Saturday, January 26, 2013

On Christians and Guns

A loyal reader, in the wake of the Newtown shootings, asked me to do a piece on a Biblically-centered approach to the gun control debate. I decided to spend some time to think about the issue after the horror of the incident had passed, and also to provide time for appropriate mourning and respect.

Then the other day, a Facebook friend changed his cover photo to this:













That a conservative, evangelical Christian felt this way is no surprise to me. As regular readers know, I have written about the unholy alliance between Christianity and American politics before, most notably here, but also here, here, here, here, and here. (And I do not use the term "unholy alliance" loosely: I mean it quite literally. To be "holy," by definition, means to be set apart for God, separated from the common man on Earth. So when we ally our faith to common politics, the alliance is by definition 'unholy,' and we become nothing more than yet another lobbying group.)

Such a belief system is shocking only in how commonly shared it is. Among white evangelicals, 57% own a gun at home and 59% oppose any tighter restriction to gun ownership. This compares to only 36% of the general population owning guns, and over half of the general population supporting some form of gun control.

In other words--professing evangelical Christians are the MOST likely group in America to own guns, and oppose attempts to limit gun ownership. Why? As shown in the links above, it is largely because the average white evangelical does not see the Constitution as much different than the Bible, and thus treats the Second Amendment as a God-given right--rather than a Founding-Father-given right.

So, it occurred to me that the timing is right for RebootChristianity to address the issue.

Before I do, though, let me tell you what I will NOT address.

1. The Constitutionality of gun ownership.
A good amount of the Christian debate on the subject comes down to this statement: "The Constitution gives me the right to own a gun, so no one can take it away!" I am going to spend absolutely no time discussing whether the Constitution gives the right to unencumbered gun ownership, or whether it arms the militia, or whether it supports conceal-and-carry, etc. I am no constitutional scholar, and--more to the point--it is completely and utterly irrelevant.

You see, as Christians, we are citizens of heaven and pilgrims here on Earth. Our first and primary duty is to God and His Christ, not the President. We pray for God's kingdom to come, for that is our true home. The Bible is our guide to life, not the Constitution.

In some regard, every Christian understands this. The First Amendment gives you the freedom to worship any religion...does this mean it is okay for a Christian to worship Allah? Of course not! The First Amendment gives you the right to a free press...does this mean it is okay for the Christian to say bad things about the Christ in a newspaper? Of course not! The Fifth Amendment protects the right of a person not to self-incriminate...does this mean it is okay in God's eyes to refuse to admit guilt for our sins and try to "beat the rap"? Of course not!

We Christians all know that the freedoms granted to us by the United States must be looked at secondarily. We Christians can only take advantage of those freedoms if they are within the bounds of appropriate Christian behavior. And the Second Amendment is no different: so the only thing of importance is whether our faith allows us to utilize of the Second Amendment--not what the Second Amendment actually says.

2. The practicality of gun ownership.
Another major topic of debate is whether gun ownership is a practical deterrant. Do we have the right to defend ourselves? If so, in what situations? Will controlling guns reduce mass shootings or not? Are guns more dangerous in the home than they are likely to stop a crime? What kind of guns are practical to own? Should they be allowed to be purchased without background checks?

These are all questions of practicality, rather than morality. Christians well know that it is not important how practical something is if it is wrong. For example, the authors of Freakonomics convincingly argue that crime rates dropped as a result of Roe v. Wade--because fewer low-income unwanted children were born, who are likely to commit crimes. Thus Roe v. Wade has a practical benefit...but that is irrelevant to us as Christians. It may indeed be practical to kill infants--that doesn't make it right. Eugenics may be practical. China's one-child law may be practical. Lots of things are practical--this doesn't make them moral.

So again, it is largely irrelevant whether gun control is practical or not. What is important is whether we should be owning guns.


So with this all said, let us debate the real question:

What should Christians think about guns?

Obviously this will not be a "proof-text" case. There were no guns at the time of the Biblical writing, and thus we can't find a verse where Jesus says, "And thus it is okay to have a shotgun, but thou shalt not carry a rifle of assault." The Biblical audience's view of 'superior firepower' was the Roman army, and despite the greatest technology of their day, violence still basically came down to "swing this pointy thing really hard at a guy dressed in armor, and see what happens." Compare this to today, where depraved men and women have the option of walking into a public school and shooting several hundred metal slugs through the air in a few seconds, each traveling faster than the speed of sound. Needless to say, the two situations are not directly analogous.

