To Battle We Go: The Study of War
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” —John Adams
This is probably my favorite quote from any of the founding fathers of our nation. John Adams was a brilliant lawyer and a sophisticated, cultivated man, but he, like many others of his generation, was forced to become part of the political and military machinery of the Revolutionary War, spending much of the revolutionary era overseas advocating for political and monetary support of the war from France. For his heirs to enjoy the fruits of a free society, Adams would have to “study politics and war” instead of practical subjects like math and science, or loftier “third generation” artistic pursuits like painting, poetry, and music.
I’m not in John Adams’ class as a thinker, but I would add a couple of thoughts to his quote. First, some of our countrymen and women will always have to study war to maintain a free society, the kind that allows for the study of science and the arts. Throughout the history of our country, many have followed in John Adams’ sacrificial footsteps and studied war in order to keep the rest of us free to pursue whatever life we fancy. Second, and maybe less obvious, is that in a country like ours, defended by a volunteer military made up of citizen-soldiers, many of those citizen-soldiers will also be scientists and artists. Scientists and artists are not off the hook when it comes to defending our freedoms.
Like John Adams, we in The Salvation Army have chosen to be involved in the “study” of warfare, albeit spiritual, and fight in the ongoing war against the forces of evil in the world, so that we can win as many for Christ as possible. Once they know Jesus, they can truly seek “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable”, anything that is “excellent or praiseworthy”, as the Apostle Paul says. These higher-level pursuits can’t really be undertaken without knowing Jesus, and no one will hear about Jesus without some dedicating their lives to the war.
But this war isn’t just fought by stereotypical spiritual warriors, like preachers and pastors, but by academics, engineers, businessmen and women, farmers, and folks in every type of practical vocation. And—maybe especially—by those involved in less practical pursuits, like the worship arts, who turn out to be critical to the war effort. I think even John Adams would smile at the thought of these artist-soldiers.
So, artsy types (like me), break out your war manual, the Bible, and get to studying!