Originally published in Russian in Pastyr’ i Pastva 40-41 (1916):1073-1092. This text is copyright © 1998 by Holy Trinity Monastery and is used with permission. Anthony (Khrapovitsky), Christian Faith and War (Jordanville, New York: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1998) ISBN 978-0-88465-087-4)
From various people I have been receiving written inquiries about how one can justify war from a Christian viewpoint. It is quite impossible to answer the question posed in such a general form: it must be broken down into more particular and more definite questions. This is necessary because wars are conducted by governments, but the teachings of Christ and the Holy Apostles do not establish any sort of rules for governmental life and nowhere in the New Testament is it envisioned that a Christian state will exist at any time; we are commanded only to fulfill those passive demands which are claimed by, governments from their subjects: to obey the authorities (Rom. 13:1-7), in particular the king and other authorities established by him (I Pet. 2:13), further, to pray for the king and those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1, 2), to pay the taxes established by royal decree, etc. (Matt. 22:21). One can with certainty add to this that the Lord, His Forerunner, and the Apostles do not look on governments, even pagan ones, as a negative phenomenon, but as a reasonable state of human affairs. Thus St. John the Baptist did not condemn trade, tax-collectors, or soldiers, but only directed them not to tolerate abuses (Luke 4:13) ; in His parables our Saviour frequently speaks of kings and their decrees as of completely normal and reasonable phenomena, and kings are often presented as merciful and just. The Good Thief uttered words cited by the Evangelist with complete sympathy for his thoughts: “We indeed justly (are condemned), for we are receiving the due reward for
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our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). The favorable attitude of the Christian to governmental power is stated still more definitely by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For their 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 judgment. 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 God’s servant 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 wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s 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 ” (Romans 13:1-7).
Of course, for those like the followers of Tolstoy’, who totally de-y the authority of the Epistles and especially of the Apostle Paul, these words have no meaning, but in any case the Tolstoyans are not right when they impose on the quotation given the sense that kings always act justly: there is no such meaning here; only the predominantly just character of governmental decrees is indicated, to which even the unjust judge of Christ’s parable involuntarily is subject; but this in no way denies the possibility of particular distinct exceptions, as in the words of the Saviour when He says that even an evil father will not give his son a stone when he asks him for bread.
Such is the teaching of Holy Scripture: it commands one to respect and fulfill the demands of pagan governmental authorities; it does not condemn the calling of soldier, judge, or tax collector, but nowhere is there any indication of the desirable usages in a Christian state or that such states will exist at any time. The Church expresses itself more definitely about this in canon law, which for the conscientious Christian ought to have the same meaning as the words of Christ, since the very collection of the latter, i.e. the canon of the Holy Gospels and the New Testament in general, is received by us at the instruction of those same Church canons, while the Protestants who deny the canons of the ecumenical councils decidedly have no reason 1) to recognize along with us four Gospels, twenty-one Epistles, and the Book of Revelation as genuine and the remaining eight Gospels as counterfeits, and 2) to recognize as divinely inspired our canon of the New Testament, but to consider the Epistles of the disciples of Christ and of St. Paul, e.g. those of Barnabas and Clement, as well as St. Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans, which are not a part of it, as human works and not the words of the Holy Spirit, even though they are genuine.
Thus, if faith in the Holy Scriptures is founded on faith in the infallibility of the ecumenical councils, then it would seem that we have only to bring forward quotations from the latter on the subject in which we are interested, but we have a premonition that conducting the matter this way, i.e. without any reservations, we will not attain our goal, i.e. we will not convince the doubting. Alas, consistent thought or logic is not an attainment of many minds: for the majority, habit has a much greater meaning, and the decrees of ecumenical councils are completely unknown to modern Christians, to the shame of our schools. Talk about the ecumenical councils, and everyone will agree with you, but as soon as you start to cite their canons and degrees, you will immediately feel that you have run up against a brick wall, so new and unfamiliar are these words of the Church for the minds and hearts of her wild children.
