INTRODUCTION Our memory of the name of Alfred Rehwinkel zzz goes back to grade school, when my upper-grade Christian day school teacher made us aware of the vast amount of interesting information that he had gathered and published in his book, The Flood (CPH, 1951). Rehwinkel and his book are mentioned at various points both in The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris (1961) and in History of Modern Creationism by Henry Morris (1984). The sensation it created and influence it exerted are detailed in the book we will cite in the next paragraph. The Wonders of Creation is another excellent work by this Missouri Synod educator, writer, and crusader, who lived from 1887 to 1979 and taught at Concordia Lutheran Seminary for nearly three decades (1936-1965). Still another of his numerous books is Communism and the Church (CPH, 1948), one of the first books of its kind and one that resulted in many speaking invitations for the author from all over the country.
But in this article, we wish to introduce you to an unpublished writing of Rehwinkel, of the existence of which we learned from a perusal of Ronald Stelzer’s 1993 book published by Lutheran News, New Haven, Mo., and containing a foreword by Herman Otten: Salt, Light, and Signs of the Times – An Intimate Look at the Life and Times of Alfred (Rip) Rehwinkel. Stelzer’s acquaintance with Rehwinkel began when he lived upstairs from him while a student at Concordia Seminary, deepened when he wrote a research paper on him, and developed in the middle and late 1970s into the continuous interaction with him in his last years that enabled him to produce his fascinating portrait.
Stelzer’s mention on p. 133 of Rehwinkel’s “four hundred page unpublished manuscript entitled War, the Christian’s Dilemma” launched the undersigned on a search. Guided by a helpful response from the author to our inquiry, we succeeded in establishing that the manuscript was in the possession of the Concordia Historical Institute of the Missouri Synod. We are most grateful to that institution for supplying us with a photocopy of this manuscript, housed in the “Alfred M. Rehwinkel Collection,” and also for its kind cooperation in answering subsequent inquiries, culminating in its assurance that, while actual permission to publish would in this case have to come from Rehwinkel’s heirs, there is nothing standing in the way of our writing a brief article about this manuscript.
Stelzer indicates that World War II was the impetus behind the manuscript. His riveting fifth chapter, “Days of Infamy,” recounts Rehwinkel’s active involvement with the America First Committee, “a nationwide organization dedicated to alerting the public of America’s drift toward war and halting that drift before it was too late” (p. 128). Other supporters of the AFC were Lutheran Hour speaker, Walter A. Maier, and Col. Charles Lindbergh.
Excerpts from Rehwinkel’s personal diary on pp. 130-32 demonstrate how he “watched Roosevelt’s masquerade as a peacemaker with growing apprehension and disgust.” “Step by step Roosevelt has brought us to the brink of war, though he claims that he has done all to keep us out of war. We do not trust him; in fact, his foreign policy so far has been amateurism, blustering, and boasting about American superiority and lecturing foreign nations and rulers …” (Nov. 5, 1940). “At least 90% of the American people do not want war, and yet we are drawn into this world war just as we were 23 years ago” (Dec. 29, 1940). “All campaign promises are forgotten. How long will the American people be duped?” (March 15, 1941). “The war clouds are gathering and getting darker from day to day. The State Department is insulting and provoking both Japan and Germany. Only fools provoke a war on two fronts at the same time” (Nov. 29, 1941).
Then comes the statement about the war being the impetus for the manuscript, followed by about 10 pages (133-142) that deal in large measure with that manuscript, giving an excellent impression of its contents and of how effectively Rehwinkel laid bare the desolation caused by World War II, exposed the fearful atrocities of which also the Allies were guilty, and depicted the brutality that extended beyond the end of the war. “Deaths resulting from the Second World War, of which the decided majority were civilians, totaled almost 75,000,000, the equivalent to the population of the Roman Empire at the time of Saint Paul.” (Stelzer, p. 133; Rehwinkel, p. 24. The latter makes another com-parison on p. 298: Even the lower estimate of 65,000,000 equals “twice the population of the United States at the time of the Civil War.”)
