Jehovah’s Witnesses And Military Service (Part 2)

The following is an excellent set of questions from a reader specific to the question of military service. I am including his initial questions in their entirety and of course my response.


Hi Doug,

Have you ever served in the military? Do you have family in the military? I ask this question because of your apparent support for Christians joining the military. I disassociated myself 15 years ago, and I served in the military. I do not think Christians should serve. In WW I and WW II German Catholics killed Irish Catholics and American Protestants killed German Protestants.

In WW I the men on some parts of the front got together with the enemy to celebrate Christmas – a day of peace. Shortly afterwards this was forbidden. It is also documented history that early Christians did not serve in the military.

They say the ladies love a man in uniform. Please remember that a man in uniform is a trained killer. Even the cooks learn how to use a rifle and take a life. So even if you say the Bible does not clearly state “Thou shalt not serve in the military” – it does say we should not kill, murder or hack of ears with a sword.

Most importantly it says “Love you neighbor as yourself”. Would you kill someone you love? Do you love yourself?


Hello Anonymous,

Wow! Finally a sane and rational point of contention. Thank you for this well thought out and extremely intelligent retort to my article on Christians serving in the military.

I have never served in the armed forces. My father and some of my uncles served. Being raised a Jehovah’s Witness made my choice to not serve in the armed forces pretty much automatic.

First let me say this:

War is a horrible, awful, and miserable thing. It is inconceivable to me that humans should content themselves to solving their problems by killing each other instead of reasoning among themselves.

Only an insane person would say that going to war is a good thing. However, as we learned in WWII it is sometimes an unavoidable thing. If we hadn’t millions more of the Jews as well as others would have died at the hands of the Nazis.

I’ll ask you a question:

Do you think that our war against the Nazis was justified? If you don’t then explain why you feel that way.

One of my favorite quotes is by Edmund Burke:

“All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”

If a person tries to break into my home and rape my wife and my daughter and then kill me then I have the right to kill him. That is self defense.

When a foreign army advances our shores with the same intentions only in a group setting then a country or government is well within its bounds to form an armed resistance to the same.

That being stated my article wasn’t an endorsement of Christians fighting in wars anymore than my assertion that smoking is a matter of conscience endorses smoking. Both are to be avoided when we can. It was merely an honest look at the requirements of the early church as well as the scriptural view of military service and the rights of those who are Christians to choose how they will live and work.

What I am saying is that it is up to us to determine whether or not we will serve in the military and not the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

My article also pointed out that not only does the Watchtower condemn and prohibit service in a combatant status but it also prohibits any part in the alternative non-combat and medical service that is freely offered with complete respect to those who wish to abstain from bloodshed.

This tells me that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is going beyond the things written on several fronts. To openly flout Caesar’s law to serve even in a non-combat capacity (which has been allowed by our military for decades) is nothing more than a violation of the law and the scriptures.

There is simply no justification by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in their stubborn refusal to allow its followers to serve in an alternate capacity and therefore keep their good names and their freedoms. They would rather see these people jailed and their good names ruined because of their dogmatic view of military and non-military service!

The following is an excerpt from the Selective Service System’s website specifically outlining the available choices for those who for reasons of conscience or religion choose to avoid physical violence:

“SERVICE AS A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR Two types of service are available to conscientious objectors, and the type assigned is determined by the individual’s specific beliefs. The person who is opposed to any form of military service will be assigned to Alternative Service – described below. The person whose beliefs allow him to serve in the military but in a noncombatant capacity will serve in the Armed Forces but will not be assigned training or duties that include using weapons.

ALTERNATIVE SERVICE Conscientious Objectors opposed to serving in the military will be placed in the Selective Service Alternative Service Program. This program attempts to match COs with local employers. Many types of jobs are available, however the job must be deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest. Examples of Alternative Service are jobs in:

  • conservation
  • caring for the very young or very old
  • education
  • health care

Length of service in the program will equal the amount of time a man would have served in the military, usually 24 months.”

Did you notice the alternative methods of service?

Caring for the young and the old, the sick, working in conservation, and educating people.

