Why I Disagree with John Piper on Christians and Concealed Weapons

I wish to offer a rejoinder to John Piper’s assertion that Christians should not carry concealed weapons. In a recent post at Desiring God, Piper wrote: “Exhorting the lambs to carry concealed weapons with which to shoot the wolves does not advance the counter-cultural, self-sacrificing, soul-saving cause of Christ.”

His post takes direct aim at Jerry Falwell Jr, who recently urged students at Liberty University to procure their concealed-carry permits and “teach [terrorists] a lesson if they ever show up here.” I don’t know Jerry Falwell, and I’m sure we wouldn’t agree on everything. But here’s how he explained the context behind his statement:

As the president of this university community of nearly 15,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, I take very seriously my responsibility to keep you safe in an increasingly dangerous world. That’s why in 2011 I asked our Board of Trustees to consider a concealed carry policy. It wasn’t because of Islamic terrorism, it was because what happened (just) up the road at Virginia Tech. More than 30 innocent students and faculty were murdered viciously and none of them had the ability to protect themselves. The day that happened, I thought we needed to do something different here at Liberty… [We have] 950 here now with concealed carry permits, and after I made those remarks on Friday we had 240 sign up for a course tomorrow night.

I find this eminently reasonable. Here’s a Christian leader, responsible for the safety of thousands of people, urging responsible citizens to act within their legal rights to obtain gun permits in light of a tragic instance of campus violence. Piper sees this as out of step with the New Testament. I see it as profoundly in line with the Christian responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves. If an active shooter showed up on campus with intent to harm, the loving thing to do would be to take him out before he killed dozens of people.

There’s certainly room for freedom of conscience on this issue. Christians will have differing convictions on the use of lethal force. But the case Piper makes against lethal force is a weak one, and its weaknesses need to be highlighted in order to move the conversation forward. In an age of terrorism where churches and schools are soft targets, Christians need to think more critically about this important matter.

Piper offers nine considerations in support of his thesis. I will advance three critiques that reveal some weaknesses and inadequacies I perceive in Piper’s viewpoint. And I hope to offer all of them in a tone that conveys the eminent respect and esteem I have for Dr. Piper.


1) Piper fails to substantiate his assertion that Romans 13 does not apply to private citizens in a democracy.

Piper writes:

[Any] claim that in a democracy the citizens are the government, and therefore may assume the role of the sword-bearing ruler in Romans 13, is elevating political extrapolation over biblical revelation. When Paul says, “The ruler does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christian citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas.

What does Paul mean, then? Certainly he doesn’t mean that Caesar must personally carry a sword and execute all justice by his own hand. By “the ruler,” we understand Paul to be speaking symbolically of every civil magistrate, and by “the sword,” we understand him to be speaking symbolically of all the various forms of justice that the civil authorities enforce.

Therefore, it is not “political extrapolation” to say that governments may wield fighter jets instead of swords. And neither is it political extrapolation to say that citizens in a democracy may bear arms. This is called biblical application. Romans 13 allows citizens to carry and use weapons as long as their government allows it.

Piper draws a distinction between “policemen or soldiers” using lethal force and “ordinary Christians” using lethal force. But he fails to reckon with the reality that in the United States, a Christian citizen who legally uses deadly force to stop an attacker is a legitimate extension of the government’s sword-wielding power. If God has given the ruler the right to bear the sword… and if the ruler extends to private citizens that right… then where exactly is the extrapolation?

2) Piper fails to meaningfully differentiate persecution from acts of terrorism.

Acts of terrorism can be persecution (for instance, when ISIS militants behead someone for their faith in Christ). But not every terrorist attack equates to biblical persecution. The Christian response to persecution is to patiently endure and prayerfully turn the other cheek (1 Peter 2:19, Matthew 5:44-45). The Christian response to terrorism is to stop the terrorist from killing human beings who are made in God’s image. I agree with Piper that Christians should not carry concealed weapons for the purposes of (in the order of his arguments) 1. avenging ourselves, 2. retaliating for unjust treatment, 3. handling hostility, 4. advancing the Christian cause by force, 5. returning evil for evil, or 6. resisting persecution. As a friend of mine observed, “If you used a gun for any of those reasons, you’d be in violation of the law anyway.”

Piper marshals these arguments in order to build a case about “the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life.” He seems to be saying that a Christian demeanor of mercy and humility and godliness is incommensurate with “a disposition to use lethal force.” But it seems to me that this argument proves too much. If it’s impossible to have a Christian demeanor and still be willing to use lethal force, does this not preclude Christians from being police officers or serving in the military?

Piper leans heavily on the book of 1 Peter, where Christians are urged to endure unjust suffering. But contextually, that persecution was coming from the government itself. If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are doing this right now throughout the world. But it’s a stretch to say: therefore, Christians should lay down while a radicalized terrorist shoots innocent people.

3) Piper makes arbitrary distinctions in his application of texts like Romans 13.

Piper asserts that there is, in the Bible, “no direct dealing with the situation of using lethal force to save family and friend, except in regards to police and military.” But can he point to the chapter and verse where the Bible deals with police and military using lethal force? No. Because there isn’t one. The assertion that police and military may use lethal force is an application of texts like Romans 13. And so is the assertion that a private citizen may use lethal force! A police officer and a private citizen who use lethal force to stop an attacker are both doing so legally, as an extension of the state’s authority, and with the expectation that they will have to answer for their actions. If Piper is OK with a Christian police officer using lethal force in a case of imminent danger, then he should also be OK with Christian students at Liberty University doing the same.

Throughout his article, Piper draws lines between police and military using lethal force and private citizens using lethal force. But this distinction is not present in the biblical text. It is a distinction in application. And it is, I assert, an arbitrary one.


Piper’s primary concern is with the spirit of Jerry Falwell Jr’s remarks – specifically, with the statement, “Let’s teach [terrorists] a lesson if they ever show up here.” I agree that that specific statement is unnecessarily provocative. And I think Dr. Piper could have written a very thoughtful blog post taking issue with it. Unfortunately, he has done more than that. He has taken a theological position against Christians carrying concealed weapons. And I find that theological position, as argued by Piper, to have some significant weaknesses.

On December 9, 2007, an armed attacker with a semiautomatic rifle and 1400 rounds of ammunition began a shooting rampage at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He killed two teenagers in the parking lot and then moved toward the building where about 700 people were gathered. His murderous advance was stopped by church security team member Jeanne Assam, who shot him with her concealed handgun. Her quick and decisive action likely saved dozens of lives. I would not deem Ms. Assam more Christlike if she had prayerfully set down her weapon and “accepted unjust mistreatment without retaliation.” And I suspect the students at Liberty University would not either.

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  1. Great job establishing a Biblical argument for lawful and appropriate use of lethal force by Christians. The most powerful point in my estimation is that it is indeed an act of serving and protecting inmocent lives – which is profoundly in keeping with our mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.. Well done Bob!

    • It seems to me that the context of Romans 13 has very little to do with self-defense. The text is speaking about crime and punishment. When I act in self-defense my goal is not to exact punishment for crimes committed, but rather to stop the evildoer in a manner consistent with the threat. In the context of Romans 13, it is the government’s job to determine if my conduct was good or evil, and then receive either their approval, or wrath. To use the passage to condone or condemn the use of lethal force in self defense seems to go beyond what the text is saying.

    • How did Jesus respond when innocent people were killed?
      Luke 13

      Repent or Perish
      13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

    • I agree with you. Also, there’s the man in the book of Judges who put his sword beneath his clothing and went to execute the wicked leader. Wouldnt that be considered a “Concealed Carry”? Christians shouldnt act like innocent little targets. Great Article.
      Bill @ Conceal Carry Permit

      • “there’s the man in the book of Judges who put his sword beneath his clothing and went to execute the wicked leader.”

        Yes, there is.

        There is also another man in the book of Judges who offered his daughter as a human sacrifice after God gave him victory over his enemies. Surely, you don’t suggest we follow that practice, as well, do you?

        Then there’s Samson, who was promiscuous with heathen women….

        Gideon, well known for defeating the Midianites, of course, but who afterwards made a golden ephod which “all Israel whored after it”…

        a Levite who allowed his concubine to be raped and killed, then cut up her body and sent the pieces throughout Israel to incite the nation to revenge…

        well, you get the idea, I hope. The book of Judges is a violent book. It describes a period in the history of Israel when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” and the consequences that accompany such a culture. While there are certainly examples of faith throughout the book, none of its characters escapes with an untarnished reputation. That Ehud concealed a weapon in order to execute a wicked leader is true. But to extrapolate from that story a justification for 21st Christians carrying concealed weapons is to misinterpret the text completely in order to make it say what we want it to say.

      • “Christians shouldnt act like innocent little targets.”

        “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves” (Lk 10:3).

          • I’m not sure what you’re getting at. But if we say we are Christians, we should seek to imitate Christ and follow his teachings, through the power of his Spirit. It’s not optional or a matter of personal preference.

  2. Well thought out response. My simple add on is that Jesus approved Peter carrying a sword, probably confident Peter wasn’t that good with it (fisherman swings sword).

    • I’m fairly certain Jesus had a far more Godly view of weapons than either John or Bob when He responded to the disciple’s question regarding swords.

      May I say one thing? Let’s be informed by the Spirit and the Word while prayerful about “kingdom of man” issues NOT by humans…

      • And may I suggest you read a commentary or two on Luke 22 before you draw conclusions. Anyone who uses Luke 22 to justify lethal force is failing to do serious biblical exegesis.

        • Bob as a director of a mission school in a foreign country I agree with your argument that we should do all that is appropriate to protect those in our care and that use of force is necessary at times and we should definitely not make ourselves a “soft target”.. Having said that I also understand Dr. Piper’s concern which I would phrase as “a tendency to rely on our own strength rather than God’s”. This of course is a warning that is given throughout scripture. I do think Dr. Piper is theologically in error but I think he is voicing a valid concern as to where Christians should be finding their security.

  3. Thanks for the article. I am the Senior Pastor at New Life and was here the day of the shooting. I despise violence, but was thankful for legal protection that day.

  4. I have with your example – while not an officer, Jeanne Assam was a member of a security team, a person expected to have weapons and be trained how to use them. She may have used her personal concealed weapon to stop the attack, but on that day she was performing the role of security guard.

    • I take on the role of a security officer every day of my life, everywhere I go. What’s the Biblical difference between me and a person asked to take on that role in an official capacity? By the way, my gun saved my life (and my dad’s life) when a would-be knife attacker came after us.

    • I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six. Regardless if she was a security guard or not, she did what was right and nobody in their right mind would send her to the chair for what she did.

  5. Thanks Marc. I am wrestling with this matter myself, especially in view of the fact that our church has a “Safety Team” that I approve of. My grappling with the matter is on whether or not I can get the proper training and practice to use such lethal force, legally, but more importantly, wisely. You have added good considerations to this argument for me.

    • Del, likely there are very qualified instructors in your area. If not, look into large national institutes such as Front Sight. My family and I have gone from zero to confident in short time with excellent training and practice. The instructor/facility should cover not only techniques, but the legal and ethical justification for use of force. Front Sight covers all of these.

      • Front-Sight in a super place with super Training. I purchased TWO Memberships and then my health got me so I transferred them to my Non-Active Duty Step Son who is a US Marine. I have all of Front-Sight’s Books which are good. but nothing is as good as Hands-On Training. ,,,,,, There are a number of good Training DVD’s out, I have a number of different ones of them also. So using DVD’s are good, but Live Fire Training is a MUST and then Dry Fire Practice is also a Must I need to get back to doing. ,,,,, God Bless, Rev. Chaplain Jimmie

  6. If the law were changed (or according to some, made clear) to say that private citizens who owned guns were not an extension of “the government’s sword-wielding power” would your argument change? I ask for clarification because it seems that your argument hinges on, “It’s lawful, so it’s okay,” but if the law changed, then would it then not be okay?

      • Very well written. I do take issue with the “government sanctioned” position. All creatures, including Christians, have a God-given right to self-defense, with or without government approval. Can I love my neighbor by using lethal force against an attacker only if another man says I can? I think to advance that argument elevates government to the level of God. (Are we to obey man’s law over God’s? Exodus 22 sanctions lethal use of force in self-defense). Indeed, I believe, like the American founders, that the right of self-defense extends to use of lethal force against abusive government (tyranny), which is of course the main purpose of the second amendment (not hunting or personal self-defense). Biblically, I believe that position aligns with being ultimate peace makers and loving our neighbors.

        • I agree, Daniel.
          Here in Australia however, gun ownership is tightly (is ‘draconially’a word) regulated. For all practical purposes,, just owning a gun is limited to gun club members and primary producers (farmers). All guns must be registered with the authorities, and all gun owners must be licensed.
          Owning an unregistered gun is a crime, and owning a registered gun, without holding a license to do so is also a crime.
          So terriroists, gang members, and ordinary criminals, who have no scruples about acquiring and using guns, license & registration or not, know that all private premises are soft targets, and that virtually all law-abiding citizens are not concealed-carrying.
          Any suggestions?

          • My question: since the gun laws in Australia were “stiffened” (shortly after a mass shooting in 1996), how many more mass shootings have taken place? (If I’m not mistaken, the answer is “zero”!) Why change that? We now have them EVERY WEEK here!

      • You stated;
        If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation.

        I disagree with that and think of WW2 France and the underground resistance that sought to rid the Nazis from their country…I am sure there were Christians fighting the established govt…..or in 1776 when England used the power of the sword and the pulpits supported revolution? I don’t own a gun but if I did I would use it against the sword of govt who came to take my families life..so would you unless you believe we just accept it and agree with Piper who I love by the way….otherwise great article, stretching my thinking..

  7. Very well Stated. We must all use care when injecting our own thoughts or feelings to the Scripture. We as teachers have an incredible responsibility. I hope that all of us can enter these areas with Love of Christ, and one another, far ahead of our own feelings or opinions.

  8. I do think there are some points that were not observed by Piper in the cases of terrorism and the fact that it really should be our job to seek justice in those situations and preserve life. Also the thought that simply having a weapon in the face of violence is often the only defense needed. You don’t always have to use deadly force. Displaying a weapon is often enough to deter threats. But I do think that there are many articles responding to Piper in hate. He is one of the greatest and humblest theologians I know and just because he posted an opinion based on his own biblical findings, some Americans got offended and are calling him a false prophet. This is not a first, second, or third level theology and so it’s not a good thing to cause division over. It’s doesn’t pertain to salvation and therefore not something that is a matter we must come to consensus on. Thank you for a well thought out differing opinion on this matter. I tend to agree with you in this situation. Also I appreciate the tact you used. Rather than in the case of others who seem to be clinging so hard to their permits that they are eager to listen to potentially harmful people and in some cases take scripture far out of context. I personally have a concealed carry permit, but If I find something in the Bible that suggests what situations I should or shouldn’t use it then I will obey. Haven’t yet and I think it’s a matter of conscience for some things,. But it’s also plain as day what constitutes a legal and ethical defense. Killing someone who has knife 20 yards away with a full clip I would consider overkill and murder. Just consider all we do with scripture as our lense and the spirit as our guide.
    Sorry for rambling, for the most part it’s a good article.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything you said, but would like to to clear up a few misconceptions (experts, feel free to correct me) that I usually hear from gun grabbers and cop haters. First, 21 yards is not a safe distance from a knife attack. Inside of that range, studies (including one done by the Mythbusters) have found that the knife fighter can stab before the shooter can shoot.

      Also, under a life-or-death situation, even a skilled gunman is probably going to keep shooting involuntarily at center mass with poor accuracy until the gun is dry. Besides, there is no reason to assume that a couple of shots will stop an attacker. A lawyer would say, “He stopped shooting because his intent was to maim or kill so-and-so, and not to stop an imminent threat.” In hunting, you only want to fire one shot. When my life is on the line, or my familys’, give me the extended mag with hollow points.

    • The first indication an attacker should have that you are armed is the muzzle flash. Brandishing a weapon only provides time for unfavorable escalation, introduction of uncertainty to the defender, or provides an opportunity to lose it. Wisdom in deciding the use of deadly force should be sought over a long period through regular focused prayer and arms training. Jesus loves life. it is a very serious matter to take it and that resolve should be had before any incident. Showing your gun to halt potentially lethal aggression is a bad idea.

  9. The numbers tell the tale: our drastic increase in guns has led to many more gun accidents, gun suicides, and gun murders. That’s not good shepherding. The “wild west” got lots less wild as guns came under public control. Why go back?

    • Larry, I wonder if you can reveal your sources for your statements? The research I have found reveals just the opposite. The daily news reveals just the opposite as well. Look at Chicago, D.C., L.A. and other strong gun control cities. Compare them to cities where guns are permitted and carried.

      I am not trying to start an argument. Just wondering if you had good solid, reputable sources that can substantiate your claims?

