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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Should Christians Be Pro-Gun? (II)

A Passionate Anti-Gun Stance
I am responding to Rev. Lance Lewis, PCA pastor at Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia. He relatively recently (9.15.2008) posted some comments on his blog site entitled “Pro-Life and Pro-Glock?” I called Rev. Lewis’s church office and got his voice mail. I left a message and my phone number if he wanted to get back to me and offered to email him what I’m writing about his blog. To this point, he has not returned my call. I want to continue in this issue responding to precisely why Rev. Lewis has such—and I use his terms here—a passionate anti-gun stance. Therefore, without further ado let’s unpack Rev. Lewis criteria for being anti-gun.

His fourth heading deals with his passionate anti-gun stance. He begins, “I do not believe Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction.” The most obvious question to Rev. Lewis is: why? Ultimately, what Rev. Lewis does is to manifest how ill informed he is on this matter. For instance, he opines, “I realize that the Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to bear handguns.” What!? I suppose Rev. Lewis is referring to the recent Hellar v. Washington D.C. decision, but he misses the mark here—horribly! The Supreme Court decision had to do with the lifting of the handgun ban that had been unconstitutionally foisted upon D.C.’s citizens. But here’s the important point: that landmark decision did not rule that citizens—of D.C. or anywhere else in America—have a constitutional right to bear handguns. I would further argue that the Second Amendment only put into writing what the Founding Fathers believed was a God-given right to free men.

You would think that Rev. Lewis might provide us with some substantive reasons and statistics concerning why he believes Christians should not own guns, but he doesn’t. Apparently, the best he can do is to misinterpret Hellar v. D.C. and give us his personal opinion (“I simply disagree with that decision as I don’t believe it promotes the culture of life that we as believers should seek to cultivate in this country.”) Rev. Lewis has not even begun to tell us why gun ownership promotes or does not promote a particular “culture of life.” He might take comfort in the fact that yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that, and on and on, 66 million gun owners neither murdered nor killed anyone. The (incorrect) insinuations are that non-Christian and Christian gun owners are the problem and adhere to a culture of death! This casts great aspersion on law-abiding, upright citizens, and suggests that they are a kind of less sophisticated, Neo-Neanderthal, redneck sub-culture.

In point of fact, however, this perception is contrary to reality. Statistics, which Rev. Lewis seems to want to ignore, direct our attention to a quite different scenario. For example, when the National Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a mail survey of 15,000 sheriffs and police chiefs in 1996, “93 percent said they approved of law-abiding citizens arming themselves for self-defense.”[1] So who actually owns guns in the United States? It is indisputable that “In a nation where at least half of the households have a gun, it would be difficult to regard gun ownership as an unusual or deviant status.”[2]

After declaring that he does not believe that Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction—note the tendentious language—the Rev. proceeds to his next thesis in this section, namely that “The handguns manufactured and sold in this country today are designed and built for one purpose and one purpose only; namely the destruction of human life.” (Emphasis his.) Once again, we are faced with an unsubstantiated statement. Rev. Lewis’s modus operandi appears to be truth by declaration. I don’t know who he’s been reading or where he’s getting his information, but what he just said sounds very much like Pete Shields’s book Guns Don’t Die—People Do.[3] Shields argues that guns are “good for only one thing—to kill.”[4] Assuming for a moment that Shields is correct—which he isn’t—then his argument cuts both ways. That is to say, “whatever technical attributes guns have that make them suitable for committing crimes necessarily also make them useful for a variety of lawful applications.”[5]

