Why I Am Pro-Gun
by S. Michael Fort
As a Christian, I hold to a biblical worldview. The foundations of my thoughts are these: 1) God exists and 2) the Bible is the Word of God. Since God is perfect, His Word is infallible; it is my ultimate authority in all matters. It stands above my own reason Ė I can appeal to nothing higher. As our Creator, the Lord has defined what is permissible and what is required of His creation. His will governs not only the physical universe but also individual human beings, their institutions, and their relationships to one another.
When the question is asked, "Is gun control the proper and effective way to reduce crime?", those on both sides of the question generally respond with a barrage of contradictory statistics and facts. Their approach to solving this question is essentially empirical. Whether they realize it or not, both sides have come to a stand-off. There is no point of contact between their respective worldviews from which they can argue to reach a common conclusion. Both rely on empiricism, and empiricism ("the facts") ultimately relies on how the empirical data is interpreted. Oneís worldview determines his "factual hermeneutic."
A Christian sees the similarities between the bones of a personís hands and those of a batís wings as evidence of a single Creator, a master engineer who used His designs in a number of his creations. An atheist sees this as proof of the common origin of our evolution. Many vendors keep cups of pennies by their cash registers for those who may be a few cents short or for whomever may have a few cents to spare. A Christian views this as a modern application of the biblical concept of gleaning (Lev:19:9-10, Lev:23:22, Deut:24:21, Mark 2:23). A typical Hindu regards this as good karma ("what comes around goes around"). Interpretation of facts is always controlled by the underlying foundations of our worldviews -- the things we pre-suppose to be true in order to be able to make sense of things.
The pro-gunnerís worldview is typically that of the libertines, a rights theory and natural law worldview that emphasizes the freedom of the individual. The central tenet of natural law is that the laws that govern the world are determined by and are observable in nature. The libertines attest that one of these natural laws is that individual man may do anything so long as it does not harm another. From this general idea of manís basic right comes the specific rights of man. As it relates to this discussion, rights theory states that individual man may own any firearm he desires so long as he does not use it to wrongfully harm another.
Another chief aspect of rights theory/natural law is the private ownership of property. It is a simple reduction that if a person owns a firearm (property), no other may take it away without committing a primary offense against the laws of nature and the rights of man.
The anti-gunnerís worldview is typically that of pure democracy and atheism. Since there is no God, it is left up to man to determine what is right. What is right is whatever makes the greatest number of people happy. Pure democracy Ė right and wrong is determined by 51% of the populace. "Happiness" can be defined as hedonistic pleasure, security & safety, or any number of ways appropriate to the situation. This security & safety aspect of happiness stands opposed to the rights of the individual (and, incidentally, is the foundation of the slave mentality).
Atheists reject the Christian concept of manís total depravity and instead attest to his basic goodness. Since man is born in a state of perfection, it follows that any corruption of man is as a result of his environment. Consequently, as they strive to perfect man, atheists must first perfect manís environment. Environmental perfection is the atheistic foundation of gun control.
As a Christian I must reject both of these views. Right and wrong is not determined by man, it is determined by God and applied to man in the Ten Commandments and the case law decisions of the Old & New Testaments. Right and wrong is not determined by observing nature either. Nature does not define law Ė it is under the law of God, defined for His creation and applied by Him. The Word of God teaches that man has a corrupt heart. The Lord teaches us in Genesis that man was born into a perfect environment but chose to do evil in spite of it. Man corrupts his environment, not the other way around. To change the heart of man is not within his power. Manís corrupted heart must be reborn by the efficacious power of the Holy Spirit through the promise and sacrifice of Godís son Jesus. Providing man a weapon free environment will not change his corrupted heart any more than dead men could thrive in an environment conducive to good health.
In the Christian worldview, no one has "rights" or owns property. Man does not have the right to life or the right to bear arms. Rather, God has made it unlawful to wrongfully take a manís life and He has also made it unlawful for anyone to deny another the ownership of firearms. No one owns anything (not even our "own" bodies) Ė God has chosen to place His property under our stewardship. Further, He has made it unlawful for any man to steal that which He has chosen for anotherís stewardship. In this manner, all offenses are first and foremost an offense to God and second an offense to individual man. Rights theory elevates man above his proper position. When man has "inalienable rights," even God Himself can commit sinful acts of offense against man.
The question for the Christian then cannot be answered by quoting the FBIís Uniform Crime Statistics. The empirical facts are utterly irrelevant in the determination of right and wrong regardless of which side they appear to prove. The Christian must ask himself this: 1) does Godís Law permit individual man to own firearms, 2) does Godís Law require man to defend himself and others, 3) does Godís Law permit the civil government to regulate the ownership of firearms, and 4) what does Godís Law say is the proper way to reduce crime.
