The Bible and Gun Rights: Should Christians own guns?

Should Christians own guns? Our President doesn’t think so. But what does the Bible say?

The Second Amendment has been an ongoing powder keg of debate in recent years with both sides of the issue arguing for their positions on guns. Should guns be outlawed? Should guns be open and available to anybody? The problem with the debate is, while we love to quote the Founding Fathers, very few people actually look at the debate from a Biblical context, which is exactly the foundation upon which the Founding Fathers were standing when they wrote the Second Amendment.

We can’t legitimize the Second Amendment on the basis of human autonomy. We have to look at what God’s Word has to say. Because this debate is really religious and philosophical at its core. Critics have taken a couple of approaches to the Second Amendment in recent years. One is that they have just denied that it is applicable and it should be completely thrown out. That has never gained much traction. But a much more effective critique is to suggest that the phrase, “a well-regulated militia” speaks about weapons being tied to military service. And they make the leap that weapons should be preserved only for military service in our generation. In other words, that the idea is “corporately” weapons are allowed in a military situation but that right doesn’t extend to individuals.

It must be understood however that the founders were operating from a Biblical foundation. The Bible knows nothing of standing armies. And so, it was common place in the day of our Founding Fathers that they were suspicious of any nation and their intentions when they had a standing army. Their expectation was that like Israel in the Bible, national defense would primarily be reserved for what they called “well-regulated militias.”

In Numbers 1 we have a census being taken in Israel specifically for the purpose of identifying all adult males the age 20 and above, who were then organized for military purposes. The idea of a militia was that every male citizen was to be trained and prepared to be summoned by officers, that is “a well-regulated organization” to answer the call for the defense of the nation. This idea of “well-regulated” didn’t mean a standing army. It meant that there was a purposeful organization and that men didn’t just rush into battle as individuals. But they were organized with ranks of leadership that understood that in a crisis they would summon all the men to come fulfill their obligation for duty. And they were well regulated. It was believed that every male citizen was to be armed, was to be trained and was to understand his place in a “well-regulated” army.

Israel’s fighting force was guided by officers. In fact, in Deuteronomy 20 Moses gives specific instructions to officers about how they’re to prepare the men that have been summoned to battle before they actually take them into battle. In order to maintain that organization, they were to participate in the full life and economy of the nation, but they were always to train and be ready for battle. This involved a familiarity and an ownership with the weapons necessary for those extraordinary moments.

Our Founders conceived the concept of well-regulated militia from this Biblical pattern. George Mason actually said in the early years of our country, “I ask Sir, what is the Militia? It is nothing except the whole people apart from a few public officials.” The Founders expected every able fighting man to be well-armed, well-trained in the use of those arms and available to be called into service.

George Washington said, “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

James Madison went on to say, “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
When you take Mason, Washington and Madison and put all of their comments together it’s hard to understand this idea that the phrase “a well-regulated militia” in any way can be used to eliminate the possibility for individual ownership of weapons.

In Proverbs 14:34 it says that it is righteousness that establishes a nation. That righteousness must be defended at times from those who would over-throw it.

Isaiah talks a lot in his prophecy about a day when the weapons of warfare would be turned into the instruments of agriculture – “swords into plowshares.” But when you read the history of the book of Isaiah what you find is that this is not some naïve utopian idea that peace comes through disarmament. Rather, the Biblical approach is that disarmament comes through peace. That is, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the work of God’s Spirit happens over the course of the life of a nation, that peace brings with it the possibility of disarmament. We have to be careful not to create an imbalance between Biblical eschatology and Biblical anthropology. The reality is that the depravity of man will not completely erased until the resurrection and the final glorification of all things. Until that time, there is a need for godly citizens to participate in the establishment of freedom and liberty and the preservation of that reality through the possession of arms. Never did it cross the minds of the Founding Fathers to limit or regulate the use of firearms by lawful citizens.