    • Actually, the FBI stats show that crime has decreased in all states where concealed carry permits are allowed. Gun violence is perpetrated by criminals who were already committing another crime. It wasn’t that long ago when states required their citizens to have a gun. Crimes that are thwarted by those with concealed weapons are under reported.

    • Larry, the facts do not support such a claim. Gun homicides in the US have steadily dropped since the 1990s, at a stark contrast to the increasing amount of guns purchased and CCW permits issued to lawful citizens. There is no correlation between the decrease of gun possession resulting in a decrease of murder. In fact, the numbers would suggest gun ownership decreases violent crime. Suicides and accidents are not the same as murder, and including them to skew total gun deaths is misleading in the discussion on violent crime. We are far from the “Wild West”, and statistically speaking, it is guns in the hands of lawful owners that keep it that way. The numbers do tell the tale, but not the propaganda you are attempting to spread.

      http://www.allenbwest.com/2015/12/shameful-washington-post-busted-for-deliberately-misleading-on-guns/

      • Yup.

        The FBI Crime in the United States report [https://www.fbi.gov/…/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/cius-home ] found 8,124 murders committed with firearms in 2014, DOWN (not up) from 8,454 in 2013. That represents a 3.9 percent DROP year after year and the lowest rate of any year included in their reporting.

        • Just be careful using FBI because it comes with the caveat of the data being voluntarily self-reported.

          CDC.gov (based on death certificates, which I’m sure have their own issues but seem more reliable than FBI) reports 11,208 firearm homicides in 2013 (3.54 per 100,000), and 10,945 firearm related homicides in 2014 (3.45 per 100,000). There does seem to be a slight but consistent drop since 12,791 (4.29) firearm homicides in 2006. Also falling is unintentional deaths, and it’s fallen quite a bit (789 in 2005; 586 in 2014).

          The big concern is the more noticeable increase in firearm suicides since 2006. There were 16,883 (5.66) in 2006 and 21,334 (6.69) in 2014. The only other category increasing is legal intervention firearm deaths (344 in 2010; 464 in 2014), but that’s an entirely different conversation.

          Overall, firearm related deaths are on the rise, but only nominally, and it’s driven by suicides.

          • I tend to disagree as to the reliable issue.

            That “caveat of the data being voluntarily self-reported” needs a far better explanation the term “self.” Individuals who seek medical help typically have no option. Short of disposing of a body w/o anyone knowing, most deaths are reported to Law Enforcement.

            But either set of numbers debunks the “many more gun accidents, gun suicides, and gun murders” claim.

            FWIIW, I think that the important thing to keep in mind is not the rate of deaths by gun – a statistic that anti-gun advocates are quick to recite – but the overall murder rate, regardless of means actually addresses the issue of safety far better.

            Per capita murder overall is only half as frequent in the United States as in several other nations where gun murder is rarer, but murder by strangling, stabbing, or beating is much more frequent.
            See: http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

            If the lack of legal presence of guns, (the low rate of private ownership of guns) is a driver of murders, how do you explain D.C.’s gun ban failing to live up to its purpose? If the astronomical murder rate in our nation’s capital (in comparison to cities where gun ownership is permitted) doesn’t sway one’s thinking, then I posit that they are just focusing on “rate of deaths by gun” in order to cherry pick data to support a preconceived position.

            Or maybe they just think that murder by strangling, stabbing, stomping, fire, explosives or beating is somehow OK and being shot is not?

          • David Hicks,

            Been meaning a longer response for awhile, but wanted to clarify a couple of things.

            The FBI data is unreliable because it is voluntarily self-reported. It appears you misunderstand what I mean by that. Law Enforcement voluntarily reports what they chose to report to the FBI. Departments are not required to participate or required to share everything. So this is a huge reliability issue. To me, the lack of data and at times intentional efforts to disrupt the collection and research of reliable data on gun laws is a major issue. It makes studies unreliable. They become best guesses from questionable data.

            As far as cherry picking, I agree. Just remember that cuts both ways as we are geared toward confirmation bias. For instance, that Harvard article was a bit questionable in that it picked a year and certain comparison countries and seemed to leave out some context I was looking for. I also have grown more wary of comparisons between countries because apparently the way they collect and define data varies.

            That article did raise a key point I agree with: socio-economic and cultural variables need to be considered. In America, we have a real issue with gun culture. We also have a real issue with inner cities being created by our system and then being left to destroy itself.

            Both of these variables are not necessarily unique to the US, but they way they present themselves and the way to address them might be unique to our culture.

            That brings this back around to the main point. The goal isn’t so much to increase or decrease the rate of homicides by firearm (or otherwise). The goal is to live Christ in any circumstance, and show a Kingdom Culture to a world that needs it, even if it doesn’t know it. It won’t ever notice the better way of we stay physical life focused instead of spiritual life focused.

            That doesn’t necessarily mean lethal force is always wrong, but some of the arguments that get to it being right are concerning because they are so physically focused and virtually ignore spiritual ramifications. As Christians, the argument must always be what is in the best interest of 1) glorifying God and 2) pointing others to him. We can’t do that if we are willing to send someone to hell to protect someone from going to heaven.

            A lot of times we show a lack of confidence in God and have too much confidence in the flesh. This is not my purpose as an ambassador of Christ.

          • Don’t disagree with a word you said.

            Local police do play lose with the data, in general. However, I think that is more downgrading the level of incidents. However, that is a bit difficultly when there is a dead body involved.

            I was reacting to the ex cathedra type of announcements that all self-defense is un-Christian.

            Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission.”

            Were an unarmed person to try to intervene during an assault of deadly force, (s)he would most likely fail in doing anything beneficial “for the sake” of the another. Being unarmed most likely will result in one ineffectively and naively increasing the body count without providing any benefit to the “other.” An armed attacker will prevail over an unarmed person with monotonous regularity. In essence, an unarmed Christian would be just committing suicide (a sin) and nothing would be accomplished for the sake of another. Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teachings are full of instructions to care for others [John 21:15-19, Acts 20:28-29, I Peter 5:2, etc.]

            In closing, let me say that I fully accept that others might conclude otherwise. It is an individual’s call [Rom 14:14, 23]. If you think it is morally wrong to defend yourself or others with deadly force, then for you, it is wrong.

            As for me, I think it is not and I believe being armed could be a virtue, were it to come to some situations [John 15:13].

          • David Hicks, you wrote: “Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teachings are full of instructions to care for others”

            I agree.

            And yet…

            The Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles are all noticeably silent on the use of lethal force in self-defense as an application of those instructions. There is not a single instance in the entire NT of any disciple or early Christian ever using lethal force in self-defense or in defense of others. Not once. At all.

            Now, personally, I do not oppose lethal force completely. But it appears to me that there is very little biblical justification for using lethal force in self-defense or defense of others. That doesn’t make it wrong in all cases, necessarily. But it should give us pause.

  10. I think your Biblical arguments are valid, and I agree that some of the arguments Piper made were thin. However, I do agree with his premise. What would motivate people in these current days to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon? It rings hollow to me that Christians have a loving burden to protect others. I think fear is the driving force here. The other danger that this “Wyatt Earp” mentality has is a tacit approval for anti-Islamic banter. We need to show the love of Christ to Muslims that are living in this country. I think it’s much more important for Christians to show the love of Jesus in peaceful measures rather than aggressive ones. I’m not categorically against people carrying concealed weapons, but I am against people doing it out of fear.

        • I’m not sure why. Mike said he is against people carrying concealed weapons out of fear. I’m merely pointing out that we do not have the privilege of looking into the heart and discerning motive.

          • I think your reply WAS flippant, but I probably deserved it. I should clarify that my motivation in weighing in on this topic wasn’t an attempt to seek policy change. I just wanted to get at the underlying issue here. Fear is certainly the subtext of this issue. With that said, I would ask that all Christians that want to carry a concealed weapon reflect on their motivation to do so. However, I don’t want to prevent them from doing so, if their consciences are clear.
            Also, I do think there are two greater priorities for Christians in this context. We should be mourning the loss of life of the victims. We should also be seeking to love our Muslim neighbors. The backlash that these atrocities create is just as evil as the atrocities themselves. Not only is loving them what we are called to do, but alienating them can just cause the cycle of terrorism to repeat itself. “Packing heat” should be tertiary.

          • It’s dishonest because that’s not what he said. If you adjust your statement to the following, it would be more accurate:

            “So you are in favor of concealed carry as long as I can look into my heart and verify my motives?”

            He’s not saying we have to determine someone else’s motives, but that we have to think about what is driving us to carry and use a weapon. Are our motives in line with Jesus motives since we are serving as His ambassadors? I think there are situations where the answer could be yes. I think those a few and far apart and when they happen, we should mourn the likely loss of a soul who was committing such violence that it became necessary to destroy in order to save. Unfortunately, that is not the general tenor of the people pushing for their second amendment rights. I wouldn’t care so much if these people weren’t also claiming Christ.

            (Note: to clarify, I don’t think all Christians wrongly discuss gun rights from an aggressive and fearful position, but the ones that do set the tone by their loudness, and they are not few in number, either.)

          • Micah, I think you are conflating carrying a weapon and using one. I think Christians can carry a weapon with “unfearful” motives, but if anyone ever USES a weapon in self-defense and claims fear was no part of their motivation, I would call them a liar. Does this make their action immoral?

            More broadly, I utterly disagree that IF a Christian’s motive is tainted by fear at all, that makes it theologically illegitimate for him to carry a weapon. I would love to meet the person who is so aware of all their motives that they can say categorically that they ARE or ARE NOT motivated by fear, or love, or anything else.

          • Tom, you are painting this into an all-or-nothing argument unnecessarily.

            First, I agree that there would be fear involved in a decision to use a weapon. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this would be untrue. That said, three points:

            1. I should be striving toward an ideal, and that ideal is revealed through the life of Jesus in the Word of God. That ideal sums up nicely as perfect love cast out fear. It is a constant theme that was lived perfectly in the life of Jesus. We have no need to fear death and we should – ideally – live life with that confidence. It is what makes us stand out from the temporally focused world, which is filled with fear of death and just retribution for wrong. It is what provides our opportunity to point to God’s greater grace provided through a self-sacrificial love.

            2. Just because we are imperfect and we fear, it doesn’t mean we can’t let love be the stronger motive and guiding principle. Love is not the “vibe” I get when guns are discussed, but anger, fear, and rights. “Don’t tread on me” might sound like a good reason to shoot someone, but it is not a Christian principle.

            3. The main point of the statement was that you misrepresented the other guy’s statement. We are foremost responsible for our motives, not for determining the other person’s motive (although that should be considered based on the information available).

            To be clear, I appreciated your article more than most counters to Piper – enough to post it under the Piper article I shared on my FB page – but I still wonder if we are much more worried about our physical lives than we should be as Christians who recognize this body is the only thing separating us from being fully clothed.

            Thanks for the thoughtful discussion and Merry Christmas.

    • I believe that the aggressor would be the perpetrator, not the concealed carry citizen attempting to stop the threat and save lives.

    • When we leave our homes for the day we clothe ourselves both physically and spiritually; not out of fear, but in preparation for what the day may bring. Knowing that the hearts of Muslims are being turned against us should give everyone sufficient reason for additional preparation.

    • Guns may be the political target these days, but they are not the only weapons available for personal safety….however they are the most effective when needed (assuming proper training and, like anything, practice. I assert It is lawful and righteous to protect oneself and our “neighbor” – Christians should never stand idly stand by and watch in horror or become a victim themselves when means are available to avoid further tragedy. I assert that any argument to the contrary is based on feelings, not reason. And parcing Scripture to justify “no guns” is intellectual dishonesty, especially when “deadly force” is not specific to the weapon used. And if I may, God doesn’t look solely at the situation or event or struggle, He looks at what we do with it thereafter… to go reactively headlong into arguing for more gun control after some lunatic shoots a group of innocent people is self defeating to Scriptural tenet of protection of life, which, by the way, does not mean YOU have to carry, but it is nice to know your neighbor might be if and when a situation arises when you may need help.

    • Michael… my concealed handgun saved me from two thugs who thought I was easy prey. I didn’t have to threaten or shoot them either. Also, my wife didn’t have to come to the morgue that night to ID my body. Is that a good thing that I had my legally carried gun that day or a bad thing?

      • Jack

        Yes it is a good thing you had your gun that day. Just as it would of being a good thing for some one to have had a legal weapon and of big able to intervene and saved the innocent lives lost in any of the mass shootings which have occurred.

    • Thank you Michael! VERY well said. My sentiments EXACTLY! No one else has addressed the spirit of fear underlying all of this!

    • As a Lutheran pastor point out to me, it is the absolute moral responsibility of every Christian to protect those for whom he/she is responsible. Simply put, that means that my responsibility as a Christian is to allow myself to be mistreated if such mistreatment comes as a result of my confession of Christ. However, I cannot allow my children, wife, or neighbor to be harmed, as I am charged with their well-being.

      Luther liked to refer to other people as my “neighbor.” In addition, when it comes to my neighbor’s welfare, I am to be concerned with his/her welfare that I am willing to protect them in both body and possessions. Therefore, if someone is seeking to harm my neighbor — whoever that may be — it is my duty as Christian to seek my neighbor’s best interests and do what is necessary to protect those interests.

      From there it’s not too difficult to see that if my family’s lives are in jeopardy, I am under Christian obligation to respond with whatever tools I have to protect their lives. And yes, I think it perfectly “Christian” to say that includes a handgun, if necessary.

      Were I to pray that God will protect me, can I, in good faith, be so arrogant as to demand that He protect me using someone else? Were one to pray that God feed one’s family or were one to ask for a pile of gold would one expect God to provide it without effort on one’s own part, using someone else’s labor and action? I submit that God has seen fit to open my eyes to risks and has provided me with the resources to protect my family as well as to feed them.

  11. Interesting conversation: I’m not sure I can agree with your first argument, and by inference your third. Surely you see a difference in the authority and right to use force between a citizen and a police officer. It seems like lunacy to think otherwise. Piper is arguing amongst other things that the State may have one obligation, but the Christian has other options and compelling reasons to consider them. We can parse Romans 13 until the second coming, but a differentiation is assumed in the passage and a democracy does not entirely erase these distinctions.

    Honestly, I thought Piper did write the article you suggested he should write. The entire article is a carefully argued opposition to the “let’s go out and dominate and conquer” attitude we do at times hear Christian leaders promote. He did not take a hard/absolute position against Christians carrying concealed weapons and your sound bite from his last sentence ignores his many qualifiers throughout. Even his last sentence taken at face value is a call to carefully think through the implications of carrying. Does his article lean heavily that way? Probably. But to say it is a theological position against carrying is a bit of overstatement. He is responding to a theological position that Christians ‘should’ carry, and this understandably puts him in a position of trying to balance the scales.

    I have no business speaking for John Piper and perhaps I misunderstand him, but I for one am glad that he rightly challenged an increasingly aggressive attitude amongst Christians. It is not that your your position, on the other hand, is illegitimate; it is certainly worthy of consideration. I’m just not sure you were entirely true to the context.

    • Thank you for this! I agree there are some legitimate points, but it really didn’t seem to counter the actual paper written by Piper. I also wondered if he called Join Piper to clarify his position, as Piper did with Falwell Jr. before he hit publish.

        • You don’t have any basis on which to doubt that Mr. Piper would take Mr. Thune’s call. Regardless, Rosalie’s point is valid. Mr. Thune had a moral obligation to address (or at the least, attempt to address) Mr. Piper directly before publishing a public rebuttal. I hope he did. If he didn’t, it was wrong of him not to.

          • What about John Piper’s position needs clarification?

            Piper called Falwell to make sure he had properly understood before publicly saying “I disagree.” Piper’s comments were laid out publicly, left little room for misinterpretation, and now many of us disagree.

          • This comment is intended for Nathan. I hope you read this, I don’t know how to respond directly to your reply.

            You asked, “What about John Piper’s position needs clarification?”

            I would counter by asking, “What about Mr. Falwell’s position needs clarification?”

            Mr. Falwell’s comments were also laid out publicly. You can find them easily on YouTube. Not only that, Mr. Falwell made numerous appearances on TV elaborating on his original comments, and these, too, can be found easily online.

            And yet, Mr. Piper took the time to reach out directly to Mr. Falwell before responding to him in public, because that is the Christian thing to do. And because no matter how public the comments, there is always room for misinterpretation. In fact, it is especially when there is initial disagreement that a comment is susceptible to misinterpretation. Certainly, I have seen many commenters here misinterpret what Mr. Piper wrote.

            For these reasons, I hope Mr. Thune likewise reached out to Mr. Piper before responding to him in public. Rosalie’s comments remain a valid concern.

          • I guess we will have to disagree here. Piper felt compelled to contact Jerry Falwell and did so. That’s fine.

