31.  Peter Chelcheky and the Czech Brethren

32.  Disederius Erasmus

33.  Menno Simons and the Mennonites

34.  Jacob Hutter and the Hutterites

35.  George Fox and the Quakers

36.  Church of the Brethren

37.  The Dukhabors

38.  Leo Tolstoy

39.  Semeon Uklein and the Molokans

40.  The Christadelphians

41.  Jehovahs Witnesses

42.  Pacifism in History

43.  Christian Responsibility to the State

44.  Extent of Civil Obedience

45.  Pilgrims and Sojourners

46.  Psychological Control of the American Mind

47.  The Disciple of Jesus Christ

48.  The Cross of Christ



He was also known as Peter of Chelcice, living about 1390-1460. He was originally a disciple of John Huss, a Czech Christian reformer who was burned at the stake as a heretic by the Catholic church in 1415. His group became known as the Bohemian or Czech Brethren. His group adhered to a literal interpretation of the New Testament and was pacifist. The Czech Brethren lasted as a denomination until the 1620s when the majority joined local Protestant sects and abandoned their earlier precepts.


Erasmus lived about 1460 to 1535, in France and Switzerland. He was not a religious Christian but was a humanist, believing that the way to truth was through scholarship. His claim to prominence in Christian history was his publication of the Greek New Testament and other books of the early apologists. He especially taught that war and military service were incompatible with the teachings of Christ.


Menno Simons was a ex-Catholic Franciscan priest who lived in the Netherlands, about 1496 to 1561. He became a priest in 1524 but abandoned the Catholic church and priesthood about 1534 after a study of the Bible. He joined the Anabaptist movement and later became a leader of a group in Holland and north-west Germany. They became known as the Mennonites.

  One of the main precepts of Menno Simons was conscientious objection to military service. His group was persecuted for this in later years. The Mennonite congregations increased in Germany and eastern Europe in subsequent generations, but became a wandering sect for a while, journeying to escape persecution. Many immigrated to Russia, and later many immigrated to America. The Mennonites in America have been a tremendous promoter of the attitude of conscientious objection and have offices available for support and consultation for those who seek assistance in avoiding military service.


A group of German Anabaptists who migrated to Moravia in southeast Europe under Jacob Hutter in the 1530s became known as the Hutterites. They were driven into exile similar to their Dutch cousins the Mennonites due to religious persecution. Non-violence was a firm part of their religious persuasion. Additional persecution in later years forced the Hutterites to move to the Ukraine in the 1770s, and then into Russia in 1802, seeking religious freedom and the ability to live as conscientious objectors. Many Hutterites, along with Molokans and Dukhabors, then migrated from Russia to American and Canada after Tsar Alexander II passed the universal military service act of 1874.


George Fox is rightly called the founder of the Quakers, today known as the Society of Friends. He died about 1691. His group first began to gather about 1650. The Quakers are dedicated to the morals and ethics of Scripture and are also guided by the Inner Light of Christ residing in every person.

  One common vein in Quaker belief is conscientious objection to military service. Since their inception, the Quakers have been recognized as a peace church. They migrated to America seeking religious freedom in the late 1600s and early 1700s. In America they continued their pacifist convictions.

  With the Revolutionary War, the attitude of other American settlers changed toward the peaceful Quakers. For failure to join the regiments against the British, the Quaker C.O.s were imprisoned and their property confiscated; some were heavily fined.

  The Quakers found themselves in the same dilemma with the outbreak of the Civil War in America. Many young members of the sect not well founded in their persuasion joined the armed forces. The patriotic zeal and anti-slavery sentiment was more compelling for them than the archaic religion of their forefathers. The C.O. Quakers were in a minority. Abraham Lincolns administration provided for C.Os. A person claiming to be a conscientious objector had to pay $300 to circumvent military service, a sizeable amount at that time. Still others were forced into service by ruthless military commanders, or had property confiscated as a type of persecution for refusing inscription.

  During both World Wars and all wars since, the Quakers have been adamant in their conviction as conscientious objectors. They also have offices available for conscientious objection counseling.


The church of the Brethren began in 1708 in Germany with an original group of 8 persons. In 1719, the group under the leadership of Peter Becker came to America and accepted free land offered by William Pen, and the settled in Germantown, PA. Additional families arrived from Germany as time timed and the group spread across the country. Their membership at present is about 170,000.

