Veterans Day and COG views on military participation

By COGwriter

November 11th is called Veteran’s Day in the USA. It is a day to remember those who served in the military.

FWIW, I happen to be a veteran myself as I served four years in the US military. And while it is a day off for most in the USA when it falls on Monday-Friday (our local school district took yesterday off because of it), personally, I do not take the day off.

The historical position of the true Christian Church is that its members do not become part of the military, and if they are in for some reason, that they “do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, KJV).

In my own case, perhaps I should mention that I was NOT raised in a Church of God (COG) family, and entered the military before being baptized by a Worldwide Church of God (WCG) minister.

Since the break-up of the old WCG over two decades ago, some relative few affiliated with the COGs publicly changed and have improperly taught that it is acceptable for true Christians to be part of the military and kill others.

Furthermore, some of these few have seemed to wish to poke fun at those of us who hold to the original Christian teachings on this matter.

The Journal: News of the Churches of God had some articles in the past by some who seem to support Christian participation in war. The headline of an article on this subject back in 2007 was:

Are there CO hawks in the Churches of God?

By Wes White

Wes White was named as the president of the Ronald L Dart Evangelistic Association in August 2017 (see ‘Ronald L Dart Evangelistic Association’ announcement).

Anyway, his satirical article basically hints that many in the COGs advocate military intervention, but we hold to a pacifist position because we are afraid that we or our children may be hurt in war. The term “hypocrite” seems to be used to describe those that Wes White felt are “chicken hawks” (those who favor military intervention, but are afraid to participate in the military).

While there are hypocrites pretty much everywhere, those of us who hold to actual Christian teachings know full well that we hold to them because we believe that the Bible teaches them. The fact that many in the COGs understand why governments will intervene militarily neither makes us “hawks” (war-mongers) nor “chickens” (pacifists due to cowardice).

Actually, while those unrepentant sinners who break the commandment against killing will not be in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 22:15), neither will the “cowardly” (Revelation 21:8).

It is not cowardice to stand up for true Christian teachings–even if people call us names that imply we are cowards.

Whaid Rose, while president of the ‘Sardis-leaningChurch of God, Seventh Day-Denver (CG7) correctly wrote:

Christians should renounce such carnality and the weapons of human strife, and should not participate in military combat through the armed forces (Rose, Whaid. E-Vision, October 1, 2001)

Yet, Whaid Rose admitted he was considering changing his view as he concluded with:

You should know that over the years I have defended the church’s pacifist stance, but that the events of September 11th has me thinking much about this. Would you say that this “different kind of war against America” calls for an exception to the rule? (ibid)

No, I would not say that circumstances should change doctrine. Jesus taught (Revelation 3:11) that the Philadelphian Christians should ‘hold fast’ (it should be added that I am not implying that CG7 is part of that era, as we in the COGs have tended to view CG7 as part of the Sardis-era remnant).

A non-Philadelphia COG group that did not hold fast, CGOM, was discussed as follows:

THE JOURNAL asked what is the CGOM’s view on the appropriateness of members serving in the military. A couple of the men in the meeting said whether to serve or not is a personal decision for any member of a CGOM-affiliated church. The CGOM has no official doctrine on it. Military service is not mentioned in the CGOM’s statements of belief. But Mr. Gregory’s personal view “is that we need to stress that God’s Kingdom is not of this world, and we’re called to be separate from this world and trust in faith for protection. I believe personally it is better not to come under the military because of personal sovereignty one must necessarily lose by being in the military. “But I don’t condemn anyone who makes a different decision, as long as they allow me that courtesy” (Cartwright, Dixon. CGOM happy with response to USA Today ad. The Journal. November 30, 2001: 15).

CGOM came out of CGI, and here is some information from CGI,

Bronson James of the Church of God International, Tyler, Texas…The CGI differs…in the matter of military service and war. Mr. James told The Journal that the CGI “has no policy” against members serving in the military (Overton, Mac. COG leaders react to terrorist attacks. The Journal. September 30, 2001: 1,14).