So we cannot find a proof-text for either side of the case. But what is valuable in this case is to look at all of the Biblical texts on using weapons for violent acts, and determine what principles we can determine.

The Old Testament Advice on Weaponry and Violence

During the course of this study, I identified over 500 references to the use of weapons in the Bible. The old belief about the Old Testament being violent and the New Testament being peaceful is not far wrong: over 95% of the references to using weaponry in the Bible occur in the Old Testament, and very few of those passages indicate any major concern with personal ownership of a weapon. It is assumed that a wise man will use a weapon for self-defense (Neh 4:17), and indeed it is encouraged. Frequently throughout the Old Testament we see personal weapons used for hunting, and hundreds of references to soldiers using weapons for warfare. The right of self-defense seems well described here.

In short, I find it comfortable to say: under the Law, it is perfectly fine to own a weapon for hunting or self-defense, or to use a weapon in warfare (particularly with regard to establishing Israel as a state). The Jewish Bible seems quite clear on that point. And so if I were writing to a Jewish audience, that would be all of the story.

However, something remarkable changed in the New Testament. In the Jewish Law, there are over 500 references to Jews using weapons, of which all but a dozen or so are positive. It is generally accepted that you will own a sword, and use it in war or home defense (as long as you do not kill during daylight in this case).


Update, Apr 17 2013: In my Egypt series, I noticed a passage I had previously missed. In the Old Testament there was something quite interesting and different than I originally noticed. In the Mosaic Covenant, as God is giving the rules of His people to the Jews, He addresses home defense explicitly in Exodus 22:2-3. In verse 2 He says that if someone breaks into your home at night and you kill him in self-defense, there is no penalty. However in verse 3, He says that if someone breaks into your home during the day, killing him is considered murder (because you could see him coming, presumably). 

This opens a lot of questions for us. Of course in general the Mosaic Code does not apply to us today, but does this seem to give us a hint that, in God's eyes, defending your home with lethal force is okay as long as you cannot see the attacker? If so, does the advent of the electric light bulb and the fact that the home is never fully dark mean this is a non-issue? Regardless, with this passage you have two choices: either you argue for the acceptance of both verses 2 and 3, or the acceptance of neither, for the Gentile Christian. Since this is explicitly in the Mosaic Law to the Jews, and not one of the parts of the Law which is extended in Gentiles in the New Testament, I tend to think neither of these are really relevant to us today--either the situation where it is allowed, or the one where it is considered murder. 





The New Testament Advice on Weaponry and Violence

But the New Testament is much, much different. First of all, weapons are rarely ever mentioned: only about two dozen times in the entire text. To put that in perspective, if you read the Bible you are 38 times more likely to see someone use a weapon in the Old Testament than in the New Testament.

And while the Old Testament had a largely neutral-to-positive view of personal weaponry use, the New Testament is overwhelmingly anti-violence:

* In Matthew 5:3-8, the people Jesus calls blessed are those who are poor, meek, mourning, merciful, peace-making, and persecuted. Jesus does not say that those who are practical or protect themselves or their families are blessed; quite the opposite! He gives blessings to those who are meek and gentle, who seek to show peace and mercy, and who are persecuted by the more powerful. In other words, Jesus in principle here is identified explicitly with those who seek peaceful solutions (even if hurt for it), not those who seek "peace through superior firepower."

* In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus tells His listeners that the appropriate response to being attacked is not to retaliate with equal violence, but instead to go out of your way to help those who help you. If someone robs you, Jesus says--give them even more than they asked for! If an oppressive government forces you to do something, do even more than they expected (v.41, a reference to a soldier's right to force someone to carry their armor and weapons for them a mile).

* In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells His listeners to love their enemies, rather than plot how to dissuade or destroy them. He tells us to go out of our way to seek out our enemies and show them love. (It's hard to tell someone "I love you," by pulling a gun on them, so clearly this is not pro-home defense here.)

* In Luke 22:36, Jesus says that they need a sword in order to fulfill a particular prophesy. The disciples are carrying two swords with them (v.38), but Jesus appears not to have known this (v.36). So here we see Jesus asking for a sword for the purpose of prophetic fulfillment. However, when that sword was used in self-defense, Jesus rebuked Peter harshly (Lu 22:49-51, Matt 26:51-52). Jesus said that people who use the sword as a weapon will die by the sword.

* In Romans 13:4, Paul tells us that the government is given swords in order to punish evildoers, and thus should not be opposed in that regard.

