Here is an interesting quote from Martin Luther’s little work Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved.
The very fact that the sword has been instituted by God to punish the evil, protect the good, and preserve the peace is powerful and sufficient proof that war and killing along with all the things that accompany wartime and martial law have been instituted by God. What else is war but the punishment of wrong and evil? [Quoted in Charles and Demy]
My guess is that Luther is not saying that all war and violence is okay. Nor is he saying that even in a just war, all actions taken by soldiers are automatically okay. But his basic point is one that needs to be repeated. If the sword and the magistrate are “instituted by God” and “God’s servant” [Romans 13:1, 4, I Peter 2:13-14] then they cannot be ungodly by definition. They can become ungodly through sin, but it is a legitimate vocation through which a Christian can honor God and serve his fellow man. Thus Christians can be soldiers, policeman, or any other profession similar to those.
One the advantages of reading those from the past is you realize that the question you are asking is not new and has been answered before. You may disagree with answer, but at least you are kept from the proud idea that you alone or your generation alone has asked the question. For example, how can Christ be Savior of both men and women and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that Christ is the head of man? Here John Calvin’s answer to that question. Brackets are mine.
There you have what we need to observe concerning St. Paul’s statement here, that the head of man is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the head of both men and women, as I have set forth. It is through him that we are joined with each other and united to God so as to be recognized and avowed as his children, and to have our refuge in him with complete confidence. Yet, be that as it may, as regards policy and order belonging to the present life, and without which men would be as dumb animals, Jesus Christ exercises the office of head over men. And let us observe that our Lord Jesus Christ thus affords us a double blessing: namely the eternal salvation of our souls [which applies to men and women equally], and the blessing of order for this passing life [in which Christ is head of men and men are head of women]. Both of these things are quite useful, once one understands.
Calvin sees two levels at which Christ is working. First, Christ and the salvation he offers, as well as the benefits of that salvation are offered to and given to men and women equally. Men are not more saved than women. They are not closer to Christ than women. We are all God’s children. But in this life order is required. Order demands hierarchy. This hierarchy is put in place by Jesus to guide us through this life with order and decency. Therefore men are the head and rulers in “this passing life.” Calvin states this another way in the next sermon on I Corinthians 11:4. Continue reading →