The Bible Against American Gun Culture

BY Herschel Smith
4 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark Hiskes writing for Reformed Journal.

… when I was 21, two ski-masked men with guns reinforced her teaching. Around midnight they snuck into our college home of 5 friends, rapped a loaded gun at the back of each of our heads, made us lay face down on the floor, tied our hands behind our back and our ankles together, and then for about 5 hours ransacked every inch of our house for anything of value. When the police arrived the next morning and dusted the place for fingerprints, they made one thing clear, as we shivered close by in this house that no longer felt like home: “If you’d tried to resist in any way, you’d be dead.”

To this day I have absolutely no doubt that owning a gun would have gotten us killed that night.

So, when I read about God and Guns, The Bible Against Gun Culture, edited by Christopher B. Hays and C.L. Crouch, I knew I had to read it–because as a Christian I also believe, as Hays puts it early in the book, that “any Christianity that supports guns as a solution to social problems is not Christianity at all” (10).  Written and edited by seven Biblical scholars with an excellent foreword by Stanley Hauerwas, each chapter is steeped in Biblical scholarship but written for a wide audience. The authors recognize that there are good people on both sides of this issue; however, as Hauerwas says, they still “must challenge what has been and continues to be taken for granted by good people” (x).

[ … ]

Yolanda Norton’s essay uses the Old Testament story of Rizpah to show how a mother’s public lament over a slain son can be “a prophetic witness” to both state and community, citing contemporary instances of such lament by mothers of slain black sons. Her essay is a powerful indictment of American gun culture, which, she argues, “has again and again, demonstrated its own willingness to sacrifice Black bodies to its own purposes” (53).

[ … ]

Of course, the Bible has nothing to say directly about guns per se, but T.M. Lemos makes a fascinating comparison between Israelite bows and American guns, showing how hypermasculinity is common to both. He argues that “This idea of personhood, grounded in domination, is something that other parts of the Bible take great pains to reject. This has important implications for the place of the gun in the life of contemporary Christians” (78). Given the multifaceted, violent media environment we inhabit in 2023 and the pride with which mostly men pose, biceps bulging, their AR15 front and center, it’s hard to argue with Lemos’s point.

David Lincicum’s concluding essay, “Can a Christian Own a Gun?” cuts to the Biblical chase: “The gun is a temptation to arrogate life-destroying power to the wielder and should be resisted by those who follow in allegiance to a crucified Messiah” (116).

Looking at the ‘about’ page and also the names of the commenters, it didn’t take me long to figure out that this is mostly a CRC publication (Christian Reformed Church).  The CRC has had many problems of late, mostly having to do with accepting modernity into their church and the full rejection of core doctrinal beliefs.  Calling them “reformed” is a throw-back to what they may have been 100 years ago, but it’s certainly not accurate today.  They are no more followers of Calvin than I am a globalist.

He sets up various straw men to make it easy to knock them down.  No one I know, Christian or otherwise, believes that guns are a solution to the ills of society.  Only turning to Christ will do that.  Furthermore, the ease with which he is persuaded to believe falsehoods is lamentable.  He doesn’t know any more about the existence of all “possible worlds” than the cops did when they told him they would all be dead if they had resisted.  I recall covering two elderly people who didn’t resist a home invasion, and they were both doused with gasoline and set on fire before the home invaders left for the night. They both perished.

In the comments I see that some people see it as a duty to acknowledge that hunting is legitimate.  I “accept it,” say some commenters.  Honestly, God gave mankind dominion over the animals, and it doesn’t matter to me whether they “accept it” or not.

Finally, let’s assume that this man is married or has other family.  He might defend their lives with his hands, and then end up getting killed by a firearm in a home invasion, but in either case (live or die), he wouldn’t be available to defend him wife against rape, torture or kidnapping. I’ve often wondered how wives feel about husbands like that.

