Posted by: Rodney Shaw | September 29, 2011

Holiness in the Twenty-First Century: Straining Out Gnats and Swallowing Camels

The most divisive issue in the United Pentecostal Church in my lifetime has been television. The debate was not about whether we should own televisions and use them for recreational viewing in our homes, but whether we should advertise our churches on television. That issue sent us in to a tailspin. The stench wafted across two General Conferences. I received e-mail about the issue. I sent e-mail about the issue. There were blogs. There were Internet forums. There were threats that some would leave the UPCI if the conference did not vote their way. Some published booklets in defense of their view. An entire issue of the Forward, the magazine for UPCI ministers in North America, was devoted to the debate. A survey of all ministers was conducted. Ultimately a group of ministers left the UPCI citing the outcome of that conference as their reason.

We have before us now the resolutions that will be presented at the upcoming General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International. These resolutions include one, Resolution 6, that relaxes our historical position against Christians taking life in military service, leaving the decision up to individuals. I am writing this article two weeks before the General Conference, and I have not heard one comment about Resolution 6. I have not received any e-mail about Resolution 6. Most people I have talked to are unaware the resolution exists.

Can we delete the following text from our Manual, as Resolution 6 proposes to do, without a vigorous debate?

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we believe in the implicit obedience to His commandments and precepts which instruct us as follows: “That ye resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39); “Follow peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). (See also Matthew 26:52; Romans 12:19; James 5:6; Revelation 13:10.) These we believe and interpret to mean Christians shall not shed blood nor take human life.

Therefore, we propose to fulfill all the obligations of loyal citizens, but are constrained to declare against participating in combatant service in war, armed insurrection, property destruction, aiding or abetting in, or the actual destruction of human life.

The point here is not to articulate a position on television or taking life in the military service. The point is that we ought to vigorously debate matters of holiness, and there is no issue deserving of debate more than the taking of human life. But there has been no outcry. There has been no debate. Furthermore, the issue of television only goes back about six decades; the matter of taking life in military service has been debated among Christians since the first century. The literature—not to mention the Bible—available to us for a rigorous debate is voluminous.

Where are the heated Internet forums?

Where is the entire issue of the Forward devoted to the ethics of killing?

Where is the survey?

Where are the summits and conferences?

Where are the self-published booklets?

Where are the threats?

Where are the breakaway groups?

Where are the cries about methods (what we do) shaping our message (what we believe)?

Where are the pleas for maintaining holiness?

I am deeply moved by the silence.

Is advertising on television a greater moral offense than taking the life of another human being—likely in his land at the command of a secular leader for reasons we may not fully know or understand? Do we give less thought to the taking of human life than we do to advertising on television? What right do we have to take another human life? In a war who is morally right? Who is morally deserving of death? If I take up arms and kill, can I be assured it is in self-defense, either of the nation or of myself? (If one takes the commands of the New Testament literally, self-defense is not a basis for violence.) Is it okay to kill another Christian because he wears a different uniform? (The Civil War is a great example of Christians killing Christians while both prayed to God for victory.) Under what circumstances is it justifiable for us to kill another human being, one who likely is unprepared to face Jesus Christ in judgment? If he or she is prepared to face Jesus Christ, would not this be a greater atrocity? At whose command should a Christian be willing to take another human life? For what cause should a Christian be willing to take another life? How does one’s call to be an ambassador for Christ intersect with one’s loyalty to an earthly state? To what should one pledge allegiance other than to Christ, and how widespread should this allegiance be? For what should a Christian be willing to kill? For what should a Christian be willing to die?

I recognize that the issue of war is extraordinarily complicated. Theoretically, I think a state has the right to defend itself. Further, I think a state has a moral obligation to protect its neighbors from aggressors when it has the wherewithal to do so. I think some version of a just war theory is workable. Further, if we are beneficiaries of the freedom and security accomplished through war, we are in some sense culpable for the actions of the community. We cannot wash our hands of violence and yet support the violent machinery in “non-combat” roles, pretending we had nothing to do with the violence that was wrought.

Most definitely there are ways to engage in ministry to military personnel and in support to those who have enlisted in the military that do not require one to take life. Even so, these roles often provide support and infrastructure for those who do kill, so in many cases moral culpability may still exist. But we are not talking about support roles. Resolution 6 specifically removes our historical stance against taking human life in military service.

Some have lifted up Cornelius the centurion as an example to justify bearing arms in military service. I hardly think Cornelius teaches us anything of the sort. Cornelius, being a Roman soldier, was in a position which would have required him to subjugate or perhaps kill Jews and Christians if it were deemed prudent by a Roman leader. Further, if Jews or Christians were to have taken up arms against Rome, they very well could have taken the life of Cornelius, a fellow believer.