  The original tenets of the Brethren include their opposition to war and military service. In their Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War from their 1970 Annual Conference, they state, The official position of the Church of the Brethren is that all war is sin and that we seek the right of conscientious objection to all war. The church of the Brethren since its beginning has repeatedly declared its position against war, and their understanding of the life and teaching of Christ as revealed in the New Testament led their Annual Conference to state in 1785 that they should not submit to the higher powers so as to make ourselves their instruments to shed human blood The church cannot concede to the state the authority to conscript citizens for military training or military service against their conscience.

  Morally the Brethren opposed the Revolution and they were against slavery as well during the Civil War era. Their pacifist convictions have continued since their arrival in America and throughout all wars since then. The church provides counseling for all military age members to be conscientious objectors, but also pledges its support for constructive civilian work as alternative service. The church also teaches that their members should not have employment or investment in defense industries.

  A branch of the Brethren known as the Old German Baptist Brethren (Old Order Dunkers) also follows conscientious objection. According to their tenets, Any member who enters military service will fall into the judgement of the Church. Non-cooperation in political and secret societies is also required of the members of the Dunkards.


The concepts held by the Dukhabors of Russia are documented beginning about 1734 during the reign of Empress Anna. The Dukhabors repudiated the rites and theology of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Dukhabors were pacifist and refused military service in the army of the Tsar of Russia. Their leader Ilarion Pobirokhin and his followers migrated to the Tambov region about 1760, and from which center the Dukhabor philosophy spread throughout Russia. The Dukhabors as a religious entity were exiled from central Russian by Tsar Pavel I, in 1802, to the southern Ukraine and Caucasus regions of Russia.

  An important event in Dukhabor history is the burning of arms on June 29, 1895, advised by their leader at the time, Peter Vasilivich Veregin. This occurred on the holiday of Sts. Peter and Paul. Much like the decree of universal military service by Tsar Alexander II, he required an oath of allegiance from all his subjects in Russia. As a protest to this requirement, which the Dukhabors would not fulfill, they gathered all their weapons, those used for hunting, or personal collections, and destroyed them in large bonfires. Dukhabors again began to refuse orders to take up weapons or participate in military exercises. Needless to say, they were severely persecuted. Eventually the Dukhabors migrated from Russia to Canada seeking religious freedom and the ability to live as conscientious objectors.


The famous Russian author Lev Nicholaevich Tolstoy made the concept of Christs teaching on non-violence and non-resistance to aggression the theme of his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You. It was first published in 1893, and immediately became popular among the many sectarian groups in Russia. The book was a result of Tolstoys personal conversion and study of Christs teachings. In later years, Tolstoy incorporated his philosophy in his novels.

  Tolstoy served in the Russia army, 1855-1856, in the Crimean War against Turkey, and personally experienced the horror of organized warfare and the bloodshed of the battlefield. This experience impressed upon him the futility of the objectives of armed struggle and the senselessness of the many wounded and dead in battle. His study of the gospels and especially the Sermon on the Mount in later years converted him to pacifism. The concept of Tolstoy in this book was that the spiritual kingdom as taught by Jesus Christ was antithetical and alien to military service. The 2 concepts were of 2 different domains: one of the divine kingdom and the other of the secular government.

  His book did influence many, explaining that the only acceptable conduct of a true follower of Christ was that of non-violence and especially not resorting to retaliation or aggression. The person in whom the kingdom of God resided was not to succumb to the politics of national struggle and ideology of military service. To Tolstoy, peaceful coexistence with all other individuals, societies and nationalities was attaining an earthly kingdom of God. Tolstoys attitude of non-violence and pacifism was influential on many religious and political leaders of the 20th century.


The primary preceptor of the Russian Molokans was Semeon Matveeich Uklein, who preached from 1760 to 1805 throughout central Russia. Uklein was son-in-law of the Dukhabor leader Ilarion Pobirokhin, and lived with him in the same village. Uklein was evangelical in contrast to the philosophic Pobirokhin, and later separated from his father-in-law and joined the Molokans, who like the Dukhabors, were conscientious objectors.

  Uklein, along with Matvei Semeonich Dalmatov, compiled a confession of faith of the Molokan religion. Point 23 of his teaching is the following:

About oaths and war. Fulfilling the divine commandments, they [Molokans] do not have need for human ones, and must escape the fulfillment of those laws which are contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. So they must, for example, escape servility to landowners, war, military obligation, and oaths, and matters not permitted by the Holy Scriptures.