As I’ve said before, I consider such men no better than child molesters.  They wouldn’t lift a finger to defend the weak, helpless or downtrodden among us.  They’re worthless as defenders.  I’ve addressed this so many times before it makes no sense to keep rehearsing it. But rehearse it briefly I will.

… the best case for the necessity of self defense comes straight from the Decalogue.  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).

Matthew Henry observes the same concerning Proverbs 24:11-12 (“If we see the lives or livelihoods of any in danger of being taken away unjustly, we ought to bestir ourselves all we can do to save them …”).  Far from a weak or forced case for self defense, this is one of the strongest in the Scriptures.  Thou shalt not kill means that thou shalt not allow yourself or those around you to be killed, thus says the Lord.  It isn’t an option – it is His commandment.

There’s Calvin for you, Mr. “Reformed.” Jesus Himself was so adamant about self defense that He ordered His disciples to break the law in order to carry weapons.

Jesus, who wasn’t the Bohemian hippie flower child pacifist he’s made out to be in contemporary culture, demanded that His followers find weapons themselves.  It’s important to remember that this command involved disobedience to the state.  Jesus’ command involved civil (and if necessary, violent) disobedience, thus forcing his followers to become criminals if they followed His command.

… for some evidence, see Digest 48.6.1: collecting weapons ‘beyond those customary for hunting or for a journey by land or sea’ is forbidden; forbids a man ‘of full age’ appearing in public with a weapon (telum) (references and translation are from Mommsen 1985). See also Mommsen 1899: 564 n. 2; 657-58 n. 1; and Linderski 2007: 102-103 (though he cites only Mommsen). Other laws from the same context of the Digest sometimes cited in this regard are not as worthwhile for my purposes because they seem to be forbidding the possession of weapons with criminal intent. But for the outright forbidding of being armed while in public in Rome, see Cicero’s letter to his brother relating an incident in Rome in which a man, who is apparently falsely accused of plotting an assassination, is nonetheless arrested merely for having confessed to having been armed with a dagger while in the city: To Atticus, Letter 44 (II.24). See also Cicero, Philippics 5.6 (§17). Finally we may cite a letter that Synesius of Cyrene wrote to his brother, probably sometime around the year 400 ce. The brother had apparently questioned the legality of Synesius having his household produce weapons to defend themselves against marauding bands. Synesius points out that there are no Roman legions anywhere near for protection, but he seems reluctantly to admit that he is engaged in an illegal act (Letter 107; for English trans., see Fitzgerald 1926).

I’ll also point out that the very cause of the violence to which Ms. Norton speaks remains unaddressed in her essay, at least the part quoted.  Fatherless families, children out of wedlock, and government handouts. Go fix that problem Ms. Norton and you’ll see a different society.

Finally, the author says, “You are different with a gun in your hand,” or at least he seems to quote it with approval. Here we are again back at that superstitious belief that an object can change a man’s heart.  So tell me, Mr. Hiskes, how does that comport with 1 John 1:8, Eccl 7:20 and Eccl 9:3? Give us some theology here, Mr. “Reformed.” Make sure it agrees with the confession and larger and shorter catechisms.


  1. On November 29, 2023 at 11:16 pm, luke2236 said:


  2. On November 30, 2023 at 2:01 am, Dan said:

    Mr Hiskes is a coward. Deep down at the core of his soul he is a coward. And cowards want to drag everyone else down to their level. By disarming those who are braver than they are they try to make everyone equally helpless. Then they can pretend they aren’t cowards, that they are just like everyone else. By making guns illegal cowards believe they magically stop being a coward because they don’t have the tools to fight back. Cowards don’t grasp that cowardice is inherent, it’s inside themselves. And they HATE anyone who reminds them in any way of their cowardice.

  3. On November 30, 2023 at 11:58 am, Latigo Morgan said:

    I wonder if the victims in Wichita felt the same way?