Of course, firearms are an anachronism with respect to the Bible so we must take the approach of the general parity of the law. As an example, Godís law requires the placement of a rail around oneís roof to keep people from falling off (Deut:22:8). This is an anachronism in our time as no one typically spends much time on their roof (at least in America). Using the principle of general parity, it is a simple extrapolation to show that Godís Law requires people to put up a fence around their swimming pools. In much the same way, firearms fall under the general classification of weapons. In Biblical times this would be swords, spears, and bows.
Before I endeavor to answer the four questions above, some additional explanation is required. In the governing of the actions of individual man, God uses a moral law approach. This approach to law tells you what you may not do (thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal). Everything not forbidden is by implication allowed (keeping in mind that some implicit moral laws are a necessary and logical consequence of those explicitly defined). In governing the actions of human institutions (their sphere of authority and functions), God uses a regulative principle in law. This approach to law tells you only what you may do. Everything not authorized is by implication forbidden. Therefore, to prove that the Bible is "pro-gun" it is sufficient to show that individual man is not forbidden from owning weapons and that the civil government is not empowered to control them.
It is also wise to note that Jesus often spoke in parables. He used specific examples to illustrate general principles. While the illustration itself was not the point of the parable, we can still glean meaning from the specific story by seeing what countenance it was given.
Does Godís law permit man to own firearms (weapons)? Nehemiah 4: 13-18 relates how the Israelites armed themselves with swords, spears, and bows against attack while rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. More importantly, no where in the Bible is man forbidden from owning weapons. Some may point out Isaiah 1: 10 which states "Öbeat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." I would like to point out Joel 3: 10 which states the opposite "Öbeat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears." Isaiah is providing imagery for a time of great peace after the consummation of Christís total victory over evil. Joel is providing imagery for a time of great war in which the people of God face down the people of Satan in the "valley of decision." Neither is making specific comment on the private ownership of weapons.
Others may point to Matthew 26: 52: "Put your sword back in its place,Öfor all who draw the sword will die by the sword." The first point I make about this verse is that Peter, a private citizen and an apostle of Jesus, owned a sword. Secondly, Peter drew his sword at an inappropriate time. For Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and fulfill Old Testament prophecy, he had to first be arrested (which Peter was trying to prevent). Jesus also told Peter in the next verse that his actions were an affront to the deity (in much the same way that Uzzah offended God when he attempted to steady the Arc of the Covenant; 2 Samuel: 6: 6-7). Simply put, the Son of God did not require a manís help.
In Luke 22: 36-38 Jesus is quoted commanding his disciples "Ö if you donít have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ĎAnd he was numbered with the transgressorsí; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me." This verse is often quoted and seldom understood. Pro-gunners say Jesus is giving us a command to own weapons. Anti-gunners say that he was only telling his disciples to purchase swords so that they would be "transgressors" thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12. Neither is correct.
The anti-gun position is destroyed by a simple reduction: 1) it is a sin to command others to sin, 2) Christ never sinned, and 3) therefore Christ never commanded his disciples to sin. Disproving the pro-gun position on these verses is a little more difficult. They have made the mistake of oversimplification Ė their interpretation is the patently obvious one. Letís do a little exegesis.
The context here is a discussion between Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper immediately preceding the crucifixion. Jesus rhetorically asks them in verse 35, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" Jesus is describing his time on earth when he directly watched over his disciples. In verse 36 He changes direction and starts talking about the immediate future in which His carnal presence will ultimately be removed after the accession: "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you donít have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." The "now" referred to is the beginning of the discipleís ministry to the world. Christ goes on to explain that things are changing because of the imminent fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: "And he was numbered with the transgressors" -- as indeed he was when crucified as a criminal side-by-side with two thieves (when Jesus took upon Himself the sins of those He saved, even God the Father forsook Him Ė in this manner Christ was a transgressor).
So what is Christ saying? Basically, "Times are going to get tough Ė Iím not going to be here directly with you anymore. The world is going to hate you for the message you are presenting them." So what does this have to do with gun control? In this verse Christ uses the private ownership of weapons in an example and gives it a positive countenance. It is interesting to note in verse 38 that the disciples already owned two swords.
One last caveat then on to the second question. Some anti-gunners whose reasoning skills are extremely poor will try to use 2 Corinthians 10: 4 against us: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." The "weapons of the world" Paul references are indeed swords, spears, and bows. However the "fight" to which he is referring is the fight for the minds of men and the "weapons we fight with" are the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. This verse has nothing to do with personal defense and everything to do with religious conversion. It establishes that Christians do not seek to change menís hearts by physical force but by the tools God has provided (an excellent proof text against the Marxist religion of revolution).