Historically the Russian Molokans have been conscientious objectors, and over the years have suffered imprisonment and exile for refusing to join the military. As a result of their pacifist convictions, Molokans would not participate in the mandatory conscription imposed by Tsar Alexander III in the years 1887-1889. Rather than opposing any further persecution by the Tsarist government, they migrated out of Russia to America in the years 1904-1911.

  In America the Molokans have continued in their convictions as conscientious objectors, refusing military service in both World Wars and subsequent wars.


This denomination originated here in America under Dr. John Thomas. He came to America from England about 1833 and joined the Disciples of Christ, studying the Bible under the Cambellites. He discovered the inadequacies of historic Christianity and broke away starting his own congregations. He taught a return to primitive Christianity, and conscientious objection to military service was one of their beliefs. The Christadelphians were conscientious objectors during the Civil War and have been since that time. Thomas convictions were continued under the preacher Robert Roberts.


Properly titled the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, they are labeled as a cult by historical Christianity. One of the main criticisms are because the JWs are non-secular. They do not pledge allegiance to the flag or serve in the armed forces, and have been heavily persecuted as a result of this in America and in other countries. The JWs are the largest single religious conscientious objector group in America.


There are many small denominations in America that adhere to pacifist convictions, and many more in history past, but which could not all be mentioned here. The above examples are to evidence that throughout Christian history, from the apostolic age and to the present, there have always been those who believed in the concept of the spiritual kingdom accompanied by the conviction of conscientious objection to military service. Although small in number they retain a place in history for refusing to conform to the demands of the state and pressure from other Christian denominations regarding military service.

  Even then, members of historical peace churches have occasionally strayed from the tenets of their faith and joined the military, but these are the exception; likewise adherents of major pro-military Christian denominations have also voiced disapproval of warfare at various occasions and have refused to serve, much to the dismay of their religious leaders. There are also many non-religious bodies that utilize political or philosophical arguments as their refusal to serve in the military or earn a living in some military industry.


Herbert Armstrongs Worldwide Church of God was originally pacifist, a result of Armstrongs early Quaker upbringing and his own personal study of the Bible. Those who attended his Ambassador College were exempt from conscription because they were considered divinity students. However Armstrong in his later years succumbed to the pressure of subordinates and began to allow for his denomination personal choice of whether to be a conscientious objector, and after his death the new leadership changed the churchs stance entirely and abandoned its original tenet of pacifism.


There are 2 passages in the New Testament that deal with the obedience of the Christian to the state and the role of the security force or police. The era that these passages were written was that of Nero Caesar, Emperor 54-68 AD. He was the most inhumane and ruthless of any emperor during the 1st century AD. The apostles in their inspired letters to believers disregard the evil of the person himself and focus rather on the intent of government, which is to provide a civil framework for the success of the society and for the security and safety of the residents.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good and you will receive his approval, for he is a servant of God for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the criminal. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid Gods wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Rom 13:1-7.

Be subject for the sake of the Lord to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 1 Pet 2:13-14.


Paul apostle prefaces his passage by stating that the concept of government is divine, meaning that the motivation to establish a ruling body over the population for civil purposes is based on a correct understanding of the intention of God for humanity.

  The statement by Paul apostle that the civil servant carries a sword to be utilized is to be understood as the responsibility of the state to provide safety and security for the population. The state has the authority granted to it by God to impose a penalty on individuals who commit a crime, even capital punishment for a capital crime. This provides the population an environment of safety and security. Both apostles Peter and Paul impress upon the Christian the necessity for respect of civil authority. The Christian is to be complemented as a law abiding citizen and benefit to the society.

  The Selective Service System (Draft Board) has a due process for individuals to acquire a conscientious objector classification and not be required to enlist. The same individual however must fulfill alternative service. US Code title 50, appendix 456 (j) of the Military Selective Service Act provides exemption for conscientious objectors.

Nothing contained in this title shall be construed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the Armed Forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.


The true Christian will follow due process to acquire classification as a C.O., as permitted them by the above section of law. The sincere applicant will follow the rules applicable to classification as a C.O. If it is denied him, then he will proceed using legitimate means to avoid conscription, and endure whatever should occur.

  There is no justification for a Christian to violate the laws of the state that are designed for the security and prosperity of the population. There is nothing to be gained in protests, demonstrations or violent civil disobedience. Any violation of just laws discredits the Christian religion. Christians must be especially good examples of moral conduct so others may recognize the value and blessing of being a disciple of Christ.