Cornelius was a military man who feared God. Are there no military men and women across the world who fear God? Are there no Corneliuses in armies around the world? If we bear arms and kill enemy “combatants,” do not we take the risk of killing a Cornelius? Are we prepared to do that at the behest of a secular commander in chief? In reality, we have no idea what happened to Cornelius after his conversion, although he presumable retained his military career. (Luke 3:14 may be instructive here, although a career change likely was not an option for Roman soldiers.)

Apparently, as an organization, we can deal with the matter of taking human life in the name of a secular state with little angst, yet we can divide churches, families, and even an organization over the use of modern technology to spread the gospel.

I am not attempting to settle the issue of whether Christians should bear arms. I have a lot of questions for which I have not found satisfactory answers. My concern is the ease with which we brush aside this topic while fighting to the bloody end over technology. We have a split conscience. We are morally dissociative. If our real concern is holiness, there is no greater issue than the taking of human life. Debates in ethics frequently degrade into hypothetical scenarios, all the what if propositions intended to stump someone of another opinion. However, this is not hypothetical given our current conditions. As it stands, military service in the United States is voluntary, and it is possible to serve and object to serving in combat roles. Given this choice, what would motivate a Christian to intentionally enlist and train for the purpose of taking human life? One who is converted after enlisting could likely declare his or her conviction and request a reassignment. If reassignment were not possible, the individual could seek God for grace to avoid the predicament of having to choose whether to take human life.

One of the most interesting components of Resolution 6 is its call for the decision to participate in taking human life in military service to be left to individuals. The option to exercise personal convictions in other areas has been vigorously opposed in many of our debates, including the debate over television. To illustrate, I have taken Resolution 6 and substituted the language on military service with language about television. (See below.) If this sample resolution were circulated in the past or present, it would incite vigorous debate. If we are prepared to leave the matter of taking life to personal conviction, we should be willing to leave all other matters of holiness to personal conviction. Can we do this and remain in fellowship? If not, what is unique about this most serious matter that removes it to the realm of personal conviction?

We indeed strained out a gnat in our decades-long debate over technology. We have caught the tiniest speck and examined it ad nauseam. And we should have strained out this gnat. But the camel we swallowed lodged in our throat. What is the theology behind Resolution 6? Are our conclusions rooted in patriotism, politics, or theology? We need a holistic theology of life which includes both the unborn as well as the already-born. Since this involves taking lives of people from other countries, should not this be discussed by the Global Council and not left solely to the UPCI in North America, especially since military service is compulsory in some countries?

How can we willing send combatants and missionaries into the same field?

I hope we at least have a vigorous debate.

Resolution #6 Rewritten

Whereas, Our position in the Articles of Faith concerning Conscientious Scruples on advertising on television causes concern and has mixed support from the ministerial constituency and does not therefore accurately represent our corporate identity, and

Whereas, Many of our pastors are ministering to members in combat positions who own televisions, and

Whereas, Many of our churches are ministering near military bases and serving the needs of many members in the military and aggressively reaching the lost serving in the ranks of the military, to people who own televisions and are aggressively reaching the lost who watch television and

Whereas, Some of our military personnel have faced the difficult decisions of military service and some have chosen combat positions some of our people own televisions and have a shadow cast over them by our present position, and

Whereas, The present position leaves no room for individual choice for a minister offering counsel to a member who is making military choices personal viewing choices, and

Whereas, We have taken no written position on the involvement of a United Pentecostal Church member service as a Police Officer or Security Agent, thus carrying a weapon with the possible use of force banning the use of the Internet, and

Whereas, We have not addressed the equally difficult decisions concerning personal home and family protection in the event of a confrontation with a violent attacker developed a comprehensive plan to deal with technology, and

Whereas, In signing ministerial applications and affirmation statements, many ministers are not in agreement with our stand on Conscientious Objector Status owning a television or ministering on television and are consequently endangering their personal integrity, and

Whereas, This deep and complicated issues merits the value of individual deliberation and heartfelt consideration, and

Whereas, A  restating of position will in no way limit a local church pastor from teaching to refrain from active combat in the military watching television or advertising on television, and

Whereas, A new approach to this sensitive subject will not limit the child of God from declaring a conscientious objector status refraining from watching television nor a church from advertising on television if their conscience so dictates, therefore

