The Top 3 Military Chaplain Fallacies
by Sonny Hernandez
Serving in the United States Military Chaplaincy is a solemn responsibility of servility and intrepidity. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is an indicative that subjugates Christian believers to willfully evangelize and make disciples. A military chaplain must have a true affinity for the lost (unconverted), and possess a love that is implacable for the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen that they serve. A military chaplain must exercise their constitutional right to faithfully and expositionally teach and preach the whole counsel of God’s special and propositional revelation. Why? Military chaplains that never evangelizes, soft-peddles truth, willfully omits the name of Christ in prayer out of fear of offending others instead of God, substitutes Scripture with psycho-therapy, and cares more about their career than Christ are not examples of holiness and Christ-centeredness; they are examples of hypocrisy and childish-conceits.
A military chaplain must also be willing to persevere and remain steadfast when the culture has increasingly become execrable against God. There will always be impediments against military chaplaincy. In fact, there are exponential stumbling blocks that will attempt to thwart a chaplain’s ministerial fidelity. If a military chaplain prays in the name of Christ a complaint may eventually arise. If a military chaplain does not embrace the inclusivity of the culture that defies the transcendent glory of God, then the chaplain could be categorically libeled as unloving. If a chaplain heralds truth during an invocation, benediction, or funeral, they could be shunned from ever receiving another invite and suffer the ignominy of being ostracized. Sadly, these stumbling blocks previously mentioned are why many chaplains who serve in the Armed Forces are saturated in compromise.
It would be incumbent upon (aspiring or currently serving) conservative, Bible-believing military chaplains to research for approved Department of Defense (DOD) ecclesiastical endorsers that believe in the sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. A Gospel-centered ecclesiastical endorsing agency will provide the safeguarding for their chaplains to exercise their certain unalienable rights that were endowed by their creator. Why is this important?
First, a Gospel-centered ecclesiastical endorsing agency enables missional access into restricted institutions such as the military. Second, it is imperative that aspiring chaplains understand that apostate and heretical chaplains do exist! If conservative, Bible-believing Christians do not contend for the faith in the military, then who will? Ecclesiastical endorsing agencies that are Gospel-centered must combat the erroneous pre-suppositions that have grossly mischaracterized the conservative, faithful chaplains who are serving. This article will now address what I believe are the top 3 military chaplain fallacies:
FALLACY #1: All military chaplains are liberal
Being a liberal chaplain in the Armed Forces is not only a disconcerting practice, it is also hazardous. When a military chaplain forsakes the Bible as the sole source of authority, they are no longer ambassadors for Christ because they have abandoned the truth of God for lies. Even worse, many are deceived and accept the notion that just because a chaplain calls himself an evangelical Christian, references Scripture, or uses biblical rhetoric, is a Christian. If anyone believes this, they must be reminded that the Devil quotes Scripture (Matthew 4:6), tells lies (John 8:44), and masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) which proves that declaring oneself a Christian is preposterous. Christ, the eternal Son of God, who is of one substance, equal with the Father, said that many will come to Him and profess His Name (Matthew 7:22), and He will say to them: “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23), and “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Liberals need to be reminded of this!
Sadly, there are a few ecclesiastical endorsing agencies that are approved by the DOD that ordain and endorse homosexual chaplains despite the fact that Scripture condemns this practice (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) are just two examples. In addition, religious syncretism has produced a gigantic harvest of doctrinal error as post-modernists are accepting of everything as long as it does not confront their sin and condoning of everything that is irreconcilable with Scripture. This kind of licentious and reviling reproach against God is why there are many who have negative pre-suppositions about military chaplains being liberal. This notion is patently false! There are several (DOD approved) ecclesiastical endorsing agencies that will never yield to the detestable and devilish beliefs that are contrary to Scripture.
When I first entered the Air Force Chaplaincy Corps in 2010, I spent countless hours researching ecclesiastical endorsing agencies. After spending a few years learning about several endorsing agencies, I was blessed to discover that there are several ecclesiastical endorsing agencies that are Gospel-centered. I was blessed to find one that I believe is Gospel saturated. For over 75 years, my ecclesiastical endorsing agency has never compromised their position statement on the Gospel. Here are a few reasons why:
- They endorse only men who are biblically qualified (1 Timothy 3:1-8)
- All chaplains must affirm the Bible as the only source of infallible and inerrant truth (2 Timothy 3:16)
- All chaplains will preach the Gospel (Romans 1:16)
- Every chaplain will evangelize (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24)
- All chaplains are to be separated from compromise (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
FALLACY #2: Chaplains cannot pray in Jesus name
As previously noted, if anyone aspires to serve as a military chaplain, finding an (approved DOD) ecclesiastical endorsing agency that embraces the articles of faith that are Gospel-centered is imperative. Why? Every chaplain will be required to pray in accordance with their respective ecclesiastical endorsers policies. It is a fallacy to believe that every chaplain is prohibited from praying in the name of Jesus. It is not uncommon to hear murmuring from critics who believe praying in the name of Jesus is unconstitutional because it establishes the Christian religion over everyone else’s. By making this argument, the critics are guilty of violating their own standards by establishing their religion over the Christian who vehemently believes that prayer should only be in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:17).