Therefore, before turning to the teachings of the ecumenical councils, let us pause for a moment with the thought that the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament do not establish laws or rules for governmental life, but only for personal life and life in the society of the Church. Thus, it is senseless to pose the question: “Is not war forbidden for a Christian government in the Holy Gospel?” The question can only be posed in this form, “Does a Christian sin when he agrees to, become a soldier? Does a king or a member of a high government body sin when he declares war or accepts a challenge to war. ? Finally does a Christian .sin if he works for the success of a war by, contributions, manufacturing arms and the like ?” Nowhere in the Holy Bible, neither in the Old nor the New Testament, will you find an affirmative answer to these three questions.
Another speaker will direct me to this phrase, “But for goodness’ sake, it says right out — don’t murder !” Yes, in our parliamentary tribunes and press they referred to that commandment of God with extreme confidence when the end of the death penalty for mutiny in the army was demanded in 1906. I remember how animatedly Senator Tagantsev spoke in the State Council at that time, and haw to my question, “Does that mean that you unconditionally deny the participation of a Christian in war or in putting down armed revolution?” he answered, “No! For us lawyers that has an entirely different meaning.” But then to what point is the commandment here? Is anything said in it about lawyers? It is obvious that the professor needed it not as a Christian or as a follower of an Old Testament commandment, but only as a rhetorical device. And we see at the present that this very popular means of objecting to war by citing the sixth commandment is an expression either of ignorance, of hypocrisy, or of both together, and, in any case, of a lack of a desire seriously to enter into the matter. However, almost all citations of the Word of God by our contemporaries are just as unfounded and insincere.
The ten commandments are written in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. In this same chapter, the words of the Lord to Moses and to the people continue and end without a break after this with the final verse of chapter twenty-three. What kinds of rules and laws are expounded in this discourse of the Lord which begins with the ten commandments?
Let us extract the following words: “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies, let him be condemned to death (21:12) ; whoever ‘smites his father or mother shall surely be put to death (21 :15) ; if (someone’s) ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it has been testified to his owner, and he has not kept him in, so that he has killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and the owner also shall be put to death (21:29).” In this same dis. course of God war is mentioned: “if thou wilt obey his (the Angel’s) voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary unto thine adversaries … and I shall cut them off from before thy face” (23:20-23).
The ten commandments of the Lord are set forth by the hand of Moses a second time in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, and in the same discourse, specifically in the seventh chapter, the lawgiver says the following: “when the Lord thy God will give them into thy hands, and thou shalt strike them down: then give them over to the curse (i.e. to capital punishment), do not enter into any union with them and do not pity them (7:1-2). Wipe out all nations whom the Lord God will give thee; let not thine eye have mercy on them (16).”
The words of the lawgiver continue to chapter twenty-seven, and in chapter twenty here is what is said about war: “in these cities of the people which the Lord thy God will give thee to own, do not leave any soul alive, but give them over to the curse” (vv. 16-17).
Where is there here a prohibition against any sort of killing at all? Is it not clear that neither war nor the death penalty is forbidden by the commandment, but the personal homicide inspired by hatred or arbitrariness. “But we don’t recognize the Jewish laws, we don’t consider them the will of God; we only recognize the words of the Saviour,” our speaker will declare. But why then do you cite an Old Testament commandment? One can be an unbeliever, but one must be honest at least to a degree, although, of course, for unbelief there is no difference between honesty and dishonesty, good and evil. Yes, and how will you believe Christ if you deny Moses when the Lord Himself said, “If you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, because he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his words, you will ndt believe My words either” (John 5:46-47). Specifically, our Lord directly recognizes condemnation to death for dishonoring one’s parents as a commandment of God : “And why do you disobey the commandments of God for the sake of your traditions? For God commanded — honor thy father and mother, and whoever dishonours his father or mother shall surely die” (Matt. 15:4; cf. Mark 7:10-14),
Well then, the reader will ask me, in your opinion should everyone who dishonors his parents be condemned to death? No, we will answer: from the words of the Scripture that have been cited it follows only that, in the first place, neither war nor ‘the death penalty is prohibited by the commandment, “Thou shalt not murder,” but only unauthorized murder. That is the first point. And in the second place, from what has been said it is clear that in the Old Testament the Lord Himself commanded his people to conduct wars of extermination and to punish people with death for certain crimes; finally, in the third place, Christ the Saviour recognizes these Old Testament decrees as the, commandments of God. Do these commandments have any meaning for the New Testament Church? — No, we shall answer, they have no obligatory meaning. The Old Testament Church was simultaneously a state which was tied to a specific territory and a specific people; the New Testament Church is a spiritual kingdom, not a state; but war and the death penalty, and in general any sort of compulsory judgment, is a matter for the state, to which, as we said, not a single instruction of .the New Testament is addressed.
