn’t it strange that somehow Christianity has devolved to the point today where those who say they follow the Prince of Peace are somehow totally convinced that their Lord and Savior has blessed them with the right to carry and use weapons?

Wasn’t it Jesus who said: “Put away your [deadly weapons]! Those who live by the [deadly weapon] will die by the [deadly weapon].” (Matt. 26:52)

Maybe we need to repent and get back to the actual teachings of Jesus, rather than reading the Constitution or putting our faith in the Founding Fathers. Otherwise, we run the risk of honoring Jesus with our lips while our hearts are far from Him.

Or, as Jesus phrased it: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?”

Keith Giles is the author of “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” and the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

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  • Jesusisdemocrat

    It is horribly sad that the loudest self-proclaimed “Christians” in the US glorify violence and literally worship the “Golden calf”. It is not only the anathema of Christ-like, it keeps others from the love we are supposed to advocate.
    God help us!

  • Ivan T. Errible

    There are plenty of churches in Europe that get money and support from governments that are approved by “progressives” in the US. They get tax money; they sometimes get automatic representation in national legislatures; some heads of states have to be members of certain churches.
    Any “progressive” who says that church and state should be separate, that there should be no Christian involvement in government (including the military) but don’t even mention established, tax-supported churches overseas, are hypocrites.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    What about the “progressives” who went overseas to fight for the Spanish Republic in the thirties? Or the Union soldiers in the Civil War? Or those fighting the Nazis in WW2? Why are people in the military condemned now but not then?

  • Melanie Lee Remele

    More “whataboutism”. This is about American gun-lovers who equate guns to god.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Ah, no: it’s about horror at the use of guns in one situation contrasted with celebrating their use in another.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    More “avoidance of the questionism”.

  • Steven Waling

    What about them? What about the many Christians (and non-Christians) who were conscientious objectors and would rather go to prison than fight? This post in any case is about the early church’s almost universal pacifism, not the later church’s compromise with imperial Rome after Constantine.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    But the article’s claim is that universal pacifism was/should be the reality; the compromise was the turn away, the wrong path.
    Either fighting is legitimate or it isn’t.

  • Steven Waling

    Well I’m a pacifist myself so I obviously don’t think it is. I’m also sufficiently self-aware to know I could be wrong about stuff.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Then why the passionate intensity of this article?