            But when he publicly and systematically lays out his argument, it’s pretty clear what his argument is. It seems unnecessary to me for Bob to call JP to clarify his position for the same reason you and other commenters probably didn’t call Bob to clarify his position before you disagreed with him publicly here – his argument is plainly laid out for all to see and evaluate.

          • “But when he publicly and systematically lays out his argument, it’s pretty clear what his argument is.”

            And yet there are many who have commented here who have misunderstood Mr. Piper’s argument. Just because you think you understand Mr. Piper’s argument, or because Mr. Thune thinks he understands Mr. Piper’s argument, doesn’t mean you or Mr. Thune actually do understand it.

            “for the same reason you and other commenters probably didn’t call Bob to clarify his position before you disagreed with him publicly here – his argument is plainly laid out for all to see and evaluate.”

            The reason I didn’t call Mr. Thune to clarify his position is not because “his argument is plainly laid out for all to see and evaluate.” The reason is because I am already on his blog. Mr. Thune is already here. He can read my comments. He and I can interact directly, and he can clarify any misunderstandings I may have. And I am not presumptuous enough to believe that I have understood Mr. Thune’s argument completely and that there is nothing that needs to be clarified. That is the point of contacting someone before publishing a public response. By interacting on this blog, that is how I am contacting Mr. Thune.

            If I had my own blog, and I wished to publish a public response to his article, or any other article, I would have sent him an email of what I was planning to post. I would have told him that I wanted to make sure I had not misunderstood his argument before publishing my response, and invited him to clarify if I had misunderstood something. If he had chosen not to reply to my email, at least I would have fulfilled my responsibility of reaching out to him. And I would have done this because it is the courteous thing to do; it is how I would want to be treated.

            Treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated (as it is commanded of us in Mat 5) should not be just “fine.” It should be the default response of every disciple of Christ, who is learning how to do everything he has commanded us (Mat 28).

  12. The statement below is where I believe his arguments completely break down:

    “I think I can say with complete confidence that the identification of Christian security with concealed weapons will cause no one to ask a reason for the hope that is in us. They will know perfectly well where our hope is. It’s in our pocket.”

    This is based completely on his own experience, not on Biblical truth. I respect Piper for a great many things, but he couldn’t have been more wrong with this article.

  13. Person in picture above needs to switch to a revolver, or get Proper Training before he/she looses left thumb from recoiling slide. Due to incorrect positioning of thumb with this grip.

  14. Thank you Bob. Killed it.

    Not to mention the fact that Piper’s section on whether or not to defend our wives lacked common sense courage. I doubt our wives feel loved when we sit and muse over whether or not to defend them from violent assault. The answer is a resounding yes. I love John Piper and am deeply grateful for him, but when someone is assaulting your wife, the answer isn’t philosophical introspection, but decisive action. Thanks for engaging, Bob. Someone needed to pen a word that offered another biblical perspective that many evangelicals hold that was quite different from the one he offered. Well done.

    • Interesting comment about wives. I would be so tremendously uncomfortabe living in a home with a gun that I suppose I willingly gave up the option for my husband to shoot my potential assailant, since it’s so unlikely he would have a gun to do it with. I feel very loved and I would feel very unloved if he brought a gun into the home in the name of protecting me.

        • “Maybe quoting scripture would stop a rapist.” Heh.

          Thank you for sharing your feelings about being loved, Rosalie. I’m sure it works for you, but you’re not the topic of conversation right now.

          • Her perspective as a wife is relevant to the discussion. Certainly, it is no less valid than is yours, or that of any other man who has chosen to comment here.

            There have been many here who have given personal experiences regarding guns. I notice you have not told them that they are “not the topic of conversation right now.”

      • When I installed locks, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in my home, my wife and family felt loved. Like locks and fire extinguishers, firearms are simply tools. As with most tools, getting training and learning to use them properly will eliminate your uncomfortableness.

        • “Like locks and fire extinguishers, firearms are simply tools.”

          Unlike locks, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, however, the purpose of firearms is specifically to take life. And no one has ever accidentally injured or even killed themselves or another person by a lock or a smoke detector. Your comparison of firearms to locks, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers is invalid.

          • Fernando, I apologize for being unclear. As I understood Rosalie’s comment, she would feel unloved if her husband brought a firearm in to the house with the intention to protect her. My comment was meant for Rosalie to consider the “intent” of acquiring these items to protect our loved ones. It also appeared to me that she had some fear of firearms which lead me to comment on training to alleviate that fear. Firearms require a higher level of training and skill than many other tools, but when you acquire the necessary skill the risk can be managed. Thousands have been accidentally killed or injured with other tools, so for a more valid comparison how about chainsaws, automobiles, medications, knives, electricity, and lawnmowers?

          • Sure, the latter are probably more valid in a certain sense, in that they can be dangerous if not used correctly.. But the major difference remains: chainsaws, medication, automobiles, etc., are not specifically intended for the purpose of taking life. Firearms are. This is a significant difference that you simply cannot get around.

            I understand the point you were trying to make to Rosalie. But I think it is unfair to assert categorically that proper training “will eliminate [her] uncomfortableness.” She feels uncomfortable at the thought of living with a gun in her home, and I can’t say I blame her. She has valid cause for her concern.

  15. I agree with Josh McPherson. Well done. And my wife doesn’t have to wonder if I’ll defend her or jump between her and her attacker.

  16. Bob,

    Thank you for this response to Pastor John’s stance on Christians defending themselves. I sat under John Piper at his church in Minneapolis for over 20 years and love him dearly. His clear teaching of the doctrines of grace are like spring water in a desert.
    Even so, I have found his stance on this and like issues disturbing and seem to remember that he was involved with some kind of protest movement of the Vietnam war during the 60’s. To be sure, 9/11 has seen a change in how he sees the military and the police, but he never could get over that non violence is the best policy for himself, and by extension his flock also. I always wondered how he would respond to an unsaved visiting parent to his church if a gun man came in and killed her unsaved children because of his personal non violent stance that would not allow Christians to protect themselves or provide security at his church. I think your response is accurate and correct.

  17. I like the heart challenge implicit in Piper’s argument. We should always be aware of our motives and attitudes and be ready to adjust them if necessary. What struck me about Piper’s position is that he seems to completely ignore the Old Testament.. The OT law, given to Israel by our unchanging God, allows for the use of lethal force in protection of life (not property) Exodus 22:2-3. Another point I disagreed with Piper on was his misapplication of the verses concerning vengeance.. He seemed to equate defending yourself with vengeance when the two are not the same at all. There is no malice or hatred of the attacker when you are defending yourself, only the desire to protect yourself or others. Vengeance would be seeking the attacker out after the fact with ill intent. It supposes premeditation, self defense does not. I think this article does a good job of both illustrating a Christian’s right to protect themselves while examining the heart.

    • The OT law, given to Israel by our unchanging God, also allows for capital punishment for adulterers and rebellious children. Surely you don’t condone these, as well.

      We cannot completely ignore the OT (and I don’t think Mr. Piper does). But, the OT must be reinterpreted by the NT. Too often in these discussions, it feels like the OT is used to reinterpret the NT.

  18. Thank you for your thoughtful response. However, a picture is worth a thousand words and the photo shows an improper and dangerous grip where the left thumb could be severely injured by the slide.

  19. Regarding your statement in point 2, “If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation.” I would just like to ask you to check with the Declaration of Independence where it says that we have the “duty” to rebel against any such move by a tyrannical government.

  20. No, no, no, no! I mean no offense but only an immature Christian makes an argument that justifies arming themselves in case something tragic happens. That’s not who we are. We don’t condition ourselves to condone killing another person no matter what is going on around us. Such ideology has no place in the life of a Christian. We need to model our lives after Christ so ask yourself this – would Jesus or the apostles arm themselves to protect themselves from the Romans? No! And what happened when Peter cut off a mans ear in a confrontation? “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” It is hard to accept the idea of turning the other cheek but God is in control of all. If someone dies in confrontation it doesn’t come as a surprise to God. He will take care of them. It’s hard for us to accept such a thought but our lives here are but a vapor. Don’t give in to paranoia. Be single minded about what you can do to honor God. Stop watching the news – the world has chosen its path and its path is not ours. Give to Ceaser what is Ceasers and not a penny more. Lose your grip on the world and refocus on Jesus.

    • You’re arguing a point Bob didn’t make. Rome was the government at the time. Bob is not suggesting taking up arms against our government. He is suggesting working within the rights we have under our government. Nor is he suggesting we live by the sword.. If Peter hadn’t put his sword away, he would have likely been killed by the soldiers arresting Jesus, hence the rebuke. Again, that was taking up arms against the authorities, Bob isn’t suggesting that at all. He’s talking about stopping someone intent on killing people within the rights we have. You are right about the heart of it. We should never condition ourselves to kill, it’s not something to be taken lightly, and only when no other recourse is available, but the Old testament does allow for the use of lethal force in defending yourself (Exodus 22:2-3). Maybe the reason Jesus doesn’t address it directly is because His Father already had.

    • Rick, amen! Finally a sane and mature Christian perspective.

      To all you cowboy Christians, Christ never commanded you to kill to save your family. Christians die for their wives, they don’t kill for them. Jesus never says your wife or child is more important (or less evil) than a rapist or murderer. Your feelings are lying to you, as is your Hollywood history. In order to justify training yourselves to kill, you have turned the text of the NT on its head! Time to wake up from your ethnocentric trance and give up your star-spangled saviour and your Democratic Kingdom of God Guts and Guns.

    • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

      The instruction from Jesus is unambiguous. There are no “ifs” or “unless.” Since Cain slew Abel man has always found a reason to justify killing. But we Christians are to be the fragrance of Christ. You desire to arm yourselves because you are modeling your lives after the world. The world is a complete mess.

      Father, please protect us. Please Father i ask that you foil the plans of the enemy and let your glory be known. Please keep us from harm and guide our hearts to serve you as you would have us serve you. Give us knowledge, and wisdom, and discernment that we may only do your will. I humbly pray this in the name of your blessed son Jesus. Amen.

      • Rick, in context, the “Love one another” is referring to Christians loving each other. (read the following sentence) Also, it seems pretty bold to assume that you know another persons motive for arming themselves. Are you saying that you would not use any and all means to protect your family and/or friends from harm? How would this be caring for your family as instructed in 1 Timothy 5:8? I would rather have to answer for protecting those God has given me to care for than answer for standing by as they are harmed or killed when I had the means to stop it.

        • Mark,
          Jesus said love your enemies too. Not just your Christian friends. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? Remember who was crucified next to him? Our sins put him on that cross. We are no better than the worst murderer that ever existed. And yet he loves us. We were his enemies and he loved us so much that he let himself be killed for his enemies. And for everyone claiming that carrying weapons and “defending” yourselves is biblical, If you and your families are saved, why are you so afraid of dying? Is protecting your saved life and soul more important than the murderers? The Apostle Paul persecuted Christians and he was saved. Nothing is impossible for God, you don’t have to worry about dying. Maybe you should be worrying about the responsibility of taking another persons life. Like or not, the murderers and the thieves are the ones we should be working to love. Not our comfortable Christian selves and our man made “legal rights”.

        • I agree. We don’t know what trouble God will allow to come before us. Since CC is allowed by law, by our Government (as stated) we should be allowed to protect our family. I thought long and hard about this before carrying.
          I’ve read about half of the posts so far, and I have noticed two things so far.
          1. Several posts suggest protection from “Muslim”, which in this nutty world why would one just pick “one” group to worry about. A killer of people comes from evil, not just “Muslim”. All “Muslim’s” are not nuts.
          2. You may give your life for others in an instance. You quickly become the primary target if the active shooter see’s you draw your weapon. Not exactly the outcome we as humans plan, God’s plans are often different than our own thoughts. I agree with you, just wanted to post a couple of my own thoughts. Thanks

      • Cain murdered Abel, in cold blood with malice in his heart and ill intent. None of that correlates with what this discussion is about. Nehemiah had his people rebuilding the wall with a sword in one hand. In Esther, the Jews were allowed to defend themselves. Exodus 22 allows for the use of lethal force in defense of life. None of that implies the intent to go looking for a fight, none of that implies a failure to show God’s love to people.

      • This argument is so false. Why in our culture has love become synonymous with accepting the sinful actions of those who are in direct, consensus and deliberate rebellion to God?
        You seem to be confusing someone who protects those around them, at their own personal risk, with hearts full of love and those how go out and deliberately seek violence.
        I hope and pray I will never have to use deadly force to protect those I love.
        Loving others does not mean to allowing them to continue in their sin and rebellion. To say “do what’s best for you” and smile with hands clasped over our chest as they drive themselves to destructions. A life contrary to the word of God. We show love by challenging and standing in opposition to sin and disobedience in a manner that would be pleasing to God. I will choose to love those outside the family of God and invite them in with hopes of a life changed for the Glory of God. But once they decide to surrender completely to the sin in their hearts and that self destruction begins to harm the family of God I MUST intervene to protect the family of God.
        Do I allow the unsaved neighbor kid to introduce my children to porn or drugs because truly loving neighbor boy requires that I accept all that he says and does? I will choose to love that boy regardless of the decisions he makes in his life personally. But the moment his sinful self destruction carries over to my boys, I will intervene. I can still love that boy while protecting those I have a duty to protect. My motives ARE love. That does not mean I must accept sins influence in my life or my families.
        Your undestanding of love is so flawed it disgusts me and quite frankly it is devastating to a Christ honoring church and body of believers.
        Christ IS returning on a white horse with a sword BECAUSE of His love for righteousness and His hatred of sin and its effects on people.

        • “The moment his sinful self destruction carries over to my boys, I will intervene.”

          Yes, but you are not going to kill your unsaved neighbor kid!

          It is right to intervene when one’s family is physically in danger. But lethal force is not the only option for intervention. We are so saturated by a worldly culture of violence that our imaginations are weak. We do not realize that there are countless ways in which God can and will intervene through us.

          It is also worth noting that had the Christians who were in physical danger from Saul of Tarsus intervened by killing him, we would not have half of the New Tesrament today.

          Including Rom 14.

      • Rick… reread Acts 23. A plot to kill Paul is hatched (by 40 assassins) and he is moved by night to another city. As protection he receives an armed escort of 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 horsemen. There is no objection by Paul and no comment as to why this is incorrect by Luke (the author).

        • The use of lethal force by the state (the context of Acts 23) is addressed by Mr. Piper in his discussion of Rom 14. Paul received protection from armed agents of the state, which does not contradict Mr. Piper’s argument in any way.

          Had Paul’s armed escort consisted of his fellow Christians, that would have proved your point. But this was not the case. As I have said elsewhere, there is not a single instance of any early Christian using lethal force in self-defense.

  21. Well put Pastor Brady! I am a veteran and my wife is Active Army…duty requires those in military and police to use deadly force, not only to protect the innocent from harm, but to squash those who would continue to plot harm against the innocent and ways of the free world. I will be pursuing a concealed weapons permit, and God forbid if our government should, at any point, forbid us from doing so! But all with submission to God, humility under God, and His love and patience to all!

  22. A very well considered response. I had not thought to lay out a scriptural defense for my desire to protect my family. It just didn’t seem necessary. But alas the practice of finding Truth through “feelings” has infiltrated the Church as well as mainstream society. Thank you.

    • Well, I tell y’all what. You go ahead and debate this issue till the cows come home and I’ll let the Holy Spirit guide me. I have a concealed carry license and have for several years as well as owned guns in my home for self-defense for more than 20 and. I have not once felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. So in the spirit of Christian liberty, those of you who want to carry and defend yourself and your neighbor against evil doers and to those of you who would rather risk your life and the life of other innocent people by not being willing to lay your life down for your friends, I’ll see both of you on the other side.

  23. Thank you for the well formulated argument. I found flaws in Piper’s statements but was not able to formulate my thoughts into a cohesive argument.

    I always held the opinion when Jesus sent out the twelve, and made sure that some of them had swords.. That some Christians would be called to be ready to fight. He has made us all with different strengths to promote the will of the Lord.

  24. Probably mentioned somewhere in the responses but I’ll forgo that step and just add this- if a criminal is in a school intent on taking lives- the defense of those others lives may have eternal ramifications- i.e. how many lost people will be killed? 10’s, 100’s and they will NEVER again have the opportunity to find salvation in Christ. A Christian who thus helps defend their lives may be able to share that Christ is the answer. In reading through Piper’s article I get the impression that letting these lost 100’s be killed is better than shooting the terrorist or criminal. His case “might” be better taken if a terrorist enters a church and demands that we deny Christ or die- then we can die knowing we stood for the Lord

  25. Think of all the people saved by those who carry guns with the intentions of protecting the innocent. Are we to sit by and just watch as people are killed by someone who made the choice (knowingly and willingly) to kill them? In a way, it is selfish. You might as well say i don’t care about you enough to stop it (even though it is with in the legal rights to do so.)
    I’m in no way saying or condoning going after vengence. I simply believe that we are to protect the innocent. Those who kill others for sport are psychotic. I would ,personally, lose trust in my husband if he knew that I was being hurt and did nothing to stop it. Not everyone should own a gun, but if you obtain one legally and use it with in the laws provided, there is no issue.