From all this we have already seen that Christ our Saviour and the Apostles did not prohibit their followers from fulfilling their governmental obligations and commanded obedience even to pagan governments. Thus it is clear that although the Lord united His followers in a Churchly union, not in a governmental one, still He did not prohibit their forming a supplementary union for physical self-defense, i.e. a state; but there will never be a state without courts, prisons, and wars, and the hopes of our contemporaries that the present war (World War I) will be the final one in history are in direct contradiction not only to reality with its intensifying nationalism, but also to the completely clear predictions of our Saviour about the last times when kingdom will rise up against kingdom, and nation against nation (Matt. 24:6-21 ; cf. Luke 21:10-26).
Some questioners cite Christ’s forgiveness of the woman accused of adultery as an abrogation of the death penalty to which she was subject according to God’s commandment to Moses (Lev. 20:10). But such an interpretation of this event in the Gospel reveals only the questioner’s total lack of information about the Holy Scriptures. In the given instance the Lord acted in strict accord with the law of Moses set forth in the 17th chapter of Deuteronomy: “One should not be put to death at the word of one witness. The hands of the witnesses must be raised up first against him to kill him, and then the hands of all the people” (vv. 6-7). In addition, of course, it was demanded that the witness as well as the arbitrator were themselves not guilty of the same crime, as is evident from the book of the Prophet Daniel (13:46). In strict agreement with these ordinances of the Old Testament, the Lord told those who brought the accused adulteress, “Whoever among you is without sin, let him throw the first stone at her” (John 8:7). And when they, “being accused by their own consciences,” had all left down to the last one, then the Lord, again in strict accord with the law of Moses, asked, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you ?” and having received the answer that there were no accusers or witnesses, he released her with the words, “Go and sin no more” (v. 12).
We hope that after what has been said all followers of Tolstoy, Pietists, and Mennonites will, be obliged to recognize that neither in the Old nor in the New Testament is there any prohibition of participating in war ; bat, of course, we do not hope that the quotations which have been introduced will already have changed their way of thought; we do not hope it because the first of these three sects does not believe in the Gospel at all, nor in the Divine dignity of Christ, but selects from the Word of God only what it likes; the second and third believe very weakly, and although they do not deny the Divinity of Christ, they place the aims of their German colonization higher than the salvation of their souls and read the Bible more to negate Church authority than to be guided by it in their life.
However, for all three there is still another objection to participation in war. “We do not need,” they say, “a direct condemnation of war in the words of Christ or the Prophets ! Participation in war is opposed to the general spirit of Christianity as a preaching of love for everyone and the brotherhood of all nations.”