But beyond that, let’s respond to Rev. Lewis’s thesis about the reason handguns are manufactured. First, there are folks who enjoy hunting with handguns. That is their primary use for the weapon. Second, a number of people buy handguns not to destroy human life, but for self-defense. These law-abiding citizens hope and pray that they’ll never have to use the gun in self-defense, but if the occasion presents itself, they are prepared to defend themselves and their loved ones. Statistics point us to the reality that handguns are used 2-3 million times a year in America to stop violent crimes. In the overwhelming preponderance of these events no shots are ever fired and no one is killed. The showing of a gun is, in the majority of cases, sufficient to send the assailant packing. No harm; no foul. We need to keep in mind that many criminals are cowardly thugs and seek weak (hopefully unarmed) victims. At the sight of a gun, they turn tail and run. Did you ever wonder why criminals don’t attempt to rob police officers? It’s because they are clearly armed. All this has totally escaped Rev. Lewis. He concludes, therefore, “Thus in my view they (guns) have no place and can serve no constructive purpose in a society that strives to value life.” Apparently, he doesn’t understand that an armed society is a polite society. (In subsequent issues, I will return to the blatant misconceptions that many people hold about guns and their applications, but for now I want to proceed with Rev. Lewis’s article.)

But what about automobiles and swimming pools, both of which take their death tolls yearly? Rev. Lewis retorts, “A handgun is not like an automobile. A reckless individual can misuse a car ending someone’s life. Yet the manufacturer did not make the vehicle with the intent that it would be utilized in this way.” That’s very helpful and explains why I have so much difficulty driving my gun to the church every day. Rev. Lewis’s explanation has some weight, but that does not rule out the fact that over 6,000 teenagers leave home every year in our country, never to return home alive. This explanation from Rev. Lewis also elucidates why the military issues long guns and handguns to the troops and not cars. It simply proves the time-honored adage: never take a car to a gun fight.

The Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution thought differently about the matter. Gordon Liddy writes, “As former English colonials, they were, of course, particularly aware of the history of England, a history that included a king’s attempt at gun control which reads like recent acts of Congress—and which cost that king his head. Those who believed in God understood that the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is a God-given right—a moral obligation, in fact, because God, having given us our lives and blessed the unions that resulted in our families, holds us accountable for preserving those lives. Even those Founding Fathers who did not believe in God understood the right of the individual to keep and bear arms to be an inalienable natural right.”[6]

It is important to note that “All of the Framers of the Constitution understood…that the right of individuals to keep and bear arms preexisted, and existed independently of, any government they could or would create.”[7] Richard Henry Lee, who was a main player in the Bill of Rights said, “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”[8] Patrick Henry not only said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” but also stated, “The great object is, that every man be armed.” As to the perennial “militia” question in the Second Amendment, George Mason affirmed the following: “Who are the Militia? They consist now of the whole people.”[9]

Rev. Lewis continues to move farther and farther afield with his statements. If handguns serve no constructive purpose in society, should we take them from law enforcement officers? If Rev. Lewis answers in the negative about taking handguns away from law enforcement officers, then who in our society will be armed? The short answer is: the cops and the criminals. In other words, law-abiding citizens will be fair game for every criminal because they’ll know that the populace has been disarmed. The disarming of the public has been a major ploy of every dictator including Hitler, Stalin, Castro, and Amim. Did it ever occur to Rev. Lewis that law-abiding citizens are not the problem regarding guns? Is the prevention of crime by law enforcement or a private citizen a “constructive purpose”? If an armed woman is able to fend off a rapist with a handgun, is that a “constructive purpose”? If an armed father is able to stop a child predator from sexually assaulting his child, might that qualify as a “constructive purpose”?

I would argue that it is precisely because we value life as Christians that we take a realistic view of these matters of self-defense. Christians desire a peaceable life, yet, they understand (because of total depravity) that there are people on God’s green earth, who are not peaceable nor do they want a peaceable life. Rev. Lewis, as a PCA pastor, would do well to refresh his memory on what the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms say about preserving life (our own included) as well as taking it lawfully.