There are always going to be skeptics who will disagree with my position on military chaplaincy, especially in regards to prayer. Here are a few examples I have heard of why many military chaplains deliberately omit the name of Christ in prayer:
- “I know who I am praying to;”
- “We need to be sensitive to other people who believe differently than what we believe;” and,
- “We have to be discreet when we pray because Michael Weinstein will attack us.”
These three unbiblical excuses I have used are examples of the compromise I have witnessed. When a military chaplain deliberately omits the name of Christ out of fear of offending someone instead of God, and out of fear of Michael Weinstein’s inconsequential diatribe, should pay close attention to their leave and earning statement (LES) every month and divide their earnings by 30 to see how many times they have betrayed their Master for their pieces of silver.
A chaplain should never pray to incite hostility or to spite someone. A conservative, Bible-believing chaplain should pray only in the name of Christ because that is what a Christian is commanded to do (Colossians 3:17)! If a military chaplain says: “I always pray in His name, and although I omit the name of Christ in my prayer, I know who I am praying to,” must realize that everyone else does not! My response will always be: “stop being ashamed of Christ or He will one day be ashamed of you” (Mark 8:34-38). The Westminster Longer Catechism provides a biblical example (with Scripture references) of why every chaplain should pray only in the name of Jesus (question 179-181):
Question: Are we to pray unto God only? Answer: God only being able to search the hearts (Romans 8:27), hear the requests (Psalm 65:2), pardon the sins (Micah 7:18), and fulfill the desires of all (Psalm 145:18); and only to be believed in (Romans 10:14), and worshiped with religious worship (Matthew 4:10); prayer, which is a special part thereof (1 Corinthians 1:2), is to be made by all to him alone (Psalm 50:15), and to none other (Romans 10:14).
Question: What is it to pray in the name of Christ? Answer: To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake (John 14:13-14); not by bare mentioning of his name (Matthew 7:21), but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Question: Why are we to pray in the name of Christ? Answer: The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator (John 14:6); and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone (John 6:27), we are to pray in no other name but his only (Colossians 3:17).
FALLACY #3: Chaplains are restricted in what they preach
I have talked with several airmen and soldiers from around the country who have digressed about their chaplains assigned at their bases. The complaints are always the same:
- “The chaplain at my base preaches trifling stories at the base chapel and never preaches the Gospel.”
- “I will never attend a chapel because the chaplain sounds more like a politician than a preacher.”
- “I have known my chaplain for three years and I have never heard Christ mentioned from his lips.”
- “Why do chaplains always come and visit with me and my soldiers and they sound more like psycho-therapists instead of teachers of God’s Word?”
- “I cannot believe that a chaplain officiated a gay wedding.”
These lamentable examples are an amalgamation of psycho-babble from men or women chaplains who are not mouthpieces for the incomprehensible glory of God.
If a Christian chaplain is assigned to a unit, squadron, platoon, or a ship, and they make pastoral visits with the military members that they serve, and they fail to witness, or Christ is never mentioned in dialogue, speculation will arise that leads to the conclusion that a chaplain is restricted in what they are allowed to do. Again, this assumption is false.
As a conservative, Bible-believing military chaplain, I am endorsed by a Gospel-centered ecclesiastical endorsing agency that is faithfully committed to heralding Christ as king! I have and I will always preach that the Lord our God is the only true and living God (Jeremiah 10:10)! I have and will always preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)! I have and will always preach justification by faith without works (Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 2:8-10). I have and I will always love the men and women I serve with in the Armed Forces (1 John 4:7-10)! I have and I will always evangelize (Matthew 28:18-20)! Chaplains that will not propagate this, are not heralds of Christ, but are hirelings and careerists.
If you are considering military chaplaincy and you believe that the Gospel is the indisputable and irrevocable truth of the judicial righteousness of God, and you believe that the Holy Scripture is absolutely sufficient and inerrant, then consider military chaplaincy.
To the Gospel-centered man that aspires to serve as a military chaplain: You must be a male and biblically qualified (1Timothy 3:1-7), be under the authority of the elders or pastors in a Bible-believing church (Hebrews 13:17), vehemently love everyone enough to tell them the truth that can save them (1 John 4:7-10; Jude 1:23), do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5), possess a Master of Divinity from an accredited seminary, and meet all of the requirements that are determined by the respective branch of the Armed Forces.
Here is the caveat: If you serve Christ in the military chaplaincy, you will forfeit your popularity, and could be reviled, defamed, and repeatedly held in derision. You will meet other military chaplains that have made a long lasting career out of silence and compromise. Do not be like them! Be like Christ. Count it worthy to suffer for His sake because He is worth it (Acts 5:41).
 Retrieved on March 22, 2016 from: https://www.pcusa.org/news/2015/3/17/presbyterian-church-us-approves-marriage-amendment/
Chaplain (Capt) Sonny Hernandez is a US Air Force Reserve Chaplain assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In April 2015, he was selected as the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Individual Mobilization Augmentee Company Grade Officer of the Year. Hernandez earned a Doctorate from Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The opinions expressed here are solely his and do not necessarily represent the views of any government, military, or religious organization. Sonny Hernandez wrote this article as a civilian on his own time on an issue of public interest.