We will return to this objection, but for the moment let us say that it, of course, is much more serious, especially if it is joined to an indication of the difference between Old and New Testament teaching as between theocratic and purely ecclesiastical teaching, However, from this same indication of the essential difference between the two Testaments it is made clear that war is an unavoidable condition of governmental life, i.e. of the very existence of a state. Meanwhile, the contemporary opponents of war, the Tolstoyans and the sectarians, in the proclamations which they spread in the barracks, try to represent that wars in general and the present one in particular are instigated at the caprice of kings against the will of the people and for some sort of advantage of their own, i.e. either from a hunger for glory or from greed, and that there would not be wars if the people governed themselves “with an elected government under the supremacy of Christ and the Gospel.” How simple that is, and how far from the truth! All medieval Europe was ruled by such a government, you know, in the person of the elected Pope, relying on the Gospel. And what was the result? The whole epoch of Papal rule was a time of extremely bloody wars between fellow believers with the personal participation of priests and bishops. But perhaps my questioner added the words “under the supremacy of Christ and the Gospel” only for the beauty of the style, since they understand very well that every contemporary elected government as its first act tries to get even with the Gospel and religion in general. May it be that in their opinion for international peace it is enough that the governments be elected? For the answer to such a question there is no need to go far afield : before .us is France with an elected government, with the abolition of all class privileges, with full freedom of conscience. What is the result? It participated in the war on its own initiative without any compulsion.
In particular, the Russian government in its relation-3 with the Eastern Christians did not drive the people to war, but rather held them back, either from a recognition of its relative lack of strength to free the Christians from the Turkish yoke (in the 17th century), from danger from the Western nations, or finally from Western indifference to the fate of Orthodoxy (in the first half of the 19th, century). But when war with Turkey broke out, the Russian people entered on such a heroic act of liberation with enthusiasm, and it did not so much submit itself to the demands of the government as the government submitted itself to the will of the Orthodox people, as, happened, for example, in 1877. Of course, there have been dynastic wars, expressing only the will of the government and harming the historic mission of national life, for example the Hungarian campaign of 1848; but if we turn to the present war, then to find any-. thing similar is ridiculous and foolish. Do people really have such short memories that they have forgotten the causes of its outbreak? Austria, not satisfied with the annexation of Orthodox Bosnia and Herzegovina, sent the Serbian Kingdom an ultimatum with the demand that it agree to the introduction of Austrian police into the country. Any even slightly astute person understands perfectly that this would have resulted in ‘the subordination of one state to the other, after which in no’ more than twenty years the full annexation of the first state would take place. Is, it really not enough that the Bosnians who had defended Orthodoxy against Mohammedanism for 500 years and were the first to raise a revolt against the latter in 1876 instead of their desired freedom languished for forty years in slavery to the Austrian Catholics, no less wicked enemies of Orthodoxy (than the Turks) ? ‘Is it really not enough that the remaining peoples of the Balkan peninsula who freed themselves from the centuries-old Turkish yoke were given over to the power of heretical kings, and that the only fortunate nation, the , Serbs, who had succeeded in receiving kings of their own faith and outlook, although for only a portion of their country, that this nation too should be deprived of its ecclesiastical and political freedom? Russia stopped Austria from the final step of enslavement and as a threat announced mobilization. Then Germany and Austria declared war on us, for which the former had already been preparing for forty years, wishing to extend its control to the East. What then? Should we quietly have submitted to the Germans? Should we have imitated their cruel and coarse manners? Planted in our country in place of the holy deeds of Orthodox piety the worship of the stomach and the wallet? No ! It would be better for the whole nation to die than to be fed with such heretical poison!
We have swallowed enough of kb since the time of Peter the Great! And without that the Germans haye torn away from the Russian nation, from Russian history and the Orthodox Church its aristocracy and intelligentsia; but in the event of a total submission to the German governmental authority, at last the simple people would have been corrupted. We already have enough renegades from the simple people under the influence of the Germans and of German money. These are above all those same Protestants who so hypocritically cry out for peace. Of course, they were not all conscious traitors and betrayers of their homeland, they did not all share in those 2,000,000 marks which were established ,by the German government (and a half of it from the personal fortune of the Kaiser) to be spent on the propagation of Protestant chapels in Russia: among its followers were not a few sincere fools, but these latter, when their eyes were opened to whom they were serving, themselves returned to the Orthodox Church and led _their families back to the fold of Christ. For this reason, we will never trust the sincerity of those who in 1905 began to scream about concluding peace just at the time when a turn in favor of our victory over the Japanese was beginning, and in 1915 when we began to overcome the Germans.
