to Every Principle"
pointed out before, the rejection of the message of 1888 was not
without consequences. From history we learn what happens when
a message of God is rejected. "Where the message of divine
truth is spurned or slighted, there the church will be enshrouded
in darkness; faith and love grow cold, and estrangement and dissension
enter" (The Great Controversy, pp. 378, 379). The
Laodicean condition (Rev. 3:17) affected the church to such a
point that, when a great crisis came with the outbreak of World
War I, the majority were not prepared for the test.
we can discuss the events that took place under the test, we must
reemphasize the original position of Seventh-day Adventists concerning
participation in war.
Stand: No Participation
one hundred years ago, when SDAs were faced with the question
whether bearing arms, especially in time of war, is consistent
with the requirements of the law of God, they decided:
are compelled to decline all participation in acts of war and
bloodshed."Report of the Third Annual Session of the
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (The Review and
Herald, May 23, 1865).
original Adventist positionno participationhad the
seal of Gods approval. It was in harmony with the Bible
(John 18:36; Matt. 5:43, 44; Luke 9:56; Matt. 26:52; John 15:14)
and with the Spirit of Prophecy. Sister White wrote during the
was shown that Gods people, who are His peculiar treasure,
cannot engage in this perplexing war." Why not? "For
it is opposed to every principle of their faith. In the army they
cannot obey the truth and at the same time obey the requirements
of their officers."Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 361.
and bloodshed," according to the Spirit of Prophecy, is "a
disregard for the law of God." The SDA Bible Commentary
[E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 974.
the Turn of the Century: Same Position
the turn of the century, the Adventist Church had already gone
a long way in the wrong direction (Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 75,
76, 84, 217; and vol. 8, pp. 119, 249, 250; and so on). Nevertheless,
her spiritual condition was incomparably better in those days
than it is today. Her original positionno participationwas
still upheld, as can be seen from articles published in the Review
and Herald and in the Signs of the Times.
is an interesting experience summarized from an article published
in the Review and Herald of June 21, 1898.
people imagine that the times when quiet, unoffending people could
be made to suffer real persecution for their loyalty to God and
His Word, are in the past, and that men in these days are too
enlightened to persecute their fellowmen for conscience sake;
but we have had under close observation for nearly a year a case
which shows that all the elements of religious persecution are
everywhere present as much as they ever were; and that more extended
and relentless persecution than has ever yet been known is not
only possible, but is highly probable, yes, actually inevitable,
since careful and systematic preparations are being made for it."
we refer to the experience of a young Adventist in one of the
Rasmussen, a nineteen-year-old Dane, was called up for military
service in l897, when he was just turning to the Lord. April 10,
1897, was a Sabbath day; therefore, he did not present himself
at the military headquarters at one oclock p.m., according
to the conscription letter he had received. Instead, he appeared
only after sunset. Being sharply reprimanded for his delay, he
was assigned to his duty.
the week he approached the captain requesting exemption on Sabbath
days, but his petition was not granted. Under those conditions,
the young man understood that it was his sacred duty to obey the
King of the universe rather than the king of Denmark. Sabbath
morning he remained in his room reading his Bible. A corporal
came after him, but he refused to act contrary to his conscience.
Then a lieutenant came, and commanded him to take his place in
the ranks, but he replied, "I cannot."
not?" the lieutenant asked.
it is the Sabbath."
Christen left his room, accompanying the lieutenant outside, but
he refused to take his place in the ranks.
the young conscientious objector was brought to the captain.
do you not take your place?" the captain asked.
the Lord has said, The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord
thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work."
you are a soldier, and must obey; nothing of that kind is taken
into consideration here. Take your place," said the captain.
the young man did not yield to the pressure of the officers, a
sergeant was ordered to take him to prison.
the military court his only answer was this:
God who created heaven and earth has said, On the seventh
day, which is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, shalt thou do no
work, and I cannot do anything other than obey Him."
young hero of the faith was sentenced to eighteen days solitary
confinement, on bread and water. After each period of five days
in a dark cell, he was permitted to spend one day in a lighted
sentence he received was milder than he expected: "eight
months hard labor in the penitentiary." Because of
his refusal to work on the seventh day, each Sabbath he was put
in a dark cell, or hole, where there was no fire, and he suffered
much from cold. But he spent only a little less than two months
in prison. He was pardoned on the kings eightieth birthday.