Deeper Questions
Rev. Lewis takes us to his fifth paragraph which is in the form of a question: “This leads me to question how long evangelicals can continue to claim to be both pro-life and pro-Glock?” Then he states, “I don’t believe we can convince those we accuse of promoting the culture of death if we are among the main champions of the latest version of the Saturday night special.” What? In the first place, it is not a foregone conclusion that honest, hard-working Americans who own guns are promoting a culture of death. Perhaps in Rev. Lewis’s mind this is the case, but it should be clear by now that he hasn’t presented us with one fact. Gun owners in America—apart from the criminals that Rev. Lewis keeps trying to protect—do not walk around with a “Wild West” or “Road Rage” mentality. It is more than a substantial stretch to contend that gun owners promote a culture of death. Good grief!

Second, it is crystal clear that Rev. Lewis associates every handgun with a “Saturday night special.” That simply isn’t the case. (I’m assuming that by SNS, Rev. Lewis is not referring to the half-price beer and buffalo wings at Chili’s.) Florida State University criminologist, Gary Kleck, defines a SNS “as small, cheap handguns.”[10] In fact, SNS’s comprise only about 20% of total handgun production.[11] Oh, and by the way, most American handgun owners don’t hold the gun sideways while they shoot either. Someone’s been watching too much TV and too many Hollywood movies.

Third, this is a very disturbing question coming from a man who has finished seminary and is apparently clueless about the substantial differences between being pro-life and pro-gun—SNSs notwithstanding. Typically, the pro-life movement is associated with the protection of the unborn. Pro-lifers believe that abortion is murder, the slaughter of the defenseless, innocent unborn (or partially born) life. Apparently, Rev. Lewis equates abortion and gun ownership. How, I’m not certain, but somehow, by a leap of illogic, he does. One can only guess how he connected those dots.

I have heard secularists use a similar argument with being pro-life and pro-death penalty among Christians. Is Rev. Lewis pro-capital punishment or not? It would be interesting to know. That’s for another time, though. The thread of connection, however, seems to be “death.” Abortion causes death; guns owners possess weapons that are specifically designed for the destruction of human life. If this is what Rev. Lewis is arguing, then he should not expect others to follow this flimsy, fallacious reasoning.

Other comments by Rev. Lewis leave me in a quandary. For example, he asks, “But shouldn’t citizens be able to arm themselves in case the government seeks to overthrow our rights by force?” Well, that is precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind, isn’t it? Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Jefferson quipped, “The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield.” In other words, the Founding Fathers had a healthy distrust for government and desired that the citizens be armed for their own protection. So the short answer to Rev. Lewis’s question is: yes. The Founding Fathers distrusted government and had seen, first hand, how oppressive England had been and how it attempted to disarm the citizenry. Both England and the colonists understood that an unarmed man was a slave to the whim of government. Rev. Lewis, as an American, should know this!In our next installment, we’ll look at what types of guns the Founding Fathers thought the citizens should have. This will take us into the wonderful world of long guns and assault rifles. As just a hint, I will point out that the Founding Fathers wanted the citizens to have guns that were on par with those of standing armies. Stay tuned.


[1] Richard Poe, The Seven Myths of Gun Control, (Roseville, CA: Forum, 2001), p. 158.


[2] Gary Kleck, Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America, (NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991), p. 21.

[3] Pete Shields, Guns Don’t Die—People Do, (NY: Arbor House, 1981).

[4] Ibid., 38, 46.

[5] Kleck, PB, 14.

[6] G. Gordon Liddy, When I was a Kid, This was a Free Country, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2002), pp. 19-20.

[7] Ibid., 20. Emphasis added.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 21.

[10] Kleck, PB, 85.

[11] Ibid.



Labels:

24 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Lane Keister said...

BOQ That’s very helpful and explains why I have so much difficulty driving my gun to the church every day. EOQ

ROTFLOL! That was great, and made my day. Thanks, Ron.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Who's really promoting a culture of death? Those who support using all lawful means to protect innocent lives? Or those who would allow innocent person to become the defenseless victims of violent crime?

10:30 AM  
Blogger Les said...

