The Christian and Carnal Warfare

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Elsewhere in this issue there appears a very well written article by a very young brother in Christ opposing participation by a Christian in carnal warfare. This article is being published, but not to stir up another issue. The question of whether a Christian may or may not participate in carnal warfare has been heatedly debated by brethren in this country, at least since the civil war. In 1848 at Wheeling, West Virginia (though at the time Wheeling was still a part of Virginia), Alexander Campbell presented a famous and potent speech opposing the involvement of Christians in carnal warfare. Yet when the civil war came, his son, Alexander Campbell, Jr., served as an officer in the Confederate army.

Some of our readers will probably be critical of me for publishing this article, fearful that it will set off another unending controversy. Brethren my age, or a little older, remember the very thorough discussion given to this topic during World War II. Indeed, that was nearly the issue occupying the minds of brethren for several years. Able men wrote extensively on both sides of that question.

However, Truth Magazine has always been published to provide a medium for religious discussion. Many of our younger preachers were too young to have the opportunity to read what brethren had to say on the war question a generation ago. Actually I doubt that many of us have much to say on any Bible subject that has not already been said by others, and perhaps said better than we can say it. So the fact that this topic was discussed a generation ago is no reason why it should not be discussed again. It is a fact, however, that nearly everything that can now be said on this subject, on one side of the issue or the other, was said effectively a quarter of a century ago. If every young man had access to such publications, I would be disposed to say simply, "Study the issue from the old publications."

Brother Edwards, the author of the article referred to, is an unusually competent young man. He has only had one year of collegiate education at Florida College. The younger generation has been unusually disturbed by our national involvement in the Vietnam War. Such young preachers probably wonder why so few of the older men have spoken out on this subject. The older men probably think they have nothing to add to what was said 25 or 30 years ago. But the war question is an issue bothering many of our younger men, no doubt. It probably would be a good thing to have a reasonable amount of discussion on the topic.

Since I have elected to publish Brother Edwards article, certainly I am willing to discharge my editorial duty and permit someone on the other side of the question also to be beard. I do not intend to permit this to be a never-ending exchange. I know I will not be able to publish every article that is submitted in reply to Brother Edwards. I think it might be best to let one brother reply, and then permit these two men to each write another article or two on the subject, and then let the issue rest for the time being.

This is a rather unusual suggestion, but I think it also might be good, for the time being, to let some of the younger men thrash this issue. Of course, if no young man cares to respond, and an older man does so, I would publish his reply. The older men would be disposed to discuss the issue in light of its argumentative refinement that resulted from several years of debate on this issue. It just might be that two younger men, without the influence of many years of disputation on this question affecting them could present the basic issues with less clutter and encumbrance than could two older men.

Lest some of our readers become unusually upset about the appearance of this article, let me make it perfectly clear (as our President says) that we do not intend to turn this paper into a one-subject journal. Recently one good brother proposed the publication of a monthly journal to be devoted exclusively to a discussion of the war question. I did not think then, nor do I think it true now, that a journal devoted exclusively to the war question would long survive. Brethren soon will have said all there is to say on the subject.

Some of our older brethren who read the older papers will not find one single new thought presented. But surely there will be something said that will cause some serious thought on the part of our young people, and it is the intention of this journal to stimulate serious thought.

As editor of this paper, I do not want to appear to play the part of the coward. So let me state in the outset of this exchange that I take basically the same position on the war question as that advanced in Brother Edwards article (though I am not sure I would use every argument he presents), and that has been my position for more than twenty years. When I had to register for military service as an 18 year old, I registered as a non-combatant. However I have never sought to agitate the issue.

There are several men on our editorial staff who would not agree with Brother Edwards article, or with my position. And their position on the war question has been a matter of public record in some instances for as much as twice as long as I have held the position I hold.

But with all of this said, I do not think any harm would result from a serious study of this question through perhaps four or six articles. Read what Brother Edwards has to say, and await the replies! If a reply is published to this article, and it will be if one is written, I will try to publish an article from the respondent and from Brother Edwards in the same issue. I think that would make the argumentation easier to follow.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 48, pp. 3-4
October 12, 1972