Did God Give Man The “Right To Bear Arms?”

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

A.A.J. DeVille.

If God had granted such a right, one would expect it to show up in, say, Scripture or in the broader Christian tradition. But in fact the entire language of rights is a modern novelty. None of the biblical writers knew such rights, nor the Fathers of the Church, nor the late medieval and early modern philosophers and theologians. Knowing this history, the great Catholic moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote, “there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns.”

In the modern period, for theological rather than historical reasons, the Church was initially reluctant to embrace the language of rights because it was thought to marginalize God. After the Second World War, however, Catholics played a significant role in drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Since then Catholics have embraced the language of rights even more fulsomely. But a review of magisterial statements since 1948 reveals no such thing as a right to bear arms, God-given or otherwise.

In his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII denounces the abundance of arms: “We are deeply distressed to see the enormous stocks of armaments that have been, and continue to be, manufactured in the economically more developed countries.” What would the saintly pontiff say today of a country that, according to the Congressional Research Service, has more than 300 million firearms — more, per capita, than any other nation? 

The Second Vatican Council’s decree Gaudium et Spes discusses human rights extensively, but makes no mention of gun ownership as a right. Likewise, Pope Paul VI spoke in defence of human rights before the UN in 1965 but neither there nor elsewhere did he ever once mention a so-called right to bear arms. In fact, in New York he said that “a person cannot love with offensive weapons in his hands.”

Similarly, when Pope John Paul II addressed the UN in 1979, he made nearly 60 references to human rights, but never once mentioned a so-called right to bear arms. In 1991 in Centesimus Annus he makes dozens of references to human rights, but his encyclical lacks even a hint of a right to bear arms. It is the same in the 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Likewise, the writings of Popes Benedict XVI or Francis contain nothing close to a right to bear arms. In fact, Pope Francis has been vocal in denouncing  guns and weapons manufacturing. 

Why, then, do some Americans claim such God-given rights?

One commenter replies that ” I find it interesting that Deville is taking a sola scriptura approach to guns. That’s a Protestant view of things.”

He really doesn’t, he leans toward the multiple leaky buckets approach to logic, and he’s so unfamiliar with the Holy Writ that he doesn’t interact with even the most basic passages.  Furthermore, as a Protestant I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less what any pope has to say about anything.

Calvin was clear on the “right” to restrain the willfulness of kings (Institutes, 4.20.31).  We’ve already addressed the continental and English Calvinist underpinnings of the American war of independence.  We’ve also seen that believers have an unmitigated right to self defense and defense of home and hearth.  But also take note that I’ve been careful to couch this more in terms of commands, or God’s Holy ordinances, rather than rights.

Rights do have a rather Hobbesian or Lockean ring, as opposed to fallen mankind, redeemed by the blood of His only Son, expected by the Father to engage in creative and redemptive work in mimic of our Holy Father.  So in that vein, I have said this before.

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.

If you believe that it is your Christian duty to allow your children to be harmed by evil-doers (and you actually allow it to happen) because you think Christ was a pacifist, you are no better than a child abuser or pedophile.

God demands violence as a response to threats on our person because of the fact that man is created in God’s image and life is to be preserved.  It is our solemn duty.

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.

If you’re willing to sacrifice the safety and health of your wife or children to the evils of abuse, kidnapping, sexual predation or death, God isn’t impressed with your fake morality.  Capable of stopping it and choosing not to, you’re no better than a child molester, and I wouldn’t allow you even to be around my grandchildren.

Indeed, all gun control is wicked.  The Bible does contain a few direct references to weapons control. There were many times throughout Israel’s history that it rebelled against God (in fact, it happened all the time). To mock His people back into submission to His Law, the Lord would often use wicked neighbors to punish Israel’s rebellion. Most notable were the Philistines and the Babylonians. 1 Samuel 13:19-22 relates the story: “Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles sharpened…So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in this hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon also removed all of the craftsmen from Israel during the Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 24:14). Both of these administrations were considered exceedingly wicked including their acts of weapons control.

John Calvin’s comments on this subject.  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).

Our writer had to look no further than the Decalogue, but stopped somewhere short of there.  Perhaps he needs more time in seminary.  Or simply just to believe on Jesus Christ and see men, women and children as made in God’s image, worthy of protection.  Perhaps his problem isn’t one of education, or lack thereof.  Perhaps it’s an ethical and moral problem.


  1. On October 6, 2019 at 10:57 pm, Dan said:

    The capacity some people have to self delude and to rationalize the irrational is simply beyond the ability of normal people to comprehend.