Of course, they are capable of masking their Judas-like cunning with seductive pictures of the general disarmament of the nations, which will never come to pass, according to the prophecy of our Saviour already quoted; but if that were to come about for a moment, what would happen then? Anyone with a head on his shoulders will tell you that immediately the more cruel and dishonorable tribes would begin to oppress, plunder, and destroy the weaker, as the tribes of America, Australia and parts of Africa were destroyed by the Europeans; and the first of these peoples to come to an end would be the Russians, as the most inoffensive and honourable.
Of course, our questioners desire this, like the lackey Smerdyakov in Dostoevsky’s story, who was sorry that in 1812 the Russians had driven the French off instead of submitting themselves to this “clever nation,” and that we remained Russians and did not make ourselves into Frenchmen. No sort of evidence is of any use for similar contemporary suborned philosophers; but among the fighters for peace there are more than a few sincere but short-sighted people, with soft hearts, who shudder at blood and killing. They may be ready to recognize that our war is unselfish and is no more than self-defense of the nation and its co-believers, the Slays; but in the horrors of war they see a greater evil than in everything which might come about as the sad results of a peace-such as we described above. They further begin to describe those terrible pictures of the cruelties of war which are unavoidable in battle: the life-long maiming of young soldiers, the sad orphans of families killed in war, and. other gloomy sides of war, which, of course, no one can deny.
It would be difficult to weaken the force of such arguments if’ the • contrast between war and peace-time were as extreme as it appears at first glance. But look into life more closely : does life, in peace-time really proceed without bloody scenes, crimes of all sorts, without violence, treachery, seduction, etc.? Would it thereby reduce the number of criminal acts ten times, as the judicial statistics now testify? Did those mass acts of mercy, generosity, and self-denial in which the finer half of the population is now participating really take place in peace-time? And it is not just a matter of heroic deeds ; ask your own soul, look closely at your neighbors : in peace-time did those holy attitudes of soul which now almost never leave you ever visit you : heartfelt love of your homeland, tender sympathy for the wounded and orphaned, palpitating excitement at the news of the great deeds of our heroes, meditation on the perishability of everything earthly, and finally prayer filled with hope, to which you had, perhaps, long since grown unaccustomed in peacetime?
Really, consider the condition of the Russian people in the decade before the war : the degree to which people were perverted and lying ; how nothing on earth was holy to them, how it became the custom to do things even wild beasts do not know, e.g. to kill one’s own children : ‘how everything was for sale, beginning with personal convictions; how education and science fell and became objects of exploitation, and the schools were converted into diploma mills.
The moral elevation which followed the declaration of war and continues to a considerable extent even to the present is a copious redemption of those unavoidable moral crimes with, which any war abounds. Take up the Book of Judges; there in the second chapter this law of national life is set forth: in times of political peace the Jews fell into depravity and idolatry; then the Lord sent hostile tribes against them; the people rose up in defense of their homeland and were transfigured morally, bewailing their former apostasy.
You will say: but are there not other, purer means for the moral regeneration of the nation, means foreign to blood and to violence? Of course, there are, but the Lord allows– the misfortunes of war to exist when the nation remains deaf to higher moral summons.
If the Russian nation had had such moral strength that it could have persuaded the Austrians not to crush the Serbian kingdom, not to force the Bosnians into Catholicism, not to hinder with torture and punishment the Galicians’ return to Orthodoxy, then there would have been no reason to resort to military threats. Going further, if after the declaration of war on us by Germany and Austria we could have persuaded them to give up their intentions, or, having submitted ourselves to their power without fighting and having agreed to the destruction of Russia as a state, we could have had reason to hope that as a result the Orthodox faith would not have been shaken, that morals would not have been corrupted even more, and that the moral values of the Russian soul would not generally have perished, then, of course, there would have been no reason for us to fight, no reason to maintain an army, or courts, or prisons, or money; but by the end of his life even Leo Tolstoy with all the indomitability of his fantasy was obliged to give up the conjecture of such conditions.