Great post! Rev. Lewis and the like can keep their hands of my shotguns and rifles (numerous ones) as well as my handguns (especially my wonderful Sig Sauer 9mm). Proud NRA member, CCL holder, hunter and shooter,

Les Prouty

12:19 PM  
Blogger sister said...

Drive... Gun... Church... That IS good!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

great stuff ron... rip on another lover of Jesus over guns. I'm sure Peter and Paul and James and John made these things the cornerstone's of their theology.

Then go on and rip Pastor Lewis for being less than thoughtful...

As Paul wrote:
"Dear Friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Anyone who loves and has a shotgun and likes to scare off criminals is born of God and knows God. Anyone who disagrees with Ron knows nothing and knows not God. For Ron knows God."

Or perhaps the biblical text should be read as it was written. As I've said previously, where is the wisdom? And who is your neighbor?

8:21 PM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Randy,

I begin to think you'd come to the defense of Satan if Ron was the one who said anything critical of him.

Think about it a while.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

And while I am at it, you're a fine one to be talking about reading Scripture as it was written.

You might examine a thing called "context" while you're perusing.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Randy,
Is Galatians 2:11-14 in the emergent Bible? I didn't "rip" on Rev. Lewis. Why is it when McLaren says something goofy and loopy (read: unbiblical) you're there to defend his sincerity, but if someone says something against him, they're being mean-spirited.
I gave Rev. Lewis every opportunity to talk to me personally. He chose not to. That's his call. What I am doing in the masculine circles in which I traffic is not called "ripping," but just talking man to man, brother to brother.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Don't give me that 'masculine' crap. Man up and live as Christ lived -- giving everything including death on a cross rather than telling me about how big your tank is...

And who is your neighbor Ron? You don't seem to want to tell me about the biblical text on this matter. So, who is Ron's neighbor?

8:46 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

solameanie
I'm not defending Satan but rather someone else who loves Jesus and disagrees with Ron.

Either fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are equal followers and should be treated as family or they are not.

In Ron's case, they are not. In your case, you decide. This has nothing to do with Satan. It only goes to Ron's charater.

He can decide if he has integrity and can 'man up' with the humilty of Christ or he can babble crap.

This fits into the babbling crap category.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Randy,
In typical fashion, you have ignored the text and did not respond to it. Then you resort to slang. When in doubt, blur the lines of the issue.
Let's try this tack: Why don't you tell us what might be wrong with what Rev. Lewis stated. Can you think of anything? Probably not. All you theological and political liberals are the same. It's disgusting that some of you liberals want to cast stones and yet claim to be so loving.

Okay, I'll tell you who my neighbor is. It's the unborn baby that you're willing to have murdered so you can vote for a man who is in favor of partial birth abortion.

As far as the masculine thing is concerned, I didn't think you'd get that either. However, it is an important concept. 1 Cor. 16:13 is a gender specific text that tells us to "act like men." When are you going to start and when are you going to stop acting like a little girl?

7:12 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Randy,

In some cases I am not convinced we ARE dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ. In the case of some of the Emergent guys, I have serious doubts as to whether they're even saved. I can't ultimately judge someone's heart, but I can judge someone's heresy.

I see no biblical mandate to treat false teachers in Caspar Milquetoast terms.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Sleep said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Ron,

Slang is when you claim Rev. Lewis can't really say anything of value... In other words, you question the brain that God gave him as well as his opinion.

While I don't agree with Rev. Lewis, I believe people have value in God's eyes. If I am a follower of God, then all people should have value in my eyes too.

I may speak slang, but your stuff simply stinks. And ironically, you are offended by 'crap' more than your witness.

I care for unborn babies as much as you, and i care for babies born into poverty. I believe they should have food, shelter, health care, and a chance at life. I believe the biblical text demands that of Jesus followers.

