Christian Civic Responsibility -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 111:444 (Oct 1954)
Article: Christian Civic Responsibility
Author: John A. Witmer

Christian Civic Responsibility

John A. Witmer

Neglect of Christian Civic Responsibility

The Jehovah’s witnesses have gained widespread notoriety in recent years because of their denial of civic responsibility to human governments. They refuse to take the oath of allegiance to any civil power and they teach their children to refuse to salute the flag of any nation. They are also conscientious objectors to military service. This stand, however, is not based so much upon their moral conviction of the sinfulness of war, as is true of the Quakers, the Mennonites, and most other conscientious objectors. It rests, rather, on their insistence for the priority of their allegiance to Jesus and His Theocracy, which absolves them from responsibility to any civil government.

Public sentiment ran high against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, particularly during the years of World War II, when patriotic fervor was at fever pitch. This fact is demonstrated by the report of their own Yearbook for 1942 that more than three thousand arrests of their members were made in 1941.1 Evangelical Christians may have lamented these arrests, which secured reams of newspaper publicity for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and solidified them as persecuted martyrs, but most Christians agreed with the public verdict.

Interesting, however, is the fact that many evangelical Christians—not in doctrine to be sure, but in practise—likewise deny the reality of Christian civic responsibility. Such persons do not refuse to vow allegiance to their civil government nor to salute its flag. They may accept their call

to military service, or even enlist in the armed forces as a patriotic duty. But at the same time they are indifferent to the everyday details of Christian civic responsibility such as being an informed citizen, serving on juries, or voting at elections. They seek to justify their actions by pointing out that as Christians they are citizens of heaven, allegiance to which takes precedence over any civil power. They seek to excuse their indifference by pleading occupation with service for Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Christian’s Two Citizenships

The doctrine of the heavenly citizenship of the Christian is a precious truth. Scripture underlines its validity as a present reality for the child of God, not a future hope to be anticipated. It rests upon the work of salvation of the triune God. Concerning this aspect of that work the Scriptares record, “…giving thanks unto the Father…who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love…” (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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