It is true that there was a time, lasting perhaps for a year or two, when the newly-begun Christian community was gripped by unlimited devotion to the Lord and got along without any sort of self-defense; at that time its guardian was the Lord Himself, and the first attempt to abuse its unconditional trust, undertaken by Ananias and Sapphira, met its chastiser in the person of the Lord Himself. Even now there exist Christian communities to a greater or lesser degree foreign to physical self-defense: these are the monasteries and in general all clergymen, who are not permitted to defend themselves with weapons. It is true that they do not prohibit laymen and states in general from defending them, but in the Moslem East, in the northern Siberian regions, and even more in ancient times, they had to use such protection very rarely and sometimes the monks intentionally refused it.
However, to impose the demand for such self-denial,, of which are capable only exceptionally zealous believers who consciously have abandoned the world, i.e. to prohibit self-defense to a whole people including “those with child and those giving suck,” infants, children, young people, girls and women to whom their female honor is dearer than life itself — such a prohibition would be absolutely unthinkable. War is an evil, but in the given case, and in the majority of Russian wars, a lesser evil than declining war and surrendering to the power of the barbarians either our holy homeland or the other Orthodox nations who are our brothers and who, according to the ninth clause’ of the Creed, are as close to us as the Orthodox subjects of our own state.
Let us grant, our reader will say, that you are right about the present patriotic war of liberation; but with what sort of motives would the Russian soldiers and officers have been obliged to participate in the unpatriotic campaign of 1848, and if they had participitted in it, then how would they be taught to make it agree with the demands of conscience?
We have a fully direct answer to such a direct question, an answer we indicated in the beginning of this article, as also to two other fully definite questions. 1) If a king or government undertakes a war for any sort of greed or love of glory either by official order or by its own free will, and not for a substantive need entrusted to it by the state, then of course it is guilty and has sinned; 2) does a soldier or part of an army sin if it does not agree to participate in such a war? In the majority of cases it nevertheless sins, for from disobedience proceeds civil war, which is more horrible than international war. Thus soldiers or even regiments would have deserved condemnation if they had refused to participate in the Hungarian Campaign of 1848; but we will not pronounce judgment on the Greek legions who, against the will of an anti-national government are straining for war against Germany; we will not condemn the Austrian Slays who voluntarily surrender to our army: in such situations the following question must be asked: which choice Will produce the least harm and the greatest good for the Orthodox faith and one’s native people? This question is difficult to answer and must be answered in different ways when a state is in an intermediate condition, dying or coming–into being; but if it is in a condition of firm order, then the disobedience of soldiers to any call of the government to war leads the country to worse consequences than even an unwisely undertaken war. Refusal to participate in a war of liberation or of self-defense is an ineradicable sin before God. The same answer should be given to the third question posed at the beginning of this article about the participation of peaceful citizens in assistance to military matters. There are no words sufficient to condemn the criminality of factory owners, merchants, or landlords who enrich themselves from the misfortunes of war. The same must be said about the unfortunate -students hypnotized and terrorized by German and Jewish agents who organize demonstrations with cries of “Down with the war,” which are described by, the Austrian, German, and Ukrainian nationalist newspapers with great delight.
If children and old people, women, invalids, clergymen and, finally, people bearing any sort of special state responsibilities are absolved from active participation in battle, still no sort of occupation, sex, or age can absolve a citizen from giving what aid he is able to his country’s soldiers and military undertakings. Even without mentioning moral ties to one’s homeland and army, each must remember that for his own safety and welfare he is indebted to those innumerable deaths and injuries to which his nation’s soldiers are exposed for him. They find it sweet to die for their country when they know that the whole nation, the whole population is glad to help them in word and deed. On the contrary, the lack of sympathy of the revolutionary intelligentsia and the Jewish press was one of the maim reasons for the weakening of our soldiers during the Japanese campaign: is it worth dying for a country whose sons themselves hate and destroy it? Our enemies understand excellently the pernicious influence of such revolutionary outbreaks on the soul of the army, and therefore they spend large amounts of money to incite students to revolutionary demonstrations.
