After ISIS’ slaughter of Christians everywhere they go, the sufferings of the Coptic Christians in Egypt under the Muslim brotherhood, and the kidnapping of young Christian girls by Boko Haram for the purposes of sexual slavery, it may be tempting to ask yourselves, “What kind of an idiot would continue to press the notion that Christ demanded that we disarm in the face of danger?”
The answer is that those idiots are everywhere. I confess that I have not read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I have tended to stick more with Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W.G.T. Shedd and the classics. But my son Joseph has read Grudem, and highly recommends his book to me. It really isn’t necessary to study Grudem’s details in order to do a takedown of the critique of Grudem (who is pro-self defense and in favor of gun rights) offered by Krish Kandiah at Christianity Today, entitled Should Christians Own Guns: A British Theologian’s Views.
Grudem argues that the reason the Second Amendment was added to the constitution was “to provide another protection against tyranny – to make it harder for any potential dictator or would-be king to take control of the entire nation against the will of the people.” This concern is probably not at the heart of the individual gun control debate at the moment as the right to bear arms against a tyrannical dictatorship is a different question as to whether Christians need to own guns now in a stable democratic environment.
He isn’t very well connected to the current American political scene, is he? And if a stable environment is all he’s after, Adolf Hitler provided that while be deported the Jews for execution. As writer Kurt Hofmann and I have both noted, the notion of self defense should include both individual self defense and defense against tyranny. Only when understood in that light can the current debate in American be enveloped. It may seem petty to focus on his misunderstanding of the American scene, but when writers show a fundamental misunderstanding of their subject it casts doubt on the value of the work.
Even if we accept the premise that the there is a right to self-defence this does not necessarily mean the right to own a gun. There will always be limit to the expression of this right that would include a whole range of military hardware; even Grudem recognises that the private ownership of a “machine gun or anti-tank rocket launcher or an anti-aircraft missile launcher” are unnecessary. But still he argues that private hand gun ownership reduces crime as an attacker cannot be sure that their potential victim is unarmed. The counter argument of course is that it could make gun violence more likely as attackers could increasingly assume their victims are armed …
This is as amazing a quote as you will ever see in the gun control debate. Seriously, read it again and let the bad logic of it wash over you. He is proffering the argument that ownership of guns makes more likely that attackers will become violent because they will assume their victims are armed. Thus, according to him, the best way to turn back the “gain” setting on violence is to allow attackers to attack you unmolested so that perhaps things won’t go as badly as they could if you were armed! You simply can’t make this stuff up, you would have to read it from collectivists in order to believe that someone could actually say or think something like that.
Finally, note that Krish says:
Grudem argues that carrying weapons would help prevent “tragic mass murders in which a lone gunman can hold at bay an entire restaurant or church full of people… are much less likely to happen in states where a large number of people carry concealed weapons.”
But the counter arguments are, firstly, that if guns were more highly regulated then it would be a lot harder for potential mass murderers to get hold of guns in the first place. Secondly, Ellen Painter Dollar argues: “Police officers go through hours of specialized training to help them discern when the use of deadly force is justified. As we know from not a few front-page tragedies involving police shootings, despite such rigorous training, even the best-trained officers don’t always get it right.
Right. The “best trained” officers. Like the NYC LEOs who shoot blindly into the darkness, or the South Carolina cop who shot a man in the back, or the police in Buffalo who currently rule the world in dog shootings, or the wild gun play of the Cleveland Police. The “best trained” officers, he opines. And here you see irrational faith in LEOs and irrational fear of personal use of weapons. Always look for the most irrational among us to claim that we are the irrational ones, projecting their fears on the rest of us.
But there is one theme that keeps coming up, and this theme recurs in another critique of Grudem’s work by someone from the Church in Toronto, Nigel Tomes.
David eluded King Saul’s spear; Paul evaded his pursuers by escaping Damascus in a basket; Jesus escaped hostile crowds (Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59). But these are examples of self-preservation, not of self-defense.
And there you have it. A distinction without a difference – self preservation versus self defense. Nigel wants men to be unarmed with the best of weapons, just as does Krish, so that they stand the maximum chance of being harmed or killed. Nigel and Krish don’t care about the children. They would rather see men, women and children suffer and perish at the hands of evil men, criminals after money, sex or something else, or criminals in the hire of the government, than to acquiesce to the notion that men are made in God’s image and thus life should be preserved.
But the willingness of professors and church leaders to beclown themselves in the name of pacifism goes on to ridiculous proportions with a professor of religion at the University of Texas, John Traphagan.
There are many law-abiding American gun owners who do not go out and kill people and who keep their guns stored safely. But as a whole, Americans do not seem to be able to handle gun ownership in a way that permits maintenance of a civil society. The reality is that the significant numbers of bad apples have spoiled it for those law-abiding gun owners, and it’s time that gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association recognize this and begin working with those who want realistic gun control laws, in part as a way of building trust with those who do not own gun.
As if we would pay heed to the NRA in any attempt to increase gun control laws! No, here is what I think professor Traphagan is talking about. Crime is highly concentrated among minorities. Recent riots have been concentrated in minority communities and cities such as Ferguson or Baltimore. Professor Traphagan knows this. He is in effect saying that the black community cannot handle the responsibility of gun ownership. I think professor Traphagan is a racist but doesn’t have the guts to admit his views. Whites must be disarmed (as if that would be possible without a bloody civil war) in order to bring peace to the black communities.