  26. the author accepts without providing justification that all those who will carry concealed guns are “responsible” citizens. There is no way for him to provide evidence for that claim. Good try.

    • Alfredo,

      Of course it’s impossible to prove that everyone who carries a gun will be responsible, but that’s not really the point.

      From a spiritual standpoint, I’d say it doesn’t matter if some use rights irresponsibly. I have the duty to protect my family, so I had better take advantage of the tools available to me to do so.

      From a legal standpoint, you can’t restrict everyone from exercising a right guaranteed by the Constitution due to the fear that some might abuse it or use it irresponsibly. We don’t restrict free speech because someone might yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.

      And from a practical standpoint, we accept the risk associated with driving cars, operating power tools, using kitchen knives, etc., even though someone could use all of these things irresponsibly or maliciously. Total safety is an impossibility.

      Cheers

    • You Alfredo, accept without providing justification that all are as pacifist and “good natured” as you seem to think of yourself.
      There is no way for you to provide evidence of that claim. Good try.
      The fact remains that some have so completely turned themselves over to sin and self destruction that the consequences of their sin effects those around them, intentionally or not. The issue has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with the sin in ones heart.
      So say someone does legally aquire a CCP with aim to destroy others. The problem is in their heart, not the piece of paper in thier wallet. If they have plans to destroy and no means of aquiring a gun they will find another way. Maybe a bomb made from common household kitchen supplies and a few hours research on the Internet. Maybe with a knife like the man running through London Subways stabbing people. Then we must outlaw knives, cleaning supplies and the Internet.
      What do guns have to do with sinful mans heart condition?

  27. As much I agree with you, your argument breaks down when you say, “If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation.”

    The second amendment was designed to give us the right to fight our government in the event a scenario like this should take place. Obviously, as Christians we must follow the Word before the law. But how does that affect this discussion?

  28. Bob, last half of last paragraph point 2. If a xtian obeys the law and even has taken an oath to protect the law from enemiies foriegn and domestic…despite what new laws are made, if they are in contradiction to the foundational law…are they then not illegal and the christian under liberty to defend vs even their own government? To stop wicked men no matter what clothes they wear from hurting others?

  29. I came across this from a relative that posted it on Facebook. After
    reading it I wanted to make a couple of points where I think your
    logic is somewhat flawed a bit. I don’t do so in anger or with any
    malicious intent, just that I feel it is needed to point out. I hope
    I don’t offend you and truly am trying to make such points out of a
    sense of my Love for the Truth, so please bear with any mistakes I
    may make.

    1. While I do agree that Christians as well as all other good standing American Citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, I disagree with the whole premise of your argument. Your argument stands on a belief that the Federal Government has extended the right to keep and bear arms to the people. This is where your whole argument us flawed. We were not founded as a Democracy, or “mob rule”, but a Constitutional Republic
    founded on Biblical Principles. The right to keep and bear arms does not come from the Government at all! It is inherent in the inalienable right to Life that the constitution, as noted in the 2nd amendment,declares and secures by acknowledging this truth. In fact, if you read some of the many writings of the Founders, you’ll find the Federalists such as Madison basically capitulated to the Anti-Federalists by agreeing to the first 10 amendments because they would not agree to be bound by this new constitution unless our inherent rights were safeguarded. The Federalists argued that it was not really necessary because all men recognized these
    rights anyway and it was not needed to define them. However thanks to Providence, there were men who understood the corrupt, sinful nature of man and how they would use the powers granted them to try to limit or take a way these God-Given rights. Thus, the right to our very lives and those whom we love cannot be separated by any man-made or man-defined institution
    and the inherent right to defend those lives is not afforded to us as citizens by our Government but is to be protected by it.

    2. Your second point I agree with mostly, except this one sentence.
    “If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation.” In the first 3 quarters of the second point you make the argument that our response to “terroristic” acts of killing is our “Christian response”. Yet in this last part you indicate that if our Government were to resort to such persecution” we are to just take it! Tyrannical men whether
    formed into a governmental body or otherwise does not matter. Our Christian response should be the same. We should respond with the defense of our lives and those of our loved ones. Now, I will grant that you most likely did not mean to indicate killing, but persecution such as imprisonment for preaching the Gospel, or meeting to worship, etc. And in those cases, indeed we should
    not resist with such physical means, but endure them. In fact the Apostles and early disciples counted it joy to be such persecuted for the cause of Christ.

  30. You said, “If an active shooter showed up on campus with intent to harm, the loving thing to do would be to take him out before he killed dozens of people.”
    How is this the Christian response? Killing someone should never be the Christian response. Why not carry non lethal weapons to subdue attackers? Guns are designed for one purpose; to kill. Can we find non lethal alternatives to use against attackers?

    • 1) the goal is always to “stop” someone, not to “kill” them. Unfortunately for those who are most in need of being “stopped” the side effect is that they can get killed. The most effective way to prevent that is to not exhibit the kind of behavior that causes people to want to stop that behavior for their own good.

      2) Non lethal weapons just don’t work as good as firearms for stopping people. Fact of life.

      3) Perhaps you can explain how my guns have tens of thousands of rounds thru them over the decades yet they have never, ever, not once, come close to killing anyone.

      4) Life is not a fantasy. There are simply no “non lethal” means at this moment that are as effective in stopping someone who have evil intent in their heart and the means of carrying it out immediately.

      • “Life is not a fantasy. There are simply no ‘non lethal’ means at this moment that are as effective in stopping someone who have evil intent in their heart and the means of carrying it out immediately.”

        To bring down the walls of a city, the children of Israel were asked to march around it once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day.

        Fortunately, they did not refuse to follow God’s instructions on the grounds that “life is not a fantasy.” Otherwise, they never would have conquered Jericho.

        The Scriptures are full of examples of God working in unexpected ways. Our imaginations are too weak. We are unable to believe that God can still work in ways that will surprise us. Mr. Piper is right in saying that for many of us, the reason for the hope within us is not God, but the firearms in our back pockets.

    • Brandon, if that were a reliable option, I’d be all for it.

      The argument isn’t that we should carry a gun in hopes of getting a chance to kill someone, rather that we carry a gun with the sober acknowledgement that we live in a world where a situation could arise with no other option to protect the innocent.

      Non-lethal self defense methods are limited by range, effectiveness, and capacity. There simply doesn’t exist a non-lethal weapon that is equal to the task of meeting the kind of threat we’re talking about here.

      Imagine if one of the victims in San Bernardino had had a canister of pepper spray. Literally nothing would have changed. On the other hand, if someone had a handgun, good training, the will and decisiveness to use it, the outcome could have been very different, like we saw in a similar situation that ended very differently in Garland, TX.

      You are correct that guns are designed to kill. The same is true of swords, which I would humbly submit that Jesus knew when he told his disciples to get them.

      • “Non-lethal self defense methods are limited by range, effectiveness, and capacity. There simply doesn’t exist a non-lethal weapon that is equal to the task of meeting the kind of threat we’re talking about here.”

        Is not the God of Scriptures the same God we worship today? The same God that defeated the army of Pharaoh without the Israelites having to lift a hand?

        Is our faith and imagination so weak that we are unable to believe that God can still deliver his people in unexpected ways?

        • Brandon’s question, which I’m addressing, is “Can we find non-lethal methods to use against attackers?” The answer to that question, if effectiveness is a requirement, is simply and firmly “No.”

          If your position is that Christians ought to do nothing to defend themselves and instead trust a sovereign God, then I’ll address that, but that’s not what I was discussing. God’s sovereignty is not at issue; whether non-lethal methods of self-defense are trustworthy is.

          • ” The answer to that question, if effectiveness is a requirement, is simply and firmly ‘No.’ ”

            Yes, that is the answer if we are looking at the issue from a completely secular worldview. And if you want to look at the issue from a completely secular worldview, then that is your choice.

            As for me, I’m just looking at this from a biblical worldview. And in the biblical worldview, God does not have to limit himself to what makes sense to us. If God is sovereign, as the final sentence of your reply seems to imply, then he is much more than capable of using non-lethal methods of self-defense. Our problem is not that they aren’t effective. Our problem is that our faith is weak, and so is our imagination.

            By accepting the false secular premise that guns are the only effective means of self-defense against an attacker, we close ourselves off to any other means in which God may wish to work in us. My position is not that Christians ought to do nothing to defend themselves. And to be clear, I am not even arguing that there are absolutely no circumstances in which the use of lethal force may be acceptable, as the best available option given the sinfulness of the world we live in.

            My position, rather, is that instead of predetermining a secular response and ruling out any other alternative response, Christians ought to be open to the Spirit. Because in the moment, the Spirit may open our eyes, not to doing nothing, but to doing something different, something that will bring God greater glory, something that may both defend our lives, if God so wills, and (ultimately) bring the attacker to repentance.

            I’m not saying Christians should do nothing.

            I’m not saying there are no situations where a Christian may legitimately choose to use lethal force in self-defense.

            Let this be very clear.

            What I am saying is that a Christian should not limit God’s ability to protect his people, nor our ability to protect those God has entrusted to us, to what a secular worldview tells us is the only effective option.

  31. Rick, several problems with your argument: first, in the text you quote Jesus is addressing is disciples about their relationship to one another. Extrapolating that comand, however unambiguous it may be, as a universal command that applies in all other situations does violence to the text and is not good exegesis. Again speaking to his disciples in Lake 22, Jesus commands them to sell their cloak and buy a sword. No explanation is given of what they were to do with the sword, but certainly we might assume they there would be some instances where they could use it. As tempting as it is, we can’t make this issue as black and white as you have tried to.

    • “Jesus commands them to sell their cloak and buy a sword. No explanation is given of what they were to do with the sword”

      That is not entirely correct.

      After telling his disciples to buy a sword in verse 36, he continues in verse 37 by saying “For…” This word denotes purpose, an explanation for why Jesus commands them to buy a sword: “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless.’”

      You see, the reason why Jesus commanded his disciples to buy a sword was so that when he was arrested later that night, the authorities would find incriminating evidence against him of being “among the lawless,” evidence which could be used to secure a death sentence from the Romans.

      This explanation, along with the fact that nowhere in the NT do we see any disciple or early Christian actually using a sword, means that there is no basis on which to assume that “there would be some instances where they could use it.” The Biblical text simply offers no evidence for making such an assumption.

  32. Will you guys relax on the photo already? You people crack me up. I got it off the inter-webs, OK? But thanks for letting the unnamed person in the unspecified photo know that their grip is wrong, I’m sure they appreciate it

    • The rapture of the church pre-trib is derived from scripture just as the trinity doctrine is. With that said, I think the Bible teaches a pre-trib rapture of the church even more succinctly than the Trinity. Piper’s convent theology teaches that the covenants made by God to Abraham (Israel) regarding the land and nation are no longer honored by God, implying that God breaks His covenants. Piper has also made comments in the past that can be construed as anti-Semetic. I realize the original topic was gun ownership/carry, but Piper has general credibility issues.

  33. Very thoughtful article. However, I disagree that Christians may never respond with force to government actions taken against them. Our country was founded by a war against their government. Judah Maccabee fought against the Greek government attempting to put an end to the Jewish religion. Fought and won against greater numbers of troops who were better armed. And Jesus showed his approval of that rebellion by participating in the Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah. Certainly we would respond at a national level to any attempts to persecute people, as we did in World War II…why not resist on a personal level? I feel “turn the other cheek” is being taken out of context here. Jesus was born to die…to resist would be contrary to God’s will. To say Christians should turn in their weapons should laws be written to violate our rights would be a grave error, in fact a foolish error. God is not against our safety in the face of violent intention to put an end to Christianity.

  34. “A police officer and a private citizen who use lethal force to stop an attacker are both doing so legally, as an extension of the state’s authority, and with the expectation that they will have to answer for their actions.”

    Who will the private citizen/police officer give an answer to? Wouldn’t that/they be the authority that does not bear the sword in vain?

    Related, if the private citizen becomes an extension of the sword of the state, who is Paul commanding people (I’d say he means Christians) to be subject to?

    [Confession: I have not read all of the comments. If someone has asked this already, feel free to direct my lazy self to the comment and response 🙂 ]

  35. I get the point. But sometimes there is common sense with application of scripture. I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ with my life. I am a Christian and I conceal carry. Here is why: I will defend my family with whatever means possible. If it means I have to take someone out to protect my children and wife from harm, so be it. I do not think at all that this is contrary to scripture. Emphasis is on “defending,” and protecting the innocent, if within our means, is consistent with the Lord’s word. There is evil in the world and it is growing the closer we get to the Lord’s arrival. Again, I really don’t care about what happens to me (I have eternal life), but I will defend my family with my life, if necessary…and I don’t sense in my Spirit, nor do I intellectually see that this is wrong.

  36. Great insight into the true Cristian circumstance. My only critique is that the photo of the “butterflied thumbs” grip is prone to the need for bandages and stitches.

  37. Could not agree more. I feel like Pastor JP pulled the trigger too fast so to speak in releasing his article, and it’s the first thing I have ever read by him that did not feel like it contained sound logic through and through. So Piper is human after all, that’s a relief 🙂 I owe so much in my faith walk to him, so this is in respectful disagreement. The bummer for me is that Piper had some incredible points (e.g. a Christian’s frame of reference can’t be /only/ self-defense) and those got completely lost in his illogical opining (e.g. equating random acts of violence with persecution?), and those points would have been way more useful for discipling conversations. This one goes in the tiny, tiny “L” category for Piper on advancing the gospel, IMO.

  38. I appreciate your perspective on this issue. As a devoted Believer and a police chaplain, I have done considerable research into the ethics of self defense for a Christian and your perspective is in concert with the understanding and teachings of Christians throughout the ages.
    Piper fails to make a clear distinction between self-defense and vengeance. While the statement by Jerry Falwell sounds more like vengeance (“Let’s teach them a lesson…”), John Piper seems to apply the vengeance issue to the carry and use of a firearm in general. The use of a sword in Romans 13 is a clear reference to a government’s responsibility (as an agent of God) to dispense justice (not vengeance) against wrongdoers, even to the point of execution (something our society needs to recognize). After all, swords are not used for “corporal” punishment!
    How did Christians view this in the past? Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) identified four criteria in his writings that could be used to evaluate the use of violence to determine whether it represented a “just cause” and they were explored further in The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274). Principal among these justifiable reasons for conflict is the protection of innocents (both one’s self and others). Clearly, self-defense and the defense of our loved ones fall into this category as long as we have not caused or escalated the threat against us (in which case we are no longer “innocent”). I explore this in more detail in an article to be published in the April issue of Concealed Carry Magazine.
    Even the law of Moses allowed for the lethal defense of one’s family against an intruder who enters a home at night (presumably to do harm). Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to buy swords was certainly not for offensive purposes – to threaten people into accepting the gospel. It represented a clear change from what He told them before He sent them out with the offer of the Kingdom.
    One other point – our government is not the source of the “legality” of bearing arms for self defense. It is based on the principles of our nation’s founding document, the Constitution of the United States with its ratified amendments. I wonder at those who take an oath to uphold the US Constitution and then spend great efforts to undermine it. But, that is a topic for a different post.

  39. I think it would help to understand Piper’s stance on other topics to provide a background for this topic. Piper doesn’t subscribe to a pre-trib rapture of the church, and logically holds great hope in the resurrection of most believers. Piper ultimately sees most believers being martyred at some point, and hence its logical he’d not desire to carry a gun, and would just as soon give himself, and his family up for dead regardless of the circumstances. I agree with Piper on a lot, but not on eschatology. Piper espouses new covenant theology that is just another iteration of replacement theology. I do believe God has a plan to reconcile His chosen nation of Israel to Him and God didn’t walk away from the everlasting covenants He made with Abraham (Israel). Piper is as wrong about that as he is a Christians’s right to bear arms.

    • FWIW, the pre-trib rapture of the church is a man-made doctrine that I don’t subscribe to either. And covenant theology is not the same thing as replacement theology. But I imagine a comment thread isn’t a fruitful place to have that discussion… so I would just refer you to my preaching series on Revelation.