Resolved, That the Article of Faith entitled “Conscientious Scruples, contained in the Articles of Faith of the United Pentecostal Church International, as set forth on page 35 of the Manual of the United Pentecostal Church International, 2011 Edition, be amended to read as follows:

. . . . The whole idea of taking of human life technology is complicated with a wide variety of complexities. . . . We recognize the deep and difficult deliberation required in these decisions. We therefore support our members in prayerfully and scripturally exploring their individual responsibility to God in these matters. We therefore honor the right of our members to serve as conscientious objectors and not bear arms refrain from owning or advertising on television. We also encourage those who serve watch television or advertise on television according to their conscience, in any and all capacities, to express courageous loyalty to country while serving in appropriate roles working ‘heartily, as to the Lord’ (Colossians 3:23) to the biblical teachings on holiness.”

© Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Responses

  1. Pointing to Marcellus, a Third Century figure, concedes that until this time–AD 289?–Christians were involved in the military. Not un-involved. This doesn’t seem to support pacifism but presents a problem for pacifisim IMHO. I am still waiting for a Biblical defense of pacifism that some are suggesting should be unequally demanded of Apostolic ministry. It appears neither Old or New Testament confirms such a view.

  2. Forgive the spelling errors in that comment. I wrote it on my phone. 🙂

  3. Than you for this blog. While we don’t know exactly what happened to Cornelius after conversion there are other accounts of Centurions who left there military careers after conversion.

    I wrote about Marcellus, one of the greatest examples of this on my blog.

    http://coltenbarnaby.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/the-conviction-of-christian-pacfism-part-2/

  4. You always were an intellectual, Rodney. 😉

    In all seriousness, I admire your thoughtful and thorough examination of the issue. My own position is that yes, indeed, these types of things should be left to the conscience -the working out of one’s salvation- of the individual. We’ve strayed far from Peter’s stance of only insisting on the “necessary” things.

    While I think “vigorous debate” is perfectly acceptable, as long as it’s not rancorous, what is the end goal of it? Lock-step behavior? How many splits are necessary to bring the pentecostal ranks to a realization that what he wants us to do is preach the cross, not build barriers to it?

    Here’s a thought: when do specific rules and regulations become so vital that they become gospel– another gospel, as Paul said. Let’s get back to Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

  5. Having reread this blog, I find it amazing that little if any reaction has come from it after the fact. As if it is a mute issue. While it is complex, there is no reason to allow something of this magnitude to be a “non-issue”!

    I have reexamined my values and decided to change! Thanks for helping us to think!

  6. Exellent blog post Pastor Shaw. I realize that I’m late to the game on this one but still feel compelled to comment.

    I do offer that one of the main reasons we did not have more of a dust-up over the “bearing arms” issue was primarily due to the fact that its not preached or taught from our pulpits.

    When is the last time you heard a message that railed against anyone serving in the military, police or some security service?

    Now TV, on the other hand, was/is continually referenced from our pulpits. And thus we had to deal more publicly with the issue. It’s not that we esteemed TV a more weightier issue than human life. But as it rarely, if ever, appeared on our radar screens, seemed to be a non-issue.

    Troy

  7. I’m shocked a majority of the American constituency have decided to leave killing to the whim of individual conscience, when we zealously oppose freedom to follow conscience on external issues that are much less thoroughly defined as holiness in scripture. The sanctity of human life now deemed less essential than Apostolic culture and identity? Killing not so defiling to our hearts as TV, ball games and movie theaters? Our consciences should be screaming to follow the law of the Spirit in all these matters, but in the matter of taking human life, the Word already shouts it loud and clear for us! New covenant trumps the old! Read the words in red, unless you also want to argue in support of ethnic cleansing as a matter of conscience based on Old Testament precedent. Don’t forget stoning as a capital punishment for people caught in adultery. We could leave that open to conscience, too…if we decide to forget how Jesus dealt with it.

    The sanctity of life is a law already written in our hearts, instinctively, whether we even know God or not. It ought to be that much more apparent when one is full of the Spirit and listening to His voice. The servant of the Lord cannot ever justify taking life. We can’t play God. Even a self-defense argument gets pretty shaky in the context of “turn the other cheek” and the new commandment; or Peter quickly being chastised for chopping off an ear; or the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit. You could write a book on it. Maybe you should, Bro. Shaw.

    Are we conceding it is morally justified to take another human life under certain approved conditions? If not, this vote opens the door wide for that view to flourish in our fellowship. Will military pastors be given license to fight, interrogate and kill during the week and stand up and preach Acts 2:38 on Sundays? What kind of minister/missionary supports militarily “cleansing” a nation so it can be opened up to the Gospel? What help is conscience if a man has already decided what he wants to believe because of his hatred for the people of Nineveh? The sword will soon fall on us if we allow our carnality to replace conscience.

