Gun Control is Not about Guns, but about Control (III)
“A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone”
Some Biblical Texts to Think About
In our last installment, I promised that we would take a look at some biblical texts that address the issue of citizens being armed. Of course, this will not be an exercise where we look in 2 Hesitations 5 under “Gun Control” and find a pat answer. My Presbyterian tradition does, however, offer this explanation of how we should view Scripture: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…” (
Are there, then, lessons we can learn from the Word of God that might help us to decide as Christians whether it is biblical to carry a weapon or to defend oneself and loved ones? In other words, must “Pacifism” be the default setting for everyone who is a Christian? There are those such as Herman Hoyt, Myron Augsburger, David Gushee, Glen Stassen, John Yoder, and Jim Wallis—just to mention a few—who believe that being a pacifist is what Christians must be. Others, including me, are not convinced that this is the case.
As I unfold why I hold to my position, I will have recourse to both the Old and New Testaments, based on what I cited from the Westminster Standards above. In addition, when the apostle Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…,” he was, of course, referring to the Old Testament and the extant New Testament writings that were then available. Since approximately 10% of the New Testament is comprised of quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament, it should be patently clear that the Dispensationalists are simply dead wrong.
Naturally there are differences between the testaments, but that is not to say that the entire Old Testament has been abrogated. A detailed lesson in hermeneutics is for another time, but it is safe to say that some things in the Old Testament have been clearly abrogated (i.e., the dietary laws, animal sacrifices, etc.), some have been altered (Passover and the Lord’s Supper; circumcision and Baptism; no theocracy, the state wielding the sword and the Church exercising admonition and excommunication), and many texts left unaltered. With that as a brief background, let’s proceed.
We’ll begin by taking a look at two Old Testament texts. They will be treated separately, but we need to keep in mind that they belong together. The first is found in a portion of what is known as “The Book of the Covenant.” (Ex. 21-23.) In Exodus 22:2 we read, “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him.” The clear indication is that the man of the house is expected to protect his family. He must provide spiritual guidance and leadership, love, and, when and if necessary, protection. In fact, this Old Testament text goes so far to say even if the thief broke in with no intention of murdering or raping (how can you possibly know the intentions of an intruder in the middle of the night?) if you kill him, it is not murder. He had no business in your home uninvited and God grants you the right to defend yourself and loved ones.
A negative twist on this concept is found in Jeremiah 2:34-35a. God is upbraiding his people for insensitivity to the “guiltless poor” and he tears a strip off of them by saying, “Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’” Ostensibly, if the poor had broken into an Israelite home and attempted to burglarize it, the occupant would have been justified in killing him. As it stands, Israel was guilty of another kind of killing of the poor that was not lawful.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah have always been fascinating to me. God continues his line of covenant faithfulness and trustworthiness for his people. They are allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and repair the city. They meet resistance and obstacle after obstacle. In Nehemiah 4:14, the nobles are addressed in this manner: “And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.’” (Emphasis added.) Apart from the clear and obvious redemptive-historical work that God was doing with his people, there is the command not to be a pacifist. This is not a new development in Israel’s history, since they had been required to fight before. In fact, as we shall see later, it was not uncommon for the Israelites to have swords in their tents, but that’s for later.
Israel under Oppression
One of the most chilling verses in Scripture is found in Judges 2:10: “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” You really do have to ask: How did that happen? When you reflect, however, it becomes clear that the spiritual ruin presaged political and cultural collapse as well. Abandoning God, the Israelites were oppressed horribly every time Israel forsook the ways of the Lord God Almighty. In Judges 5:8, we read the following: “When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates. Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel?”
The choice of new or strange gods ultimately meant a kind of war was raging, but it is also instructive that Israel had been disarmed. The mentioning of the paucity of weapons shows that Israel normally possessed them, but their occupiers confiscated Israel’s arms for all the obvious reasons. Another example of this is found in 1 Samuel 13:19-23. In this text it is clear that not only did the Philistines confiscate Israel’s weapons to defend themselves, but certain trades were also forbidden as a result of the oppression. The Philistines took their weapons and then told them what they could and could not do. It was easy, of course, because the Israelites were disarmed. That was not normal for Israel.
In fact, Larry Pratt has argued that the Israelite army was a militia army that came to battle with each man bearing his own weapon. When armed men were needed, there was no scarcity in the Israelite camp (cf. Num. 31:3). When King David needed 400 armed men, we are told that they simply strapped on their swords and left 200 others to guard the baggage (cf. 1 Sam. 25:13). There is no hint of pacifism here nor is there any inclination that the government was in favor of more “sword control” laws. Realistically, sinners will always cause problems. In the account of Cain murdering Abel, we do not find God passing rock or club control, whatever Cain used to commit his crime. Rather, the Lord provided a means by which murderers were to be dealt with in a God-prescribed manner (cf. Gen. 9:5-6). This truth has evidently been lost on many in America today. They somehow foolishly believe that the more guns are controlled and the more difficult it is to own one, the safer we’ll all be.
Nothing could be farther from the truth! The unvarnished facts are that the more our illustrious elected officials want to restrict law-abiding citizens from owning guns, the more dangerous our neighborhoods and freeways become. A person who wants a “Saturday night special” will find one. Gangs seem to have an almost unlimited supply of weapons at cheap prices. Why should a citizen, who undergoes a FBI background check via computer at the gun shop not be able to walk out of the store with the gun if he or she passes the check? Why do I need Pelosi, Boxer, Biden, or Obama to tell me—a free man—if, when, and how I may defend myself? I am granted the right by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms.
 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the
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