It especially disturbs me when protests against war and against the police are raised by people who cannot live for one day without the protection of bath. Lev Tolstoy, who has preached nonresistance and the destruction of any sort of structured state, when it came down to a practical denial of the right of private property in 1905, was not satisfied with the common governmental protection and was forced to organize a whole cavalry division of his own to drive off by force brigands in the woods.
“I did not expect praise for war from a servant of God,” a’ “Christian” of the Tolstoyan sect writes me. The Tolstoyans will respond in the same insincere spirit to this article too. But let them get it into their heads that I am not praising war nor justifying it, but that I consider it a lesser evil than if kings, governments, nations, and individual citizens had declined it in such a situation as that which prevailed two years ago.
“But Christ, you know, commanded us to love all people without regard to faith or nationality,” thus they begin to cite the Word –of God in which they, our pacifists, do not believe. Having no possibility of objecting further to rational proofs of the inevitability of war and not wanting to take a chance any longer on proposing specific thoughts from the Gospel, they are now citing its general spirit: “Christ commanded us to love our enemies, you know; He said there are neither Greeks nor Jews . . ” They cannot continue this quotation for, while they know well many couplets from Berange, they are in no condition to quote a single expression from Word of God, and in particular they cited this quotation against Jewish pogroms quite vainly. We also spoke, wrote, and published in opposition to pogroms, but, in the first place, we did not ascribe to Christ words of the Apostle Paul, and, in the second place, we do not advise our cosmopolitans to alter the sense of holy quotations, but for once in their lives to read them in their whole form. The Apostle writes to those entering the Church of Christ that they should put on the new man in it, having put off the old, for here “there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scyth, slave, nor free; but Christ is everything and in everything” (Col. 3:11). As you see, various faiths are not being spoken of, but only Orthodox Christians, i.e. sons of the Church, who must love one another without regard for nationality and social class.
However, we, of course, are far from denying, as some immoderate patriots do, that Christ commanded us to love people of all faiths and all nationalities, not excepting political enemies; but no one who has read the Gospel attentively will seek a special reference to the latter in the words of Christ: “Love your enemies,” as Lev Tolstoy most unfairly did. The words of Christ cited concern personal enemies, which Lev Tolstoy did not wish to accept, since he had an unfeeling and self-loving soul and therefore considered love for personal enemies to be impossible: “To love enemies? That is impossible: that would be a fine utopia, but not a reasonable commandment — Christ could not demand the impossible from people. I, can refrain from harming my enemies, butt to love them — that is unthinkable.” (The –Kingdom of God is Within Us ). From such imaginings the author draws the conclusion that the words of Christ “Love your enemies” concern only political, not personal enemies. We have often paused in our writings on this false conclusion of Tolstoy in order to show how cruelly our public errs in considering this writer as a teacher of Christian love when he directly denies it, reducing the great commandment to the level of indifferent cosmopolitanism.
What is the genuine sense of the commandment, then? No one would decide to argue about whether it requires love toward personal enemies if he would just read the words of Christ through to the end of this chapter: “Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you; that you may be sons of your Father which is in Heaven for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans do the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore shall be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:44-48).
“But then you don’t reject love for one’s political enemies!” our reader will say. I do not reject it. “Then must one love the Germans and Turks?” Absolutely, we will answer. “Then how am I to kill someone whom I love? No one, you know, can do a greater evil to him than to take away his life !” Such is the view of Lev Tolstoy and of all who deny the future life. Of course, if it does not exist, then the evaluation of acts from the standpoint of good and evil vanishes: the highest good is not virtue, but the enjoyment of one’s existence without any definite goal. “If the dead do not rise, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die” (1 Cor. 15.:32 ) .