    Will we really say it is okay to slap Jesus in the face, spit on Him and trample His blood underfoot in support of our beloved USA? Our generation needs to stand out from the crowd and boldly declare Christ’s teachings to an American church that has lost its way.

    Or maybe, it is actually finding its way toward allowing conscience in all such matters?

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever read RS so fired up about anything! And rightly so. We can’t be so naive as to think that Resolution #6 is simply about recognizing the primacy of individual conscience…it actually reverses a fundamental moral stand.

    I’m saddened and disturbed that so many of us filter our faith through the lenses of politics and patriotism, instead of the other way around. We have forgotten where our primary citizenship lies; God’s Kingdom. When the values of the earthly nations conflict with the values of the Kingdom of God, Kingdom values trump all.

    Concerning Resolution #6 http://bit.ly/oq8LdX

  9. Thank you for standing up and speaking out what is in the hearts of so many of us younger ministers. I love my country, but I’m deeply ashamed of the things we Americans now condone in the name of God and country. How can one remain holy and so casually support war and targeted killings? How can one profess to be a Christ-follower while wishing death and destruction on cities and nations; on men, women and children who do not know God? If we really want to be holy, we would fast and pray for our enemies with more zeal than we pray for our troops. If we lived this holiness in practice, our children would leave the comfort of our home countries to bring healing and hope to our enemies.

    It takes greater courage than any Marine could muster in order to confront our enemies with love and compassion. But I fear this is a practice we might have long forgotten.

    There needs be no debate on this issue: it is not a grey area…we either follow Christ’s teaching, or buy into a horribly wicked cultural deception. And God help us if we, as an organization, sell the Truth in exchange for red, white and blue idols.

  10. As the son and grandson of UPC pastors, a current music leader in a fledgling UPC church, and an Army officer with two combat tours in Iraq, I appreciate this post.

    I am an artilleryman. Yes, I am trained to kill people, if necessary. I do not relish that responsibility, but it is mine and I signed up for it. This is not something I take lightly.

    We – the United States – would not exist today if it were not for our military. We would not be able to send missionaries around the world, as we do now, without our military. Missionaries from the Middle East have thanked me as a member of the military for clearing the area and setting conditions for them to do their work.

    I will never forget the night I stood in Kuwait hours before leading the firing battery of 85 men I commanded into Iraq. It was my second deployment and the first for many of my Soldiers. I was talking to a couple of them outside our tents late that night. They were scared. We all were. One of the greatest moments of my life was when one of those young men told me that he talied to his mother in California earlier and he told he not to worry about him. His commander was a Christian and prayed for them. I had never prayed with my guys publicly. They just knew who and what I was.

    Our nation would not be what it is today if we had a military full of mercinaries. Likewise, we could not function with a military full of choir boys. It takes both. We all love our freedom, but it takes someone getting their hands dirty to maintain that freedom. It also takes someone with a moral compass to keep everything in balance. No one wants war less than I do. But it exists. Since this horrible thing does exist, it is good to have men and women of God involved.

    Should the UPC have a resolution against members serving as police officers since they might have to shoot a person?

    I appreciate this debate and am glad it is happening. I am not a licensed minister so I cannot vote. If i could vote, I would support the resolution.

  11. The two most important commandments

    Mat 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
    Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.
    Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    Mat 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Who is my neighbor?

    Luk 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
    Luk 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
    Luk 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
    Luk 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
    Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
    Luk 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
    Luk 10:35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
    Luk 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
    Luk 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

    What does it mean to love?

    1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    1Co 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
    1Co 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
    1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
    1Co 13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
    1Co 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
    1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    1Co 13:8 Love never ends.

    As a Christian, love God and I am to love others. I am to extend the same love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion that God has shown me to others. Who proved to be the neighbor? The one who showed mercy! If God wishes to take someone’s life, that’s His prerogative. That is not something that I get to decided. Would I (you) really be able to stick the needle into that death row inmates arm? Would I (you) really be able to activate the electric chair? I don’t know what the answer is for you, but the answer for me is no. I couldn’t. I know that our prison system is broken, and I don’t have the answers. But I serve a God who is just and who judges us all. I would rather be obedient to what I know and that is to love God and to love others.

    Response to the comment “Everyone who pays taxes supports war”:

    The reason I pay taxes is because the Word of God specifically says to pay taxes. This does not mean that I support war, abortion, gay rights, democracy, or a broken welfare system. I pay taxes because I love God, and that is what He requires of me. Not because I support what the government is doing.

