Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fight in the Name of Your Temporal Government, Not Your God: ISIS and the Follower of Christ

I have read more than a few people on Facebook invoke the name of Jesus and their Christian faith when calling for "war without pity" on the cold-blooded ISIS murderers in Paris.

That's very unwise. Without doubt every Jihad John assassin should be hunted down and killed. Every Parisian murderer should be tracked and his life taken from him swiftly. The French President initially called for "war without pity" on ISIS, and he's absolutely correct. The United States, Russia, France, and every European country that loves freedom should bomb ISIS command centers, supply depots, and training compounds. Bomb them mercilessly. But always do it in the name of one's government, never one's Christ.

500 years ago Martin Luther faced similar circumstances to what Christians face today. The Ottoman Empire (Muslim) rapidly expanded their territory into Europe through terrorism and organized armed advancement during the 1510's and 1520's. As the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) armed itself to fight the Turks, Luther opposed armed resistance and wrote:
"To fight against the Turk is the same thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” (Explanation of the 95 Theses, 1518).
Pope Leo the Tenth condemned Luther for his pacifism. Thomas More also vehemently disagreed with Luther by issuing this astute assessment:
"It is a gentle holiness to abstain for devotion from resisting the Turk, and in the meanwhile to rise up in routs and fight against Christian men, and destroy as that sect has done, many a good religious house, spoiled, maimed and slain many a good virtuous man, robbed, polluted, and pulled down many a goodly church of Christ."
To put More's argument against Luther in modern terms: "Luther, why the heck do you consider Catholics more of an enemy than you do the Turks?"

Within a decade Luther changed his mind about fighting the Ottoman Empire. In 1528-1529 as the radical Islamic terrorists surrounded and laid siege to Vienna, Austria, Luther wrote a short pamphlet entitled On War Against the Turk. Luther's little pamphlet, available in English,  is difficult to understand for the person unaccustomed to comprehensive reading. In essence, Luther argues for war against radical Islam in the name of temporal government, not God. I would urge any Air Force pilot, Army soldier, Navy sailor, or Marine commando who confesses to be a Christian to read Luther's  On War Against the Turk.

I won't get into the reasons Luther changed his mind (you can read it for yourself), but I will summarize Luther's argument with this succinct statement:
War is a temporal state, fought by temporal governments, to bring about a temporal peace.
The best illustration of the above principle is Field Marshal Earl Wavell's comment on the treaties that brought an end to the First World War. He said:
"After 'the war to end war' they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a 'Peace to end Peace.'"
Wavell understood that both war and peace are only temporary. We Christians belong to an eternal Kingdom "that is not of this world" (John 18:36).  Christ will one day usher in His eternal Kingdom on this earth - either through His physical return or His spiritual reign in the hearts of all people (depending on your eschatology) and that's when "the meek will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5).

Until that time of Christ's reign, "temporal governments make temporal war to create temporal peace." If you must fight radical Islamic terrorism, and it seems the world is now being called to fight, we must make sure that we fight in the name of our temporal governments, not God. Luther puts it like this (emphasis mine):
"Christ says that a Christian shall not resist evil, but endure all things, let the coat go and the cloak, let them be taken from him, offer the other cheek..."
"The Church ought not strive or fight with the sword; it has other enemies than flesh and blood, their name is the wicked devils in the air; therefore it has other weapons and swords and other wars, so that it has enough to do, and cannot mix in the wars of the emperor or princes..."
"Nevertheless, what the emperor (state government) can do for his subjects against the Turk, that he should do, so that even though he cannot entirely prevent the abomination, he may yet try to protect and rescue his subjects by checking the Turk and holding him off. To this protection the emperor (state government) should be moved not only by his bounden duty, but by his office"
"It is a fact that the Turk is at our throat, and even if he does not will to march against us this year, yet he is there, armed and ready any hour to attack us, when he will, and yet our princes discuss, meanwhile, how they can harass Luther and the Gospel. It is the Turk! Against it force must be used! It must be put out!"
As a side note, at the very time Luther wrote A War Against the Turk, he penned a church hymn entitled A Safe Stronghold Our God Is Still, or otherwise translated A Might Fortress Is Our God, writing the hymn as the Turks approached Vienna in 1529. The truth of that hymn is very real - and very personal. It's a great song to sing as a follower of Jesus.

