We have been asked if it is right for a Christian to swear an oath on the Bible when joining the Australian Defence Force.
Our answer is ‘Yes’. A Christian can swear an oath on the Bible – but we need to say why we think that this action is an appropriate thing for a Christian to do.
There are two possible types of occasions that a Christian may be asked to swear an oath on the Bible in the Australian Defence Force. The first occasion is when joining the Australian Defence Force. The other possible occasion is when giving evidence at a discipline hearing (court case).
In both circumstances a person is presented with a choice. You can always choose to make an affirmation instead of swearing an oath on the Bible. The difference is that when you make an affirmation, you hold your hand over your chest.
You can find a copy of both the oath and the affirmation below.
What does the Bible say?
Most Christians would naturally think of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37) ‘Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is his footstool………Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’’ or perhaps James 5:12, ‘do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.’
Interestingly, the bible testifies that God bound himself by an oath (Hebrews 6:13-18). The bible teaches that oaths are binding (Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12). Jesus himself taught that oaths were binding (Matthew 5:33).
The Sermon on the Mount has been sometimes called “the ethics of the kingdom”. The point being, that in heaven there will be no need for oaths. What Jesus emphasised is that honest people do not need to resort to oaths, not that they should refuse to take an oath if required by some external authority to do so. Put another way, our daily conversation is to be as sacred as oaths. There are not two standards of truths, or a sliding scale of values.
In ancient history, promises were often introduced by a tremendous formula such as ‘I swear by the archangel Gabriel and all the host of heaven…..’ In much the same way modern honesty is often threatened by forms of exaggeration. In doing so, we devalue our language.
The whole point is that Christians should say what they mean and mean what they say.
Is it right for a Christian to swear an oath on the Bible?
So is it right for a Christian to swear on the Bible when joining the Defence Force or giving evidence? We think yes, there is no prohibition, but add that a Christian lifestyle should be such that truth and integrity means that in ordinary circumstances people will always take you at your word.
Form of words when entering the Defence Force
Form of Oath
I, (insert full name of person) swear that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, as a member of the (insert Australian Navy, Australian Army, or Australian Air Force) for the period of (number of years), and any extensions of that period, or until retiring age, and that I will resist her enemies and faithfully discharge my duty according to law.
SO HELP ME GOD!
Form of Affirmation
I, (insert full name of person) promise that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law, as a member of the (insert Australian Navy, Australian Army, or Australian Air Force) for the period of (insert number of years), and any extensions of that period, or until retiring age, and that I will resist Her enemies and faithfully discharge my duty according to law.