  40. I certainly cannot argue the finer points all of you have made regarding the Christian and protecting his life, so please bear with me as I stumble in an attempt to give my thoughts.
    God has instituted all governments, and we are to live as citizens who obey the laws of the land; although, ruled over by sinful, fallible men. If the state sanctions concealed/open weapon carry, and this does not conflict with the word of God, and we choose to arm ourselves, then we are within the proper boundaries.
    But…. what have we to fear? I certainly do not want my family to suffer death by terrorism, or other lawless men and women. I certainly have the right to kill any person whom enters my home in the middle of the night because their presence is a threat to me and my family. But I know to who they belong.
    Having a handgun is certainly useful to save people in a restaurant when the bad guy intrudes with his threats. But can we truthfully say that we carry a weapon to protect others? Are we really altruistic or is it that we fear for our lives and those whom are in the room, while the bullets are flying, will just happen to be fortunate beneficiaries?
    I don’t believe in gun control. I believe every responsible citizen has the legal right to a firearm. What troubles me is when Christians, especially christian leaders, fail to teach the gospel before guns. When guns become the golden calves.
    When people perceive we “trust in guns” rather than a Savior who is “at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him”, they know we are blowing smoke about trusting Jesus. Guns have become our gods.
    Believers will argue the ethics but we “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather (we) fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We are saved by the Christ who went to his death without calling in the posse for protection. He trusted His Father. We can trust our Father to care for us and our families.
    You may now obliterate my argument.

    • Jim, Your argument is a valid one. Filter this through the lens of medicine, or even technology. We shouldn’t put our trust in doctors or medicine 100% without prayer and asking the Lord to guide the surgeon. Otherwise, if we take the argument to it’s logical extreme, we should never seek medical advice and simply pray for our wounds to be healed by God. I’m not discounting faith healing and God’s intervention, but I believe He gave us medicine and doctors to supplement His divine intervention. I believe the same with guns. Jesus went to the cross in our place – He was willing to give His life in place of ours. Are we not doing the same when we attempt to protect our loved ones and those we care about? Granted, the cross had a divine purpose and outcome that is beyond our own. However, the logical extension is that we should stand in place of our loved ones and offer protection for them.

    • I agree with you that guns have become a Golden Calf to too many. It bothers me how many of my own friends carry because they seem to get another notch on their man-card.

      But I can honestly say I carry for the defense of others and not out of a fear for my own life. I also know many who I honestly believe could say the same.

      I do not believe evil should be allowed to run its course and my hope would be that sober minded, God honoring believers would stand in righteous opposition. We do know where death leads and DO have a hope greater then anything found in this world. And if anyone’s reason for carrying is based off of fear or a desire to be a good-ol’-boy red-blooded-American, then they need to seriously reconsider.

      But I want the argument to stand that good people do carry for the defense of others and a desire to stand against evil people desiring to transfer their hate and vengeance on those who are innocent. People have the ability to so turn themselves over to sin that their hearts are hardened and their desire is for the destruction of God/righteousness. Good people must stand against this weather it is with guns from attacks of terror or protecting our children’s hearts and minds from the constant bombardment of evil media that surrounds them.

  41. I had to make the decision as a Christian as to whether I could take a person’s life when I took a job that required me to carry a handgun. I prayed about, I searched scripture, and I found that it was my duty as a believer to protect myself and others from physical harm. (See the previouslly referenced Luke 22 passage).
    I live in a state where open carry is legal, although frequently discouraged, so a concealed carry permit is not a necessity as such, but is an aid to not giving offense to those who are opposed to firearms.
    I agree that proper training is absolutely necessary for proper, legal carry of any firearm and hughly reccomend such fine institutions as FrontSight in Nevada.
    I am a licensed and ordained Christian minister, but my secular employment has required that i carry a handgun for over 30 years and i have never found any bible based conflict in doing so.
    Being proactive is not being in a state of vengence. Brother Falwell’s statement sounded vengeful, but it was obvious that he was thinking proactively for his community (Liberty U) for which i give him kudos.
    Piper had good points, but his theology is based on that of the middle ages, where the church taught only what the political rulers of the era wanted. Guess where the “Holy Wars” came from. Political rulers getting the religious establishment to endorse their greed under a religIous banner. See any similarities?

  42. Thank you for this perspective. I have been struggling with these ideas as well. I have gathered a group of girl friends to take a women only handgun self defense course in the Spring, but I have been asking God to please give me wisdom and direction if this is the right thing to do. I have never carried a gun. I live in a state where I can carry and conceal without a permit, but iI would never do so without the proper training. Frankly, the responsibility of carrying a gun scares me, but the thought of cowering in fear in my church, or a movie theater, or anywhere, while a madman is on a shooting spree is more terrifying. I think I will go through with the class and the decide if my skills and emotions can handle the responsibility, and still praying God’s wisdom for all of us who are considering this.

  43. Bob… I liked your article and I think it will be a help to many. However, there is one part that I think you might want to reconsider. The citizen does not carry as an extension of the power of the government. Instead, the government has the use of force based upon the power that the citizen has given it.

    We are a nation of “We the people…” Yes,while it is true and Biblical that the ultimate establisher of nations and rulers is our sovereign Lord it is still a fundamental rule of the United States that the people are the “rulers”… not the mechanism that we call the government itself. This is critical towards understanding the dynamics between citizens and “rights.” Without it the people merely become the wards of the state.

    The ability to “bear arms” is not given to us by the Constitution, or the government. It is merely an acknowledgement of the natural right of the citizen. The policeman who exercises the responsibility to keep citizens safe is merely acting in the citizen’s name, and with the borrowed power of the citizen. The citizenry can take away that power at any time and invest it in someone else. And… the act of giving others that power does not diminish the ultimate right of the citizen to also exercise it if needed.

    Ceasar had his authority by his concept of divine right… or might makes right… or anyone of a dozen other ways that individuals or groups come to power over others. Our Founding Fathers chose another way. They invested that power into each individual who would voluntarily work together to build a nation where right and responsibility was not invested in “rulers” but in themselves. (Not perfectly done of course, but the essence is there).

    Other than that… again… good article and thank you. 🙂

  44. Our Men’s study group spent some time on this issue a couple of months ago. The study taught us that human life is sacred and that even the animals who shed human blood would face the consequences of doing so. We also learned that if human life is that sacred it is our responsibility to protect it. Therefore I believe using lethal force to stop a man who would otherwise kill dozens is right from a Biblical standpoint. I would also say that I am proud to attend a church where about a fourth of those attending, Including myself, carry either openly or concealed.

  45. Jesus said, “If you do not own a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Pretty much sums up it up and says that Christians can have weapons and the following statements Jesus made said that Christians are allowed to defend themselves with physical violence against those who would physical harm them.

  46. To all of you commenters who are using Luke 22 as your primary justification for lethal force, I say to you what Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Go and learn what this means.” You have not done serious biblical exegesis of this passage if that’s what you think it’s saying. As Piper very accurately states, quoting NT scholar Darrell Bock: “Luke 22:36 sees the sword as only a symbol of preparation for pressure, since Jesus’ rebuke of a literal interpretation (22:38) shows that a symbol is meant (Fitzmyer 1985: 1432; Marshall 1978: 825).”

    • Wayne Grudem sees the Luke 22 passage as referring to literal swords. In his book Politics According to the Bible (pp. 202-203 ) he explains the reasons: 1. The knapsack, money bag, and sandals were literal, 2. It was a common practice at the time to carry a sword to defend against robbers 3. The swords that the two disciples showed him were literal swords, which they had apparently been carrying, even after being with Jesus for three years, and 4. Peter was wielding a literal sword in Luke 22:50.

      He also says of verse 38: “When Jesus says ‘it is enough,’ he means that two swords are enough, and this is an expression of approval of what they have just said and done. There is no hint of a rebuke..”

      As a side note, Grudem goes as far as to say that Jesus’ words to Peter “Put your sword in its place” are significant in that they were not “get rid of your sword.” In other words, it’s the difference between “now is not the time” and “there is never a time.”

      So if our justification for carrying a concealed weapon were based only on this passage, it would be a thin argument, and we’d also have to make a case for wearing boots and carrying a backpack and a wallet at all times as well. That is, I don’t see it as prescriptive or directly applicable without interpretation., and I certainly wouldn’t call it my primary justification for use of lethal force.

      However, if the swords are in fact literal, then the story serves at least as a polemic against the idea that it is never appropriate for Christians to have, carry, or be prepared to use a weapon.

      If Jesus was in fact referring to swords in a metaphorical sense, well there are still plenty of verses that demand protection of innocent life.

      • I agree that you are seeing Luke 22 in a wise and common-sense way. It seems some commenters ARE hanging their whole argument for lethal force on that passage.

        Also, “Politics According to the Bible” is by far Grudem’s worst book ever.

      • I agree that the sword in Luke 22 was a literal sword. But my question is, what was the purpose of this sword that Jesus commanded his disciples to buy? Was it for self-defense, as it seems that many are arguing?

        I don’t believe so, based on verse 37. Here, Jesus explains the purpose for buying the sword: “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless.’” The purpose for the sword in Luke 22 was not for use in self-defense or protection, and this passage is not meant to be a universal principle for all Christians. The purpose of the sword, rather, was so that when the authorities arrested him later that night, they would find incriminating evidence against him (“he was counted among the lawless”) that they could use to secure a death sentence from the Romans.

        I agree that there are plenty of verses that demand protection of innocent life. The question continues to be, does the NT justify the use of a sword for the purpose of protecting innocent life? I have yet to see a compelling biblical argument. Certainly, there are no instances anywhere in the NT that I can find of any early Christian using the sword for protecting innocent life.

        • Fernando,

          Excellent. Nathan, this is the correct exegesis of the text. Grudem is one of the few, and I mean few, biblical scholars who view Jesus’ statement in Luke 22:36 as a literal statement permitting His disciples to arm themselves with carnal weaponry, much less the enormous extrapolation from it that they could now kill people in self-defense. The text doesn’t say that on any view. And the weight of NT testimony is completely against Grudem’s view. As Fernando mentioned, v. 36 is contextually and linguistically linked to v. 37: “… let him sell his garment and buy – a sword. For [

        • Isn’t it possible that the “sword” passage can be BOTH an admonition to guard yourself as well as a fulfillment of prophesy? Additionally, it wasn’t unlawful for locals to carry swords, even in the empire. What ever gave you that idea? Jesus was counted among the lawless because he was accused of sedition, not because he violated “sword laws.”

          • “Isn’t it possible that the ‘sword’ passage can be BOTH an admonition to guard yourself as well as a fulfillment of prophesy?”

            It’s possible, sure. But then there would have to be evidence in the immediate context to suggest that Jesus’ command was an admonition for self-defense. That his command was meant as a fulfillment of prophesy is clear, as he quotes from Is 53 in Lk 22:37. But I don’t see anything in the immediate context to suggest Jesus has self-defense in mind.

            Both are possibilities. But only one of the possibilities (fulfillment of prophecy) is supported by evidence from the immediate context.

            My point is not that Jesus was accused of violating “sword laws.” But if you step back and look at the overall context of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem, it is clear that Jesus was being very provocative. He was intentionally trying to get arrested. Everything he did that week–the cleansing of the Temple, the declaration of “Woes” against the scribes and Pharisees, the purchasing of the swords–was for the purpose of (and had the cumulative effect of) ensuring that he was condemned of blasphemy by the Jews and of sedition by the Romans, so that he would be arrested and crucified in accordance with Scripture.

            This interpretation is not original to me, by the way. I have come across scholars who have interpreted the passage this way, most notably N. T. Wright, one of the world’s foremost NT scholars.

          • N.T. Wright is frequently N.T. Wrong, as are many world-renown “scholars.” Jesus was not “trying” to get Himself arrested. No attempt was necessary. It was ordained of God. In fact, Jesus had to hide His purpose, because of the rulers of this world had known that purpose, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Apologies to N.T. , but I don’t think he gets it.

          • N. T. Wright is certainly capable of being wrong. He would be the first to admit it, and I have in fact heard him say it, himself.

            But he is also one of the best NT scholars of our generation. If you are going to assert that he is wrong in his interpretation, I would encourage you to do so on the basis of biblical evidence, not just because you say so.

            After all, surely you are capable of being wrong, too.

            Calling him “N. T. Wrong” may be clever. But it is hardly an argument.

            Sorry, but clever word plays and writing the word “scholar” in quotation marks in a pejorative way are poor substitutes for a solid, biblical argument. You are welcome to try again, if you’d like.

        • ” The purpose of the sword, rather, was so that when the authorities arrested him later that night, they would find incriminating evidence against him (“he was counted among the lawless”) that they could use to secure a death sentence from the Romans.”
          Fernando, this is the wackiest interpretation I’ve ever seen. Everyone carried swords for protection in those days. Being found guilty of carrying a sword did not get you sentenced to death. Jesus was not sentenced to death because his disciples carried swords. Nor did he need a sword in order to get arrested by the Jews. In fact, Jesus was found innocent by Roman officials. The Jews found him guilty of blaspheme. You’re twisting Luke 22 to fit your beliefs. Furthermore, you are not using all of scripture to come to a conclusion regarding this matter. Jesus wrote the Old Testament too. All scripture is God breathed and profitable for training in righteousness.

          • Your intention is either to insult me to make you feel better about yourself, or to have an honest discussion of Scripture.

            If your intention is to insult me, I’m sorry, but I’m not in the mood to be insulted today. I think it would be best to end our discussion right now, if that is the case.

            However, if you are interested in an honest discussion of Scripture–and I really do hope you are–I would propose the following questions for your consideration:

            1. How do you interpret Jesus quoting from Is 53 in this passage? Remember, the word “for” that begins v. 37 indicates that this quote is the purpose for why Jesus commanded the disciples to buy swords. If you think the interpretation I have suggested is wrong, what alternative interpretation of v. 37 do you suggest?

            2. I agree that the OT is inspired and must be taken into consideration. So, let’s look into this. The Law of Moses stipulates the right to use lethal force in self-defense. The Law of Moses also stipulates capital punishment for the crime of adultery. As you recall, Jesus had a conversation with the religious leaders over this very issue, in Jn 8. So, do you believe that the United States should make adultery a capital crime? And if not, why not? Why ignore this part of the Law of Moses? Why is this not taken into consideration?

            I sincerely hope to hear your answers to these question.

          • If I may interject, it seems that Roman law did indeed forbid Jews from carrying swords at that time. According to the following source, the weapons prohibition was enacted sometime between 35 B.C.E. and 5 C.E.. (Edwin R. Goodenough, The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts of Egypt: Legal Administration by the Jews under the Early Roman Empire as Described by Philo Judeaus (Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2002; 1st pub. 1929), p. 151, citing L. Mitteis & U. Wilcken, Grundzüge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde (Fundamentals and Collection of Papyrus Knowledge), vol. 1, part 2 (Leipzig, Germany: 1912), no. 19.)

            If you have information to the contrary, you’re welcome to share it.

            Like the New Testament, the Old Testament did not justify killing in self-defense (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 32:35; Prov. 24:29). During that time, God providentially used the Nation of Israel as His instrument of justice and wrath against sin on earth. With the ushering of the New Covenant, God is no longer dealing with humanity through one political-ethnic people group, the Jews. Rather, He has now ordained governments and magistrates high in standing to act as ministers of His wrath (Rom 13:1-6). Private conduct between God’s people, as it always has been, should be founded on love. Only now, we see clearly what the love of God looks like: Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pe. 2:21-24).

            Many Christians believe lethal force was universally permitted in the OT because they aren’t aware of this flow to redemptive history. Also, they commit eisegesis of texts, such as Exodus 22:2-3, to support their view. I’ve addressed this text before. Summarily, those who support killing in self-defense have to read the intentionality of the thief into the text and nullify the rest of scripture to hold onto their view. The following is a more thorough look at that text I gave in a previous blog, for those who are intersted:

            “If we allow the text of Ex. 22:2-3 to speak for itself and not read anything into it, like the motive or intentionality of the burglar, then all the text says is, if a thief is caught breaking in at night and struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him (no penalty of death); but if the sun be risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him (penalty of death).

            The only thing we can surmise from the TEXT ALONE is that the penalty of death is not imposed if it’s at night, and is imposed if it’s during the day. We–the readers–are left clueless as to WHY that is. You can surmise that it’s because at night, the thief had murderous intent and, therefore, the killing was lawful–but frankly, the text doesn’t say that. You have to commit eisegesis and read that into the text. Just as well, I can read–not the intentionality of the burglar–but the intentionality of the homeowner. I can say, for example, the reason there is not bloodguilt for him is because the homeowner did not intend to kill the thief and, therefore, the law is granting the homeowner leniency (not to be put to death) because of the cloud of night. So, the difference would be in the latter, the reason the homeowner is not guilty of blood is not because killing in self-defense is permissible, but because the law is recognizing the non-intentionality of the homeowner, coupled with the plight he found himself in, and thus does not prescribe the death penalty to him even though the unlawful killing of a life is still a violation of the 6th commandment. The benefit of this interpretation is that it’s perfectly consistent with Gen 9:6, the value of human life, as well as the FULL weight of NT teaching of Christ and His disciples and the non-violent testimony of their lives (cf. Matt. 5:38-39; Matt. 5:8; Matt. 5:43-44; Matt. 10:16-22; Luke 9:54-56; Matt. 26:52ff; John 8:7; Acts 5:40-41; Acts 6:8, 7:56-60; 2 Cor. 11:24-30; 1 Cor. 4:9-10, 12, 16; Rom. 12:17-20, 1 Thess. 5:15, 1 Pe. 3:9; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; John 18:36; 1 Peter 4:1ff).