Danish newspaper, Aarhus Folkeblad of February 19, 1898,
commented on this case as follows:
cannot comfort himself with the thought that this is an isolated
case; for that there will soon be many I know of a certainty.
We really come to the heart of the matter only when we see that
such a man can come into a yet more serious situation in time
of war. For, according to what I have seen, belonging to the Seventh-day
Adventists, they will absolutely refuse to go against an enemy
with weapons in hand. They will hold themselves strictly to the
fifth [sixth]* commandment, Thou shalt not kill. They
will allow themselves to be killed, but they will not kill. If
this is correct, and I believe it is, then these men are useless
as soldiers, and may, if war should break out, come into the most
deplorable condition in that they may be condemned to death, and
put others in the painful situation of being obliged to pronounce
so hard a sentence upon them."
represented the historic position of the Adventist people, who
believed that, while in the army, a Christian could not obey military
orders and at the same time remain loyal to the law of God. In
those days it was also understood that on this point a great test
was before the people of God. The editor of the Review and
Herald (June 21, 1898) added the following comment:
Danish people are as kind and courteous and gentle a people as
can be found in the world. Moreover, all those who came in contact
with young Rasmussen liked him personally, and the officers praised
his efficiency and willingness; yet the worship of the military
demon begets so false a conception of duty that not one of them
would hesitate in obedience to inflict upon him any sort of punishment.
Why?Because, in their minds, human government is greater
than God. Young Rasmussen was not punished because the officers
had any ill-will toward him, nor because they were hardhearted
men. Far from it. On the contrary, it caused them pain, and they
did it at the sacrifice of personal feelings to what they conceived
to be their duty. The same thing would be done in any other country
in the world; only the punishment might be much more vigorous.
The kings and rulers of earth have set themselves against God
and have assumed the right to set aside His law, which says, Thou
shalt not kill; and as a matter of course, the other portions
of that law are as lightly regarded by them.
case shows the fallacy of another idea that is entertained by
many; namely, that religious persecution must be prompted by hatred
of the religious principles of the ones persecuted. In this case
those at whose hands Rasmussen suffered had no religious bias.
They cared no more for Sunday than for the Sabbath. It was absolutely
immaterial to them what religion the soldiers professed, or if
they professed none at all. The only thing that concerned them
was to secure implicit and unquestioning obedience to the regulations
of the army. If a man disregards them, the fact that he does so
in obedience to Gods law is not for a moment taken into
consideration; punishment must follow to the bitter end.
there must be discipline in the army, or else its efficiency is
at an end; and if partiality is shown, there will be an end of
discipline, will be urged by many, and not last, by any
means, by men who occupy places of influence in the church. Think
of the wickedness of such a defense! God and His law must be considered
of secondary importance to the military machine! It is of more
importance that the army should be maintained than that God should
be regarded! The mere statement of the case is sufficient to show
that it is as gross paganism as ever existed. What hope can there
be of peace on earth as long as such principles rule?
situation will be worse in the future than it has ever been in
the past; for war is now sanctioned by the professed ministers
of the gospel as it has never been before. It is so easy for the
rulers to raise the cry of humanity in justification
of any war, or else there is always that magic word patriotism;
and when a country is Christian, it is readily argued
that to defend its honor is a Christian act; so that
he who will refuse to disobey Gods law, Thou shalt
not kill, will be condemned as a traitor to God and his
country, and that even by the ministers of religion.
it not time that the question should be again asked: How
long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow
him: but if Baal, then follow him. In so-called Christian
countries, the worst sort of paganism is assuming overwhelming
proportions. The great mass of people seem to think that when
the government (which is, in the main, only another
name for the army) commands disobedience to Gods law, there
is no alternative but to disobey it; and those who refuse to transgress
Gods law are branded as lawless and disobedient. What is
it but heathenism thus to ignore God, and to set the military
god above Him?