The reader might initially think that “Dachau trials” (Stelzer, p. 135) should be “Nuremberg trials,” but the former is correct. Rehwinkel quotes at length from a book in which Freda Utley reported how “every kind of physical and mental torture” was employed in the “Dachau trials.” “These were the trials,” she continues, “conducted by the United States Army Tribunals (as distinct from the civilian and ostensibly international trials at Nuremberg) …” (Rehwinkel, p. 68). (Here we might mention that one naturally looks charitably upon the dozens of typographical errors in the manuscript, but there are instances of such being carried over into Stelzer’s book. Rehwinkel refers on p. 57 to the Princeton Theological Seminary professor who was very active in providing relief to Germany after World War II as Otto “Pieper,” when it should be “Piper.” And note 17 on p. 60, which provides the source for material drawn from Dr. Austin App, has a missing space and extra or misplaced comma, resulting in: “Dr. Appin, Ravishing the Women of Conquered Europe.” And so we find references by Stelzer to Prof. Otto “Pieper” and Dr. “Appin” in note 22 on p. 304. A rather surprising slip is found on p. 395 of the manuscript, where Mt. 22:40 is paraphrased: “That is the law and the gospel.”)
Stelzer does not provide the time of writing. The manuscript itself is not dated. Only after carefully noting various internal indications – such as references to the Vietnam War, or the reference to “the 50 years of the Communist regime” (p. 37), or remarks about the projected but not yet attained moon landing (“invade” is the term employed on pp. 30, 299, and 301), or the comment about the terrible riots in various American cities (p. 327), or the citation of an article dated Dec. 18, 1967 (p. 254) – did we arrive at the following on p. 368: “Our military budget this year (1968) ….” In that year, 40 years ago, Rehwinkel turned 81.
DEEPLY FLAWED Rehwinkel would have spared his readers a good z deal of puzzlement if he had employed an intro-duction to set forth the one biblical message of salvation by grace in Christ, and to affirm that all else ultimately vanishes into insignificance in comparison with what pertains to the salvation of souls; and then to declare frankly that his horror at what modern warfare has become, and his dismay at what he perceives to be widespread reluctance also in the church to face up to a difficult and certainly in its own way very important issue, have combined to arouse his crusading zeal and impelled him to pen this passionate appeal for a fresh and realistic look at war in our day.
But there is no such introduction. Indeed, the keen anticipation with which we began the reading was greatly dampened by the discovery, very early, of something truly troubling: the repeated use of wording that could easily leave the impression that Jesus’ mission was to promote earthly peace. Imagine your shock, disappointment, and bewilderment upon being confronted with statement after statement like the following: “Modern war is the very antithesis of the Christian religion as taught by our Lord Jesus” (p. 8). “War is the greatest curse and the greatest scourge that can be visited upon a nation. But it is also the greatest destruction of those principles and ideals for which the Christian church has always stood and must stand. It is the very antithesis of the religion of Jesus. War and the religion of Jesus are in the same relation to one another as Christ is to Belial” (p. 77). “Harnack is certainly right when he says: ‘It requires no further proof to establish firmly that the Gospel excludes all violence and has nothing in common with war nor will permit it’” (p. 97). “The essence of the Christian religion is love” (p. 43). “Modern war denies everything that Jesus lived and taught” (p. 92).
The Gospel is indeed occasionally set forth or referred to, but more often than not only incidentally, and generally quite briefly. “Ethics of Jesus” and other dubious terminology that so easily leaves the impression that Christianity is merely a refined form of natural law abounds. Over and over again Christianity and the activity of the Church is presented in terms that take us neither beyond the realm of natural law into grace, nor beyond the realm of what is temporal into what is eternal. The cover itself quotes Mt. 5:9. It thus becomes difficult to suppress the question: Shouldn’t the author have made it easier for his readers sharply to distinguish his viewpoint from that of the many writers who arouse our dismay because their profession to be Christian in their beliefs and statements is belied by the conspicuous absence of the actual Gospel?
It is stated and restated that Christians are the conscience of the world. “As a light they are to lead the way in disseminating a correct philosophy of life by which men and nations can live. Or in other words, Christians are to function as the conscience of the world. … Christians must be the collective conscience in a society of which they are a part. … It is the business of the Church to function as a moral mentor in the society, clearly setting forth the moral issues involved in the problem that may confront a community or the nation. … The early Christians changed the character of the pagan world into which they had been sent, armed only with the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. And by the preaching of this Gospel and demonstrating its power in their own lives, they changed the character of the people and the people in turn changed their environment in that world. Ancient and deep-seated moral and social evils disappeared and a new, Christianized moral and social order emerged. ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation,’ says the Apostle Paul, Romans 1.” (pp. 374-376) “The great social reform movements in history were nearly always started by individual men or women endowed with vision and courage against a hostile, negative society opposing them. John the Baptist was a ‘lone voice crying in the wilderness.’” (p. 377) Should passages dealing with what is eternal be linked so closely to what is only temporal?