            So, in short, Ex. 22:2-3 does not provide a foundation to justify killing in self-defense, because it plainly does not say that, and further questions would demonstrate that interpreting it this way would be problematic. For example, it would assume murders only happen at night and that a burglar never has murderous intent during the day! However, we know from experience and common sense that a burglar can break in with murderous intent during the daytime as much as during the night. But, even on McDurmon’s view, that’s what Ex. 22:3 plainly says: during the night, no blood guilt; during the day, blood guilt. Furthermore, there is no other OT penalty of death for having “murderous intent” alone, but that’s what we’d have to accept if, on Dr. McDurmon’s view, Ex. 22:2-3 taught that it was lawful to kill a person on the basis of having that intentionality!! That doesn’t comport with Lex Talionis–it’s not life for life, it’s life for an intentionality to take a life!!

            Thus, I feel the only trustworthy interpretation of Ex. 22:2-3 is to allow the text to teach what it plainly does–that bloodguilt is not imposed on a person who strikes and kills a person at night, but is imposed if the killing is during the day; and when all things are carefully considered, the entirety of the NT and the OT, it is likely because the law, recognizing the exigent circumstances and presuming the non-intentionality of the offender, is conferring leniency onto the homeowner. Notwithstanding, there is absolutely no biblical doctrine we can fabricate based on this civil law alone which applied to the Nation of Israel, as part of the Law of Moses, 4000 years ago.”

          • if a total ban on Jews carrying swords was in place at that time, then Jesus is guilty of advocating the breaking of that law in Luke 22:36. If I was a betting man, I’d wager you are wrong about the matter of a total ban.

          • Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He can violate any man-made law He wants. I don’t bet on the truth of God’s word–especially on matters as serious as murder. The only source offered so far supports our view. The biblical case against violent resistance is an impeccable one because it’s foundation is Jesus Christ. Please review my comments here and at the end of this comment thread.

  47. Concealing and carrying a weapon is for those who are ordered to do so, not for Christian citizens. How are we any different from the rest of the world if the only thing a violent person hears from us is the sound of our firearm and not the words of love and truth from the Scriptures? I
    should have been dead twice in my life already. My life has always been in God’s hands whether I have had a weapon or not. I’m going to choose to put my faith in Christ to sustain my life, as long as it lasts, and not a weapon meant for the destruction of life.
    I understand the massive loss of life from a shooter is scary, but isn’t it scarier to think of all the people who we sacrificed an opportunity to share the Gospel with when we had the chance?

  48. Pastor Thune,

    I am replying due to Darrin Patrick kindly asked me to reply to your blog post on Twitter. I read that you welcome a healthy debate. I am surprised that I am actually defending John Piper’s views. I think we can all agree that everyone involved follows Christ, but there are gray areas. I don’t consider this a gray one. I’m not a pastor, theologian, or writer, but I am educated and I have challenged my beliefs on these subjects. As I learned more or understood context better, some beliefs changed. I am in TX, which is as pro gun as it gets. I read you went to OU so you know this. I used to believe just as you about guns.

    I am by no means claiming to be holier than anyone. I do own a shotgun for dove hunting, and inherited an cheap old .38 special from my granddad. I haven’t loaded it in years. I also appreciate you correcting those who use Luke 22 as justification. Obviously two swords would do nothing, and Jesus immediately rebuked Peter, and healed the guard. I probably would not have replied if you stuck to this verse as your reasoning.

    My first issue with your response is that it comes across as extremely nationalized as if the US Constitution trumps The Sermon of the Mount. Jesus gave those commands for all his followers for all times. National laws, constitutional rights, types of government do not change His word. Jesus said love your neighbors and your enemies. This is where I feel you are bending and twisting scripture to support concealed carry. I am not accusing you of doing this with intent.

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you have ignored some of Piper’s contextual evidence. Piper clearly referred to Romans 12 where Paul gives instructions on how all Christians should live. You skipped to 13 stating that if it is legal in your country to carry a gun, then that Christian can kill, but that would not be the same in a country with a ban. Governments play no role in the Word. 13 says God establishes and uses governments, they have the power to wield the sword. It never says God approves, or he would have condoned the executions of the apostles, Nazi genocide, etc. Unless I am missing something in translation, I don’t see how you arrived at the decision that private citizens of a democracy are extended that right. It’s a far reach and not scripturally sound in my opinion.

    I don’t know of anywhere in the New Testament where it says anything about the Christian response to terrorism is to stop them. Actually I don’t know of a place where violence is condoned in the NT. Please show me if I’m wrong. On the issue of Christians in the police and military, that is Piper’s opinion. He doesn’t back that up. That is a disagreement I haven’t found evidence for, but they truly are extensions of the government. I have also wondered who is in the right when two Christiians are in a fire fight defending their separate countries. Not in scripture. Not for me to judge.

    When you say terrorist, are you speaking of ISIS, Muslims, right or left wing extremist, white high school mass murderers, a Christiian killing several ppl at Planned Parenthood, or all all of the above? If not all, how do we tell in an instant who is a terrorist vs a mentally ill white person. You used Muslims mostly as examples, but w/o checking stats I think there are more non Muslim US citizens responsible for these killings than Muslim extremist. Some claim to be Christian. Obviously 9-11 had the most casualties. Biblically, where do you draw the line when persecution turn into terrorism.

    Nationalized American Christianity is entangled with the right to bear arms and fight wars, but that flies in the face of who Jesus was. Again, Luke 22 is the closest verse I can find to support violence, but we both agree that is not justification at all. Plus when did Christians lose trust in God and fear death so much that they need to become constantly armed. Christ gave up his life as a sacrifice. As a follower I can’t agree that Jesus condoned violence one time. Turning tables over in anger is an example that I hear, but that’s not violence.

    Piper also touched on using violence to save a family members life or calling police. I know very few Christian pacifist that I believe would never resort to violence. Would I, yes, but I can’t say that is what God wants me to do. I’m a hypocrite sometimes. I live and work in Dallas, TX. I refuse to live life in fear of a terrorist every time I’m in church. I can’t show Christ’s love that way. I am also not going to be a vigilante. There are too many stories of legal gun owners shooting the wrong person, shooting people committing misdemeanors, or going out of their way to shoot a criminal when they are not in harms way. Like you, I think when I write. You ended your article with the Assam story. You believe she was being Christlike. I’ve read where she went from hero to unwelcome based on her sexuality. Those were her words, I don’t know the facts. If we use your reasoning of national laws affecting the Bible, then any gay couple should be welcomed and married in US churches since it is legal to do so.

    To summarize I believe you have to bend and twist scripture to even somewhat support gun carry by Christians. It’s just not in the text. I have never defended John Piper before, but I feel his 9 point post was thorough and well backed by scripture. He had few opinions. With all due respect, your 3 point rebuttal blog seems more nationalistic and opinionated. It was not a true rebuttal in my opinion. I appreciate this chance for my rebuttal. As I am not trained as a pastor as you, please point me in the direction where. I may have accidentally stated something false or missed an important peice of scripture. Also I am not a wrter, so I hope this doesn’t read as rude or an attack, but just my rebuttal and reasons and opinions for disagreeing.. I am sure we agree on way more than we disagree. I only wrote this as I was kindly asked to do so. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

    God bless,
    Brandt Thaggard

  49. John 15:13. There is no greater love than to lay down ones life for a friend.
    In WW2, America fought against an ideology that had no place for Jews or Christians. America became greatly blessed as a result of so many willing to stand up & fight the ideology rooted in anti-Semitism & demonic hatred.
    Being salt & light carries a much bigger burden than just sharing the gospel verbally. If any Christians believe Christians should not be protective of their family, friends & country, then let me ask you a question. Why don’t you let your kids play in busy streets, go into homes of child predators or swim in swamps alone, play with matches, etc.
    Why we protect our children, family & friends from harm is simple, God put that nature in us.
    If shooting someone that intends harm offends you, then go to ISIS & start preaching the gospel in the midst of them. God gives us wisdom & common sense.

    • Doug, did you think this through before you posted? 1. You just said God gives wisdom and common sense, but use a verse from John where Jesus is telling his disciples and us that He loves us so much that he was sacrificing his sinless life for our life of sin. Picking and choosing verses to try to make a point that shooting a bad guy would basically equal what Jesus did on Calvary is blasphemous. Saying you’ll jump in front of a bullet or jump on a gernade would make some sense.. I believe Bob came to his conclusion intelectually, but it was still a reach. IMO. This post was of no thought, but to say that what Jesius says is not important enough for you to take him seriously.

      2. You also just rewrote history to make the US be in “God’s favor.” I am not your history teacher, but Hitler took Jew citizenship away in 1935. We didn’t enter the war until after JAPAN bombed Pearl Harbor on 12/7/41, and we were still not ready for war. They started prepping for war after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. The US did. not go to war to fight for Jews or Christians as Hitler was using a lot of the German church to help his manifesto. He would have wiped them out later as there was no room for Christians in a secular Nazi Germany. Please read about Deitrich Bonhoeffer. That man lived in harms way and was executed by Hitler.for years of his spreading the word and being a proponent to Hitler. We went to war bc Japan bombed us and Germany would eventually make their way.here. It was self defense and politics.

      3. The situation with Jewish refugees coming to the US was very similar to the Syrian situation now. We were in “The Great Depression and people feared the German Jews would take jobs. There was also a lot of Xenophobia as Americans heard they were violent, maybe Communist, or even Nazi spies. Very few were taken in during a decade of Jews trying to flee here. from Nazi occupied lands. This not long ago, there is a plethora of info about this.

      Did you fabricate this all on purpose, to prove that we are in God’s favor. Please tell me where you got that idea? Was it from Left Behind? Those movies are fictitious ideas men came up with to sale books on Revelations. Obviously the US is not mentioned in The Bible, but you said it as a fact. You know God favors the US.
      I’m not going to answer your last hypothetical bc no rationale parent sends their kids into known danger. A sexual predator, really? My 4 and 1 year old don’t need to be packing everyday day bc there is a chance there may be in a shooting. We don’t live in fear and paranoia, but we do what we can to avoid it. And love others. Your history is just as shaky as your theological arguments. I don’t mind debating people, but your post had to be corrected as their was zero truth in it.

      • Brandt,
        If you want to look at scripture & what God commanded the Jews to do, look at some of the old testament. God told Saul to kill every man, woman, child & animal. What was the reason God would do that. He said it was to punish Amalek & utterly destroy all he had. Obviously God saw the Amalakites as a cancer to Israel & their faithfulness to him & further beyond that.
        In another instance he told Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. Then Moses said to them, Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
        This type of action would not go over too well in todays society, but in both situations, the ideology of the people went against God & his people. You may not like what God told Moses & Saul to do, but God told them to do it. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh & I never read where he denounced where God had commanded Moses & Saul to take such harsh action. Does that make God evil? In biblical context, Jesus was around during that time according to John 1-5.
        The verse I quoted, John 15;13, Jesus told us what the ultimate gift of love was, yet Jesus had not yet given his life & fulfilled that ultimate expression of love, so I do not believe the usage was out of context. Many people throughout history have walked through that love Jesus was talking about. Many were missionaries, many were soldiers, etc. Based on your comments, You do not seem to like to context of it used as protecting others with a weapon. That does not change the fact of what it is one bit. If you had a home invasion & you ran out to stand between your wife & kids either with a weapon or without, then you would be expressing that greatest love Jesus was talking about. It is a natural instinct that many, but not all people have.
        That brings me to protecting your child. If you as a Christian were to observe yours or another persons child walk, fall or get into harms way, my guess is you would discount your own life & attempt to rescue the child. I had an aunt that had an airplane crash into her home. She got out safely & thought her child was still inside so she ran back into the flames & lost her life. She did not realize her infant child had already been rescued. Once again, that was John 15;13 being played out.
        America was never attacked by Germany. We were pulled into the war by Japan, but we understood the ideology we were fighting against in Germany. That war produced about 50 million deaths. Hitler hated Jews & Christianity. It was a spiritual battle for control of the world, just as the Crusades were. God blessed America after that war was over. History proves that out.
        If you want to claim context, then use the whole bible to understand the context you are trying to convey. Jesus does not want us murdering someone. There is a reason behind that. He does want us to fight against demonic behavior. The battles that often require a person to protect themselves or those around them are against, powers, principalities & rulers of darkness. Our founding fathers understood that & most of them often quoted scripture & used scripture as the basis for the foundations of countries ideology with such things as the judicial system.
        In closing, let me just bring you to the book of Revelation. God takes a world that Christianity refused to fight for & he executes judgment & wrath. Then when he returns he does what we wouldn’t do. He destroys the ones who hated Christianity & God. He kills so many no Christians that the battlefield they gather at will be filled with blood & flesh up to a horses bridle.

  50. Just another opinion of an imperfect human.. we are to emulate Christ (aka Christian ). Don’t recall reading about Him carrying a gun. What Bible are you using sir?

  51. Piper’s views are logically consistent with his theology of determinism. If you are ordained to die at the hands of terrorism, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The premise, of course, is wrong. All things are not ordained. Death and captivity can be avoided, and it both prudent and wise to guard against both. Paul had the good sense to get into a basket that was lowered by good friends who desired to save Paul from militant Jews. Good thing that Paul had the good sense not to follow Piper’s views of determinism.

    • I disagree with Mr. Piper on Calvinism. But Calvinism and pacifism are not inherently tied together. Just ask Calvin himself, who was no pacifist by any means!

      “Paul had the good sense to get into a basket that was lowered by good friends who desired to save Paul from militant Jews. Good thing that Paul had the good sense not to follow Piper’s views of determinism.”

      Irrelevant to the conversation. Paul did not use lethal force to defend himself from the Jews. Not in this case, nor anywhere in the book of Acts or the Epistles, nor any other early Christian.

      I would argue that it is a good thing that the early Christians who were persecuted by Paul when he was known as Saul of Tarsus did not defend themselves by killing him. We would not now have half of the book of Acts, and half of the books of the NT!

  52. I appreciate your response to Piper, but somewhat disagree with one point, “But contextually, that persecution was coming from the government itself. If at some point in the future our government turns with hostility upon Christians and uses the “power of the sword” against us (as did Nero in the first century), then certainly we must bear that suffering without retaliation.”
    I am not sure that is always a biblical response to a tyrannical government. Case in point, Dietrich Bonhoeffer under Hitler and the Nazi Regime…
    Apart from the Scriptures, our 2nd amendment was written for such a tyrannical government.
    Humbly submitted in Christ’s peace.
    mike

  53. I read the entire post and all of the comments. It seems you used the photo from ‘the inter webs’ but did you have permission? I speak as a photographer and Christian concerned about rights, both photo and weapons related. Please do not use photos without permission.

    You fundamentally err when you call the United States a democracy. We have not, nor ever will be a democracy. This is a Constitutional Republic and every citizen in the United States IS the government. The elected who represent us are merely employees, who often and for at least the last one hundred sixty years of so, have not represented us as they should. Our God given rights are just that- given by God, not by ANY government. Romans 13 would not support allegiance to Hitler’s Third Reich, of Obama’s allegiance to Islam, for that matter. Defending oneself and your loved ones is an act of love, and as He said in John, no greater love has one than to lay down your life for a friend. This would be a support for our law enforcement and military. Yet they are an extension of each sovereign citizen of the United States. There seems to be so much ignorance of both Scripture and the founding documents of this country and the simple solution is to go back and read them. They are all worded to where the honest seeker of knowledge can derive their inherent meaning. This goes to the sovereignty of every believer to read the Bible for themselves, in itself a sacrifice of our ancestors in the faith, and the sacrifices they made to give us that opportunity. Having said all of this, I must say what we are discussing are of secondary importance to the Gospel and we are certainly free to disagree and still remain in fellowship with one another if we share the fundamentals of the faith of Jesus Christ. It is okay to differ on things that are actually not of eternal value. It is deadly to differ on things that are of eternal consequence. I wish you, your commenters, Dr. Piper and his disciples, a wonderful Christ filled Christmas!

  54. I haven’t been able to read every comment, but I’ve done my best to keep up with the post and have written up my thoughts. I submit these thoughts in a spirit of Christian love: love for truth, for submission to Christ, and for Christian brothers and sisters and I acknowledge this is a topic that permits us some freedom because we lack definite clarity.