* In Ephesians 6:17, Paul talks about self-defense...but in Paul's mind, our attack weapon is the Spirit-inspired Bible, not a sword.

In other words, the New Testament is overwhelmingly anti-violence. In fact, many of the common modern pro-gun talking points seem to be directly addressed here. For those who say that we should be able to defend ourselves against criminals breaking into our homes, Jesus says to pray for those who would do you harm (Mt 5:43-48) and to give them even more than they ask for (Mt 5:38-42). To those who say that you should be able to have a weapon in order to defend yourself or the innocent, Jesus says that they should not do this and that weapons are more likely to lead to your own death than to solve any problem (Lu 22:49-51, Mat 26:51-52). To those who say that you should be able to keep weapons to protect yourself from oppressive governments, Paul says that God put one of the most oppressive governments in history in place and gave them their authority, and it was not to be opposed (Rom 13:14).

In short, Jesus says that we should seek a lifestyle of meekness, peace-making, gentleness, mercy, and rejoicing in persecution (Matt 5:3-8)...and it is very, very difficult to believe that any of these are helped by gun ownership. In fact, I'm willing to bet that no person in history has ever said, "You know, I really want to be a more peaceful, meek, mercy-giving person. The kind of person who is so full of love they are persecuted. To achieve this, I should probably go buy a gun."

No matter where you fall on the gun debate, it is frankly impossible to imagine a situation where Jesus today would be packing heat. I can't see Jesus today going to a concealed carry class so that He could defend His disciples. I can't see the apostles--who, almost to a man, went without a struggle into martyrdom--going out and buying a handgun for plinking cans. There simply is no way to read the New Testament and get a pro-gun philosophy out of it. You might can twist something in the Old Testament if you wish, but the New Testament seems pretty clearly against it.

The same continued in early Christianity for centuries. The early Christians were known as passive and non-violent. Pastors like Tertullian even went so far as to ask Christians to resign from the military if they could, for Christians should have no part in taking lives or carrying weapons--he could not resolve such a concept to those Scriptures above.

Conclusion

It seems very clear that, if Jesus were around today, He would expect His followers to live without guns (or swords, or any other violent weaponry). He was pretty clear on the subject. A Christian's protection comes from God, not man: indeed, the reliance wholly on God is the entire basis of Christian philosophy.

To take it further--In Romans 13:4, Paul told us that God put violent weapons in the hands of government to allow them to punish evildoers. It is one of the government's primary roles, according to Scripture--to keep the Law, violently if necessary.

But that is not the individual's role. We are to live by grace and mercy, not the Law.


Ask any Christian what it means to have faith, and they will tell you that it means to rely on God, not your actions or the world's provision. Ask any Christian whether we are to live by Law or Grace, and they will say Grace, without hesitation.

Why then do we pretend as though gun ownership is outside the scope of these considerations? The government, according to Paul, should use weapons to enact the civil law. But we are to live by grace and peace--our weapon is the Bible, our defense is spiritual, not physical (Eph 6). Christians know that we are supposed to rely on God for all things, not take matters into our own hands--so why do we insist on taking "self-defense" into our own hands, even when Jesus explicitly told us to not do so?


For the Jew, I can see an argument for a wise use of gun ownership. For the Christian, frankly, it should be a non-issue. After completing this study, I find it impossible to picture Jesus packing heat.

And after all, we are supposed to be trying to be more like Jesus, aren't we?


Updated Postscript--The only thing about this article that I wish to change is the postscript, where I took a leap too far and thereby, in hindsight, undermined some of my point. Otherwise the study is solid, but my implication here led some people to the wrong conclusion. So let me clarify.

Does this article mean you are a sinner for owning a gun? No. Does it mean you should necessarily sell one that you own? No. Does it mean that it is wrong to hunt? Not at all. Does it mean that the United States should or should not change their gun control policies? No. All of this was out of my scope. Essentially what I am really investigating here is the validity of using lethal force to stop oppression, persecution, or criminal activity FOR THE CHRISTIAN. In that narrow instance I am saying that I can no longer draw the conclusion that this is okay--a position which, frankly speaking, I held prior to starting the series. I am likely going to be investing in a stun gun or pepper spray for home defense going forward, or some other non lethal method.



20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Since I live in a country where private gun ownership is illegal and crime is extremely low, this isn't much of an issue for me personally, but I'm an active participant on another blog where the mostly-Christian posters believe that the right to bear arms is a "God-given and unalienable right." I certainly can't recall any scripture saying that.