  2. On October 6, 2019 at 11:55 pm, ambiguousfrog said:

    As a catholic that doesn’t live behind the Vatican walls, I sure as hell believe in the right to bear arms.

  3. On October 7, 2019 at 12:23 am, Sam said:

    No one complained when David slew Goliath with a sling, and then beheaded him with a sword.

  4. On October 7, 2019 at 9:50 am, Longbow said:

    “…Catholics played a significant role in drafting the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

    Communists, Freemasons, Homosexuals, Satanists, who had infiltrated the hierarchy and subverted the Church and its Doctrines, played a significant role in drafting the said declaration. Much of this infiltration was directly sponsored by the Communist government of the Soviet Union. All of the “rights” in the declaration are subject to the political authority, which means they are not rights at all (see how the language is perverted).

    The rot and decay, the Cancer if you will, within the Church, currently culminated in its ultimate leadership, is a result of this infiltration. It is a deliberate, and evil, subversion. I would refer you to Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors.

    Man has a Right to bear arms for the purpose of self preservation, and for the purpose and Obligation of defending his dependents. Man also has an obligation to defend decency and justice within his society at large. Man has an obligation to defend his Clan and Nation against invasion and conquest. Hence, bearing arms is a Social Responsibility.

    Is it any wonder that professional police forces hold their subjects in contempt? They comprehend instinctively that free men have effeminately abandoned their responsibility to be armed and vigilant, and begged for protection from the State. This is contemptible posture.

  5. On October 7, 2019 at 9:58 am, revjen45 said:

    I am not Catholic (non-denominational Believer), so I really don’t give a flying f’k what the Pope thinks about guns or anything else.

  6. On October 7, 2019 at 12:26 pm, Fred said:

    By denying the Duty to defend life you are denying the federal headship of Adam, and the fallen nature of man. You are moreover blaspheming the LORD by taking the devil at his challenge he set forth to Adam in which you are now attempting to become as gods, knowing good and evil, and imagining in your vanity that you surely will not die, and supposing by your own will, denying our condition and the only salvation, which be by our Saviour Christ Jesus, whereby you are refusing your Duty unto Almighty God, you are proclaiming to the Holy Creator that you, of your own power, can recreate the paradise (Garden) which we ourselves caused the ruination of, you are an anti-Christ.

    It’s a BLOOD COVENANT, with the God that GAVE the blood of His own Son for you. This should scare you, a whole bushel full. All of your opinions, beliefs, wants, understandings, rules, traditions are as nothing. The realization of the fear of the LORD leaves you as a little child, helpless, literally cowering on your knees and begging for His mercy. You, and you alone, are responsible to contact our Father God directly, tell Him that you are sorry for your sin, and beseech Him for mercy by the blood of His only begotten Son to save your soul from the judgment, wrath, death, and hell that you deserve. It’s a blood covenant you fools, this isn’t a notion of men, or a matter of being a pretty good person or following a list of religious rules, you live or die by the blood of Christ, you have been warned, your life and your blood is no longer on my head it’s on yours, choose this day!

    “What I [Jesus Christ] tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    What if the most powerful warlord of all mankind walked up to you clad in armor with his blood dripping sword, his only son by his side, and he had his First General Officer drive a sword through the heart of his beloved son and then this warrior, the mightiest warrior to ever exist, cut off his First General’s head, and then stuck out his hand in offer to make a covenant upon the blood of his son that he would be at peace with you, forever, and take you into his kingdom, now a free man, further for you to be a respected, honorable, upright, a member of his army? Only one that powerful who truly wanted peace would do such a thing. Would you take his hand or would you remain at war with him? Or even worse, would you curse him and spit in his face?

    “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,…That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

    If you refuse this offering, this gift, you remain at war with Him and if your greater society refuses this offer of peace, then wrath will come not only in the hereafter but upon the living. America stands on the verge of a precipice.

    Even the Protestants here in America, seem to have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into, those poor ignorant fools. Honey, You don’t get to simply walk away from this deal.

    It is not a good work at all to leave men defenseless; it is war with God indeed. I hope that you read this far because the one thing Mr. @Herschel failed to mention is that the Hebrews deserved to be disarmed and to be made helpless in the face those many tyrannies that they suffered, because they first cursed God and spit in the Creators face by refusing His offering.

    Some say freedom starts between the ears, this is not true; it starts in the heart, your very soul.


    “…broader Christian tradition.”
    Although I lament that our tradition is poorly documented and directly accuse the Roman Church of this due their desire at power and money instead of fidelity to Christ, I don’t give one whit about Christian tradition. 95% of the “Christians” I’ve met wouldn’t know God if He walked right up to them and offered salvation by the blood of His son. And besides, their opinion matters not.