    My concern with the notion that Christians should be encouraged to carry concealed weapons (and then use them if necessary) is that the argument seems to hinge on the law of the land. That is, because we live in a Democratic state where citizens are lawfully permitted to carry a concealed weapon, an application of Romans 13 allows that citizen to use the weapon as a lawful agent of the state. But I’m hesitant to accept this because we can easily imagine that a Christian living in a country which does not permit concealed carry would not be allowed to abide by this ethic. In other words, the application of Romans 13 seems to turn this discussion into a legal one, not an ethical one. A Christian in a country that does not allow concealed carry would be breaking the law if they owned a gun and used it to kill a terrorist. That’s not to say people would not be grateful, or that he or she would not have saved lives, but that by owning a gun they would not be in submission to Romans 13. My example is hypothetical, but it reveals something about the situation we live in: it appears our ethical obligations or rights to take the life of a terrorist by use of a concealed weapon are contingent on the fact that the state’s law permits it. I’m not comfortable grounding our ethical decisions in what the state does or does not allow because, after all, the state has the state’s interests in mind, not Christ’s. I contend that when we say things like “killing a terrorist” and “eliminating a threat” we are hiding what we actually mean: we are killing another human being who is made in the image of God. Whether or not that is right or wrong is up for debate (obviously), but I’m skeptical of justifying ethics by the state, and at the very least let’s not diminish in any way the severity of death (of any kind) by veiling another’s humanity behind words like “terrorists” and “attackers.” If we think we can justify that Biblically, then let us do so, but I’m skeptical of Christian-legal justifications of killing.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a much more adept theologian than I, addresses this exact situation in Cost of Discipleship. He’s worth quoting at length:

    “The Reformers offered a decisively new interpretation of this passage [Matt. 5:38-42), and contributed a new idea of paramount importance. They distinguished between personal sufferings and those incurred by Christians in the performance of duty as bearers of an office ordained by God, maintaining that the precept of non-violence applies to the first but not the second. In the second case we are not only freed from obligation to eschew violence, but if we want to act in a genuine spirit of love we must do the very opposite, and meet force with force in order to check the assault of evil. It was along these lines that the Reformers justified war and other legal sanctions against evil. But this distinction between person and office is wholly alien to the teaching of Jesus. He says nothing about that…He is the Lord of all life, and demands undivided allegiance. Furthermore, when it comes to practice, this distinction raises insoluble difficulties. Am I ever acting only a private person or only in an official official capacity? If I am attacked am I not at once the father of my children, the past of my flock, and a government official? Am I not bound for that very reason to defend myself against every attack, for reason of responsibility to my office? And am I not also always an individual, face to face with Jesus, even in the performance of my official duties? Am I not therefore obliged to resist every attack just because of my responsibility for my office?”

    • Michael, I think you have understood exactly the point I am making, in contrast to many commentators who have turned this into a chance to wax poetic about the 2nd Amendment. My blog post is NOT about the right to bear arms (though I admit it has implications for that). It is about the right to concealed-carry. Which, I would argue, is a right specifically given to us by our government. So, when you say:

      because we live in a Democratic state where citizens are lawfully permitted to carry a concealed weapon, an application of Romans 13 allows that citizen to use the weapon as a lawful agent of the state… In other words, the application of Romans 13 seems to turn this discussion into a legal one, not an ethical one. A Christian in a country that does not allow concealed carry would be breaking the law if they owned a gun and used it to kill a terrorist.

      Yes. Correct. That is the biblical argument I am making. A biblical argument about the 2nd amendment would have to take into account much more biblical material and would be a more wide-ranging argument. Piper’s post was SPECIFICALLY about concealed-carry, and that is the point I am seeking to address. Therefore, you are right in noting: “it appears our ethical obligations or rights to take the life of a terrorist by use of a concealed weapon are contingent on the fact that the state’s law permits it.” In the context of the USA and Falwell’s comments specifically: yes.

      I agree that there are questions of a “higher law” here which you are raising, and which SOME commentators have insightfully pointed out. In other words, the ultimate ethical question of whether it’s EVER right to kill another human being is the higher-order question, and the question of whether I can do it with a concealed-carry weapon in the US of A is a derivative question. For the purposes of this argument, I am offering an assumed and unqualified YES on the first question (which is a whole blog post or two in itself); therefore, yes on the second question. But that second yes IS rooted to some extent in what our government allows us to do.

      To say it another way: I do think there’s a higher-order ethical right to take the life of a terrorist. To the question of the HOW (can I do that by lawful concealed-carry in the United States of America in a way that is biblically justified), I’m saying: yes, because the US government says so. Hence the Romans 13 argument.

      To all the rabid 2nd-Amendment commentators who are (in my opinion) raging unthoughtfully about the intrinsic right to resist an oppressive government: I think the situation of the church in China is very instructive for us. The Chinese government is ACTIVELY hostile to Christianity and to churches. Yet rather than taking up arms, the Christians there have responded by nonviolent resistance, and as a result the gospel has exploded. It seems to me that too many commenters are assuming uncritically the foundation of Western liberal philosophy and its assertion of “basic rights” in the whole conversation about the right to bear arms. In other words: at some point this conversation moves from being a biblical one to a philosophical one, and that is a move I think many of the commenters on this thread are ill-equipped to make. Perhaps you and I can have that conversation offline, with Nathan and anyone else who enjoys true debate instead of blog tit-for-tat.

      • Again coming from a person that has never found the need to defend Piper, I see you are making huge claims about Romans 13 and left gaping holes. How many terrorists are shot by US legal gun carriers a year? Who do you consider terrorists bc that needs to be known before we start putting values of humans life for God, right? What scripture are you basing whose lives are less important than others. Does killing an endoctrined ISIS member on his manifesto the same as killing an insane, white US citizen that is killing sinners in the name of Christ,

        Do you think God moved Paul to write 12 for regular persecuted Christians, but 13 for governments and citizens that live in legal gun owning democracies. I am not being sarastic., You had to had asked yourself this before making this claim as a rebuttal to Piper. I. would really like your thoughts on this. It all looks like fear and nationalism to me. I think a lot of folks are going to be shocked to find out that Americans and their rights mean basically nothing to God. I see a lot of Jesus said do all this, but I’m an American, Jesus is ok with it. I think God sees the non violent, persecuted Christians and says,”he followed Jesus’ words in far worse conditions, why couldn’t have you?

        Nothing good has ever came from a time when the church supported citizens to pick up the sword in the name of God. This kind of thinking is dangerous. Fallwell wants Liberty as a horribly trained Christian militia. How do you become effective Christian leaders when you live in fear of terrorist attacks? I can’t take a Christian leader seriously that tells me to trust in God, but that same leader fears leaving his home without his 9mm.

  55. Always funny to read the question of what would Jesus do? Are we forgetting Jesus is literally God made man? Jesus did not have any need for weapons.

  56. I will say start by saying I agree, but my question is this……if Ms. Assam. was at church when this man attacked, wouldn’t this be resisting persecution against the church and fall under you point of enduring?

  57. I have been involved in LE for over 20 years. I remember upon application being grilled as to whether me identifying as a Christian would make me pause before using necessary force. I replied, ‘anyone (Christian or Not) would pause at using necessary force, but it’s a pause that is dealt with before being confronted by a deadly threat. Therefore, in order to protect self or others in eminent danger of bodily harm or death, the Bible speaks to the right we have to inflict due recompense upon those who refuse to obey law.

  58. The bible says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” I feel that i must defend myself and my family from those who would do me harm. I will not knowingly stand by and let some one hurt me or my family under any conditions, if I am able to do anything about it. I will try my best to be slow to anger, and quick to forgive and to beg for forgiveness if I see that I have wronged the brother. But I will smite them “hip and thigh” if it is what is necessary to protect myself and my loved ones. I may not be the worlds greatest Christian, but I am one, and I”m ok with taking up arms against the evil that is in this world. I don’t ‘really like the idea of carrying a gun in church, but i like it better than what happened in S.C. a few months back. I’ll take my chances, thank you very much.

    • I respect that. I agree that I would do the same, but don’t need to carry a gun. Haven’t loaded them in years. I refuse to live in fear of terrorism of any kind or death. I also respect that you don’t try to quote scripture for defense. We live in a world of sin and I am a sinner. I do have trouble with people trying to justify sin using verses out of context. We tell everyone that we follow Jesus, but pick and choose which of his words apply to us.

  59. Having a means of self defense really need not go any further than the words Jesus spoke to his disciples to understand he did not condemn having a weapon for security purposes. Jesus was recorded as telling them to sell their garments & buy a sword if they did not have one & then telling them that the two swords they had was enough for the group. God had David use lethal force against Goliath when God could have had Goliath fall over dead without David ever slinging a stone.
    If any of the above commenters feel a weapon for self defense or protecting their family, friends or neighbors goes against their conscience, then they would do well not to carry a weapon. That said, just because their conscience tells them it is not for them does not over ride what the bible has to say about it in proper context. The bible has much to say about several subjects that many Christians tend to call either right or wrong, good or bad. We should all be careful of calling the Bible a liar to fulfill our own pet beliefs about right & wrong.
    Luke 22:35-39 And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” 36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” 38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” 39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.

    • Doug, please read the comments from the post. The writer himself said that Luke 22 is not a justifiable defense for what he is conveying. I beg you to read more on US history such as the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery and oppression of blacks, and facts of why we entered WWII. A lot of Americans will disagree that the US is so blessed. We’ are a lot younger country than most, but this patriotic, God favors us will eventually come back around. Also please read into the context of scripture you are quoting. We are both Christians, but You have made it all so pro US that you talk about it as they are synonymous. We are a very young country compared to most, The parltriotic, “God favors us” thought has people perverting Christianity so much that it may be the end of us. We aren’t this Godly country in Revelations that God is in awe of. We are just humans that live in a country that is mostly free. We look down on others when we have it so easily.

      Anyways, I hope you take my challenge to educate yourself out of this facade. It is painful, but the empathy gained is something I cherish. I’m going to quit replying unless the pastor responds to the questions I had for him. Thanks!

  60. With regard to the Colorado Springs shooting, where a woman stopped an attacker.

    You can find an anecdote to prove any position. For example, you can “prove” that someone who was texting while driving saved a life; or “prove” that one inoculation killed one child. It doesn’t matter once we go beyond individual experience.

    The woman in the New Life church, statistically speaking, was/is far more likely to accidentally shoot herself, a loved one, or a bystander than she was to stop a crime being committed. She beat the odds. She was “lucky”. She doesn’t prove a Christian had better arm herself to attend church.

    • “Statistically speaking,” can you point to any statistics to back up your claim that Ms. Assam “was/is far more likely to accidentally shoot herself, a loved one, or a bystander than she was to stop a crime being committed”?

      Also, as you will notice from being an astute reader, I am not depending on that anecdote to prove any position. I am establishing my position from Scripture using logical assertions, and I am using that anecdote as… an anecdote. To end my post.

  61. Thank you for this article. I am all for defense. I am a CC holder. I serve as a missions pastor.
    BUT, I really wish that as the president of what I guess is the largest Christian Univ. he would have told them to go reach Muslim’s with the gospel Vs get a gun. Perfectly within his rights and the law to do what he did, I just wish he had not done that. I travel all the time in Muslim countries. I speak to Muslim’s here. We have a church partnership working among Syrian Refugees 15 miles from the Syrian border. They are open to the gospel. Yet we have few churches seeking to take the gospel to them. This does not help a bit in getting people to go to the Syrians, there. A friend of mine Nik Ripken has told me many times that we are having to send our young people to fight in wars in places the church has refused to go for over 100 years. My hope is that we would be challenging young people to spread the gospel among Muslim of whom many have never heard vs telling them to arm themselves.

  62. Hello Bob Thune,

    I am curious about whether you have read Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. He addresses factors such as you raise in your rebuttal to John Piper, and his biblical exegesis (and summary of historical data and discussion of contemporary questions) is much more rigorous than what Piper offered. I consider this book a must-read on the topic and am amazed it has not yet received more attention among Sprinkle’s fellow Reformed evangelicals.

    To briefly sample his approach, see this paper he presented at the ETS annual meeting: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2015/11/a-case-for-christocentric-nonviolence/ And see this recent post that expands his thoughts on Romans 13: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theologyintheraw/2015/12/romans-13-doesnt-tell-christians-to-kill-their-enemy/

    Blessings!

  63. Popular Press gets involved — check out:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/12/30/an-implausible-argument-that-evangelicals-must-oppose-self-defense/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_volokh

    **
    By David Kopel December 30

    Monday’s Washington Post featured a PostEverything commentary titled, “I’m an evangelical preacher. You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun.” The subhead is “The American obsession with guns just doesn’t square with biblical teaching.” The author is Rob Schenck, an influential evangelical minister. Although the commentary promises to use “biblical teaching” to prove its thesis, his cited texts demonstrate the opposite.

    Previously, explains Schenck, “I believed that we had a God-given right to defend ourselves.” He acknowledges that most evangelicals share this belief, and he aims to explain why his former belief is incorrect. Thus, he is arguing that pacifism is the only legitimate Christian position. (Or at least the only legitimate position for evangelicals, who rely on the Bible as an inerrant source of authority.)

    SNIP
    **

  64. I appreciate your respectful response to Piper’s article. I found your three critiques thought-provoking, but ultimately insufficient to support the notion that killing in self-defense is permitted, or a just ethic, by our Lord.

    In your opening, you admitted your intent was merely to offer a rejoinder to Piper’s thesis–and, presumably, not a thesis of your own. Thus, you only offered critiques of Piper’s view, two of which were assertions Piper failed to provide adequate scriptural support for his position, yet you decided yourself not to make a biblical defense of your own view. You admitted this from the start, like I said, so I don’t believe you’ve acted dishonestly. However, the reader is left in mid-air because, even if he were to be persuaded by your critique, you have offered him no real biblical analysis of the opposing view–just criticisms of someone else’s.

    With that said, I will offer a short rebuttal to your three critiques and a scripture-infused attestation that my and Piper’s position is biblically sound.

    Your first critique is that Piper failed to prove (“substantiate”) that Romans 13 does not apply to private citizens in a democracy. However, and with respect, you also failed to provide adequate biblical support of the inverse position. On its face, Romans 13 does not identify one form of government from any other. It merely says, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers,” and “[w]hosoever resists the higher power resists the ordinance of God…[f]or rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to evil.” (Rom. 13:1, 2, 3). So the biblical application of Romans 13 that sees every American citizen included in the “higher powers” and “rulers” cannot be a faithful application of the text. A Democracy is a government for the people and by the people–however, it is not a government that, strictly speaking, is the people. Governments hold judicial, legislative, and executive powers. The people in a democracy do not, regardless if they have the power to elect those who do. The President, the military, and the police constitute the executive arm of the government–the people do not. Congress and legislative bodies constitute the legislative arm of the government–the people do not. The federal and state courts represent the judicial arm of the government–the people do not (in any way or by any extension). So to argue that the authority God gives to “higher powers” and “rulers,” or magistrates high in standing (Meyers NT Commentary), includes all Americans is a regrettable shortcoming of careful biblical exegesis. Moreover, even if I were to concede that Romans 13 includes all citizens, it would not disprove Piper’s thesis because he already concedes that his view applies to individuals who are not part of the government. So while your view may absolve American citizens from wielding the sword in self-defense, it does nothing to provide biblical support for Christians in others parts of the world under other forms of government to do so. So, ultimately, your first critique is not only exegetically unsound, but disconsolate even if it were true.

    Your second critique is that Piper failed to differentiate between terrorism and persecution. But even if that were true, how does that make the case that the Bible permits killing in self-defense? or that carrying a concealed firearm is in-step with a mind set on Christ? That notion must rise or fall on the truth of God’s word, not the subjective viewpoints of man–whether Piper or any other. Even in this part of your critique, you agreed that Christians should not carry a weapon for the purposes of: 1. avenging ourselves, 2. retaliating for unjust treatment, 3. handling hostility, 4. advancing the Christian cause by force, 5. returning evil for evil, or 6. resisting persecution. But here, you’ve committed the same error you claim of Piper. You have failed to differentiate, on biblical grounds, that “self-defense” is substantially different from any one of those concessions, and perhaps most of them. You can imagine that it is different and you can presuppose it is different, but until you show through sound biblical analysis that they are indeed different, then your critique must fail because it doesn’t live up to its own standard. We may well suppose that “vengeance” and “self-defense” are different, using our own standards and definitions. However, in Romans 12:17-21, Paul is the one who, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls it vengeance (v. 19) when we respond in like manner to an evil act committed against us (v. 17). So you may call it what you like, and say, Paul doesn’t have your definition of “self-defense” in mind; but you’re not getting that from the text. You’re reading it into it. All that Paul says is that when you return the same evil act to the offender, you are taking vengeance into your own hands (v. 19; cf. 1 Pe. 2:21-24). That’s what God calls it.