We are thus deeply pained to have to report that as far as the theological aspects of the material are concerned, a reading of the manuscript became a prolonged, generally unrelieved, and eventually rather exasperating exercise in disentangling truth from falsehood.
What does this mean? I wish I knew. Among the many memorable passages in Stelzer’s book is this on p. 246: “To this day Rip’s address is vividly recalled by a Saint Louis area layman: ‘For 20 minutes he walked back and forth dramatizing that he was in hell. He had everyone shaking. Then he walked to the podium and began his sermon.’ Rip followed with a strong apology for the integrity of God’s Word, the only place where mortal man might discover the way of escape from the terrors of eternal damnation ….” On the one hand, who would want to question in the slightest that the one thing that always meant the most to Rehwinkel was the Gospel? On the other hand, who of us, even in writing of earthly war, would not bend every effort to ensure that nothing is said that obscures the nature of the Gospel? I do not know who could venture to affirm with conviction that the cumulative impact of all statements about Jesus and Christianity is to leave the reader in no doubt that the one truth of absolutely overriding and surpassing importance is that one died for all and therefore all died, that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:14,21), that Christ came into this world to save sinners, of whom each of us is chief (I Tim. 1:15), that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having been made a curse for us, as it is written, cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Gal. 3:13), that God declared war on Satan, into whose grip we had fallen, and cast him out and broke his power (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31; Heb. 2:14).
But though deeply flawed, the book contains a great deal of valuable information and constitutes an eloquent, powerful, and moving call to rouse us to be more concerned about an issue of great importance. As shocking as it may seem, Rehwinkel reports (p. 15): “I lived through two fearful World Wars which involved every Christian in Canada and the United States, and yet in all these years I did not attend a single conference or synodical convention of my church in which the problem of a just war was discussed excepting one where I had been requested to present a paper on the subject of the Christian and war.”
OVERVIEW OF CONTENTS The difficulties of discussing war are zz candidly set forth in the introduction. “It is not easy to condemn war without appearing to condemn the warrior ….” “… People do not wish to discuss it because it may lead to strong differences of opinion and to unpleasant consequences.” (pp. 1-2)
The first of the seven chapters, “Why the Church Ought to Study the Problem of War at This Time,” runs from p. 5 to p. 78. Many of these pages are devoted to the terrible scale on which modern war is waged and to the utterly staggering and virtually unimaginable destruction that it has caused. Some noteworthy remarks about Communism are made: “Before the war there was a total of four million Lutherans in Russia. By 1936 the Lutheran Church had disappeared in that country.” “Russia’s Lutheran Church was nearly twice as large as the Missouri Synod and was wiped out in 18 years.” “… While the first war established Communism in Russia and practically destroyed the church in that country, the Second World War has given Communists a dominant position in all of Europe and Asia, which means that about two-thirds of the entire human race has come directly or indirectly under atheistic and Communistic influence.” (pp. 40-41)
An Australian theologian, Dr. Hamann, is quoted as follows on p. 74: “Western imperialism and militarism have always been a far greater obstacle in the way of evangelizing the East than most people realize …. Our age has added two formidable ramparts to the defenses behind which the East resists the tidings of Christ: the war of 1914-1918 and the war of 1939-1945.” Rehwinkel himself adds (p. 75): “Unbelievers, however, will not easily receive Bibles from the hands that rained bombs upon them and their families ….”