But for people who believe that bodily death, their own or someone else’s, is not the greatest evil, it is possible to take away life without in any way hating, but rather pitying one’s opponent. At the beginning of this year when I went to the Kharkov sapper barracks for spiritual conversations, the duty officer pointed out to me a soldier with the Cross of St. George and said, “We have just arrived here from the front for recuperation in the last few days; at the end of one attack he slashed the shoulder of an Austrian and immediately ran for water and, bringing it in his own cap, washed his enemy’s wound, bound it up with his own shirt, and carried him on his own shoulders to the nearest medical point.”
Our soldiers going into the field of battle (we dispatched over 150,000 of them from Kharkov in these two years) did not think about how they would kill, but about how they would die. In their eyes a soldier is not a self-satisfied conqueror, but a self-denying ascetic, laying down his life for the Faith, Tsar, and Fatherland.
But can one really participate in hand-‘to-hand combat without being: permeated with brutal malice? Of course,, it is difficult never to submit to wicked emotions at such a time, but a similar feeling is almost unavoidable in other, indisputably noble, and even holy types of service and action. Ask doctors in infirmaries and nurses, hospital assistants and aides in insane asylums, also teachers in schools, superintendents and boys’ tutors, and finally parents who educate their own children: could they for just one week, or even for just one day, get along without exasperation and, in certain cases without shaking, blows, and even the whipping of their clients? Often this exasperation is stronger the more ardent their love for their children or patients. It is true that in war anger is stronger for the majority than in the cases cited, but in the Russian heart it is quenched right away when hand-to-hand combat ends and is replaced by a feeling of pity and acts of mercy. In addition to all this, neither the Church nor Russian soldiers consider the feeling of such anger just: on this fact is founded the canon of St. Basil the Great, confirmed by the Ecumenical Councils : “Our fathers did not consider killing on the field of battle murder, –pardoning as it seems, to.me defenders of chastity and piety. But mght be good that they refrain from’ Communion only in the Holy Mysteries for three years as people who have unclean hands” (Canon 13).
I feel that the Tolstoyans will applaud spitefully when they read third canon and will reproach our soldiers: “You do not have the right to communicate for three years;”but do not be spiteful, friends, for this canon was observed in those times of great piety when people were deprived of Communion for such sins as you do not even consider to be sins: for breaking the fast once, for two years; for fornication, seven years; for adultery, 15 years; for abortion, 10 years, for concealing one’s faith in Christ from fear of torture, 20 years; from fear of ridicule, for one’s whole life until the hour of death (who among the modern intelligentsia is not guilty of the latter sin?). Although all these penances were confirmed by Ecumenical Councils, with the present decline in piety and the difficulty of fighting with sin, they have been weakened to an extreme extent; and the penance for soldiers was abolished by the Church at the time when great piety still existed, when the wars with the Moslems increased, as the ancient Byzantine canonists Zonaras and Balsamon testify; you will find this in the notes to the indicated canon of St. Basil in the book of the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils.
Finally, we have the perfectly clear teaching of the Church about murder in war which is set forth in the canonical epistle of St. Athanasius the Great to the monk Ammun and confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. With these words of the Church, or more accurately of the Holy Spirit speaking through her mouth, we will conclude the present article: “In the various occurrences of life we find differences which exist according to different situations, for example: it is not lawful to kill, but to kill an enemy in battle is legal and praiseworthy. Thus those who excel in battle are worthy of great honors, and pillars are raised to proclaim their excellent deeds. Thus one and the same thing, considering the occasion, is not permitted in certain circumstances, but in other circumstances it is timely, tolerated, and legitimate. One must consider physical union in the same way. Blessed is he who in his youth, freely forming a couple, uses nature for child-bearing. But if he use it for passion, then he is subject to the punishment for fornicators and adulterers proclaimed by the Apostles.”
Murder is reprehensible as an act of self-will and hatred, i.e. personal murder, but killing an enemy in battle “is tolerated and permitted.”