God that there are still faithful witnesses to the truth, lone
voices in the desert, saying, Behold your God! When
the testing time comes, these single voices will be multiplied
by thousands, whose quiet lives of humble obedience to Gods
law will speak louder than any words, and will result in bringing
many from the camp of Satan to enlist under the banner of the
Prince of Peace."
young Adventists, in Germany, also represented the historic position
of the church. In The History of the Advent Movement in Germany,
a thesis prepared by Jacob Michael Platt for his doctorate of
philosophy degree, Stanford University, he gives the following
information based on an article published in the Review and
Herald of September 26, 1907:
German Seventh-day Adventist young men drafted into the armed
forces before 1914 faced many hardships as a result of adhering
to their beliefs."
military authorities believed that these young men were simply
following the instructions received from their pastors. So, in
some cases, church leaders were called before the military courts
to give an explanation. The leaders were wise enough to assert
that, while it was true that they taught obedience to the law
of God as a Christian duty, each soldier acted according to the
dictates of his own conscience. It became clear that the soldiers
could think and decide for themselves. In no instance were the
authorities able to determine that an Adventist soldier was acting
on the advice of his spiritual leaders. Platt continues his report:
German Ministry of War resolved on the strict enforcement of the
law, hoping that severity of punishment might bring these Seventh-day
Adventist young men to terms. Military authorities were astonished
to find that these soldiers were willing to endure harsh punishment
rather than do ordinary work on Saturday."
Adventist men, as a rule, suffered severe punishment for their
decision to obey God rather than men. Among others, Platt mentions
these two: Hermann Gross and Hans Kraemer. Having been sentenced
to eight years of imprisonment in 1904, Gross served four years
in military prison, often in solitary confinement and at times
in a dark cell. A similar sentence was meted out to Kraemer. They
were both released upon the advice of medical officers, who certified
that longer confinement would cost their life.
peculiar case was narrated by Platt: In 1903, Johann Strasser,
when drafted into the army, refused to do service on the Sabbath.
The officers interrogated him: "How long have you been a
Sabbathkeeper?" "I have been a Sabbathkeeper from childhood,
as my parents had," Johann replied. The military authorities
found out that Martin Strasser, Johanns father, for refusing
to work on the Sabbath while in the army, received a prison sentence
of three years, and they were convinced that Johann, too, would
remain faithful to his religious convictions. Therefore, they
exempted him from service on the Sabbath.
instances of adherence to religious beliefs increased, the German
army officials became perplexed," Platt informs. "It
was evident that Adventist soldiers would not violate their consciences,
regardless of consequences. For about nine months, during 1904
and 1905, when a new recruit was found to be a Seventh-day Adventist,
he was rejected as unfit for military service; but the government
did not continue this policy. Yet for all of the rigors of the
German military discipline, the authorities dealt relatively mildly
with objectors for conscience sake. They meted out to Seventh-day
Adventists no punishment worse than imprisonment, or enforced
labor on fortifications, or duty in hospitals."
World War I, historic Adventists understood that war songs are
not heard in the narrow pathway leading to heaven, but only in
the abyss (Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 595). It was clear to
them that combatancy is inconsistent with the law of God. To the
question, "Can a Christian do military service?" they
had only one answerNo! Here is additional evidence quoted
from the Signs of the Times:
a Christian enlist in the army and be a soldier?
Christian has yielded himself a servant of Christ. Ye call
Me Master and Lord; and ye say well, for so I am (John 13:13).
One is your Master, even Christ (Matthew 23:8). Know
ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience,
his servants ye are whom ye obey? (Romans 6:16, R. V.).
become a servant of Christ, a man cannot accept another master.
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate
the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and
despise the other (Luke 16:13).
these plain statements, some men think they can be Christians
while as soldiers they are sworn servants of the government, and
may at any time be ordered to the front and to fire upon the enemy.
Indeed, they expect this when they enlist, though it is in direct
disobedience of the command of God, Thou shalt not kill
is the soldiers business? Is it not to fight and to war?
But the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle
unto all men (2 Timothy 2:24). And the Holy Spirit said
through John the Baptist, Do violence to no man (Luke
3:14). Read these scriptures: This is My commandment, that
ye love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12). Love
worketh no ill to his neighbour (Romans 13:10). I
say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do
good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
do you honestly think you can serve these two masters?"The
Signs of the Times, April 9, 1902 (by Geo. E. Hollister).
evidence presented so far shows that noncombatancy, which in those
days was equivalent to no participation or conscientious opposition,
was the historic position of the SDA Church in connection with
military service, especially in time of war. And this position
was based on the Bible (New Testament) and on the Spirit of Prophecy.
this stage a serious question should arouse the thinking of the
reader: What consequences are to be expected if the church changes
her stand from no participation to complete freedom of participation?
Will everything continue as usual? Will peace and harmony be kept
up among the members as if nothing serious has happened in the
church? Or will there be a crisis and a shaking? These questions
will make the contents of this book meaningful to serious-minded
Adventists when they find out that such a change has actually