The extent of civil obedience is defined by Jesus in a conversation with Herodians, residents of Judea who had political affiliation with the family of Herod the Great.

Tell us what you think. It is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax. And they brought him a coin. Jesus said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said, Caesars. Then he said to them, Render therefore to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is Gods. Matt 21:17-21.


This passage can be interpreted in the following manner in the light of the earlier passages by the apostle regarding civil obedience. The reimbursement to the state for the privilege of living in this country is payment of taxes and obedience of civil law. The line of obedience is drawn when the state requires a person to sacrifice their life for the country they reside in. At this point the state is usurping authority over life which only belongs to God the author of life. The state in demanding the life of a person installs itself as deity, and which is a capacity beyond that which the Bible rightfully attributes to and allows the state. This is the right of the Christian, to refuse to yield to the state what belongs to God, their allegiance and life.

  Mainstream and historical Christian churches of America have a close relationship to the state and promote the artificial secular religion as defined by Plato, and which indirectly provides divine approval to the actions and decrees of the state. Because of their fear of censure by the government, other clergy, and their own parishioners, many ministers do not hold to the truth of the gospel regarding military service. This reluctance to advocate Christian pacifism is because minister, priest and parishioner alike are veterans or are directly or indirectly connected with state service.


The Christian is only a pilgrim and spiritual migrant in this world, a temporal resident, a person travelling through the valley of earthly experience on their journey to the eternal kingdom. The apostles wrote regarding this in the following:

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted if from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Heb 11:13.

Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against you soul. I Pet 2:11.


Because of this the Christian does not become involved in the politics of secular government. These are matters that envelop the personality of a political figure and more than often do not pertain to issues. Christian involvement in government should always pertain to issues of a moral and ethical nature. What is important an individual should accomplish with their own family and associates and their religious community. Involvement in politics tends to direct the sight of the spiritual migrant away from the eternal kingdom and to the temporal issues of the state.


There are 2 primary methods used by the state to gain psychological control of the American mind: the first is patriotism, the second is reducing the enemy to a sub-human level.

  Patriotism is intended to generate a sense of obligation to the nation an individual is a resident of, as a result of providing that person with the privilege of residing there, and the privilege of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Patriotism is intended to impress upon a person the obligation of reimbursement to the government for these privileges through personal sacrifice. Patriotism is instilled into the population beginning with the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. This insignia symbolizes the nation as a corporate entity, and for many it is even a religious symbol. Patriotism is also instilled into the American public with national holidays of a political nature and the parades and celebrations on these days, along with the national celebration of the birthdays of prominent presidents. Patriotism in America is strong, and so strong that refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance can label a person as anti-American, Communist, and undeserving of living in America. The Christian must be aware that although the decision to join the military and fight in armed combat is admired by the general population, and to give your life for your country is considered heroic, and such individuals are awarded medals and honor, it is not the religion of Jesus.

  In every war the phenomena arises of portraying the enemy as sub-human. Foreign nationalities are caricatured in the media and by the state as having features that reduce them to the level of animals or barbarians with a Neanderthal mentality. The national enemy is often referred to by discrediting and disgusting terms. By using this psychological maneuver to equate the enemy with an animal, their mass murder or destruction of their civilization becomes equated with the slaughter of animals. The state is very subtle in its ability to convince the mind of the soldier that the enemy is not a human just like himself.


The disciple of Jesus Christ considers war organized and premeditated murder on an international scale. It is controlled criminal insanity resulting in violence and devastation, and without justification. They recognize that the purpose of military training is to make men killing machines. There is only one manner for the disciple of Jesus Christ to conduct himself in regard to the question of military service and that is to refuse. The conscience of the true Christian will prohibit them from such participation, and which includes employment manufacturing military equipment and weapons.

  A person who claims to be Christian and is faced with the dilemma of whether to enlist in the military should contemplate in the following terms, Will my service in the military institute peace, or will it promote more war and aggression? Is the military a service unto the living God, or is it service unto the secular god of war? If I die in combat, do I die for a purpose that is worth the value of my life, or do I die as a pawn of the state? Do I acknowledge as supreme the dictates of the secular state, or those of the spiritual kingdom? Should I suffer on the battlefield as a sacrifice to the state, or should I suffer for my faith as a Christian?