    The Wichita Horror

  4. On November 30, 2023 at 12:08 pm, West South Africa said:

    I hope the crocodile eats me last is why we can’t have nice things.
    Mommygov will keep you safe so don’t resist you racist bigot.
    Societies that are too stupid and delusional to exist will be erased.
    The complex systems/(in)competence crisis is already here as well.

  5. On November 30, 2023 at 3:25 pm, Agammamon said:

    Its interesting that the first passage takes the word of a cop as gospel – “If you’d tried to resist in any way, you’d be dead.” – when such a person has no particular experience with these intruders to be able to make that judgement.

    Indeed, we have no way of judging the veracity of this anecdote – so its not even evidence.

  6. On December 1, 2023 at 12:14 pm, Mike said:

    I wonder what these pacifist, anti-gun “Christians” would say about Lutheran Pastor Peter Muhlenberg raising a regiment from the pulpit of his church after revealing his Continental Army uniform beneath his robe? These deluded people should bow down to the King of England and beg his forgiveness for the haughty behavior of their colonial ancestors, and then leave America for good. They are not my fellow Americans as long as they spout inane screeds cloaked in a warped version of Biblical “authority”.

  7. On December 1, 2023 at 2:56 pm, Roger J said:

    Whether it makes me a good Christian or a bad Christian I will keep my weapons. If I must use them to defend my God-given life, I know He will judge my actions. I don’t care what so-called theologians think.

  8. On December 2, 2023 at 8:34 am, Gene Cunningham said:

    People who think the Bible is against self defense should read the 8th and 9th chapters of the book of Esther.

  9. On December 2, 2023 at 11:33 am, Dirk said:

    Regardless if the initial story is true, that’s a tough call, when loved ones are at risk. In my opinion facts are lacking. Sometimes that’s just how life is, it’s a gut call, a reaction.

    And knowing a lot o out the human the comply actions of humans are 99% we are a nation of pussys. If a sliver of hopes available the majority will allow themselves to be bound and just hope for a decent outcome.

    And I don’t know if I agree with the fight back, you would be dead alleged statement from the popo.

    Back in my college days, my mind set was very much pacifist, sure I owned lots of weapons, but to be a good lil robot I did keep em in a safe, times change people change.

    For the past forty years I’ve had a gun on me, or very near me daily. One of those coming of ages stories. None of us are who we grew up as. They say “ Life IS the lesson”. And I embrace that wisdom to the bone.

    Many things in my life have changed I’ve lived a lot of life, seen things most haven’t. Without being in that situation I’ve no idea how I would react. I’d like to think I’d get all ninja like and take care of business. But then that could be the absolute wrong call, get loved ones hurt.

    Just don’t know. We all do what we do for a reason, we all live differently, we all see the world differently.

    Hershel I appreciate your work here, gives me an opportunity to think from time to time share life’s lessons. Often the opportunity to learn from everybody.


  10. On December 3, 2023 at 1:24 pm, Ned said:

    Behaving like a victim doesn’t make one an expert.

  11. On December 4, 2023 at 5:59 am, IAB said:

    When I hear cops talk like that, it always makes me wonder if they are getting a cut from the gangs operating in their area. I know we’re not supposed to think that way, this is America after all and cops and politicians are always honest servants of the people… But still. One wonders.

  12. On December 5, 2023 at 12:08 pm, CT Ginger said:

    Luke 22:36

  13. On December 5, 2023 at 1:57 pm, Gary said:

    In his book “Six Frigates: The Epic History Of The Founding Of The U. S. Navy” author Ian Toll discusses the background of Joshua Humphries, the Quaker designer of the original six frigates. The culture of Philadelphia (where he lived) was heavily pacifist but it was not universal. Toll relates there was a problem with hostiles on the frontier and a Presbyterian minister said in answer to the Quakers calls to turn the other cheek “that to bow one’s knees and expose one’s neck when attacked is to commit the mortal sin of suicide.” That’s my Christianity.

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You are currently reading "The Bible Against American Gun Culture", entry #36197 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published November 29th, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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