The President this week issued Executive Orders continuing to chip away at the Second Amendment and to bring it to a place where it is more and more difficult for people to own their own weapons. Thomas Jefferson, again, said, “The Constitution of most of our states and of the United States assert that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves. That it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”

Patrick Henry argued in the same vein. He said,

“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense is the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety or equal safety to us as in our own hands?”

In other words, Henry was arguing that the control of arms or weapons belong in the hands of the citizenry as opposed to what he called “the management of Congress.” He was not talking purely about the corporate defense of the nation, but also about the self-defense of the individual and his family as well. Otherwise, leaving arms in the management of Congress would not be an issue for him.

Well, if the Founding Fathers believed not only in that weapons were to be available for the citizenry to use in the defense of the nation but also that they were to be available for the use in self-defense for home and family.

Again, what does the Bible have to say about self-defense? The Bible has to say this, just as a nation has the right to defend the lives of its people, their property and its borders, and even the way of life its people share, so too does the individual have the same right.

Ultimately the question is one of stewardship. Think about it in these terms. The life that has been granted to each individual is a stewardship of the image of God made animated in us. In other words, we were created in the image of God and we have been granted stewardship of this life to preserve, to protect, to display that image. If stewardship is the key to this issue, then we have to think about self-defense in those terms.

The Bible has several guidelines related to self-defense. The first is this idea of preserving the image of God. Let me explain it to you this way. The Sixth Commandment says, “Thou shall not murder.” The reason that command made it into what we call the Big Ten, the Top Ten List of God’s commandments, is because at the heart of that commandment, “Thou shalt not murder,” murder is seen as an attack on God’s image and an expression of hatred toward God, whose image is expressed through the sacred life of an individual. If murder is an attack on God and an expression of hatred towards God, then conversely personal protection must be viewed from the perspective of defending the image of God based on our love for Him and our desire to see it preserved and protected.

The Bible is full of examples. In Genesis 14 when Lot is taken captive in a military moment, we’re told that Abraham armed the men of his household and went and saved Lot. Not only was that seen as appropriate, but Melchizedek, a priest and a king in that generation, it’s recorded for us in Genesis that he came and commended Abraham for his readiness and use of weapons to protect home and family.

In Exodus 22 there is explicit instruction given to Israel about the allowance of force in a threatening situation. Exodus 22 talks about a thief who breaks into a house. If he is killed in the commission of that burglary, there is no penalty for a home owner. Now, there are restrictions. If that encounter happens at night when it’s dark, when the home owner is not able to fully assess the situation, if deadly force is used the home owner is not responsible for the consequences. But by the same token if someone breaks into the house in the day time, when the home owner is not awakened and likely to be surprised, then there are strict limits on the home owners ability to use deadly force.

In other words, it disturbs me when Christians carry guns and have sort of a “wild west” mentality like they’re looking for somebody that they can use that weapon against. Self-defense in scripture is allowable. It’s even commended. But it’s never based on hatred or revenge or any ungodly motive. It is always about a protection and a preservation, a stewardship if you will, of those resources of family and possessions that have been placed into the hands of God’s people.

As far as disarmament goes, the elimination of the Second Amendment, disarmament nationally has no purpose and has never had a purpose other than to make an unarmed people unto a defenseless people to be subjugated. It is always used… Thomas Jefferson said this, “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against the tyranny of government.”

On the opposite side I have a quote from Adolph Hitler. Hitler said, “The most foolish mistake we would possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.”

Jefferson said the beauty of the Second Amendment was, “It would never be important to us until someone tried to take it away.”

Here’s the bottom line from a Scriptural standpoint. While Christian people are authorized to defend their families, there is no Biblical basis for personal revenge, hatred or political or theological persuasion by means of arms. Christianity was never meant to be spread by the sword. And while we do have a right to self-defense, we must decide when it is proper to use it. Difficult choices exist in this evil world. I hope that I never have to use deadly force to protect my family. But if I do, I know from my study of the Word of God that it is not wrong to use violence if necessary, to protect my family from violent criminal assault.

Now, if the Bible allows it, we must be skeptical of a government that disallows individual ownership of weapons and wonder what their motives might be.

This is TruthCurrents.

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