  12. Where does the Sovereignty of God come into play in regards to the outcomes of War? Does ones involvement in military service really help decide the victor? Does ones non-involvement in the military help decide the loser? If God truly is sovereign, and I believe he is, then we should err on the side of caution, and let God be God, and let him decide the victors without our input.

  13. Thank you, Bro. Shaw, for your courage in writing such an article which so clearly depicts our small-mindedness and pettiness while unmoved (oblivious?) to the weightier matters. May God use our anointed leader, Brother Bernard, to bring our hearts and minds into proper spiritual focus. This is imperative if we are to have the mind of Christ and win our world!

  14. This issue should be debated. I have debated it. The Old and New Testaments are consistent and pacifism is not the doctrine of either. I see how this could be an holiness issue for some but we cannot assume it is for everyone. It should not be debated simply because of a previous resolution either. If that reveals an inconsistency on the part of some then so be it. That is a result of their own posturing. Perhaps we would not like the precedence it sets or where the chips may fall.

    Resolution 6 clearly articulates the fact that there is debate and diversity on the matter. It appears to equally honor and support both sides of the issue. I think the better question should be, “Why is such a position so incompatible?”

  15. “How can we willing send combatants and missionaries into the same field?”

    I think that hit the nail on the head. If the UPCI can send missionaries into a place like Afghanistan, to heal and to minister and to bring salvation, and then also send soldiers with assault weapons, to kill and maim those people in need of salvation, then our organization needs to do some serious soul-searching.

    Oneness Pentecostal pioneers were jailed and run out of town for their conscientious objector stance during World War I. Have we grown so comfortable in this era of politicized religion that we forget the brave stand taken by our spiritual forefathers?

  16. @Daniel – I had a strong suspicion you’d find this blog post :-). Yes, I realize the statement was added due to the differences in opinion regarding new birth and even the oneness Of God, but I emphatically believe that it should be broadened to include our “holiness” positions, per the apostolic teaching of Paul in Romans 14.

    I think some people are missing the point of this excellent post. The point is not whether Resolution 6 is right or wrong, but, rather, to point out that we argued, fought, and caused one of the greatest commotions in the history of our organization over something that seems infinitely silly when contrasted to a weightier matter like Resolution 6; however, Resolution 6 has not elicited ANY public response from our organization.

    In all honesty, this post should drive us to our knees in self-reflection and a reevaluation of our priorities, motives, and attitudes. This is the same behavior exhibited by the Pharisees in Jesus’ day who majored on the man-made traditions of the elders such as the washing of hands before a meal, yet they minored on much weightier matters of the God-given Decalogue: honoring their parents.

    May God help me; may God help us all!

  17. Brother Shaw,

    I find a great many valid points made in your recent blog post regarding the proposed changes to the UPCI manual in reference to a foundational belief of “taking a life through military service.”

    I am a firm believer in the UPCI and am proud to be a member of the organization. I also find your ministry to be exemplary and would regard you as a scholar in biblical and educational circles.

    My education and biblical understand would quickly be swatted away and therefore I tread lightly by not regarding this email as a debate (one I would surely lose) but as a discussion of opposite views.

    I believe the “Individual rights” of a Christian should have a much greater role within our organization. While I do believe there needs to be a foundational platform which represents and clarifies our very existence as an organization. I believe the power of one’s individual right to determine what is “Christian” should be weighted considerably. You stated “One of the most interesting components of Resolution 6 is its call for the decision to participate in taking human life in military service to be left to individuals. The option to exercise personal convictions in other areas has been vigorously opposed in many of our debates, including the debate over television”. Let’s look at this from the point of view of church choice. Doesn’t one determine by individual rights which church they attend? Doesn’t this choice empower the “attendee” the power of choosing “individual rights”. Each shepherd of the three UPCI churches I have attended over my lifetime have placed their guidance rules over me. I have chosen to follow them. Yet, many of the rules or guidelines were earthly not biblical. I accepted them. Yet others rejected them and attended church elsewhere. An individual right! I say all that to suggest that one’s power of choice should not be overlooked. Is there biblical reasoning for the “consciences objector”? Yes? Is there reasoning for “encourage those who serve according to their conscience, in any and all capacities, to express courageous loyalty to country while serving in appropriate roles working heartily, as to the Lord.” There is power in individual rights. There is unity in individual rights. Look at what the Bill of Rights has given us, a foundation, yet an individual right. (FYI – I believe this for Television as well – Don’t kick me out!)

