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Unknown Warrior May Be In Hell

9 February 2005

Reformation Testimony Garnet Milne reformationtestimony.org.nz

The Labour government’s public religion and the reluctant chaplain.

The Principal Defence Chaplain Julian Wagg admits that the Unknown Warrior may not have gone to heaven. In a telephone interview on Feb. 8, the principal defence chaplain Julian Wagg reluctantly admitted that the Unknown Soldier may not have gone to heaven at all if he had not been baptised and affiliated with a church.

The necessary implication with that admission is that the soldier may have gone to hell instead. This is a surprising though refreshingly honest admission given the usual universalistic beliefs of the prominent churchmen (usually Anglican) who administer the public religion for the neo-pagan Labour government.

We would like to commend the chaplain for this admission, but would like him to clarify this for the rest of New Zealand, because undoubtedly New Zealanders got the impression from the words he used during the ceremony that the soldier was a Christian and would indeed be in heaven. Chaplain Wagg has also asked me to send in some written questions which he said he might answer. I place those questions at the bottom of this essay.

The text of the service when the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest was read by chaplain Wagg and included a number of very strong statements that implied that this soldier in fact did go to heaven. This concerns me as a Christian minister, because the last impression we want to give people is that there is some automatic path to heaven irrespective of one’s beliefs, whether you die fighting for your country or not.

In the committal service chaplain Wagg prayed: “O God, through whose mercy the souls of the faithful are at rest, bless this grave”. Plainly this implies that the soldier is a believer for that is what the “faithful” terminology means. We should also enquire just how one blesses a grave. To bless means to make happy; so it is beyond me how one makes a hole in the ground happy.

But the chaplain undoubtedly means ‘God, make the person in the grave happy’. This sounds suspiciously like the distinctly un-Protestant practice of praying for the dead. The prayer continues in this vein that God will now do something for a soldier who has been dead now for over 85 years; namely that the Lord will look kindly on the grave and ensure that the warrior rests in peace – in other words that he will reside in heaven. One has to wonder where he has been all that time if he did not go to heaven 85 years ago. If he did go to heaven when he died, then why is the chaplain muttering this prayer?

“It was you O God, who established the earth, created the heavens and fixed the stars in their course. It was you who rescued the human family made prisoner by the snare of death, through the pouring of healing water. O Lord look kindly on this grave that our Unknown Warrior may rest here in peace”.

Chaplain Wagg says that the “healing water” he mentions is a baptismal motif. (We must assume that he is appealing to the heretical high-church Anglican theory of baptismal regeneration). But it must be asked why does the chaplain affirm that this dead soldier has been rescued from death through “the pouring of healing water”? Wagg’s response is to appeal to statistical averages.

He believes that it is likely this person was baptised and affiliated to a Christian church, because he claims most soldiers were who went off to the First World War. This of course is nonsense. There is no warrant in Scripture to guess about a person’s spiritual condition. If you do not know that a person is a Christian or not, then you just do not give him a Christian burial; because you give the impression that salvation comes through waging war, a view more recently associated with Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers.

Asked whether all soldiers were cleansed by water and therefore going to heaven, Wagg said that he had to work on a presumption. When pressed initially whether he believed all soldiers went to heaven, he took the usual liberal Anglican stance: “I am not going to commit myself”, or words to that effect. Wagg continued the committal service using terminology which asserted that this person would be raised to eternal life and therefore to the permanent citizenship of heaven.

‘“Give rest, O Lord, to your servant with your saints: where sorrow and pain are no more: Neither sighing, but everlasting life. You only are immortal, Creator and maker of humankind: and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth we shall return: for so you did ordain, When you created us saying, “Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return”’. We have entrusted our Unknown Warrior to God’s merciful keeping, and now we enter these remains to be buried, earth to earth ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life?” The latter phrase about dust and ashes comes from the Anglican prayer book.

I asked the chaplain about his statement concerning the resurrection. I gave him the example of two men who were not affiliated to a church or necessarily baptised and he agreed those people would not then be cleansed by water, implying that they would not go to heaven. He commented along these lines: “It is a difficult situation, No one knows his name or family, but I have to work on some presumption”. When I pressed him again whether this person might not rise to eternal life, Wagg answered “yes”. Of course, he meant if the soldier had not experienced regeneration, which is what baptism signifies, his sins would not have been forgiven and he would not rise to eternal life.

It is refreshing that the chaplain does make a distinction between Christians and non-Christians even if he is very wary in committing himself over such a distinction. Still, having made this admission to me, we do hope that he will now have the courage to admit that his participation in the public religion (which was ultimately requested by his political masters the neo-pagan Labour government) was not meant to imply that this soldier buried in Wellington was necessarily going to heaven, just because he happened to be a dead soldier.

Finally, it appears that the God the chaplain prays to is indeed the God of the Bible, for he refers to both the Old and New Testaments. He quotes words from Gen 3:19 in the ceremony and his reference to the New Testament ordinance of baptism, as well as the hope of the resurrection are distinctly New Testament Christian ideas. Still, we have to be sceptical, because chaplain Wagg fails to mention or refer to Jesus Christ at all in the ceremony – a glaring omission.

Therefore, there is enough ambiguity in this burial service to require that the chaplain reassure New Zealanders that no one attains to eternal life without a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He must do this, because the service he participated in and led gave the distinct impression that salvation is promised to all irrespective of their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions for the chaplain: Who required you to use the words you used at the committal service, and were they approved by Helen Clerk or any other member of her government? When you talk about “healing waters”, which you tell me refer to baptism, are you referring to Christian baptism?

What do the words “O God, through whose mercy the souls of the faithful are at rest” mean?

What are you asking God to do, when you ask “bless this grave”?

Is the God you are praying to the Christian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Why do you not mention or pray in the name of Jesus Christ, which is the usual practice in Christian services?

Did anyone ask you to leave out Christ’s name? If not (and it was your personal decision) why did you leave His name out of this ceremony? If this was not a Christian service, then what religion did you represent?

Do you believe in the existence of heaven and hell?

Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God? Do you believe that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Atheists go to heaven without believing in Christ as the Messiah and Saviour?

Will you admit publicly that no soldier, including the Unknown Soldier, goes to heaven without a genuine faith in Christ?

Did the Prime Minister approve your part of the service, including the terminology you used?

Can you explain, as an ordained clergyman working for the New Zealand government, why the Prime Minister Helen Clark refuses to allow “grace” to be said in public functions, but is quite happy for you to give the impression that dead soldiers go to heaven without Christ?

Garnet Milne

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