    Here's a related (and funny) article that makes a similar point to your post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-james-martin-sj/more-parables-for-our-times_b_2352090.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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  3. As a Christian, a person should be gentle, merciful, and peace-seeking, like you said. Taking someone's life should always be avoided. In no way should a Christian want to take another life that God created.
    Matthew 5:38-42 refers to revenge. Revenge is an act of hatred that is not Christlike. I do not think that it is synonymous with self-defense or protecting others.
    God is our protector and our provider, but husbands work to provide for the family, and God expects us to do just that (1 Timothy 5:8). Is it out of bounds to provide protection for our family as well? If your family was in mortal danger, would you stand idly by? We should rely on God for all things, but we have responsibility too, that God gave. Otherwise, why work? Do you lock your doors at night? Why lock them? Is this showing a lack of trust? I don't think so; it is being responsible.
    Looking at Romans 13:14, I do not see how the verse refers to this topic. Is it not talking about desires of the flesh, and that we should "clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" (NIV)? (Verse 12 does refer to an armor of light.)

    With that said, I do not view Christians as having the Biblical right to tout guns. Guns can be intimidating, and do not display meekness. I would be more than perturbed if my pastor wore a gun on stage during the sermon. But I don't believe that owning one for protection is sinful or against God.

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    1. Tyler--glad to hear from you! If I could counterpoint:

      1. You are absolutely right that Rom 13:14 is irrelevant to the discussion. I had a typo. I meant 13:4. So you got me there. :) My point though with that is to address the common argument that we have an inherent right to own guns to protect ourselves from oppressive governments; this appears not to be the way Paul felt on that particular topic.

      2. Your argument on work is a good one, and I like the inherent logic: God will protect as He provides, and since we are supposed to take a hand in providing, why not also the protection? And there is certainly something to that. However...the flip side is that with work we are specifically commanded in the Bible to work, and Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc., all did so. By contrast, when it comes to personal protection, we are specifically commanded not to use weaponry (Mt 26:51-52), and no New Testament Christian did so.

      3. You make an excellent distinction between revenge and protection--one which I wish I had highlighted. Because frankly I think it proves my point. You're right--the command of turning the other cheek only says not to seek revenge, not that you must never avoid being a target. So it does not outlaw protective measures, only retributive ones.

      So let me ask you--how exactly are guns protective and not retributive? If you install a security system, lock doors, use tasers/mace in the house...these are all methods of preventing or incapacitating (non-permanently) intruders and providing very good defense for your home. As you and I know (better than most, with our backgrounds at Remington), the use of a gun makes it impossible to merely deter.

      4. Also I completely agree with you that owning a gun is not a SIN. I did not mean to imply that you are breaking God's law by doing so. However, in doing this study I came to conclude that I could make no reasonable New Testament argument that gun ownership was okay. If we are not even to 'live by the sword', how by the gun?

      5. I think my broader point is this: we are supposed to grow closer and more Jesus-like as Christians, throughout our lives. So try and imagine a situation in which Jesus lives among us today (or Paul, or Peter, etc.). I can picture them locking their doors to protect their families. I can picture them even using mace or tasers or something. (Actually I can't, but I'm willing to give non-lethal protectants as a stipulation.) I cannot, however, picture any New Testament situation in which a person or his family is attacked and they respond with potentially lethal force. Can you? And if so, based on what Scriptures?


      So I guess let me turn it around: can you build a Biblical New Testament case that we SHOULD be able to own guns in the home?

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  4. As a bit of a digression, Michael, I was speaking with a co-worker about this article, and how it has changed my perspective on the "rights" that I have assumed in the past. She posed the situation as Tyler did, the "what if" of someone that has broken into your (my) home and I have my wife and [at the time] kids to protect. Death, injury, rape, etc could occur to any one of them. I find Matthew 10:34-39 on one side of the issue, while on the other hand the responsibility to love and protect wife as myself and kids in the same sense. I'm not really sure how to respond to her on it. We talk about "morally gray areas", but this to me is an "emotionally gray area." While this certainly is a simplistic wording of the conundrum I'm left unable to resolve my thoughts regarding it. (Certainly this situation can be considered both in with-a-gun circumstances as well as without-a-gun circumstances).

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    1. But...isn't this a false dichotomy? Is our choice really between "lethal force" and invasion/rape? Or is it possible to defend your home in non lethal ways (live in safe area, bolt doors, buy a taser, etc.)?

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    2. Well stated.

