Question:

I am really curious about your thoughts on one being a military chaplain. Can one morally make that decision? There is a lot of pluralism in the military. I'm wondering if you are aware of the conflicts of people in the past.

Answer:

I don't know of the conflicts in being a chaplain in the military, but from I what I know of the requirements I would conclude that it would be very difficult to be a faithful Christian and a military chaplain today.

As you noted, military chaplains are required to be sensitive to the pluralistic backgrounds of the military personnel. From that, I would conclude that chaplains in the military would not be allowed to actively teach the Bible to anyone not inclined to listen to such teachings. This would go against Paul's instructions: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (II Timothy 4:1-5).

As an example, a lot of pressure is being placed to accept homosexuality. Currently, chaplains are told that they can decline to perform weddings they disagree with, but "military chaplains have been told that by refusing to perform gay marriages for military members their careers are basically over – i.e. they will be 'passed over' for promotions." [Jack McNiel, "Christian Military Service"].

"The Air Force generally recognizes three main religious groups within which all chaplains function: Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant. The "Church of Christ Chaplain" falls into the category of a "Protestant." While a chaplain's primary responsibility is to meet the spiritual needs of those of his "faith," he must also preach for denominations whose ministers are away. In addition to this, he must take his turn preaching for the "Protestant Service," a general service for members of all Protestant denominations. Besides these things, we need to note some of the rules governing the work of a chaplain.

He must fulfill his responsibilities under certain constraints. For example, there are rules against "proselytizing. " In other words, a "Church of Christ Chaplain" must be careful what he says while preaching for Protestant services. He could neither preach the truth on how one becomes a Christian nor expose the sinfulness of the false practices so common among Protestant denominations." [Steve Wallace, "Church of Christ Chaplains," Guardian of Truth, 18 October 1990.]

As a chaplain, a Christian would find himself told that he cannot oppose false doctrine or teach the truth if those hearing him may think differently. For example, teaching that faith alone is insufficient for salvation (James 2:14-26) would not be allowed.

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