    Your third and final critique of Piper is that he made arbitrary distinctions in Romans 13 to support his thesis. I pray that–one, you’ve read this post, but two–you have seen how you also have made some pretty glaring misapplications and extrapolations of the scriptures. There’s enough grace to go around, but for the sake of contending for, and the preserving of, all gospel truths, it is important to rightly divide the Word of Truth on this matter. After all, what’s at stake is whether we accept the premise that the Bible permits justifiable homicide, killing in self-defense; and perhaps, even as a matter of divine ethic. Piper and I affirm that no person, in themselves and on their own ethic, has the moral justification to kill anyone. God is the only one who gives life; and therefore, He is the only One who has the right to take it away (Job 1:21). However, we affirm that God may give divine authority for man to execute His divine justice and wrath on earth, as He wills. In the Old Testament, this authority was given to the Nation of Israel. In the New Testament, it is given to magistrates high in standing (ibid.) It is not otherwise given to Christians. The Christian mandate is that we are not above our Master (Matt. 10:17-26) and we are to follow in the footsteps of Christ our Lord (1 Pe. 2:21-24)–even, and especially, unto the death. That is the precious and enduring testimony left to us by our Lord, foremost, and then those who came after Him and did not love their lives to the death. To this scripture wholly testifies: Matt. 5:38-39; Matt. 5:8; Matt. 5:43-44; Matt. 10:16-22; Luke 9:54-56; Matt. 26:52ff; John 8:7; Acts 5:40-41; Acts 6:8, 7:56-60; 2 Cor. 11:24-30; 1 Cor. 4:9-10, 12, 16; Rom. 12:17-20, 1 Thess. 5:15, 1 Pe. 3:9; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; John 18:36; 1 Peter 4:1ff. This mandate doesn’t apply only when we’re preaching the gospel or being persecuted for our faith–it applies at all times, in as much as Christians live by faith, at all times.

    How can we arrogate to ourselves life-preserving benefits that not even our Lord availed Himself of. Not even Peter would think to be crucified in the same direction as our Lord. Yet, we in the 21st century believe that if our lives are threatened–by another wretch who deserves death no more than I–that we have a moral right to execute divine wrath upon him, while all along being the beneficiaries of God’s unmerited favor, His Amazing Grace? Yes, Mr. Thune, Ms. Asaam would have followed in Christ’s footsteps to the death, and all of those with her, if by God’s divine providence, He called them home, as only He can do.

    • Isn’t it possible that the “sword” passage can be BOTH an admonition to guard yourself as well as a fulfillment of prophesy? Additionally, it wasn’t unlawful for locals to carry swords, even in the empire. What ever gave you that idea? Jesus was counted among the lawless because he was accused of sedition, not because he violated “sword laws.”

      • To all of you commenters who are using Luke 22 as your primary justification for lethal force, I say to you what Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Go and learn what this means.” You have not done serious biblical exegesis of this passage if that’s what you think it’s saying. As Piper very accurately states, quoting NT scholar Darrell Bock: “Luke 22:36 sees the sword as only a symbol of preparation for pressure, since Jesus’ rebuke of a literal interpretation (22:38) shows that a symbol is meant (Fitzmyer 1985: 1432; Marshall 1978: 825).”

        No, it’s not possible because the two dozen scriptures I quoted in my original post, which you either failed to research or overlooked altogether, which contradict that understanding of the text. God doesn’t lie. He didn’t contradict Himself in allowing employment of the sword in Luke 22:36 then disallowing it everywhere else the New Testament, and Old (Matt. 5:38-39; Matt. 5:8; Matt. 5:43-44; Matt. 10:16-24; Luke 4:29-30; Luke 9:54-56; Luke 23:34; Matt. 26:52ff; John 8:7; Acts 5:40-41; Acts 6:8, 7:56-60; 2 Cor. 11:24-30; Heb. 10:32-34; 1 Cor. 4:9-10, 12, 16; Rom. 12:17-20, 1 Thess. 5:15, 1 Pe. 3:9; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; John 18:36; 1 Peter 4:1ff; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 32:35; Prov. 24:29).

        If that were not enough, which it is, Luke 22:36ff testifies itself that understanding Jesus’ statement as permission to employ earthly weaponry in self-defense is completely erroneous. As Fernando already informed you, v. 36 and v. 37 are exegetically linked together in the Greek with the word ‘gar’: v. 37 assigns the reason for Jesus’ expression in v. 36. As well, in v. 38 Jesus says “It is enough.” He did not say, “They are enough,” (plural, referring to the two swords); He says “It is enough” (singular, referring to their [and your] carnal understanding of His words). Jesus wanted no more of it; and not long afterward, He rebukes Peter for using the sword in the Garden, and clearly denounces using it by principle–“For all who take the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52)

        Why would Jesus instruct His disciples to bring a sword for self-defense and then denounce their use of it? Why would He denounce their use of it if He just told them to bring it? Why would He contradict His own words everywhere else in the NT. The answer is: He didn’t, but you and many other professing Christians have refused to follow the clear teachings of scripture, and worse, have denied your duty to follow in your Lord’s footsteps.

        As a side note: You asserted it was “lawful” for locals to carry swords in the Roman empire, and so “what ever gave me that idea?” First, I never argued in my original post that swords were unlawful to carry in the empire. It seems you just copied and pasted your earlier response to Fernando’s comment. But quite honestly, where did you get the idea that carrying swords was lawful in the Roman Empire. In reality, it seems that Roman law forbade the Jews to carry swords. (See Edwin R. Goodenough, The Jurisprudence of the Jewish Courts of Egypt: Legal Administration by the Jews under the Early Roman Empire as Described by Philo Judeaus (Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2002; 1st pub. 1929), p. 151, citing L. Mitteis & U. Wilcken, Grundzüge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde (Fundamentals and Collection of Papyrus Knowledge), vol. 1, part 2 (Leipzig, Germany: 1912), no. 19.) The weapons prohibition was enacted sometime between 35 B.C.E. and 5 C.E.

    • Concerned:
      According to your reading of scripture, Paul should have never crawled into that basket or agreed to be lowered down the outside wall of the city to escape the authorities, and thereby save his life. Thankfully, he did not subscribe to Piper’s theological views of determinism.

      • That’s a straw man argument. In other words, you refuted an argument I never made–an argument I don’t think anyone in the history of Christianity has ever made.

        Paul did not kill anyone in self-defense in Acts 9. Paul did not use a sword in Acts 9. Paul did not do anything in Acts 9 to contravene the Christian mandate to follow in Christ’s footsteps of non-violent submission to His Father (cf., 1 Pe. 2:21-24).

        Had you actually done your due diligence and reviewed the scriptures I posted, or seriously considered my argument from scripture, you would have never committed such this error.

        Piper’s biblical views on the sovereignty of God are just that–views grounded in the Word of God.

  65. I appreciate that JP leads out in some areas of truth. I read his article, and believe that he misused Scripture to make his points. As I reply, I will use “self-defense” to include defense of family and neighbor. Self-defense is neither “returning evil for evil” nor is it “vengeance.” Defending oneself or one’s family or neighbors against evil is an appropriate response of love not evil. Not allowing an evil person to kill us or others is also an act of love toward the evil-doer, keeping him from further acts of evil. When it is within our power to do so, to fail to legally do one’s duty towards one’s neighbor by protecting him is not love, but self-love. To assign some high spiritual motive to this inaction is disingenuous in my view. When we decide whether to kill an attacker or to allow the attacker to kill us, it only becomes our choice when only we alone are threatened. When we allow others to be killed, when we could have provided protection, it is certainly not an act of Christian love. It really may be selfish martyrdom of ourselves and others (who did not have the opportunity to decide for themselves), no more honorable than the attacker’s martyrdom.

    Using Romans 13 to argue that God restricts to the government those acts of self-defense or corporate defense wherein a weapon is used is again a misuse of Scripture. Indeed God assigns government the responsibility to punish evil-doers. But nowhere in Scripture does God proscribe defense of family and neighbor. Moreover, in our form of government it is “we the people” who govern, and our governing documents recognize our right to keep and bear arms in recognition that we ARE part of the government. Frankly, for a man to knowingly allow his family to be killed or harmed because he was unwilling to protect them, is in my view a violation of 1 Timothy 5:8.

    I am not sure why JP thought it necessary to “one up” Falwell. I have heard Christian leaders argue on the wrong side of issues before. The whole JP article has the tone of an ex-cathedra proclamation.

    • Love is not an arbitrary concept each Christian is left to define for himself. In other words, Piper says love is to endure suffering through non-violent resistance or submission; you say love is to act through violent resistance (e.g., killing in self-defense). You both cannot be correct. God is love and Christ is the Lord; therefore, Jesus is the standard of moral perfection and love. In Matt. 10:17-26, Jesus tells His disciples that no one is above their Master, within the context of life-threatening danger. So if you want to know what is the biblical view of self-defense, look no further than the non-violent, submissive example left by He who you call Lord, and those who followed Him.

      No one is arguing that acknowledging a Christ-centered non-violent biblical worldview means you have to standby and watch while someone is raped or murdered. Of course we should protect anyone in peril; however, it is a fallacy to assume that you must resort to violence in order to do so. There are many non-violent ways to protect someone in danger, and the book of Acts has plenty of examples. If you contention is that there are times when the only way to save a life is to kill one; then the question is, Does God permit sinful humans (who deserve to die all the time) the divine right to protect themselves through the use of violence? I think you can guess the biblical answer, regardless of whether it offends our prideful sensibilities. If you need scriptural proof–if you even care to see the scriptural proof, that is–please see my post directly above yours.

      • Concerned,

        Your replies are thought-provoking and you’ve clearly taken this issue seriously. I would suggest, however, approaching the subject of lethal force a little differently. For sake of discussion, I’ll call your approach “Top-down” and what I’m suggesting as an alternative “Bottom-up.”
        Essentially what I mean is this: Your top-down approach starts by considering killing and inflicting divine judgment. You start with the question “Is it ever OK to intentionally and maliciously kill another human being?” Since the answer to that is clearly (and I agree with you) “No,” it’s easy to extrapolate downward to a position of “it’s always wrong to kill another human being for any reason.” It’s a reasonable position to take in the instance, since we don’t want to get this wrong.

        On the other hand, you admit that no one should stand by while someone is raped or murdered. So the question then becomes “How much is permitted?”
        Imagine someone comes to your door with a knife and says something to the effect of “I’m here to murder your family.” We would agree that Christian love doesn’t mandate that you step aside, invite him in, and make sure he knows where everyone’s bedroom is in the interest of turning the other cheek.
        You would, at least, close and lock the door, and thereby resist evil. If that’s all it took to keep him out, great. Call the police.

        But what if he breaks through your door? Is it permissible to stand between him and your family to prevent his passage? Shout at him to leave your home? That’s an escalation in resisting evil.
        If that doesn’t work, can you punch him? Use pepper spray? Now we’re using force to resist evil. If that didn’t work, could you hit him with a baseball bat? Now we’re talking about deadly force, functionally and legally no different than shooting. By the way, deadly force doesn’t mean that you intend to kill the person; it means you use force for the purpose of stopping them that could reasonably be expected to result in their death.
        One flaw (in my estimation) in your argument is that you assume the Christian in the scenario is the aggressor, willfully and maliciously trying to harm another person. What I’m arguing for is having the means to *stop* someone who wishes harm to me or my family. Maybe the distinction doesn’t change your mind, but it’s not merely academic.
        Basically, if someone stabs me, and then turns and runs away, it would be wrong (and, like all of the wrong reasons Piper points out, illegal) for me, if I survive, to get my gun, go find him and shoot him in response.
        But if someone attacks me with a knife, and I’m unable to prevent his murdering me through any kind of flight, de-escalation or lesser forms of force, then I think it reasonable and moral to meet his deadly threat with deadly force in defense of my life.

        So I pose the question with sincere interest in your reply: How much resistance, whether, passive, active, or forceful is permissible? At what point in a violent assault ought a Christian to turn the other cheek?

        Thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking reply and I look forward to your reponse

        • Nathan,

          Thank you for taking the time to read my comments and respond. I apologize for not replying sooner. Your question is a good one: “If killing in self-defense is not allowed, then what kind of resistance is permitted?” Up until now, Piper and Thune and I have all been speaking objectively as to what is the moral standard of God. But the more practical question is “What do I do when someone tries to kill me?”

          You are correct in saying I’ve taken a “top down” approach. The reason I’ve chosen to approach the issue that way is because I think there is good reason in scripture for it. In Peter 1:13-16, the Lord says: “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as He who has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life.” And this call to perfect holiness is repeated many times in scripture.

          Thus, our calling as a Christian is a high one. We are called not just to be as good as we can be, but to be holy as He is holy. That is our calling; albeit, no Christian will ever attain perfection in this life. But that fact doesn’t negate our high call in Christ Jesus our Lord. This, to me, justifies a “top down” approach to Christian moral living because the Lord Himself has called us to that standard.

          With that said, I believe there is a world of difference between an unbeliever who practices sin and delights in it, and a Christian who falls into sin because his sinful flesh remains. Likewise, there is a world of difference between a man who is quick to resort to violence and lethal force, and a man who uses lethal force as a last resort when he finds himself in peril.

          However, this is key. Even though, in the first example, the Christian who fell into sin is world’s apart from the unbeliever who practices it, the biblical truth is that the Christian still has indeed fallen short of the glory of God. He is still a sinner. He has still failed to live up to God’s perfect standard of holiness. Just because he has sinned far less than the unbeliever doesn’t mean we can call his sin anything other than what it is, or that we can say his sins were permissible. In other words, we can’t nullify the Word of God.

          The reason I’m framing the issue this way is to offer a two-part answer to your question, “What do I do when someone tries to kill me–what is permitted?”

          The first part of my answer is, hopefully, an entreatable one. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Also, there is no harm that can come to us, not so much as a hair falling from our heads, apart from the will of our loving and merciful Savior. If a Christian does find himself in such perilous circumstances, and if he fail to live up to the perfect moral standard of God set forth in Jesus Christ, I yet affirm there is still no condemnation for that man who is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          Now, there would indeed be a world of difference also if the Christian shot first and asked questions later or was quick to pull the trigger; however, for the Christian who used lethal force as a last resort before his family was killed, there should be plenty of grace shown him.

          The second part of my answer is not about us, but about Him. If we are to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and give Him due honor, then we are compelled to hold Him up as the gold standard of Christian moral conduct. 1 Peter 2:21-23 says, “Christ left us an example to follow in His footsteps; who committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth; who when reviled, reviled back not in return; who when He suffered did not retaliate, but entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously; who bore Himself our sins in his body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes you are healed.” This exemplary model of complete and total non-violence, and submission to His Heavenly Father, sets the absolute standard for Christian behavior.

          In the same way we wouldn’t lower the perfect standard of our Lord and Savior, even for a godly Christian who falls into sin, to say his sins were permissible (God forbid); likewise, we cannot degrade the perfect standard of Christ even for a godly Christian who finds himself, not apart from God’s sovereignty, in a perilous situation where he uses lethal force to defend himself or his family. No, we are compelled, in the same way, to declare and uphold the manifold perfections of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and His glory through His passion, to say that both Christians indeed fell short of the glory of God–the glory of Christ.

          I hope this answer I’ve offered helps you understand the way I see this difficult topic in light of the scriptures.

          Glory to God in the Highest.

  66. The unparalleled resource on this topic is the book, “God, Guns and Guts of Firearm Defense: The Bible View.” It’s available on Amazon.com. Written by a retired Los Angeles area police officer who is a Christian, it is real-world practical and has extensive footnotes and Bible references to validate the author’s assertions. It also provides an explanation of why ivory tower theologians inadvertently promote unorthodox viewpoints on this controversial topic. The anti-gun community hates this book, but I’ve never seen it refuted using historical or biblical arguments; lots of vitriol, but no substance.

  67. Thank you for a reasoned thoughtful response to Dr. Piper’s piece. I respect him to the utmost especially for his support for the sanctity of life (the unborn) over the decades.

    I think Dr. Piper was responding to the tone and rhetoric or some leaders in the body of Christ that seem to be more enthusiastic about gun ownership than the Gospel. I think these enthusiast are in a distinct minority.

    If we believe that Christians should not carry concealed weapons then we should be ready to forego the benefits of armed protection, if not for ourselves our church members, family friends and neighbors.

    Carrying a concealed weapon is a huge responsibility, it should not be carried without being adequately trained and having a safe place to store it and awareness about the widely varying state to state laws concerning crossing state lines with a concealed weapon.

    President Obama has become the greatest gun and ammo salesman perhaps in history not so much for what he is proposing but mistrust based on his views and actions concerning the constitution and advise and consent.

  68. The difference in dog and man is man can rationalize his bad behavior—dogs can’t.
    Seems that those wanting to carry guns in church don’t understand Paul when he said he had rather be in heaven with Christ Jesus than live on earth. Seems they have not read Psalms 139:16 or believe in a sovereign God. No one dies outside the will of God—no one. Worldly folks want to take the place of God in protecting His chosen. How wonderful it would be to enjoy the presence of Jesus Christ right now.

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