Does Godís Law require man to defend himself and others? The short answer is yes. The sixth commandment states "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20: 13). Some have tried to use this verse as an argument against the use of lethal force in self defense and capital punishment. These people should have kept reading. The Ten Commandments are short summary of the greater thing that is the Law of God. The remainder of the Law is typically referred to as case law decisions. It is in the case law decisions that we find a greater degree of precision and specificity as to what exactly constitutes sin.
Exodus 22: 2 states, "If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so than he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed." This is in a series of case laws regarding thieves. The underlying assumption of this verse is that men may take the lives of other men who are clearly attempting to hurt them, without guilt. This verse extends those who may be killed without guilt to include thieves whose intention is not clear. In daylight, a criminalís intent is more clear to the victim. When it is clear that a criminal intends only to steal, the victim may not respond by killing him. If it is clear that the criminal intends to hurt or murder, the victim may respond with lethal force. If a victim awakes at night to find a stranger in his house, it is not clear if the stranger intends to steal from him or to kill him. In this ambiguity, the victim is allowed to use lethal force against the criminal regardless of his true intent without guilt. My home state of Texas has this same law almost word-for-word.
Additional authority to take the life of another is extended to the covenant head of anyone who is killed (covenant head is typically the husband or the father). This doctrine is known as "the avenger of blood" and is tied in closely to the doctrine of the cities of refuge. Alluded to in Exodus 21:13 and fully expounded in Numbers 35:6-34 and Deuteronomy 19:1-13, this aspect of Godís Law provides the rock solid foundation of a manís requirement to defend his family. If anyone kills a member of his family (any person that he is the covenant head of) in a malicious way, he has the responsibility to put the person to death. If the family member was killed accidentally, the person who killed them is to flee to a city of refuge in which the avenger of blood may not put him to death. However, the avenger of blood will not be guilty of bloodshed if he kills the person before he goes to the city of refuge. This is exactly how far God extends defense of self and family!
In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells the following parable to His disciples: "ÖIf the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would of kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." (Matthew 24: 43 and others) Once again, the patently obvious meaning is not the correct one. Christ is referring to remaining faithful and always being ready; for we do not know the day of our death or the day Christ returns. However, the defense of the house in the example is given positive countenance.
When explaining his actions after driving a demon out of a man, Jesus used this parable: "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." (Luke 11: 21-22) This parable was used to show that a man cannot serve two masters Ė the one to which he holds stronger conviction will ultimately be who he follows. As in Matthew 24: 43, the example is not the point but home defense is given positive countenance in the example.
Does Godís Law permit the civil government to regulate the ownership of firearms? As stated earlier, God uses regulative law to define the sphere of authority and function of human institutions. Therefore, we should not expect to see anything in the Bible that says "Civil government may not regulate weapons." We should, however, expect to see what government may and is required to do listed in the Bible. We can answer the question posed above with an affirmative no just by showing that the Bible does not authorize civil government to regulate weapons. What is the Biblical role of civil government? Simply put, civil government exists to punish crimes.
This begs the question, "What is crime?" First, letís define sin: sin is any lack of conformity to Godís Law. Crime is that subset of sin which God has commanded to be punished by the civil government. As an example, it is a sin to covet your neighborís car but it is not a crime. It is a sin and a crime, however, to steal your neighborís car. "Immoral" should not equate as "illegal" in our minds (conservatives take note). Crimes are easily identified in the Bible. Quite simply, any sin that has a carnal punishment is a crime.
Romans 13:1-7 most succinctly describes the Biblical role of civil government. We have to be excruciatingly careful in its interpretation, though, as it has historically been used by cowards and tyrants alike to excuse away monstrous acts. Romans 13 does not give the civil government carte blanche for tyranny. It does define what civil government is. A woman is defined by certain things. A drag queen has the appearance of a woman but fails to meet the definition. Therefore a drag queen is not a woman. In the same manner, though a human institution may have the appearance of a civil government, if it fails to meet the definition, it is not a civil government. Such a human institution could properly be referred to as collective manís organized rebellion against God.
As you read Romans 13, keep in mind that it was written during the reign of Nero, the most vicious God-hating tyrant in the history of Rome. Romans 13 was not only intended as instruction to Christians but also as a sly slap in Neroís face. In much the same way, someone today might write a book defining the role and nature of the American presidency. This definition might include that the president is a person who does not commit adultery and does not transfer defense technology to China. Would any of us interpret the author to mean that Clinton was not guilty of these things?! No indeed.