The late Ron Dart, who was once part of CGI, and headed up the non-Philadelphian Christian Education Ministries, wrote:

Paul was surely a citizen of God’s Kingdom, but he did not hesitate to demand his rights as a Roman citizen. We don’t hesitate to demand our rights as American citizens, but how can we exercise our rights while we avoid our responsibilities? Our country is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We have, just as God said, judges and officers in all our gates. Why should we, as saints, decline to serve as judges and officers? Who is better able to sit on a jury and judge God’s people?..I am persuaded that it is not only permissible for a Christian to serve on a jury if called; it is an obligation. I think God will hold us accountable for responsible government in our communities at least to the extent of doing what we can…We should clean out that rat’s nest called the Taliban and avenge the murder of our citizens. For us as individuals to turn the other cheek, we need a government that will take up our cause and defend us. This is not vengeance taken with a spiteful heart. It is justice, and it is right. We should have done it a long time ago (Dart, Ron. Take a new, hard look at vengeance. The Journal. 10/31/01).

When later specifically asked about this subject, Ron Dart responded:

A Christian could serve in the military (email from Ron Dart to TW 6/7/02).

Ron Dart later posted:

I saw some satellite images, shot at night over the Korean peninsula, which made me think long and hard about it. What the dictator of North Korea has accomplished since the war could just as easily have been the picture of South Korea. We can talk endlessly about the evils of war, but one does have to look at results when all is said and done. The images below are night time satellite views of the Korean peninsula. Do you see any difference at all between north and south? I am anti-war, too, but I believe there is a time to fight…On this day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for what it means to be free. (Dart, Ronald L. Anti-War. November 23, 2006).

CCG of Texas, another non-Philadelphian group, was covered in The Journal:

Jeff Booth believes the Churches of God have gotten it all wrong. Mr. Booth, founder of the Christian Church of God and pastor of the CCG congregation in Amarillo, Texas, says young Church of God men should feel free to join up to help fight America’s war on terrorism, and in fact they should feel an obligation to do so. Mr. Booth, 53, made his remarks on Oct. 2, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, at the CCG’s Feast site near St. Petersburg, Fla…He quoted from Luke 3:13. The writer of the third Gospel reports that some soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do to please God. “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages,” the baptist advised the military men. John did not say “You’ve got to go AWOL or resign,” said Mr. Booth. He did not say “You’ve got to put down your weapons” (Cartwright, Dixon. Pastor says COG member should support war on terrorism, including militarily. The Journal. 10/31/01).

Down deep, Mr. Booth always had a problem with the old WCG’s view that Christians should never fight. “Somewhere in the back of my mind I always believed good should fight against evil. I kind of felt like we were copping out and letting somebody else fight our battles for us. That always bothered me.” However, he was officially a conscientious objector as a young man during the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time of his graduation from AC. Theology status “Like I say, I did embrace it, but I did so reluctantly. I had some internal conflicts. Once I resolved those conflicts, I came to the conclusion that there was absolutely nothing wrong with serving in the military and defending your country…”My point was not that I was saying that people should serve in the military,” said Mr. Booth. “I’m just saying that there is no prohibition for a Christian to serve in the military…”All I’m saying is that we cannot tell our young people that they cannot join the military. I can’t support it in Scripture to deny them military service if they feel moved to serve” (Cartwright, Dixon. Pastor explains his stance on military and war. The Journal. 10/31/01).

So here is a pastor of a group who clearly favors military involvement.


If these leaders think they are in the true Church of God, do they not understand the New Testament and the historical teachings of the Church of God?

(There were also others associated with various COGs with similar views–more quotes are in the article Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?)

It should also be pointed out that there is near universal agreement that early Christians did NOT participate in military service (see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?). But compromisers finally did (see also Continuing History of the Church of God).

Back in the 1800s, there was a lot of controversy among those who claimed to be in the Church of God, and military service was one of the many controversies.

I should probably mention that the position of the U.S. government used to essentially be that conscientious objectors could pay a fine in lieu of military service and that that is what Church of God members, Quakers, and members of other pacifist religions did until about the end of the Civil War.

One publication,  called the Hope of Israel, which began publishing in 1863, was put out by Sabbath-keeping group called the Church of God Adventist (they were among those that refused to affiliate with the Seventh-day Adventists).

Here are two reports from Richard Nickels on the history of the Church of God that suggest those associated with  the Hope of Israel tended to be strong conscientious objectors, while the Seventh Day Adventists had less objections (as they seemed to feel being drafted made military participation possibly acceptable):

One clear indication of the beliefs of the Hope of Israel supporters generally was their conscientious objection to participation in the Civil War.

