New Light on Civil Service

in lieu of Military Service for Jehovah's Witnesses

taken from the Watchtower, May 1, 1996 article, "Paying Back Caesar's Things to Caesar": (p. 18)

"[Since the time of Constantine] the clergy of Christendom have encouraged their flocks to serve in the armies of the nations, although some individuals have taken a stand as conscientious objectors.

"Are Christians today obliged to follow the majority in this matter? No. If a dedicated, baptized Christian lives in a country where exemption from military service is granted to ministers of religion, he may avail himself of this provision, for he is in fact a minister....

"What, though, if the Christian lives in a land where exemption is not granted to ministers of religion? Then he will have to make a personal decision following his Bible-trained conscience....

Civilian Service

"However, there are lands where the State, while not allowing exemption for ministers of religion, nevertheless acknowledges that some individuals may object to military service. Many of these lands make provision for such conscientious individuals not to be forced into military service. In some places a required civilian service, such as useful work in the community, is regarded as non-military national service. Could a dedicated Christian undertake such service? Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.

"It seems that compulsory service was practiced in Bible times.... Where such civilian service is for the good of the community and is not connected with false religion or is not in some other way objectionable to the consciences of Jehovah's Witnesses, they have often complied. This has usually resulted in an excellent witness and has sometimes silenced those who falsely accuse the Witnesses of being anti-government.

"What, though, if the State requires a Christian for a period of time to perform civilian service that is a part of national service under a civilian administration? Here again, Christians must make their own decision based on an informed conscience. "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God." Christians faced with a requirement of Caesar should prayerfully study the matter and meditate on it." It may also be wise to talk the matter over with mature Christians in the congregation. After this a personal decision must be made."
(end of quote)

This is a major reversal in the Watchtower view of this matter. It appears that this represents one more change in the reversal of the dogmatism introduced in the days of “Joe” Rutherford, second president of the Watchtower. For example, the following is taken from the article, “Christian Neutrals In A Bloodstained World,” WT 9/1/86 p. 20, just 10 years ago:
“Hence, when Caesar demanded to have God's things, [Christians] acted in harmony with the principles stated at Acts 4:19 and 5:29. Whether the issue was shedding blood, non-combatant military work, alternative service, or saluting an image such as a national flag, faithful Christians took the position that there was no middle ground. In some cases they were executed because of this stand.”

We might add, some Jehovah's Witnesses are still being held in prison in certain countries because of this previous stand, now considered "old light." Won't such prisoners be happy to hear of the new teaching, especially since they will still have to serve the rest of their prison term? -editor

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