    Your opening paragraph listed many questions. These questions present many valid points and are worthy of discussion, research, and pray. At this point in the discussion, I would need more time to review. I ask these questions in return. I realize that many of these points are presented by a large organization other than the UPCI, and I am very much aware of our foundational differences but I find some of their points valid. Doesn’t the Bible call the Christian people to have reverence and loyalty to the government? What do we do with Romans 13:4 which says “He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” This last point and/or question takes me back to first paragraph. Doesn’t the scripture call for the employment of personal conscience in all matters. “Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

    Finally, I close with this discussion. Where would we be today if the Christian’s had not stood up in the past and ‘fought for our Christian rights and freedoms”. Every since Cain and Abel there has been holy bloodshed. Do I think we should be fighting in every conflict? No? I do believe there are some things worth bloodshed. You posed a question. What if Israel was the nation we were fighting? Reverse the question, what if the only two Christian Nation’s left standing was the United States and Israel? Would we have bloodshed? Yes! Would it be right? In my individual thinking, I would have to say….Yes!

    I find Resolution 6 worthy of my vote of Yes.

    I thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss these issues. I am not a scholar and find my biblical knowledge to be lacking, yet with a humble spirit I strive to improve. Blessings to you and your family and I am excited about what is happening for your church family in Texas.

    Blessings,

    Ron Smith

  18. Since I am not a minister, I will not be voting on this issue. The UPCI is dear to me. I have spent my life in its environs, for my late father, my husband, two of my sons, a grandson, other family members and many of my friends have been or now are credentialed with the UPCI. Jerry and I reared our children around Apostolic youth camps, camp meetings, conferences and the like. Yes, the organization is dear to me even at the very moment I recognize its imperfections. Indeed, how can I expect otherwise, for is it not comprised of imperfect people?

    The integrity in this column resonates deeply with me, for at my core is a desire both to hear truth expounded and to embrace its principles. We must be honest, and as I sit before this computer screen, I am graphically reminded of the need to be consistent especially concerning technology. I fear we often are not.

    Thank you, Brother Shaw. May God help us all.

  19. Obviously, praxis and what has been preached as “ancient landmarks” is weighing on the collective consciousness of those within leadership and the constituency. As a matter of ethics this is a good thing.

    David K. Bernard’s book Practical Holiness, which is REQUIRED READING for local license dedicates an entire chapter to the sanctity of human life … and the argument for conscientious scruples is coupled with ABORTION and the DEATH PENALTY. Albeit, personally, I find DKB’s position to be consistent and refreshing … it does bring a dilemma. Is this no longer a holiness issue?

    @Loammi, the Fundamental doctrine statement was a result of divergence in opinion as to the New Birth. Are you saying this applies to other aspects such as Holiness? For the record, the Scruples article is borrowed from the PCI manual as was the original Holiness statement which never consisted of the standards clause … the was added a decade later.

  20. The following are some comments I made regarding this issue on a Facebook note I posted in August:

    First, I fully disclose that I am a pacifist. And hold to many of the pacifist views historically expressed by various groups like the Quakers and the early Holiness-Pentecostal movement. Denominations such as the Assembly of God and the UPCI were very candid in their views against armed military service, early in their respective histories.

    With that said, this resolution especially the reasons stated by its author for why this change is being proposed opens a veritable Pandora’s box within the framework of internal politics, ethics and practice within its fellowship. Very worthy of scrutiny and discussion.

    ‎”Secular” politics and ideology aside, I find the admission that there is a candid admission that there are Articles of Faith that are NOT ACCEPTED as posited in the resolution, nor reflective of the ministerial constituency, to be intriguing .

    Surely, men like David K. Bernard have argued that the AOF is not a creedal statement but rather a basis of mutual consensus within the fellowship … The Conscientious Scruples article being an original article of agreement since the merger.

    That an Article of Faith causes concerns … has mixed support and is not representative of the corporate identity … when some have argued this is a Holiness position …

    And that it endangers the “personal integrity” of those who apply for license or sign the affirmation statement is very poignant, also, to say the least.

    As a point of fact, it should be said that the Affirmation Statement is not an affirmation of all the articles of faith … but rather only an affirmation statement of the Fundamental Doctrine and the Holiness article.

    Albeit, that this now shows that many are concerned about whether their practice actually lines up with what the AS says … STANDS OUT, as do the points made here by Rodney Shaw.

  21. Very well written and thought provoking article Brother Shaw.

    There is much to contemplate here.