      You know, on my lunch break (when I do most of my reading)I was reading through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity; particularly the "Social Morality" chapter. The last page of the chapter stood out to me with reference to this "On Christians and Guns" article..

      "Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: we are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party."

      "And that is why nothing whatever is going to come of such talks unless we go a much longer way round. A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat 'Do as you would be done by' till I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out till I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbour as myself till I learn to Love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him. And so, as I warned you, we are driven on to something more inward - driven on from social matters to religious matters. For the longest way round is the shortest way home."

      I feel these words of Lewis reaffirm your words in this article as well as your overall approach. While I still have personal reservations to selling the firearm I own (and certainly have some significant prayer and soul-searching to be done on the matter) your thoughts have steered me more towards a Christ-like approach to the subject and away from a 'Merican approach. Because as you alluded to earlier, we are to place our citizenship in Heaven rather than here just as we are meant to yield to "laws" (intentional lower-case "L") from above as the focus/paradigm with the Laws of this land coming in a far-flung second place.

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  5. All, to remove some confusion that has popped up in emails, I have altered the postscript to something which hopefully makes more sense. :)

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  6. http://www.freethought.mbdojo.com/guns.html has a thoughtful discussion of the topic. Personally, I have difficulty imagining Jesus returning fire - no matter what the circumstances.

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  7. For what it's worth to all...I am now the happy owner of a 10MV stun gun and some pepper spray. Combined with my deadbolts, security system, and safe neighborhood...I'm feeling perfectly fine. :)

    (And for the first time my wife is actually comfortable with being able to use the defenses if I wasn't home.)

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  8. The purpose of the gun/weapon is not to kill anyone. The purpose of the gun is to protect my family and I from people who think that the purpose of the gun is to kill or take by force. And if an intruder has a 9mm, I'm sorry by pepper spray isn't gonna cut it. We should pray for our enemies, and I will do that as soon as my family is not in harms way. After that I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse
    [appeared]! The One Who was riding it is called Faithful (Trustworthy, Loyal,
    Incorruptible, Steady) and True, and He passes judgment and wages war in
    righteousness (holiness, justice, and uprightness). His eyes [blaze] like a flame of fire, and on His head are
    many kingly crowns (diadems); and He has a title (name) inscribed which He alone
    knows or can understand. He is dressed in a robe dyed by dipping in blood, and the
    title by which He is called is The Word of God. And the troops of heaven, clothed in fine linen, dazzling and
    clean, followed Him on white horses. From His mouth goes forth a sharp sword with which He can
    smite (afflict, strike) the nations; and He will shepherd and
    control them with a staff (scepter, rod) of iron. He will tread the winepress of the
    fierceness of the wrath and indignation of God the All-Ruler
    (the Almighty, the Omnipotent). And on His garment (robe) and on His thigh He has a name
    (title) inscribed, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
    Then I saw a single angel stationed in the sun’s light, and
    with a mighty voice he shouted to all the birds that fly across the sky, Come,
    gather yourselves together for the great supper of God, That you may feast on the flesh of rulers, the flesh of
    generals and captains, the flesh of powerful and mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the
    flesh of all humanity, both free and slave, both small and great! And the rest were killed with the sword that issues from the
    mouth of Him Who is mounted on the horse, and all the birds fed ravenously and glutted themselves with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-18, 21 AMP)

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    1. Corey, good to hear from you! The good news of course is that this is a non-essential doctrine, and we can agree to disagree...especially since you and I agree on all the important things.

      And certainly your opinion is DEFINITELY the majority here, not the minority. :)

      But I'd encourage you to keep in mind that the question is not effectiveness, but righteousness. You state that a gun is more effective for home defense, and you may be right. But we as Christians are not able to simply do what is most effective, we must try and figure out what is right. For example, statisticians make a good case that abortion led to a drop in crime due to the reduction of unwanted, poor children. Does that make it okay? Of course not! A Christian's key question must always be, "Will this please God," not, "Is this what is most practical?" Sometimes God's desires are decidedly unpractical, as the Bible shows us!

      So just make sure that, whatever you decide on the issue, it comes after a careful consideration of what God wants, not what you see as most effective. And if we still disagree...no big deal. We can still go grab a burger sometime. :)

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  9. I live in the UK - up north. Gun ownership here is mainly recreational & for agricultural workers, with licensing laws & very heavy penalties on anyone who uses guns otherwise. Or looks like they might have any inclination whatsoever to use their gun.