None of these items are condemned by the scriptures. As a matter of fact most of these are specifically encouraged by the scriptures.

How can the Watchtower forbid serving the government’s rightful demand in these capacities? It shouldn’t but it does.

Matthew 5:41 New World Translation

and if someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.

My contention is that the Watchtower hates competition. They forbid alternative service because they can’t stand for any government to take away good, hard working, able bodied salespeople from their door to door activity and place them where they might do some good.

Notice the following database of conscientious objectors and their related faiths. You’ll see that the Jehovah’s Witnesses (or Bible Students) in this specific database for WWI were numbered with other objectors of other faiths including Judaism, Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, Quakers, Amish, Catholics as well as a variety of other types of Protestants.

Conscientious Objectors

It seems that the Watchtower’s assertion that they are the only religion that refuses to go to war is simply another fabrication.

I fully disagree with your assertion that early Christians didn’t serve in the military. On the contrary the historic records of the early church are rife with accounts of soldiers who had converted to Christianity and remained in the service of the Roman empire.

I will give the following quotes to anyone who wishes to investigate the fact that Christians did indeed serve in the military during the time of the early church fathers:

We are sailors along with yourselves; we serve in the army; we engage in farming and trading; in addition, we share with you our arts; we place the products of our labor at your service. How we can appear worthless for your business, when we live with you and depend on you, I do not know.

Tertullian. “Apology.” Trans. Rudolph Arbesmann, Emily Joseph Daly, and Edwin A. Quain. Tertullian: Apologetical Works and Minucuis Felix: Octavius. New York: Fathers of the Church, 1950, 106-107.

We, on the contrary, bring before you an emperor who was their protector. You will see this by examining the letters of Marcus Aurelius, that most serious of emperors. For, in his letters, he bears
witness that the Germanic drought was removed by the rains obtained through the prayers of the Christians, who happened to be fighting under him.

Tertullian Apology– Ante Nicene Fathers, 3.22.

But in the case of the ancient Jews, who had a land and a form of government of their own, to take from them the right of making war upon their enemies, of fighting for their country, of putting to death or otherwise punishing adulterers, murderers, or others who were guilty of similar crimes, would be to subject them to sudden and utter destruction whenever the enemy fell upon them; for their very laws would in that case restrain them, and prevent them from resisting the enemy.

Origen Origen Contra Celsus Book 7: XXVI

In the next place, Celsus urges us “to help the king with all our might, and to labour with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him.” To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings.”

Origen Origen Contra Celsus Book 8: LXXIII

If you’ve never read the Early Church Fathers you can do so and decide for yourself. You can even use the handy link here to do so. You will find a radically different “church” than the Watchtower’s version of it today.

Early Church Fathers

You will also find there many other accounts of soldier Christians serving in the military too numerous for me to quote but it is all there for any honest and objective Jehovah’s Witness to find.

Here is a most interesting article regarding the Theban Legion of Christian soldiers under Roman emperor Maximian who refused to worship a false Roman god and therefore chose to die rather than to offer a sacrifice to Maximian’s god. A full 6,666 Christian soldiers died willingly rather than to do that.

Theban Legion Christian Warriors

(I’m sure there are Jehovah’s Witnesses out there who would have the unmitigated gall to say that they weren’t really Christians. For those people who would say that all I can say is “Shame on you!”)

Even Paul spoke of those in military service in a more than favorable light:

Romans 13:4

For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

You can accept the Watchtower’s line of reasoning or you can find out for yourself. They have long maintained that the early Christians didn’t serve in the military. Yet the proof that they did is readily available to anyone who bothers to look.

The new testament backs this up completely. There is simply no accounting for any scriptural charge against serving in the military. On the contrary soldiers were told to “be content with your wages.” Luke 3:14.

I believe that the issue of military service or serving on the police force (another strictly forbidden line of work by the “faithful and discreet slave”) is strictly a matter of personal conscience. It is just as bad for us to openly condemn a Christian for serving in the military or in the police force as it would be for them to condemn us for choosing not to. Since we all have an accounting to God for ourselves and not others that is as it should be.

Yours in Christ,

Doug Shields