However, when a professing Christian raises his hand and swears allegiance "to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States" against "all enemies, both foreign and domestic," he or she must never forget that she is swearing
"to bear arms on behalf of the United States."
We will fight Islamic terrorism. We are at war. We will fight ISIS like our forefathers fought the Nazis.  However, we fight for the temporary government of the United States of America (or Canada, or France, or Russia, or etc....) and not God. Let's keep our faith and our Christ separate from our government and war.


Pege' said...

Wade, HIGH FIVE!! Needed to hear this today as I mourn and struggle for the truth. I have such internal anger which has clouded my thinking. I appreciate your article.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, Pege.

David Rogers said...

Insightful thoughts. Thanks, Wade.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for your effort and thoughts. Governments need to wake up to what is happening, but seem to be just waiting for it all "to go away". It seems the wider church in Australia has no public thoughts on the matter with some saying "we must learn to live alongside Islam as another faith". Pie in the sky!

Tom said...


Having understanding of what is occurring, based on what God has foretold, will help us understand the circumstances and driving influences for today. We are in a spiritual battle, where fallen heavenly hosts are influencing our actions such that they do not reflect the one whom we claim that we worship.

What is occurring in the world today was foretold in Jeremiah 50-51. Kings of many countries will blindly follow the king of the north, and attempted to heal the land in Babylon. The consequences of those actions is that the people at the edge of the seas are being "invaded" and when their numbers are sufficient, they will raise up a victory shout over the land, in the name of their God. Those who remain will have to capitulate their Christian beliefs in favour of.

Yes, Luther, demonised the RC Church and wrongly accused it of being the fourth terrible beast of Daniel 7:1-12 which has teeth of iron and speaks out great things against the God of Heaven. Your post above clearly illustrates this fact.

When those, who are called by God's Name, understand what they have done, and repent of their sins, then God will hear from heaven and will heal them and their land. This is still a near future event for all of Israel as the Gentile heathens are still trampling the Sanctuary of God and his city. The decreed end of the Heathen Gentiles still has a little more time before they and their kings will be judged on the earth. It is during the time of these kings that God will set about establishing his everlasting kingdom here on the earth where all should worship the Son of man.

Yes God does use wicked kings on the earth to bring about his punishment, but the retribution for the evil that they are doing/will do is the Lord's to meter out and not ours.

Christ's kingdom on the earth today is rapidly growing because of persecution that is being used in an attempt to force the sea of people to accept the evil of the fourth terrible beast as being good.

God foretold to Abraham that when his descendants return to the land ≈ 4,000 years after the birth of Isaac, that the iniquity of the Amorite people would not be complete. The religious affiliation of the Amorite people today is predominately Islamic and God's wrath is growing such that they will be judged and imprisoned in the abyss to await their future punishment.

Do we defend ourselves against the overwhelming evil that is coming our way? Yes, even with our own lives, but only as lead by God because we are in a spiritual battle at this time.

Christiane said...

I think of our Christian values in wartime as being present even in the midst of a 'just war' in that we do NOT, as Christian people, approve of certain actions during war time.

These include:
attacks and mistreatment against non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;
any form of genocide;
indiscrimate destruction or carpet bombing of whole cities or areas together with their non-combatant residents

Does the 'Church' have a role in wartime? Yes, in that it will always foster the good of the innocent and the helpless, and approve the just defense of a people or a nation against true evil.

What is coming is not a traditional war. But we must not, as a Christian people, inflict the pain on our Islamic American people that we caused to our Japanese American citizens in WWII. We know what we are capable of doing that is harmful to innocents. We now have an opportunity to use that information to prevent it from happening again. Islamophobia is not a Christian way of living. We are and will be better than that spirit of fear, if only because of the gift of grace from Our Lord.

Rex Ray said...


You remind me of my father telling me, “You’re always right but when you’re wrong you’re dead wrong.”