Chapter Two (pp. 79-118) discusses what the Bible says about war. If Rehwinkel has not here actually crossed the line from correctly denouncing the hatred often felt and encouraged in wartime to incorrectly making exhortations unto love in our personal relations into a virtual prohibition of using the sword in the service of government, he certainly seems to come rather close at times. “But this is what you are not covering” is our marginal comment arising from the second last word in the following sentence (p. 82): “All of Christian conduct and the whole Christian life of sanctification becomes meaningful or meaningless as it is or is not motivated by true Christian love.” Ps. 139:21-22 came to mind where Rehwinkel wrote (p. 88): “Love and hate cannot exist side by side in the same human heart.” Luke 3:14, a key passage, is largely dismissed in a section that alleges that Roman soldiers of the time were comparable to policemen, and that “the business of the soldier and that of the policeman have nothing in common” (p. 102; cf. also 163-4). It is in this section too that the incorrect claim is made (p. 101): “Since the days of Caesar Augustus until Marcus Aurelius, or for a period of about 200 years there were no wars in the Roman world.” And one’s heart sinks to read on p. 113: “I will readily grant that the attitude of the Old Testament on the question of war is quite different from that of the New Testament.”
The third chapter (pp. 119-154) surveys how theologians throughout the history of the church have viewed war. This includes a section on American writers. Noteworthy is the following statement, made regarding World War II (p. 149): “For the first time, some Lutheran church papers became instruments of propaganda for war.”
The fourth chapter (pp. 155-168) discusses pacifism. It is treated sympathetically, but the concluding paragraphs do warrant Stelzer’s statement (p. 133) that “Rip refused to embrace absolute pacifism.”
The fifth and longest chapter (pp. 169-291) deals with the concept of a just war. This is a useful compendium of material showing how diligently theologians throughout the ages, including Luther (over 16 pages are devoted to him) and others of the Reformation period, endeavored to set forth the criteria of a just war. Most welcome is the inclusion also of material concerning non-Christian thinkers, such as Cicero, accompanied by a brief discussion of natural law (p. 176). In addition to the expected treatments of Augustine and Aquinas, several pages are devoted to Antoninus or Antonio (1389-1459), “the scholarly and pious archbishop of Florence” (p. 186), and also to Francisco de Vitoria (c. 1492-1546), a nearly exact contemporary of Luther; and John Gerhard (leading Lutheran teacher, 1582-1637) receives close to half the space devoted to Luther. Hugo Grotius also naturally figures prominently in these pages, and it is a delight to see his great learning so warmly and admiringly praised by Rehwinkel (pp. 173, 232), who also reports that the Swedish Lutheran general, Gustavus Adolphus, “thought so highly of this book [De Jure Belli Ac Pacis, by Grotius] that he had it with him at all times and kept it together with his Bible under his soldier’s pillow during his campaigns in the Thirty Years’ War” (p. 232).
Vera Brittain and James M. Spaight are among the writers cited in the later part of this chapter. The latter is quoted (p. 252) as acknowledging that England “began to bomb objectives on the German mainland before Germans began to bomb objectives on the British mainland.” Discussion of bombing then leads to the posing of this question (p. 259): “What would the American churches have said if Hitler’s Luftwaffe would have bombed the residential district of New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Baltimore, and other industrial cities and shipping centers of our country and would have destroyed hospitals, schools, cathedrals, and our universities because the Americans were supporting the war efforts of his enemies with military supplies and ammunition?”
On p. 289, Rehwinkel states his conclusion that “the Augustinian idea of a just war is no longer applicable to wars as they are waged today with the monstrous engines of mass destruction in the indiscriminate murder of innocent men, women, and children.” On p. 305 he declares, regarding a just war, that “even that crutch for the Christian conscience has disappeared.”
Chapter 6 (pp. 292-303) is about the futility of war. “If anyone still doubted the utter futility of war, the two world wars through which our generation has struggled should convince even the most moronic mind and the most ardent worshipper of wars.” (p. 294) “Our leaders sat with this man, Joseph Stalin, the most cruel of all tyrants of history, around the same council table to plan this world destruction, and the masses cheered and elected the man who represented us there for four successive terms, an honor that has come to no other man in the entire history of our nation.” (p. 299) Ominous parallels are drawn between the West of today and both the Romans and the Greeks. A passage from the next chapter fits well here: “… The future historian will stop in astonishment and ask, how was it possible that the enlightened people of that world could have been so misguided and so misled by men of that character [Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, and Roosevelt].” (pp. 356-7)
The dilemma has become acute. Having found the solutions both of pacifism and of a just war to be unsatisfactory, Rehwinkel takes up in the seventh, final, and second longest chapter (pp. 304-398) the question: “What is the Answer to this Christian Dilemma?” According to him, it is that the Christian is to acquire that knowledge of our own government and of world affairs and of the chief causes of war which would enable him to act effectively in reducing the chances of war. Keeping “a watchful eye on the leaders of our government and the vicious propaganda agencies” is stressed (p. 342). Personal experience is referred to (p. 359): “Those of us who lived through the two world wars will never forget the fiendish proficiency with which the hate-mongers aroused the American and the Canadian people and excited their passion into hysteria by outrageous lies and atrocity stories which later were proven to be false and infamous lies.” “The greatest casualty in times of war is truth. The spirit of war is fed on lies about the enemy and upon the hypocritical self-glorification of one’s own country” (p. 393).