It appears that some Advent groups attempted to buy exemption from the draft for their male members. Eli Wilsey of the Hartford “Church of Christ” spent at least four months in prison “for refusing to fight with carnal weapons.”

Frequent news articles on the progress, and staggering costs, of the war were published, with the exhortation to the brethren to have nothing to do with the “war, revenge and murder.”

One news report was that brother William Cronk of Casco was drafted, passed examination, “But was declared exempt from field service on account of his religious principles. He is in the government service in the hospital.”

N. Wallen and R.C. Horton reported in a letter dated January 16, 1865 from South Haven, Michigan that the brethren of Hartford and Casco were going to try and raise $300.00 to clear all the brethren who may be drafted.

The April 23, 1865 issue contained a quote from the Harbinger expressing sorrow at the death of President Lincoln, thanking God that Lincoln made laws to deliver Christians from participating in war.

John L. Staunton, a one-time president of the Michigan Conference, enlisted in the Union army, and the Waverly church disfellowshipped him, maintaining that only non-resisters could be in their church.” (Nickels RC. Conscientious Objectors During the Civil War. In History of the Seventh Day Church of God. 1988: 31-32).

H.E. Carver was conscientiously opposed to Christians fighting with carnal weapons, that is, in warfare. He believed that the church should adopt the same position and urged that the question be discussed in the columns of the Advent Review. This occurred at the outbreak of the Civil War, shortly before the foundation of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination.

The Whites stated at a council in Lisbon, Iowa that the subject should not be discussed because of the danger of being destroyed by the war elements in the country for seeming to be unpatriotic. James White wrote in the Review that to engage in war would be a violation of two of God’s commandments, but in case of being drafted, the government would be responsible for an individual’s violation of God’s commandments. In effect, he said that it was all right to break God’s law! This error was so obvious that Ellen G. White had to apologize in the Review for her husband, but maintained that something had to be said on this delicate subject.

Conscientious objection was too controversial for Mrs. White to pronounce a vision concerning it. Yet she did publish a vision purporting to foretell the outcome of the Battle of Bull Run, after it had been fought and the result was known.

The Iowa Church of God brethren were firmly convinced that it was wrong for Christians to engage in warfare. During the initial phase of the Civil War, Elders B.F. Snook and J.H. Waggoner prepared a petition to the Iowa state government, asking their church be exempted as non-combatants. The petition was circulated among the brethren for signatures, and sent to the state capital. Battle Creek did not sanction this effort, terming it “fanaticism”. Due to the Church of God petition, a law was enacted exempting non-combatants from bearing arms. Carver termed the non-action of the Battle Creek Seventh Day Adventists as “cowardly”.

However, Uriah Smith reported that the Seventh Day Adventist General Conference did indirectly exempt Seventh Day Adventists by petitioning the government to exempt them through an already existing law (Nickels RC. James White Counsels Breaking God’s Law in the Civil War. In History of the Seventh Day Church of God. 1988: 47-48).

When the United States entered the war in 1917, {A.N.} Dugger {Church of God, Adventist}, with a Missouri congressman, had a personal interview with President Woodrow Wilson, obtaining Church of God exemption. (Nickels RC. History of the Seventh Day Church of God, p. 92)

Historically the Church of God has been against military service for its members. And while many in the early Church of God Adventist were not truly COG, some were and likely were partially attracted by its strong stance against military participation.

Notice that G.G. Rupport, once affiliated with part of the Church of God (Seventh-Day), taught in 1917:

I prefer to lose my life than ‘killing someone’ under a fit of enthusiasm or imaginary loyalty. (Rupport G.G. Remnant of Israel, May 1917. As quoted in The Remnant of Israel. Richard Nickels’ Reprint 1993).

Notice what the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught:

We believe that Christian disciples of Christ are forbidden by Him and the commandments of God to kill, or in any manner directly or indirectly to take human life; by whatsoever means; we believe that bearing arms is directly contrary to this fundamental doctrine of our belief; we therefore conscientiously refuse to bear arms or to come under the military authority.” (Armstrong, Herbert W. Fundamental Beliefs of the Radio Church of God. As quoted in Early Writings of Herbert W. Armstrong, Public domain articles written from 1928-1953.)