  A Christian is a pacifist in these terms. My conscience will not allow me to participate in military service, armed combat, or any aggression. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God, taught pacifism as part of his gospel of the Kingdom. He exemplified in his personal life and ministry that I am not to retaliate or take vengeance for any injury committed against me or against another person or society. even if it means my own injury or death. The gospels teach that further aggression does not resolve conflict. I cannot face the judgement seat of Christ knowing that I have taken the life of a soldier or an innocent person, or destroyed property in war, or caused people to suffer. I will not have a clean conscience if I am employed manufacturing military equipment or weapons. Although I am in the world, I am not of the world.

  There is no justification for a Christian to violate the laws of the state that are designed for the security and prosperity of the population. There is nothing to be gained in protests, demonstrations or violent civil disobedience. Any violation of just laws discredits the Christian religion. Christians must be especially good examples of moral conduct so others may recognize the value and blessing of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.


It is difficult to be a conscientious objector because you are in the minority and are liable to be labeled a traitor, a coward, unpatriotic, and not willing to serve your country as others have done in the wars of previous generations. The choice is a difficult one and Jesus knew that it would not be easy, just as he said, If any person will follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matt 16:24. Others have suffered and the contemporary true Christian must realize that he may have to also. The true Christian must have the attitude that he or she would rather die and lose his life rather than contribute to war and military aggression. This can be accomplished due to their belief in their resurrection from death: that if they die for the principles of the Gospel of Christ, they will resurrect at His second advent. True Christians do not fear death, because it is the transition to eternal life. As the Christians of earlier centuries died for their faith, this may also be required of the modern Christian.

  The one unanswerable question proposed often to the conscientious objector by advocates of defense and retaliation is the following, What would you do if somebody attacked your wife or mother or child in your presence? A concrete answer cannot be offered because nobody actual knows what they will do in such a situation. The sincere Christian will only state that they hope they will react in such a manner to curb the attack, or not cause any more injury, or perhaps sacrifice their own safety to protect the other person.

It is difficult to be a conscientious objector because you are in the minority and are liable to be labeled a traitor, a coward, unpatriotic, and not willing to serve your country as others have done in the wars of previous generations. The choice is a difficult one and Jesus knew that it would not be easy, just as he said, If any person will follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matt 16:24. Others have suffered and the contemporary true Christian must realize that he may have to also. It is this faith that will likewise enlighten the population, cease aggression, and serve as an example to others, and especially those of future generations.


Books dealing with Biblical aspect of war and pacifism


Roberts and Donaldson (Eds.) Ante-Nicene Fathers

Boettner, Loraine, The Christian Attitude toward War

Brock, Peter, A Brief History of Pacifism from Jesus to Tolstoy

Cadoux, C. John, The Early Christian Attitude toward War

Clouse, Robert, (Ed.) War: Four Christian Views

Daly, Robert J. (Ed.) Christians and the Military

Drescher, John M., Why I am a Conscientious Objector

Edwards, George, Jesus and the Politics of Violence

Holy Bible of Old and New Testaments (various translations)

Heering, G.J. The Fall of Christianity

Hershberger, Guy, War, Peace and Non-Resistance

Lassere, Jean, War and the Gospel

McCarthy, Emmanuel, Christian Just War Theory: the Logic of Deceit

Niditch, Susan, War in the Hebrew Bible

Seeley, Robert, Choosing Peace

Sigmund, Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics

Snow, Michael, Christian Pacifism: Fruit of the Narrow Way

Sorley, Richard, New Testament Basis of Peacemaking

Tolstoy, Leo, The Kingdom of God is within You

Tolstoy, Leo, Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence

Trocme, Andrei, Jesus and the Non-Violent Revolution

Yoder, John Howard, The Politics of Love


Books dealing with the reality and horror of war


Bourke, Joanna, An Intimate History of Killing

Glover, Jonathan, Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Cent.

Grey, A.M., Warfighting: U.S. Marine Corp Book of Strategy

Grossman, Dave (Lt. Col.), On Killing

Hallock, Daniel, Hell, Healing and Resistance

Keegan, John, A History of Warfare

McNeill, William, The Pursuit of Power

Ropp, Theodore, War in the Modern World


For a free copy of Conflict of Ages, e-mail with your name and address.




An Interpretative Theology of the Bible

An Interpretive Commentary on the Bible  

Daniel H. Shubin Peace Church Challenge