David told Goliath, “You come to me with sword, spear…, but I come to you in the name of the Lord…”

Hitler’s soldier’s belt buckles had, “In God we trust”. Would you want ours to have ‘In Obama we trust’?

Austin Al said...


I appreciate the reasonableness of your post. It is refreshing to read something along these lines from a Calvinist brother. I had suspected your post would reflect some kind of exhaustive meticulous providence bias, but was pleasantly surprised!


Gordon said...

I agree that we should separate our religious convictions from our civic duties, if we can do so with a good conscience.

It does the mission of the Christian church no good for foreign people to see our military chaplains leading the soldiers into battle, waving their Crusader flags and singing their crusader hymns. I think the chaplains should stay away from putting their boots on the ground.

Their close association with the military objectives can be a serious provocation to the enemy, a false inspiration for our generals and a superstitious presence for most of the footmen who see the chaplain as a guarantee of God's victory. Chaplains of all religions or none can do their work from afar, being available for the needs of those at home who want it. Digital communication is also available anywhere, 24/7, for the combatants who need support.

Great religious service before and after battles, displaying regimental flags and slogans, invoking and praising victory is precisely what the the Jihadis do every time they bomb or slaughter as they did in Paris a few days ago. But God is on the side of the big guns, as one general observed.

In my opinion the West should immediately commence a massive 1944 D-Day type invasion by ground forces to rid the world of this IS scourge. I guess Russia and France are already planning to invade and we should be allied to them as they take the lead. The UK and USA have tried but failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and should now take on a supportive role. But 'deregionalize' the whole undertaking.

Gordon said...


It should be : "dereligionize"

Steve Miller said...

Hello Wade,

Thank you again for a thought provoking, historical, and insightful blog. However, I must ask you to consider some areas you probably should have addressed. As a retired member of the Armed Forces I took, as well as a number of times administered, the oath of office that you refer to in your blog. There was a time when it was never questioned as to the closing of the oath, "so help me God." Some today do not close the oath that way nor are they required to but most do, especially a Christian. They are not fighting in the name of God but certainly seek His guidance, strength, protection, and presence in the midst of keeping the oath to support the Constitution. If one is willing to die for their country, asking God to help them honor that commitment is certainly wise. Now many who have never served in this capacity often times don't fully understand the oath and it's seriousness and the strength required to carry it out. They often times do not understand the important role of the chaplain in a battle or life threatening situation as well. I do appreciate your blog and the best time to have this dialogue is well before the conflict happens; it is definitely not on your mind during the conflict, survival is. Thank you again.

Rex Ray said...

“…see our military chaplains leading the soldiers into battle, waving their Crusader flags and singing their crusader hymns.”

Your conclusion was good, but in regard to the above statement makes me wonder what planet you came from.

Our father was a chaplain in Patton’s Fourth Armored Division. He landed three days after D-Day and stayed on the front till the war ended. He never led anyone into battle, even though as they were getting ready to shell a town, they held their fire when they saw an American jeep driving from the town to them. Our dad had gotten his weekly “Chapel Chimes’ printed for soldiers to read and told them the German army had left during the night.

After a battle, he would visit the first-aid tent. He was told one of the wounded would not live much longer. This wounded ‘boy’ asked to be lifted up and see if shrapnel had gone through him. It had. Our father held him until he died. The soldier said, “I thought I was going to be killed and asked Jesus to save me. He stepped into my heart and I was so happy I thought I’d live forever. Tell my mother I’ll see her in heaven. His family received “Killed in action” long before our father’s letter arrived. His mother replied that he would never know how much his letter meant because they knew their son was not a Christian.

Gordon, you don’t know what real chaplains do, like trying to match body parts together from a crashed airplane or while under fire…carrying wounded to safety. Once he ordered his assistant to get out of his foxhole and eat breakfast. Obeying saved his life. While they were eating an 88 shell blew his bible under his pillow to pieces. Soldiers found comfort from his Sunday sermons because they knew he lived by them. His friends called him “Moss face” because he was in World War I.

Rex Ray said...

Because of his age our father’s application was turned down to be a Chaplin in World War II. He borrowed money and went to Washington DC and talked to the head Chaplain. He was told the Army wanted young men.