Development of the line of thought is somewhat slowed by the discussion of the origin and nature of government that opens this chapter. One is disappointed to see America referred to repeatedly as a democracy, and also to encounter the baffling statement that government is part of the order of creation (p. 310). But this chapter and the entire book are rounded out with an eloquent appeal to oppose the glamorization of war. These pages alone would justify this article, and they show that there is much that we could take today from what lies buried in this manuscript on war.
We have reserved for the end some remarks on one of the best parts of this book, the discussion on pp. 274-289 of the question whether the individual citizen retains the right to judge whether a war being conducted by his government is a just war. Our own awareness of a difference of view on this among Synodical Conference theologians arose from the chance discovery long ago of a passage in a 1940 convention essay by Prof. George Lillegard of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, “The Principle of the Separation of Church and State Applied to our Times.”
On the one hand, Francis Pieper, following Luther, wrote (Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 66): “In accordance with this everyone must carefully examine whether, e.g., a war is justified or not. … Here the conscience of the individual must decide; he cannot permit the State or the Church (pastor, synod) or any other man-made agency to make the decision for him. Therefore Luther stresses the need to investigate the situation, not in a superficial manner, but ‘with the greatest diligence.’” Walther could have been cited also: “For example, a Christian soldier should be ready to sacrifice life and limb, rather than to engage in an unjust war on the orders of his king.” (Essays for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 274)
On the other hand, Lillegard wrote: “… It is obvious that the government will in every case reserve to itself the authority and right to decide when war is justified. … But when ‘the powers that be’ have decided that they are justified in declaring war, the individual citizen must yield to their judgment, or accept the status of a rebel against his government and expect to be treated accordingly. As a loyal citizen, he has then no longer the right to ‘decide for himself whether any particular war is a just one.’” Lillegard too cites Luther, but, it appears, disingenuously. Here is the key quotation from Luther, from the section on going to war in his 1523 treatise on obeying temporal authority: “What if a prince is in the wrong? Are his people bound to follow him then too? Answer: No, for it is no one’s duty to do wrong; we must obey God (who desires the right) rather than men [Acts 5:29]. What if the subjects do not know whether their prince is in the right or not? Answer: So long as they do not know and cannot with all possible diligence find out, they may obey him without peril to their souls. …” (American Edition of Luther’s works, Vol. 45, pp. 125-126) Lillegard quotes the second part of that, which involves a point not in dispute, but omits the really pertinent part, which comes right before it, and which we have put in italics.
Rehwinkel brings quotations (p. 274) also from P.E. Kretzmann and W.G. Polack, both Missouri Synod writers, that place them on the side of Lillegard, from whose afore-mentioned essay he also quotes. But he disagrees with them. “No individual is ever absolved from personal responsibility for his own action, not even the government can become his conscience” (p. 279). “John Gerhard … writes: ‘It is asked whether the subjects are bound to obey the magistrate to whatever war he calls them. We answer: In order that the conscience of the subjects be advised, a distinction must be made between a war notoriously unjust and one whose cause is doubtful or hidden. If the magistrate moves towards a notoriously unjust war, the subjects are absolved from obedience according to the Apostolic rule, Acts 5:29 …’” (p. 281). “If a Christian cannot judge for himself in this matter, why then does the Augsburg and other Confessions say that a Christian may participate in a just war only?” (pp. 285-6)
Having mentioned Lillegard’s essay (which is available in the report of the 23rd convention of the Norwegian Synod, and which was also reproduced separately in pamphlet form), we should like to submit also the following passage from it to the judgment of our readers. It is on p. 40 of the convention report. “History has now proven, I believe, that our country’s participation in the last World War [WWI] was anything but ‘just’; yet most people thought it was so at the time and threatened to mob anyone who said otherwise. If Lutherans, remembering the lessons of the last war, now make up their mind that any participation in the present war [WWII] would also be unjust, they might find that history eventually would prove them sadly mistaken.”