    Needless to say we don't see much in the way of gun crime & I feel 100% safe walking around without a gun, home alone at night & have never even seen a gun in a member of the public's possession. I've never even seen a police officer with a gun (except maybe on TV) - only soldiers & museums. The only non-official guns are held by agricultural workers So whilst it is perfectly possible to live in a society where gun ownership isn't the norm - people just find other ways of attacking each other. Nevertheless this obviously still reduces the capacity for mass-shootings.

    Guns doubtlessly do still exist in the hands of some criminals but due to the harsh penalties only amongst gang members involved in organised crime. For the most part they usually aim these weapons at each other. Gun crime does still exist everywhere, but at a much lesser rate than countries with widespread guns.

    Our law's view is that "life" comes first, "property" comes second (the law's view, not necessarily the public's view) and so the burglar breaking into your home is more important than all your possessions. No provision for panicking or jumping to conclusions, unless you wait until the intruder proves he is a risk to life or body before attacking, you could be the one with the longer prison sentence! But, this is the same law that arrests preachers when homosexuals are "offended".

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  10. I would urge a reading of a few various volumes. First, Luther's Small and Large Catechisms, namely, the explanations of the Fifth Commandment. As some of you may know, Luther was an Old Testament exegete. Combined with his context, his opinion is incredibly relevant and throughout his works [namely volumes 44 through 47 (The Christian in Society)of the American Edition] you will find an extremely thorough study of "vocation" and "avocation". Additionally, a consideration of Dietrich Bonheoffer's writings would serve this forum well.
    There is so much more I would like to offer here, but for the sake of time, I will challenge somewhat through vaguity...
    In the end, could there be a systematic at work with regard to the Word of God, one that exists from eternity and is not necessarily governed by what we may categorize, perhaps, as nuances of a particular Testament? In other words... is the intention of God, even by His giving of the mosaic law, etc., showing us (typology)something that is already and quite simply consistent with what the Christians are bound to (by faith) within the sanctified life--namely, the Ten Commandments?
    Additionally, and I suppose hermeneutically, I would ask...
    What is the actual purpose (context) for Jesus' speaking as He does in Matthew 5? In John 18:11 (Matthew 26:52-54)?
    With these in mind, and acknowledging the Gospel fundamental that Jesus must be the suffering servant in all things to accomplish the fulfillment of the Law that we cannot, what is His purpose in a text such as Luke 22:33-38 and does it mean that there will come a time or anything in particular?
    I should say that I know folks are already working with filters and that in our post-modern world it will be somewhat impossible to overcome personal impositions upon the Word of God, but even so, it never hurts to study and to remember that we are to be shaped by the Word and not the other way around.
    I'll stop by here again at some point to visit and see what considerations folks have offered. It would seem to me that perhaps a philosophical "vastness" has been created as it connects to assumptions, namely, that to own a weapon deliberately designed for a maximum usage toward lethality is not recommended for Christians or that lethal force itself is fundamentally disconnected from or cannot be an exercise of the eternal systematic of Christian love. I'm not so sure that I could say that with certainty.
    Great thread. Blessings!

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  11. In relation to this gun issue and self defense, etc, I wonder why few from either side of the debate deal with Acts 23:23-35.

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    1. I don't really see where you're coming from on this one: this passage is about the Roman government using force to protect an innocent person, not an innocent person using a weapon to protect himself. The New Testament specifically tells us (Rom 13:4) that the government is given the power of the sword to punish evildoers--this does not imply that the same authority comes down to us.

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  12. Good thoughts. I've been trying to get a handle on a Christian perspective on this issue. I also found this guy's thoughts stimulating:
    http://thegoodbookblog.com/2013/nov/18/seek-the-welfare-of-the-city-the-biblical-argument/

    He’s a Bible prof at Biola University

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  13. As a practical matter, I have argued, not to eliminate the "right to bear arms," but for at least a minimum competency requirement for ownership. I cannot imagine that either the Biblical writers or the US' Founding Fathers imagined a world where anyone could get a gun and permission to use it without demonstrating control and proficiency!

    And if we have some sort of "unconditional right" to "bear arms," why are swords illegal? :) (I suspect that's because there are no big companies with lobbyists in Washington that make swords.)

    But your post is a great summary of the Biblical perspectives. It is inconsistent at best, hypocritical at worst, to claim to be "people of Peace" yet insist on free access to weapons of violence.

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    1. Glad you liked it! And I definitely agree...although I didn't talk constitutionality, it is very difficult to imagine the Founding Fathers intending this to mean, "anyone who wants one can buy a gun that slings 1,000 rounds a minute without any questions asked"...

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