  22. @Brad Murphy Your argumentation makes sense if one were defending war from the perspective of the existence of a nation. The question is not whether or not if the US would exist, the question is whether an apostolic is committing a moral act by putting a 5.56mm bullet into the body of an enemy. Further, the existence of one’s nation is not a justification unless you believe that the ends justifies the means. Which I’m sure you do not. How could one be a bible believing Christian and think that as long as the end is good (ie: the cessation of evil) then it does not matter how one accomplishes his goal? You said that those who do not wish to engage in combat are afraid that” they might get their hands dirty.” It depends on what you mean by dirty. If one thinks that taking human life in war is a sin, then yes they do not want to get their hands dirty with the filth of something that God hates and that would endanger their eternal soul.

  23. If everyone was a pacifist, the United States would not even exist, since it was ultimately formed out of rebellion, which required bloodshed to make it happen. I find it kind of humorous that some would express thankfulness to live in a country such as we live in, but not even consider paying the price that it took to create themselves (fighting for or giving your life for your country). Basically, pacifists are riding on the coat tails of those who are willing to fight for what they believe in. They want to share the rewards, but not to pay any price because in doing so, they might get their hands dirty.

    That being said, I’m thankful for these kinds of inconsistencies in the UPC. It was these types of things which caused me to question, and questioning will eventually lead to a much more fulfilling life – Rather than squander your entire life doing nothing except waiting in line for a carnival ride which may not exist, and if it did, you would not be tall enough to ride it anyway, based on the impossible height (worthiness) standards. Life is meant to be lived and experienced, and to accomplish things – not simply to mope around asking God for forgiveness for being born several times a week, making peanut brittle and figuring out fancier ways to wear your hair and finding new restaurants to eat at after church.

  24. Thank you Bro. Shaw for taking a stand on such a strong subject, I have no doubt that you will receive plenty of responses now. But than again maybe not since we “Christians” have become accustom to taking a back seat to the very things that as “Christians” we should stand up for. Taking a life whether born or unborn and living by our Pentecostal standards are only two topics that go hand in hand here. When we start to let go of the principals and morals that our forefathers laid out for us, we begin to let go of the very essence of who we are in Pentecost and the danger is that we become no longer separate but conformed to the world we live in. Again, I thank you for standing with such passion on a difficult issue.

  25. As someone who is no longer in the UPCI (yes, I am one of those “hypocrites” who left over the TV issue) I do not have the power or the right to stand and vote in the conference floor. I can assure you, however, that if I did, I would vote against this resolution.

    It is important to note that a soldier in the military is knowingly setting themselves in a position where they could have to kill someone. As a minister, I have never been comfortable with this. However, it is important to note that many teenagers in the UPCI’s local churches, and in some cases even the children of preachers have joined the military, and not in a non-combatant position. It then follows that the UPCI should either preach against this…or change the bylaw.

    The resolution concerning TV came about for the same reason. Individuals no longer wanted to preach against it, because they were either doing it or wanted to do it (or in some cases, wanted to get rid of the “hypocrites” and “trouble makers”) and wanted the bylaws to reflect the change in the majority opinion. This really should come as no shock to you.

    Unfortunately, I fear that the UPCI, which I grew up in and love, and still has members in it who I dearly love, will probably pass this resolution just as it passed the TV resolution.

    One day they will wake up and wished they hadn’t.

  26. Thank you Bro Shaw for your transparency and passion for the pursuit of holiness.

    Kenny your statement has merit, but we must view that explanation as poor stewardship.

    To explain, consider a priority chart with two axis. Both contain two factors: important and urgent. Of the four possible combinations most people will set precedent on those items both urgent and important. They will also likely leave to the last those items neither urgent nor important, but great results lie in the management of the two other possibilities.

    To our shame, we as a movement prioritized television because of ‘urgency’ (far scope of constituency and regularity of opportunity). When in reality it is much less important than a matter much less ‘urgent’ (few members and rare application).

    Poor stewardship has serious biblical ramifications. Thank you again Bro Shaw for the call to proper action.

  27. I commend you for your willingness to speak to the heart of the issue, and be frank….whether poplular are not.

  28. Glad some are thinking deeply about this issue. There are many others which need deep thinking. Perhaps holiness is much deeper and more profound than has been generally taught. Perhaps.

  29. What a wonderful, thought provoking article. This resolution says a lot about us and how we deal with change. And, that we ate not immune to confusing cultural bias as theological platforms (I.e many southern people are conservative republicans–>most republicans heavily favor and support military action–>the ethos of the UPCI was formed in the south–>most UPCI preachers don’t know our history of staunch passivism–>thus a culture that confused a “worldly worldview” with a supposed godly one)

  30. I love your blog’s design! I just started one myself. I’m kind of new to it all though. Feel free to check it out at Sanctuary of Praise

    Would love to know what you think!

