Re: Ask Pastor John: God, Guns, and Biblical Manhood, Desiring God

Evaluation by Seaborn Hall, 4/17/20

CS Evaluation: CS totally disagrees with Pastor John’s point of view, which is: Christians should be discouraged from owning firearms for the purpose of self-defense.

Introduction And Summary

Pastor John is saying essentially that it is not Biblically correct to defend yourself from criminals or from a tyrannical government. By extension, he is saying that the 2nd Amendment is not necessary if you are a Christian.

According to history.com, ‘The text of the Second Amendment reads in full: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The framers of the Bill of Rights adapted the wording of the amendment from nearly identical clauses in some of the original 13 state constitutions.’

This is therefore a Second Amendment question. 

The argument as a whole may be placed within the category of individual vs. national instruction, the mistake that almost every pacifist makes in becoming a pacifist. That said, regarding this question each man and woman must follow their individual conscience as to whether they will own a gun and defend themselves or not. (Two insightful films that reflect true stories about conscience, and different choices in regards to self-defense and war, are ‘Sergeant York’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge.’)

The general context of the argument that Pastor John makes here is is that Jesus came to ‘seek and to save the lost.’ This involved giving His life and pointing men to Himself. He came into a time when the nation of Israel was looking for a military savior to lead them out of oppression to the Romans. He knew that this was not going to happen, in fact, just the opposite. Jesus Himself predicted that the Romans would tear down the existing Temple and desecrate it. This happened a short time after His death, in 70 C.E.

Jesus primarily addresses individuals in the context of the repressive environment of Jews fighting a government that limits their freedom and their sense of national and individual identity. He does not speak to national war or defense or defending your home against criminals or evil. He does not speak to any of the national issues and whether it is right for nation to rise up against nation. He speaks primarily to individual attitudes and actions within a repressive governmental – but not a criminal – environment. He points individuals to an internal kingdom – in contrary to or versus an external kingdom.

With this overall context we will address each of Pastor John’s points.

Refuting Pastor John’s First Point

Pastor John’s first point can be reduced to this argument: ‘A Christian should not own a gun because he might lose control and do something he regrets.’ According to the pastor, the human heart is vengeful and quick to anger. His first point is about human nature.

On the contrary, we would say that a Christian may own a gun because, of all people, he or she has the Holy Spirit and should be able to exercise discernment and control him or herself in spite of the heart’s tendencies. According to Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit is ‘self-control.’ No one uses a gun in a ‘Christ-honoring’ way, but that is not the point – a gun is used either for self-defense or to subdue an enemy in a situation like war. Both acts protect family and community and sustain the community and their rights and freedom.

Refuting Pastor John’s Second Point

Pastor John’s second point is about culture – that because the culture exalts the violent hero I therefore can’t take a chance on owing a gun because, again, the culture might override my self-control. We refer you to our argument on the first point. A true Christian has the power above all others to manifest self-control. To argue otherwise is to promote a ‘victim’ mentality, as in, poor me, I can’t control myself. That attitude is not authored by the Holy Spirit.

Refuting Paster John’s Third Point

His third point is that Jesus and the Apostles discourage us from defending ourselves against evil and push us to allow ourselves to be wronged. PJ is saying that the Apostolic prescription (contradicting his, this is just my experience, not a ‘prescription’ argument – addressed in my conclusion) is that that we should be wronged rather than commit violence.

Therefore, according to Pastor John, we should not own a gun to defend ourselves against evil. We believe this to be a gross misinterpretation of certain Biblical passages.

He quotes Matthew 5:39 and Matthew 10:16, which somewhat contradicts his own argument: “  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16 NAS95).” If one is to be ‘shrewd as serpents, surely it involves a strategy to both stay away from and defend oneself from evil – not to blindly give oneself over to it.

Before this Jesus has warned them to beware of false prophets, again implying a strategy of wisdom and boundaries with evil. Future examination here would take a major treatise, but, again, much of the dilemma can be solved by making a distinction between personal behavior and national behavior, between individual attitudes and actions and defending oneself or one’s family against evil, against criminals, or against a tyrannical state, where grievances have been repeatedly and lawfully filed.

In the same vein that the Scripture says ‘Never pay back evil with evil,’ in the same context, it says, ‘Abhor what is evil,’ and ‘so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.’ Romans 12 is about the subjection to the governing authorities – not about whether or not you should defend your home and family against criminals.

Pastor John’s conclusion is that none of these passages sound like an ‘arming spirit.’ Our response? None of these passages are meant to address individual, family or community protection or self-defense against criminals or enemies. They have nothing to do with whether it is proper to own a gun or not.

Refuting Pastor John’s Fourth Point

Pastor John’s last point is Jesus’ response to Peter when he cut off the servant’s ear. “All who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” Pastor John uses this Scripture to justify a blanket pacifism – the extension of his philosophy is that it is never ok to use a gun or intend to kill to defend your own or your family’s life.

According to one source, “In Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, the Greek tragedy of the Trojan wars, Clytemnestra says to Agamemnon, the brutal husband she kills: “By the sword you did your work, and by the sword you die.”

Whether Jesus was aware of this history or creating His own parable on the spot is probably irrelevant. The general meaning has been interpreted the same by most ever since – those who make their living by the sword, will likely die the same way. The prohibition and warning is against violence and warfare as a way of life – not against defending yourself from criminals or taking up arms in defense of your nation when it is justifiable and required. Again, context is the key here – it was not the time to take up arms, as many people in the first century believed that it was proper and right to do against the Romans.

Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything under heaven – even for war. What God was doing in the Garden of Gethsemane at that point was different. It was not the time for war.

The further question is, “Is there a time when resistance or even violence is justified?” Isn’t this the same question that the founders of the US had to answer regarding King George III and England? Their answer was in the affirmative and it is recorded in full in The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….

 

…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

When common criminals – or despots – attempt to usurp the rights of law abiding citizens it is the right and responsibility of citizens to take up arms to either defend themselves or establish rights and freedom in the community. Without this kind of action a community and society quickly descends into chaos, controlled by ignorant and self-centered humans. To prevent this from occurring law abiding citizens need guns and training in how to use them.

Conclusion

If you are having trouble keeping up with the arguments here it is because Pastor John’s argument is convoluted, contradictory, and Biblically unsound in the first place. It brings to mind 1 Corinthians 14:8 (from Numbers 10:9), “If the sound of the trumpet is unclear, how will the people prepare for battle?”

The issues of the day must be clear so that all Christians know where they should stand. Pastors, by definition role-models and teachers, necessarily offer prescription when they speak – that is the nature of being a pastor.

As a side note, Pastor John’s advice is also totally contradictory to ‘Biblical Manhood’, part of the title of this piece. There is not time to address that topic here, but real manhood is knowing what time it is under heaven, that is, when is the time to lay down your life and when is the time to defend yourself, your family, or your nation? The United State’s founders decided this correctly. They were real men.

Pastor John’s ‘offered experience’ on guns and whether Christians should own guns for self-defense or not is prescription whether he wants to admit it or not. It is also incorrect.