He talked to Sam Rayburn (Speaker of the House) and was told, “Go back and try again, and if he doesn’t accept you we’ll give him the ax.”
The guy was angry; “You’ve been talking to your Congressman haven’t you?
“Yes Sir.”
“Go in that room and get sworn in.”

Dad was not a weakling. He was first in the obstacle course; took on anybody in wrestling and never lost. One time before the service started, Dad was on top of a guy and the Colonel waked up. Said, “I see we have one convert today.

Our father always said if you wanted to get something done; go to the top of the ladder.

That didn’t work when he was 67. He wanted to be a Chaplain in Vietnam. He rode a bus to see President Lyndon Johnson. He hitch-hiked to a hotel and was making inquires how to see LBJ. Real quick the FBI was asking him questions, and concluded: “Listen old man, go back home before we put you in jail.”

Rex Ray said...

I should have said that Sam Rayburn and Dad were friends as they lived only four miles from each other.

Gordon said...

To me, the consequence of the Constitutional Amendment on Religion would seem to be that there should be no government paid or officially ranked religious workers appointed to be military chaplains. The military forces are officially a-religious. What religious bodies may do themselves to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of their members is their own concern. And here I recognize the work of many good people doing voluntary work.

In the UK the situation is different. Here the Queen is officially head of State, the Military and of the Church. We go forth to war, defend and conquer, in the name of God, King and Christian Country , singing most lustily our favorite xenophobic song which claims with certainty we are the new 'Jerusalem' . At all national football matches we sing : "Swing low, sweet chariot..." to inspire ourselves with heavenly confidence or solace, as the case may be. The State Church is an indelible part of our national psyche and State Church chaplains are very much part of the military philosophy and machine in this situation. It is problematic to know how far to press this concept in our foreign policies because Muslims still see us as aggressive Crusaders, out to conquer the world.

ISIL currently uses the same model in their understanding of the unitary nature of religion and society, and also has universal dominion as their objective. This was also the view of totalitarian Popes in earlier times when promoting and protecting the Holy Roman Empire. Similarly , Luther and Calvin did the same through their teaching and practice of the Church's 'magisterial' function. To my mind, this is wrong because you can't logically fight for Caesar's interests and at the same time go to war in the name of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as though the two were synonymous.

Politicians should view a just war as a last resort, being confident of our ability to perform successfully and also sure that the end result will not make the situation has so tragically happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

It is our legitimate civic duty to defend our country from imminent evil attacks, and to give natural humanitarian aid to others in similar need. This approach is more likely to open doors later for those who feel called to present the greatest gift of all :the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ. An arrogant 'Crusader' or Jihai type approach implies forced conversions by the sword, and this will only harden the situation.

To my mind, a short term de-religionized civic and military response, such a siege of their major towns, is now required to restore order in the ISIS dominated areas. The long-term goal should be a total reformation of the current perverted interpretation that ISIS gives to Islam by their going beyond the teaching of the Koran.

If ISIS is true Islam , it is likely that many Muslims will reject such barbarity and turn to seek the true and living God in Jesus Christ. Let us be ready for such a possibility and continue to love and respect them. And may the West also learn from them in their denunciation of materialism, idols, carnality and moral and ethical corruption . The West needs Jesus Christ as much as the rest of the world....perhaps even more in these days!

Christiane said...

I love your stories. I love hearing about your father as a military chaplain. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us. God Bless!

Christiane said...

I need to speak about Islamophobia. The goal of Islamophobia is to portray all people of the Islamic faith as 'suspects' to be feared and treated accordingly.

But we can't put all Islamic people in the same category as ISIS.

ISIS attacks other Muslims. There is a horrific video available which shows ISIS burning a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. The pilot is a Muslim. His last motion was to kneel in prayer as the flames melted and consumed his body, which then fell back. I shouldn't have watched it. It haunts my thoughts. I don't recommend anyone watching it, unless they tend towards thinking that all people of the Muslim faith are vicious murderers like the fiends in ISIS. If a person is Islamophobic, and they watch the terrible video . . . they will at least then comprehend that Muslims are as much victims of the evil as Christians and others.