  31. Thank you for this convicting article, Brother Shaw. It has caused me to reexamine myself.

  32. You know I have brought up comparisons to abortion and war several times yet it ruffles the feathers of many….. Nice article and one that should be read by everyone!

  33. Excellent. I have been disturbed by this lack of concern over Resolution 6. Sacred cows need slaughtered!

  34. I think the reason you don’t hear anything about this is simple… many people are not “directly” touched by the war and will never have to make a decision about killing… but they do face the tv choice every day.

  35. Thank you. Weeks ago, I ranted to a mutual pastor friend in VT about this upcoming resolution and the unbelievable implications that you’ve highlighted. You thought the TV res got things going- re-write that res and replace hair! Yet a complete reversal on the official position regarding our saints killing people yields crickets chirping. No respect for our prayerful elders and heritage of holiness? Hollow talking points in view of Res 6. Unstinkingbelievable… Thanks again.

  36. Well let me foray into the discussion. I believe the position we have held has been moral and to change our position on combat would be a degradation of our identity as a holiness movement.

    First, one may be able to argue the theory of just war and defence of self and those who are weak and it sounds all well and good in theory but when one begins to think pragmatically of a Christian participating in combat it is hard to maintain that as being the right thing to do. For example, one routinely uses WWII as an illustration of just war theory – defence of those weaker against an obviously brutal and evil force. But what about Hiroshima? How does dropping a bomb of that magnitude on a non-military, civilian target constitute a just act of war? My point is what does a Christian, when entering combat under a “just pretence,” do when asked to commit an act of violence that will violate just war principles? Wars may seem just but how does one know that all information provided by their secular head of state is true? What does one do when a war begins as just but shifts and becomes unjust? What does just even mean? Does just mean the cause is good so the actions taken do not matter or does just mean that each combative action must be as morally pure as its cause? What does one do when, in defence of a just cause, they are asked by their commanders to perform an unjust act? When I bring this up, invariably my friends will reply, “would you have let Hitler win?” To which my reply is Christian morality has never been utilitarian, ends never justify means even if they represent the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Holiness and morality has always been about right being right and wrong being wrong and the only determinate being of the “object” (act, intention, thought etc) being right the righteousness of God. Thus, for the Christian, while killing my enemy may stop him from hurting innocents the fact that I’m stoping him/her doesn’t make that act morally pure. What makes that act pure is if God declares it to be a righteous act. Given that there are so many grey areas, it only makes sense that a Christian not place themselves in a position where there ethics may be compromised and they will sin.

  37. Though I see the value in holding a more conservative approach on some of these issues, it is biblical to leave non-essential matters (issues not specifically, and conclusively, outlined in Scriptures) up to the conscience of each Bible-reading, prayerfully-living individual. To demand uniformity to all of our organization’s “rules” can only promote double-standards, hypocrisy, a predisposition to legalism, and a shameful dishonesty for ministers who must sign an affirmation statement they disagree with. Rodney Shaw has exposed one of our glaring weaknesses: our inclination to defend our traditions and identity above weightier matters of the law. I LOVE our traditions, but I am commanded by God’s Word to love those who don’t see them through my same lens in order to keep the unity of the Spirit. Our insistence on emphasizing “tradition-keeping” has led us away from the very premise on which our organization was founded: We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body.

  38. I agree RS. I have in the past few years noticed that as movement we do not believe what is written in our manual about this issue.

    I could not in good conscience recommend this to my children or someone who asked my advice. I will honor men and women who serve and will not berate them for this choice they make. However I think our manual should maintain the vestige of this virtue and thought process. It is a historical Apostolic as well as christian concept. If you live by the sword. Jesus told Peter, put your sword away.

    The United States of America is the greatest country in the world in my mind. However, I do not know that the policies and agendas that our politicians may have are of the sort I would want to sign up and die for.

    We are all in an uproar about fighting these muslim countries, but what happens when our boys are sent to Israel to keep peace and shoot Israelis?

    Again, I agree. Good Word. There has been some discussion on a few forums. However not very vigorous.. because we as a movement have no passion for this kind of thing.

    Kudos.

  39. Is your position that all taking of human life by another human is inherently evil?

  40. Excellent article, Bro… very well said.

  41. I am convicted of my silence. Thanks for asking the hard questions. I hope we are prepared to answer.


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