    Perhaps Rights are a modern novelty but the duties unto a Holy God have always been, and will forever be because His word will not pass away. If you want to, er, scratch that, because you need to understand your duties toward God and man and men, read His word, that’s where it is. Take no man’s opinion of it, including mine, without confirmation by His scriptures.

    “…But a review of magisterial statements since 1948…”
    There is only one magisterial statement that I care about; the KJV Holy Bible. All else is rubbish. Mine is of the order of Melchizedek, I need no man as king, or president, or pontiff or whatever fancy pants title you give yourselves. I suppose I would suffer a biblical judge if such a man were to exist.

    “…In his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII…”
    This man is an anti-Christ by the evidence of his denouncing a tool instead of the sin whereby a man would kill without cause before Christ. SIN IS THE PROBLEM!!! the answer to which is Christ.

    I don’t believe in the right to bear arms. I believe in Christ who demands of me that all of His Father’s children are precious.

    And yeah, a lowly Shepard boy, long before the anointing of kingship by God, had a thing or 2 to say about all of this: “And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”


    This is my God:
    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time….Wherefore 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;…Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

  7. On October 7, 2019 at 12:51 pm, william bruce said:

    “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his poss21essions are safe.”-Luke 11:

  8. On October 7, 2019 at 1:56 pm, Pat A Hines said:

    A short comment on “Pope” Francis. He’s a novus ordo pope, many staunch members of the Latin Church do not regard him as legitimate. His advocacy of open borders and the rest of the communist policies, mark him as illegitimate.

    As a Chrismated member of the Greek Orthodox faith, I do not recognized the legitimacy of the “Pope” at all.

  9. On October 7, 2019 at 2:01 pm, dad29 said:

    First off, Macintyre is NOT a “reputable Catholic scholar.” See, e.g.,: “[P]erhaps the most fundamental difficulty with MacIntyre’s ethics: his version of Thomism is problematic because it treats epistemology as first philosophy. This misstep compromises MacIntyre’s ability to provide a defense of moral objectivity, while also undermining his theory’s usefulness in deriving moral rules. The result is an ethics of doubtful coherence.

    There are other critics, but I can’t put my digital fingers on them immediately.

    The Catholic Catechism has the following:

    2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…. The one is intended, the other is not.”

    2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”

    Pope St John Paul II:

    Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what God’s commandment prohibits and prescribes. There are in fact situations in which values proposed by God’s Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defence, in which the right to protect one’s own life and the duty not to harm someone else’s life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defence. The demanding commandment of love of neighbour, set forth in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, itself presupposes love of oneself as the basis of comparison: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself ” (Mk 12:31). Consequently, no one can renounce the right to self-defence out of lack of love for life or for self. This can only be done in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself.

    Moreover, “legitimate defence can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State”. [The quotation is from # 2265 in the first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.] Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.

    The passages above in quotation marks are from Aquinas.

    The Catholic Church (unlike Enlightenment thinkers and many Protestants) never abandoned the theory of Natural Law, which asserts self-defense as a right and duty. Since “lethal weapons” are cited above with approval, it is logical that guns, long or not, are legitimate.

    I have no idea who DeVille is, but it’s clear that he hasn’t spent much time on-topic. The Catechism is available, indexed, searchable, on-line and has been for 10+ years, as is most of Aquinas.

  10. On October 7, 2019 at 5:33 pm, Longbow said:


    Well said. Thank you.

  11. On October 8, 2019 at 11:14 am, MTHead said:

    Jesus said in Luke 22.36 to, Trade your money and your coat and buy a sword.
    (better to be cold and broke. But armed, than not!)
    But, whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
    The same law that assembles congress. Forbids them infringement. It doesn’t matter if it was wrote yesterday. A RIGHT is because it is RIGHT!
    And through all the BS. They never look at the fact that peace loving humans bearing arms have NEVER been a problem in the entirety of human history! Ever.
    That is unless your a criminal. And sense on their best day all politicians are guilty of felony extortion. We clearly see the reason for all the hoopla and BS reasoning.

  12. On October 8, 2019 at 11:19 am, MTHead said:

    Herschel, You might try Luke 22,36. On your wife about that 460 S&W purchase? just thinking.

  13. On October 8, 2019 at 9:27 pm, Matt said:

    I have told people over the years the following: When you are confronting evil in a human form, it will be an ugly business. You may not have a choice. It may very well be violent. If it is violent, you are going to need the right tools to prevail.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published October 6th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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