We have gone too far into fear and judgment and it has affected our willingness to offer asylum to those who are persecuted by ISIS. Are there risks? Yes. But is there still reason to reach out to the innocent. I think there is. We must help them not out of disregarding who they are, but because of who WE are. It is in the nature of our people to stop by the side of the road and help the fallen. When we cease to be compassionate, ISIS will have won.

Rex Ray said...

Thanks for saying “thank you”.

I saw that horrible video, but the way a person is killed does not automatically make someone ‘a good guy’. Wade pointed out most of the Jews (not Paul) continued living under the Old Covenant. The leader of that thinking was James:
“…You see, brother [Paul] how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.” (Acts 21:20 HCSB)
His death by being stoned and hit in the head with a club (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) because he testified for Jesus did not remove his improper belief of ‘Jesus plus the law’ for salvation.
You said, “When we cease to be compassionate, ISIS will have won.”
There’s a road sign not far from here that reads: “DO NOT PICK UP HITCH-HIKERS” Why? There’s a prison nearby.
I believe there’s a great risk of ISIS being part of those seeking asylum. We should help care for the persecuted but in their own country.
My father believed: “It’s good to be soft hearted but not soft headed at the same time.”

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

I do believe that 'the spirit of fear' cannot co-exist with Christian compassion. I wrote some thoughts about the Syrian refugess and I'll share them:

I can pick up a book famous for its language of ‘wonder’ and there, in the middle of my desire to escape into it, reality can still intrude so sharply . . .

comes to mind that photograph of the little drowned refugee child being cradled and carried by a soldier . . .so frail and beyond our human help . . . and still my country seems so turned away from the plight of the Syrian refugees

the fate of those refugees calls to me even as I read from a masterwork of ‘wonder’ these words:

“‘It’s not always a misfortune being overlooked,’ said Merry. ‘I was overlooked just now by—no, no, I can’t speak of it. Help me, Pippin! It’s all going dark again, and my arm is so cold.’
‘Lean on me, Merry lad!” said Pippin. ‘Come now. Foot by foot. It’s not far.’
‘Are you going to bury me?’ said Merry.
‘No, indeed!’ said Pippin, trying to sound cheerful, though his heart was wrung with fear and pity. ‘No, we are going to the Houses of Healing.”
(JRR Tolkien)

trying to momentarily escape from the harsh realities of our time can be futile when our choice of recreational ‘fiction’ is deeply rooted in a truth that calls up that reality even more painfully

. . . and I think, ‘what are we doing abandoning those poor people’?

Rex Ray said...


I dislike not agreeing with you because I respect you so much. On the other hand, do you remember when something was magnificent and so desired they brought it through the protective walls and it was the Trojan Horse?

I’m not afraid of women and children, unless they're carrying their babies while wearing a suicide belt.

Christiane said...


feel free to disagree with me anytime . . . your honesty is important to me

the truth is, I wonder what we are doing to OURSELVES by not helping these people . . .
there is a saying from the Talmud that applies here:
"if we are not there for ourselves, who will be?
and if we are not there for others, what are we?
If not now, when?"

and this from the Talmud: " whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." (Hillel)

Our 'humanity' suffers when we don't stop by the side of the road and tend the fallen victim that God has placed there for us to help on our journey. We have become something less than 'human'. In helping those refugees, we help ourselves. If we turn away from them, we are also turning away from who we are called to be as a Christian people. I do not doubt the truth of this.

Ramesh said...

Not directly related to the post but a tangent on refugees ...

John Oliver: “There was only one time in US history when refugees actually did wipe everyone out—and we’ll be celebrating it on Thursday.”

The True Story Of Thanksgiving | Richard Greener

Ramesh said...

Start of WWIII courtesy Turkey?

Indeed, NATO-member Turkey is MASSIVELY supporting ISIS, provided chemical weapons used in the jihadi’s massacre of civilians, and has been bombing ISIS’ main on-the-ground enemy – Kurdish soldiers – using its air force.

Ramesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...


Would you be for the suggestion made to care for these people in their own country?

Christiane said...