Is it possible that people prepared to mob others who differed from them had perhaps not given the matter serious and sober consideration to start with? Is it also possible that the first order of business when a similar situation arises is to see to it that one is not caught up in another stampede?
We gratefully acknowledge the kind permission of Northwestern Publishing House of the Wisconsin Synod for permission to reprint the articles that Prof. Schaller wrote for the Northwestern Lutheran. This article, in addition to an article published under his usual heading, “From a Wider Field,” appeared in the Dec. 4, 1949, issue. RW
Prominent officers and men of the United States Navy, in public statements, have declared that the present defense policies of the government are morally wrong. In planning to protect the nation against future aggression, they say, the government is preparing to use the atomic bomb as its chief weapon. Carried by huge planes, this bomb will wipe out large sections of an enemy country, destroying non-combatants and armaments alike without distinction. Such warfare is described as “politically and economically senseless,” and “morally reprehensible.”
The claim that an atomic war would be “morally wrong” will undoubtedly call forth much discussion in our country, and by the time this is printed a nation-wide argument may be in progress. The subject may find a place in many an Armistice Day speech. Already, religious organizations are declaring that it is high time somebody said what the Navy is saying.
WHAT IS MORAL? It is undoubtedly true that the next war, waged zz with atomic weapons, would be even more fearfully destructive than the last. But we would seem badly advised to single out a certain weapon of destruction and pronounce its use “morally wrong” without careful qualification.
In the last war, men used flame-throwers against the Japanese, blockbusters against Berlin, and fire bombs on Tokyo. Indiscriminate bombing of cities proceeded from Hamburg to Munich. To distinguish morally between saturation bombing with TNT and the use of atomic explosives would be like making a moral distinction between the case of a man who is only a little drunken and that of a sot. Drunkenness in any degree is a mortal sin; so is murder.
True morality is defined by God, not by the reactions of the heart of man. When warfare is an act of murder, it is to be condemned on moral grounds, whatever the weapons employed. But we hold with Scripture that war is not necessarily immoral.
We look with horror upon war as ghastly evidence of the criminal nature of man; and the prospect of warfare intensified by atomic destruction weighs like a stone upon the hearts of all. Yet even under stress of dread and fear, we must not lose the power of calm appraisal and judgment.
War can be a necessity thrust upon us. When that necessity arises, the government is morally responsible for the most effective action possible in defense of the nation’s interests. The powers that be are ordained of God, and bear not the sword in vain. As Luther quaintly remarks, the sword in the hands of government is not a fox’s tail. It has an edge which causes death, and is to be used to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
LUTHER’S WORDS ON WAR Luther also wrote: “When I look at z warfare and see how it punishes the wicked, kills the evil-doers, and brings about such misery, it seems to be an un-Christian work and in every way contrary to Christian love. But when I see that it protects the pious, keeps and preserves wife and child, house and home, property, honor, and peace, it becomes apparent how precious and divine the work is, and I note that it cuts off a leg and a hand in order that the whole body may not perish.” [Cf. the American Edition of Luther’s works, Vol. 46, pp. 96-99; also Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, No. 4596.]
It is not necessary here that we discuss the difference between just and unjust wars; for this is a lengthy and complicated question which would add nothing to the point of this brief treatise. In an unjust war, all weapons are wicked agents; but when a conflict is morally justifiable in the sight of God, a government is morally free, within the limits of existing and effective international agreements, to use the means best calculated to reach the necessary end, and a moral indictment against any single weapon is futile sophistry.
AN ECONOMICAL FACTOR Expert testimony may reveal that zzz atomic war would indeed be “politically and economically senseless.” What a blessing to the human race if this became a universally accepted judgment, supported by facts and figures prepared by qualified authorities! Though improbable, it is just possible that the self-interest of man may work toward bringing about the banning of atomic warfare by mutual agreement of the nations as being economically unsound. For this grace we devoutly pray.