These things are all pointers, milestones, and signals of a decaying and rotting church, both British and American (although the British church is all but dead, leading the American churches in total irrelevance to anything). The Episcopal church that has been famously losing people for decades, decided to focus even more on progressive social programs and gun control, and is now losing even more people. That has happened to the Presbyterian Church in the USA, and between the Presbyterian Church in America, the ARP and other smaller denominations, it cannot be said any more that the PSUSA is the “mainline” Presbyterian denomination.
Except for orthodox, conservative American churches, most American churches today are open sepulchers (and even some orthodox and conservative evangelical churches teach pacifism).
Jesus was a Bohemian, peacenik hippie to the modern American churches. This is a testimony to how irrelevant, comfortable, self-absorbed and lard-ass the American church is, as also is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Christians can be slaughtered, sent into sexual slavery and driven out of Mesopotamia without so much as an imprecatory prayer by Christians in the West. Shameful, disgusting, and sickening. It causes me to turn away in revulsion from the organized American church in disrespect for most of what I see passing for orthodox Christianity today.
Christianity Today is as irrelevant as the American church, as irrelevant as a professor of religion at the University of Texas who wants to disarm law-abiding folks because of a few bad apples, and as irrelevant as the Church in Toronto. Not a single one of them can manage to construct even a very basic analysis of Christians and self defense. For the record, I don’t need Wayne Grudem to do that for me. I have supplied adequate analysis of this issue. As I’ve summarized before:
I am afraid there have been too many centuries of bad teaching endured by the church, but it makes sense to keep trying. As I’ve explained before, the simplest and most compelling case for self defense lies in the decalogue. Thou shall not murder means thou shall protect life.
God’s law requires [us] to be able to defend the children and helpless. “Relying on Matthew Henry, John Calvin and the Westminster standards, we’ve observed that all Biblical law forbids the contrary of what it enjoins, and enjoins the contrary of what it forbids.” I’ve tried to put this in the most visceral terms I can find.
God has laid the expectations at the feet of heads of families that they protect, provide for and defend their families and protect and defend their countries. Little ones cannot do so, and rely solely on those who bore them. God no more loves the willing neglect of their safety than He loves child abuse. He no more appreciates the willingness to ignore the sanctity of our own lives than He approves of the abuse of our own bodies and souls. God hasn’t called us to save the society by sacrificing our children or ourselves to robbers, home invaders, rapists or murderers. Self defense – and defense of the little ones – goes well beyond a right. It is a duty based on the idea that man is made in God’s image. It is His expectation that we do the utmost to preserve and defend ourselves when in danger, for it is He who is sovereign and who gives life, and He doesn’t expect us to be dismissive or cavalier about its loss.
This same sort of thinking can be applied on a larger scale to states and nations as so expertly done by professor Darrell Cole in Good Wars (First Things), relying on the theology of both Calvin and Aquinas. But this is a bridge too far for some Christians who are just now dealing with the notion that they might be in danger.
Now a word of advice for pastor[s] and “theologians” who proffer these laughable interpretations. It’s things like this that cause congregants to lose respect for the pulpit, and nothing screams the irrelevance of the sermon more than the Biblical impossibility of the pronouncements of the pastor (or in other words, the inconsistency of what he says with the balance of Scripture). It’s just best to leave your own political aberrations out of the pulpit and teach the Bible.
Or as I’ve repeated elsewhere, John Calvin, commenting on commandment and prohibition, observes:
We do not need to prove that when a good thing is commanded, the evil thing that conflicts with it is forbidden. There is no one who doesn’t concede this. That the opposite duties are enjoined when evil things are forbidden will also be willingly admitted in common judgment. Indeed, it is commonplace that when virtues are commended, their opposing vices are condemned. But we demand something more than what these phrases commonly signify. For by the virtue of contrary to the vice, men usually mean abstinence from that vice. We say that the virtue goes beyond this to contrary duties and deeds. Therefore in this commandment, “You shall not kill,” men’s common sense will see only that we must abstain from wronging anyone or desiring to do so. Besides this, it contains, I say, the requirement that we give our neighbor’s life all the help we can … the purpose of the commandment always discloses to us whatever it there enjoins or forbids us to do” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, Book 2, Chapter viii, Part 9).
Consistency isn’t the Hobgoblin of small minds. It’s the stuff of life, and even the most dense commentator knows that the Decalogue isn’t subject to the whims of dispensation. It is a reflection of the very character of God, and thus universally and in all times and epochs, man is made in God’s image and life is to be protected rather than stoically given away to those who would usurp what must fall under the purview of the only potentate, God Himself. He grants it, and only He can take it or tell others how and when to take it. When stolid commentators and professors disconnect Christ from the very law He came to fulfill, it’s easy to ascertain that something is very wrong.
Man is made in God’s image. Careless disregard for life means disregard for God’s law and hypocrisy towards the creator and His words. Hand-wringing over guns versus knives or clubs or pepper spray or locked doors just means that you’re straining at a gnat in order to swallow a camel. You (Krish, Nigel and John) don’t care about the women or children. You’re a self-absorbed, self righteous, pampered product of the effete chattering class, unnecessary to and a bad fit for the very people to whom you are speaking. No one is listening any more.
The Second Amendment Creates A God-Given Right To Bear Arms?
No Guns In Church In Alabama?
Christian Leaders Say No To Christian Militia
Gentlemen, Prepare To Defend Yourselves!
A Desperate Cry From Iraq’s Christians
The PCUSA On Guns
Dear Christians With Guns
Concerning The Nigerian Christian Girls
Guns: Think Of The Children
Does Jesus Shoot An AR-15?
Baptist Forum Does Gun Control
Who Would Jesus Shoot?
The Golden Calf Of Gun Control
Faith And Firearms
Guns And Religion
When Christians Discuss Guns
Christians, The Second Amendment And The Duty Of Self Defense