A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Their 'own country'? Assad has gassed civilians there. And the pictures include rows and rows of little children's bodies . . . so no wonder parents of little ones are trying to flee to safety. Then, the bullies and low-life formed ISIS and took over a part of that country and we know what they did to innocent people. No sanctuary there. And now the Russians have come. You can bet they won't be leaving . . . Syria gives them access to too much they value in the way of strategic positioning in the world.

Will the country be secured and safe for these refugees of war anytime soon? Likely not. So they need help. They have no 'safe' place anymore.
Like Mary and Joseph fleeing Herod's soldiers . . . they are seeking sanctuary in a land that offers it.

Their 'own' land? All the Earth is the Lords, and all that is in it. We forget that.
I think WE need to help them, or WE will become less honorable if we neglect a clear call to help persecuted people fleeing war. I think we know what is the right thing to do, REX.

Ramesh said...

Assad has gassed civilians there.

Not so.

Turkey is the culprit.

And Turkey never does all this without US coordination.

There is more going on here than is publicly being bandied on TV.

This is all for the benefit of the military industrial complex of the west. With active help of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and US. ISIS creation was not an accident.

Ramesh said...


Ramesh said...

A different perspective: Why did Turkey dare shoot down a Russian Plane? The Proxy War in Syria

Anonymous said...

Actually Luther changed his mind on many things sensible, including the Turks. Eventually, his pen turned to malice toward the Jews. Protestants really need to quit quoting him and learn more of his impulsivity and recklessness in writing. Zwingli inspiration proved to be of greater worth in the Reformation. Luther's writings inspired an alliance for Germany with the Ottoman's in WWI and Muslims in WWII.

Ramesh said...

Now there is good evidence that Turkish intelligence sold out US-trained rebels to al-Qaeda.

Christiane said...

for those who might be interested, there is a documentary on The Pilgrims running on PBS stations . . . it is scholarly and well-documented, with frequent readings of 'source' letters, even from the accounts of Gov. Bradford of the first colony in Massachusetts . . .

and yes, RAMESH, in the documentary, there is talk of how the Pilgrims engaged in the murder of some members of an Indian tribe that were the enemies of the tribe that were the Pilgrims' friends . . . very graphic description, including the beheading of one of the leaders of the tribe . . . the head being brought back and displayed on a pole in the settlement as a 'trophy'

many Indians and settlers were killed by plague and other diseases, so the story is a grim one, but still, people came to the colony and the history of what happened was faithfully recorded by Bradford in letters and some poetry . . . very moving, very disturbing . . . not as 'picture perfect' as we were led to believe of the Pilgrim and Indian relationships in that time, no

Rex Ray said...


We had a good Thanksgiving in spite of Ramesh link:

It’s been said the only stronger emotion than fear is love. Has America stopped loving as shown by hardly any hitchhiking today compared to years ago? Why has it died unless fear is the reason?

Christiane said...


there is a video that speaks about how we have become more fearful as a country . . . warning: it is filled with graphic language which can be offensive, but in the context of the video, seems to add to the frustration of the speaker . . . take a look, and tell me what you think:

Rex Ray said...


Thanks for the link. The speaker was asked what he thought about the statement: “America is the greatest country in the world.”

He seemed to agree with a woman in the crowd that held up a sign: “It’s not, but it could be.” Despite his language, he quoted a lot of statistics from murders per capita, unemployment, etc. I got the idea that once we were a great nation but not anymore.

I tend to agree with him because how great are we when we:

1. Owe more money than our great-great-great etc grandchildren can pay.
2. Make homosexual OK…even in the military.
3. Allow babies to be killed and their organs sold. (Today’s news of killing at an ‘abortion clinic’ where the gunman said, “No more baby parts for sale.”)
4. Have a president that can not say, “Islamic terrorists”, more interested in ‘global’ warming than stopping ISIS. The list goes on and on.

Ben Carson’s visit to Syrian refugee camps revealed their supreme desire was NOT coming to America but to go back home. He said, “But they are satisfied to be in refugee camps if they are adequately funded. They have schools, recreational facilities, and a lot more things that make life more tolerable.”

He expressed the need of more funding by the United States and its allies. He also said, “I do know that ISIS terrorists have said if we bring refugees [to America], they would infiltrate them.”