If it can be shown that use of the atomic bomb would be militarily and economically unsound and cannot serve the rightful purpose sought by an embattled nation, then of course its use would be wanton and criminal.
Meanwhile, however, our government must prepare for any eventuality; and whatever the practical merits of our national plans of defense may be, the weapons involved have no moral implications in themselves. For the simple fact is that God has not rated military weapons according to their moral value. He has not ruled against the atomic bomb in favor of buzz-bombs and submarines. Rather, He has enjoined us, saying: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Rom. 12:18.
Putting aside vain moralistic hair-splitting, let us “seek peace and pursue it,” to that end making supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks “for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” I Tim. 2.
As indicated on p. 17 of the March-April issue, we intend to make some of Pastor Parcher’s columns, originally appearing in his church bulletin, available in these pages. We gratefully acknowledge his kind permission to do so. RW
The Athanasian Creed is one of the three great ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church.
This creed (p. 53 of the hymnal) was named in honor of the man Athanasius, who lived several centuries earlier.
In the fourth century Athanasius contended against the so-called Arians, who held beliefs much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Unitarians of our day.
Athanasius claimed on the basis of Scripture that Christ was both God and man in one person, and not merely a good-hearted social worker in sandals.
The trouble was, Athanasius held his ground at a time and in a place in history when it was not popular to do so.
He was suspended and deposed from office, banished and exiled with a price on his head, not once or twice, but four different times.
They had a saying about him, first in derision, then as a joke, and finally as the supreme compliment: “Athanasius against the world!”
Gamblers would not have liked the odds, but it was not the first time, nor the last, when the world was wrong and one man was right.
In the dispirited army camp of Israel, there was only one, a shepherd boy from Bethlehem, who did not fear to face the giant Goliath.
Among the 276 passengers of that sinking ship, it was one man, the prisoner Paul, who rallied their spirits and saved the day.
By our standards, it was a hopeless scene when Luther stood alone before the assembled princes and prelates of church and state.
Did anyone ever stand more alone, and die alone, than Christ did?
And yet, did God ever make more out of one man’s stand for the truth?
“The cheese stands alone,” the old nursery rhyme says, and we shrink back from standing alone as an outcast.
The bureaucrat within our breast always wants to play a grander role, on a larger stage, and with a greater supporting cast.
But the truth is eternal. The truth doesn’t take sides or play favorites. The truth has never been the exclusive property of the majority.
Why stand for the truth in a crooked world like this? In a world like this, standing alone for the truth really counts for something.
* * * * *
War, the Christian’s Dilemma by R.E. Wehrwein..…….………….…p. 4
A review of an unpublished book by Alfred Rehwinkel
The Atomic War by Egbert Schaller ………………………………..…p. 15
To the Point! by John Parcher ………….…………………………….p. 17
The January 2003 issue of the Concordia Journal of the Missouri Synod has a brief article dealing with the concept of a just war. The opening paragraph acknowledges this to be a topic “to which we have not given much attention in theology over the past several years, if ever” (p. 65). Six points are listed in answer to the question of when the state may declare a war that is not defensive. There must be both a just cause and a just intention, as well as a probability of success. “It must be done only as a last resort. … Competent authority must declare it. … And finally, there must be proportional objectives. The value expected from the use of force must be greater than the costs or harm expected.” (p. 66)
With reference to then current U.S. bombing of a nation with which we were not at war, the concluding paragraph of the lead article in the July 2000 issue of The Religion & Society Report begins: “What are we to think of this? Are we to assume that our nation may shed blood with impunity, whenever it suits us, perhaps because of our high percentages of religious observance, perhaps because of our ignorance, real or pretended, about what is really being done by our authorities?” The article is concluded with the words of Prov. 24:11-12.
A previously unpublished article on war by Prof. J.P. Koehler appears in the Sept.-Oct. 2007 issue of Faith-Life. Koehler writes (p. 21): “At the same time it remains intact what Scripture teaches by example and admonition that the Christian is called to be a salt on earth by reproving injustice wherever he meets it, self-evidently doing so in the spirit of love. From this follows that a Christian must give testimony when he finds that our country is to blame, that our government supports wrong, or even breaks the law.” The article in the 1969-3 (August) issue of the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, “Friedrich Bente on World War I in Lehre und Wehre,” might also be mentioned. RW