Romans 13: 3 tells us that civil government is to be a terror to evil doers. Civil government is Godís instituted authority on earth to carry out the punishments for crimes (Romans 13: 4). This is all the civil government may Biblically do.
Many will say that civil government has to apply to everyone and therefore should be neutral. Neutrality is a myth. It is taught and perpetuated by the government schools. Speaking from experience, itís difficult to unlearn that which was so thoroughly engrained. The question is never religion or no religion but, rather, which religion. If we define religion to be those truths to which people attest above all others, then certainly, atheism is the religion of man. The very nature of civil government is that it is in the business of right and wrong. Ideas of right and wrong are ethical ideas. Ethics are inextricably tied to religious systems. The Christian is taught that homosexuality is wrong; the libertines do not condemn any consensual act. The Christian believes that abortion is murder; the hedonist says risk free sex increases his pleasure. The Christian thinks it is blasphemy to teach evolution as truth; the atheist thinks itís good science. Religious systems cannot peacefully coexist for any great duration of time. One will be ultimately victorious and the others utterly defeated. We are in a war for the minds of men.
The Bible does contain a few direct references to weapons control. There were many times throughout Israelís 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 Israelís 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 sharpenedÖSo 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.
What does Godís Law say is the proper way to reduce crime? The most basic way, of course, is to change the hearts of men so that they no longer desire to commit crimes. But this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Criminals will always be with us even if their numbers become exceedingly smaller and smaller as the Holy Spirit works out the Great Commission in redemptive history. Regardless, even for Christians the old fleshly temptations have a good deal of influence and many commit crimes in spite of their faith. Therefore, the question cannot be ultimately resolved without looking beyond evangelistic methods.
The purpose of Biblical penology is restitution to the victim and punishment of the criminal. It is not a deterrent-based penology nor is it a criminal redemption-based penology. Christians hold no hope in the ability of law to change the corrupted heart of man. No matter how much punishment you heap on his head, man is a master of self-deception and will continue to sin in spite of it all Ė he will not be deterred. The belief in the redemptive ability of law is pure atheistic wickedness. This is commonly known as "messianic government" or, as is applies to heretics, the "social gospel." Redemptive law relies on the atheistic idea of the basic goodness of man wherein he can be redeemed by proper environmental conditioning. Still, the Bible teaches us that if Biblical punishments are carried out in a Biblical fashion, we should expect to see a reduction in crime (if only for the fact that people stoned to death can no longer commit crimes!).
Restitution can be succinctly described as compensation to a victim that is just and appropriate for the crime. There are no prisons in the Biblical criminal justice system. The only incarceration that occurs in the Biblical system is for those awaiting trial. The Biblical system breaks down as follows: 1) Restitution of property. When property is stolen or destroyed, it is replaced along with an addition 20% (or other appropriate factor). 2) Restitution of deed. For criminal acts of cruelty, etc. not involving a loss of property or requiring the death penalty, criminals are to be whipped a maximum of thirty-nine times (Deuteronomy 25: 1-3, see also 2 Corinthians 11: 24). 3) Restitution of life. For severe criminal acts in which no amount of money or lashes would repay the victim or the victimís family, the criminal is to be stoned to death. This would include such crimes as murder, kidnapping, adultery, and male homosexuality. Also, it includes unrepentant or incorrigible criminals (for example, if you were convicted of stealing several times youíd be put to death by stoning).
The Bible also makes specific mention of disallowing plea bargains (Numbers 35: 31) and the requirement of a speedy trial and punishment (Ecclesiastes 8: 11). We are told concerning speedy punishment that "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong." The implicit inverse of this is that speedy punishments act in some sense as a deterrent (though certainly that is not their chief purpose). Godís penology will bring about this kind of blessing: "By justice a king gives a country stabilityÖ" (Proverbs 29: 4), "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." (Proverbs 21: 15), and "For if the message spoken through angels [the Law] was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2: 2). The way to reducing crime is not weapons control, it is evangelism and Biblical penal sanctions.
For all these reasons, I am pro-gun. As a group, the pro-gunners must stop arguing the issue on the terms of the other side. We must make this a worldview issue and not lower it to a level of who has the better facts and figures. We must stop worrying about the number of gun owners who have joined pro-gun organizations and start focusing on how faithful we are. We must remember the lessons taught through Gideon (Judges 7); the Lord fights our wars for us and our greatest weapon is the strength of our faith. Fight relentlessly and work to build that which God desires for us. In the end, we will be vindicated.