Was the Revolutionary War Moral?

If you haven’t read the earlier book reviews on 1776 please take  few minutes to read them now.  You can find them here.

I really enjoy reading history.  I’m fascinated by what those in generations before me did and how they prevailed through obstacles.  One of the areas of history I like the most is the history of the Revolutionary War.  This could be expected since I’m a citizen of the United States and that War is the reason I can claim that today.  However, from a Christian perspective I always wonder could I have ethically been involved in the rebellion against King George.

So, this is the weekend ethical question:  Could a Christian have fought in the Revolutionary War?

As you answer that question, let me help you think through it.  One, you must first decide if a Christian can be in any war.  Two, you must then decide is the Revolutionary War the type of war a Christian could participate in.  Three, how does rebellion against King George fit into the biblical idea of submission to the Ruling Authorities?

I look forward to hearing from you, you can comment anonymously if you like.  I will give mine on Monday.

Update: You can read my response to his post here.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m not aware of any justification for rebelling against King George III that would not have also been true for many of the Christians living under the Roman emperors. Yet the New Testament is very clear that Christians should submit to the governing authorities, honor the king, and pay taxes. As you put it in the 1776 review, in the beginning of the conflict (and I would say through its conclusion) the Americans were “rebellious subjects.” That is something a Christian cannot be.

  2. As much as I would like to think they were justified, I can’t find it in Scripture. “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God” is a strong rallying cry, but it isn’t Biblical. However, God does bring about the rise and fall of the nations. So, while they may not have been justified, I think it’s fair to say God probably wasn’t against it. The uprising of Rome wasn’t moral either, but God allowed it for His purposes.

  3. I’m a conscientious objector. I don’t believe Christians are called to go to war at all, but I still believe there is some credibility to “just war theology.” I’m pretty certain the Revolution was morally unjustified overall, but it isn’t an easy matter. When we speak of justifiable violence, there isn’t a single category to consider, but three: the national/international level (i.e. war), local justice and keeping of the peace (i.e. law enforcement), and then there’s violence at the interpersonal level (i.e. self-defense). Establishing justification in one area doesn’t automatically justify the others, and the opposite is also true. I’m not sure there weren’t concerns below the national/international level going on in the late 1700s. Doesn’t necessarily change things, but may complicate them. Here’s a question a few brothers and I discussed a few weeks ago, which you may want to say something about: Ok, forget the American leaders–they rebelled against the crown in an un-biblical fashion, but what about the rest of the people. When local leaders rebel against a distant authority and set up a new governing authority, to which governing authority does the average man owe his allegiance? At some point, King George ceased to be the authority, and the U.S. government became it. If it were wrong to bear arms in defense of the colonies against the King in 1783, why not in 1784? Or better yet, 1812? The point is, assuming war is permissible for any Christian, it may be morally right for some, and not so for others, for the little guy has far less control over who’s in control. IMO, at least as I’m able to understand so far, when we really get in the trenches on the war issue (pardon the pun) we have to swallow one theological problem after another. Carnal warfare among the heathens is what it is, and God certainly can and has used it for his good purposes. I don’t think he intended Christians to be involved in it at all, and not because it’s inherently wrong, but mainly because there are too many conflicts of interest. Thoughts?

  4. A fascinating book which addresses both views of war is “Churches of Christ During the Civil War” by Dayton Kesee. It’s worth the price of the book just for the quotes from Lincoln, James Garfield, etc. Does a great job explaining the pacifist view especially.

  5. Wesley

    December 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Rob and Joshua. I’ve left my thoughts on the issue on the current blog post.

  6. There were NUMEROUS issues at play regarding the Revolutionary War including an increasing prohibition for Christians to worship as they wished & the steadily increasing & punitive taxation of the people. They tried to live by Romans 12:18 as best they could but at some point realized they would be starved out both financially & spiritually without intervention of some sort.

    The Bible commands a man to provide for his family, so when that becomes next to impossible throughout a country due to the government’s tyranical policies, the man’s calling is still to provide for his family in a Godly manner. If that requires standing up against an ungodly government, then that is more Godly than watching your family die of starvation while puffing up your chest that you’ve not violated Romans 13.

    Parallel thought – People who protected Jews in Europe during WWII had to choose between sending Jews to certain persecution & likely death vs. lying to government officials to protect them. Should they not have borne false witness so they would’ve fully complied with their government? I & many others state a resounding NO!

    A similar “lesser of evils” decision framework may have been employed by colonial Americans. Certainly the flesh could have contributed to their decision & implementation, but God was shown mighty in many of their battles & in the decades afterward when the nation was serving God’s interests.

    In recent decades the glory has been departing (Ichabod) as people increasingly serve the world, flesh, & devil to our peril. What may have been started in the Spirit (or by individuals with conviction) may be ending in the flesh, ultimately paving the way for the antichrist to have worldwide control as the US collectively abandons God & loses His covering.

  7. I’m not presenting an answer here but a thought.
    Rome restricted the religious freedoms of Christians. Did Jesus want them to fight for that? Or suffer?

    In searching scripture, I find no place in the NT that permits us to rise up to kill other men because we want to worship God without them punishing us. No place at all.

    Also, to my understanding of history, the colonies were not taxed too heavily, but the problem was that they were taxed without representation in the government. I do not know how true that was, but if the high taxes did not truly prevent them from providing for their family, then I would say that it is sinful to take up arms for the reason of obtaining a right to be represented politically.

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