On The Faults of Neighbours & Christians in the Armed Forces

I’ll probably erupt into a fit of incoherent productivity around here in a day or two but first I have to mow the lawns and finish the laundry. But while you wait, here are two marvellous things I have found in early Christian writings recently.

Firstly, for a decade now I have been struggling with whether Christians can represent for other Christians when repentance is needed. The context for entertaining these silly notions has been the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Is there some way that I, as a Presbyterian, can repent in solidarity or even in place of, my brothers and sisters in the Roman stream of Christianity?

The First Epistle of Clement, from late in the first century has this to say (1 Clement 2:6b – I’m admittedly using it slightly out of context) to the Christians in Corinth:

You wept for the faults of your neighbours, while you reckoned their shortcomings as your own.

That can be a slogan for us evangelicals in Ireland. Agreed?

A much later text is the Apostolic Tradition which is dated to around 200AD. But even that late in the game, when Christians were spreading all over the known world and occupying positions of power, we find the most remarkable words about who can become a Christian and who must be rejected from membership of the church. In Chapter 16, verses 17-19 we read:

(17) A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill people and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected.

(18) A military commander or civic magistrate that wears the purple must resign or be rejected.

(19) If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.

How different would the world be if the church had maintained this approach?

Your Correspondent, Likes old texts, but prefers their YouTube adaptations

4 Replies to “On The Faults of Neighbours & Christians in the Armed Forces”

  1. Did you ever hear soldiers who got baptized but held their swords above the water so that they could get around that sort of thing or am I just imagining I heard that somewhere?

  2. Hippolytus has the same problem as using any early church father- any good he said is softened by serious mentalery in other areas.. The easy rebuttal is that an extremist like him would OF COURSE say christians cant join the military.

    Been reading recently that early christians were also soldiers but can’t seem to find any references to actual ECF’s talking bout this. Do you know of any?

    Hope your well.

  3. My apologies chaps: I didn’t see these comments.

    Never heard of that Dave but I shall keep my eyes peeled for such stuff.

    Richie, there is a fascinating and much-too-intricate-for-me conversation about the historical Hippolytus, the Hippolytus of memory, the Hippolytus we just made up and whether any of those H-men had anything to do with the Apostolic Tradition. So your already shaky ad hominem on the horse-unleasher is doubly dodgy. 🙂

  4. Richie,

    In ‘To Scapula’ chapter IV, Tertullian writes of how “Marcus Aurelius also, in his expedition to Germany, by the prayers his Christian soldiers offered to God, got rain in that well-known thirst.”

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