I believe those 3 million Iraqi Christians and millions of non-Christians in Iraq matter to God. I believe we've ruined our Christian witness to a generation of Iraqis because we were pissed off about an attack we couldn't stop.

I believe that it's not the size of your kahunas that makes you a strong follower of Jesus Christ but your willingness to sacrifice that makes you a follow.

I believe James, the brother of Christ, was correct when he said that your works and your words will show your faith.

I believe you will make it to heaven someday, but I also believe your faith has very little to do with the way you treat people who disagree with you. You are a prick to people who you don't really know and with whom you disagree.

I've known a lot of older men who love Jesus Christ a great deal. Most of them don't have much education, but their public witness is like a fine wine compared to the way you treat people with whom you disagree.

For all of your great education, you only spew venom. Go and read the wisdom books while sitting in front of a mirror. Look into your own eyes after every sentence, and you tell me if you are a man of wisdom on this blog?

"And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

9:51 PM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father (1 Timothy 5:1).

Calling not only an older man, but also an elder in the church and minister of the Gospel, a "prick" doesn't seem in keeping with the Apostle Paul's instructions to younger church leader Timothy. That was beyond vulgar, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Someone needs to wash your mouth out with lye soap.

Randy, you've violated so many Scriptures in that little rant that I scarce know where to begin. You guys deserve every rebuke that Ron sends your way. Perhaps if you'd stop ranting, read between the lines, and actually pay ATTENTION to what he is saying, you might actually discern some truth from a pastor's heart. He has every right as a pastor and leader to rebuke heretics who are tearing the church to pieces.

Oh, well. Why am I surprised? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Sleep,
You seem to forget this is my blog. No one is compelling you to come here. The last time I looked, it was still a free country and I'm still a free man with First Amendment rights. No one is forcing you to stay and read.

Randy,
I'll pass over your crass Internet bravado, which is really disgusting and just ask you this: if you care for the unborn as much as you say you do, why would you vote for a man who is pro-abortion and pro-partial birth abortion?

1:24 PM  
Blogger Sleep said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Les said...

Randy and Sleep,

Both of you demonstrate a severe lack of understanding of the issues Ron writes about. You also both resort to attacks when you really don't have an argument. You both here are an embarrassment to the name of Christ.

Randy, you wrote:

"I care for unborn babies as much as you, and i care for babies born into poverty. I believe they should have food, shelter, health care, and a chance at life. I believe the biblical text demands that of Jesus followers."

The evidence says the opposite. You have Barack Obama on your site. You support a man (I use the term loosely) who advocates infanticide and has the blood of countless babies on his hands. And you say you are pro-life? That would be funny if not for the tragic consequences of people like you and Obama. How about a "chance at life" for those babies mothers are carrying around?

1:50 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Sleep,
I've looked through your responses on this subject and have not found one shred of Scripture. What is your point?

When you have a moment, would you teach us how not to be hypocrites? Obviously, you have reached a stage in your sanctification where you are able to refer to others as being hypocrites knowing that it certainly doesn't apply to you. How did you get there? Was it through years of pastoral experience, in-depth study of the Bible, or through Wesleyan perfectionism?

7:24 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Ron,

I have to commend your patience. I would have probably banned both of them by IP now.

I don't mind an argument in the classic sense or discussion when there is actual logical, rational, in context discourse happening. But these troll-like comments from both Randy and Sleep serve no purpose other than third-grade "nyah-nyah," which is typical of the EC tribe.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Sola,
My reasoning is to allow everyone to see how the EC operates.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Ron,

I should also point out that Randy enables comment moderation at his blog. He has to approve your comment before it's posted.

Interesting for someone supposedly interested in free dialogue. He can come here and spew his nonsense with impunity, but if you nail his hide to the wall on his blog, your comment will probably never see the light of day.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Sola,
It's the emergent doctrine of fairness.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Castleman said...

"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... such laws serve rather to encourage than to prevent homocides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
-Thomas Jefferson

3:29 AM  

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