Here is the position of the Continuing Church of God from its Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:


Jesus taught, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). John the Baptist taught, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, KJV). Historically, those of the Church of God have considered military service as wrong for its members. From Revolutionary War times to the Civil War and to present, countries like the United States have tended to have had provisions to exempt Church of God members and congregants from military participation because of conscientious objections. Early Christians did not participate in military warfare nor watch violent sports.

The Apostle Paul taught “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20). The Apostle Peter taught that God’s people were “a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out” (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible also teaches that this world has been deceived by Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9) and that God’s people need to be separate from the world (John 15:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; James 4:4; Revelation 18:4). Since a Christian is God’s ambassador and  this responsibility is our duty above any arising from human relationships (Acts 4:18-20; 5:26-31), it is our normal religious practice to not participate in voting for national elections nor participate in jury duty, nor do we voluntarily join the military.  Historically, the faithful Church of God has long taught that its members should not participate in secular juries and secular politics.

However, Christians are expected to listen to (and pray for, 1 Timothy 2:1-3) governmental authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17) and pay their taxes (Matthew 22:17-21), yet if there is a conflict between the laws of men and the laws of God, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29, NLT). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God)

Jesus had some comments that should be mentioned here:

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Thou shalt not commit murder’, and whoever commits murder will be answerable to the magistrate. But I say to you that every one who becomes angry with his brother shall be answerable to the magistrate; that whoever says to his brother ‘Raca,’ shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and that whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the Gehenna of Fire. (Matthew 5:21-22, Weymouth New Testament)

Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder…” (Matthew 19:18, NKJV)

As Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5:21-22 demonstrate, He expanded the restrictions against murder. Those expansions generally do not condone carnal warfare nor encourage violence in sports. Many get inappropriately angry who are fans of violent sports.

As far as Veteran’s Day itself, we in the COGs, even though we are pacifists, do respect the fact that many have made the ultimate physical sacrifice for their own ideas of duty or some other calling. But we do not advocate carnal warfare and do not believe that true Christians should be part of the military in this age as Jesus taught in John 18:36.

Some items of related interest may include:

Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence? Here are current and historical perspectives on a matter which show the beliefs of the true church on military participation. Is war proper for Christians? A related sermon would be: Christians, Violence, and Military Service.
Christian Soldiers How are Christians to be like soldiers? How are they to be different?
Is American Football Evil? Is the most popular spectator sport in the USA something that Christians should watch? What do the Bible and early writings show? There is also a YouTube video available titled Should Christians watch American football?
The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast This is a free draft/unedited pdf book explaining the what the Ten Commandments are, where they came from, how early professors of Christ viewed them, and how various ones, including the Beast of Revelation, will oppose them. A related sermon is titled: The Ten Commandments and the Beast of Revelation..Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of GodContend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, NKJV),  “Let brotherly love (Philadelphia) continue” (Hebrews 13:1) & “continuing stedfastly in the teaching of the apostles” (Acts 2:42 YLT). So, what does that really mean in terms of specific beliefs? Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Declaración de las Doctrinas de la Continuación de la Iglesia de Dios. Here is a related link in Tagalog: Paglalahad ng Mga Paniniwala ng Patuloy na Iglesya ng Diyos. Here is a related link in Mandarin Chinese ~ç~íy^v„eYOv„OáNðXðf. Here is a related link in Kiswahili: KATIKA LUGHA YA KISWAHILI. Here is a related link in Dutch: Verklaring van geloofspunten van de Continuing Church of God. Here is a related link in Deutsche (German): Glaubenserklärung der Continuing Church of God. Here is a related link in Italiano: Dichiarazione del Credo della Continuing Church of God. Here is related link in the French language: Déclaration des croyances de L’Église Continue de Dieu.
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught? For a more detailed discussion of the first four commandments, please see the video The Ten Commandments: Loving God–and here is a link to a related article in Spanish: Los primeros cuatro mandamientos: Amar a Dios. For a more detailed discussion of the last six commandments, please see: The Ten Commandments: Loving Your Neighbor. Here is a link to a related article in Mandarin Chinese SAga‹ëT}f>y:r1ÿ ÝSÍ‹ëT}v„\1f/ª`vv„
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L Histoire Continue de l Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God This free online pdf booklet has answers many questions people have about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and explains why it is the solution to the issues the world is facing. Here are links to three related sermons: The World’s False Gospel, The Gospel of the Kingdom: From the New and Old Testaments, and The Kingdom of God is the Solution.

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