Friday, May 20, 2016

Buy A Gun Or You Don't Love Jesus

That probably seems like a silly and unnecessary title to a post but what inspired this post was an essay by Michael Patton over at Credo House with this humdinger of a title: Why Christians Are Ordered to Have Guns. Not allowed. Not permitted. Not something to be considered. Ordered. So yeah, that is a pretty provocative post title that deserves an equally over the top title in my response. Anyway, someone posted this on Facebook and it stirred up an interesting conversation and because the entire original post was, just being frank, an exegetical train wreck I am going to refute it section by section,

First a comment about the title. Generally your title is an introduction for someone who is going to read your blog post or is an inducement to get them to click on the link, aka "click bait". So if you are going to make a serious claim like every Christian is ordered to have a gun you should probably make that case. Michael does not.

Skipping over the first few paragraphs which talk about why he was writing this post we get to the first argument regarding the importance of education the populace about the 2nd Amendment.
I didn’t quote the 2nd Amendment merely as an introduction to remind people of it, but because I believe a very sad fact: most Americans have never even read it or really thought about it. 
The hearts and minds of America (and American Christians) must be won first through education. Most Americans have very little notion of what America is all about, what Bono, the rock star Irishman, calls “the idea of America.” And the idea of America includes the right to bear arms and, as I will argue, something beyond this.
Ok. I agree that it is troubling that most American don't have a clue what the 2nd Amendment says or any of the rest of the Constitution for that matter. I also agree that very few Americans have any sort of concept about what America means or why it exists or why we have a Constitution in the first place. I am reading Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy In America and it is horrifying how far we have strayed from the grand vision that led to the forming of a limited republican government focused on individual liberty rather than a monarchy. I will go several steps farther and note that I am a gun owner and I am 100% convinced that the 2nd Amendment was intended to and actually does preserve an individual right to own a firearm. None of that has anything to do with whether Christians are "ordered" to have guns or even if they should.

This is an important point. Throughout history the vast majority of Christians had nothing even vaguely resembling a right to arms. The vast majority of Christians right now do not own firearms. So we are left with the idea that God has specially chosen Christian living in America to arm themselves in a manner unknown to most of our brethren over the last 200 years. That is a pretty tough argument to make. Moving on....
It is interesting that Jesus in Luke 22:35ff tells the apostles to get a sword. Now, I, personally, would not claim this is an exact parallel to the idea of the 2nd Amendment, but it does have some bearing on whether citizens can have a sword (an instrument of death).
As sure as the sun rising in the east, those who argue in favor of Christians arming themselves and preparing themselves to use those weapons to kill someone else are going to go to Luke 22 and Romans 13 for New Testament support. Just as certainly those same people are going to ignore Luke 22;37 that tells us why Jesus wanted the disciples to have swords (hint, it was not for self-defense or to use at all) and the end of Romans 12 which of course immediately precedes Romans 13 and is the most explicit teaching on non-violence anywhere in the Scriptures. Notice what he does here. He says "I, personally, would not claim this is an exact parallel to the idea of the 2nd Amendment" (emphasis mine). So he uses the argument that the 2nd Amendment is a parallel to Luke 22, just not an exact one. The problems here are two-fold. First, the passage he cites in Luke has nothing to do with Christians arming themselves. It is a specific event for a specific purpose and read in context it has nothing to do with arming ourselves. The second is much more troubling and is a recurring theme in his post. He tosses out there the notion that Luke 22 supports owning weapons by Christian and draws a parallel between the teachings of Jesus and the 2nd amendment and then moves on without even pretending to engage the text and the very obvious problems with using the "numbered with the transgressors" passage to support a Biblical command for Christians to own guns, When you are making an argument about a Kingdom topic, if you turn to Scripture, as you should, you must at least engage the text a little. Otherwise you are just tossing out verses with no thought as to their proper context and usage. That drives me nuts and a published author with a master's in theology like Michael should know better. The fact that he makes no attempt to interact with a portion of Scripture he tosses out as support for his position is a mark of someone who has a weak argument.
In the book of Romans we are told to obey our government. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). If we do not obey, we should fear the consequences as the government does not “bear the sword for nothing” (Roman 13:4). 
The government “bearing the sword” does not in any way exclude citizens from having one. In fact, the passage might very well assume that citizens carry swords also. The idea here has to do with whether or not the government should be able to exact penalties for criminal activity, even the penalty of death. Paul’s assumption is that this is an obligation the government bears.
I will grant the first assertion in the second paragraph, nothing in Romans 13 by itself would negate Christians bearing the sword. The next sentence though is inaccurate. Again we see the use of a qualified assertion to plant the notion in the reader's mind that a passage of Scripture implies something when it does nothing of the sort. In this case "the passage might very well assume that citizens carry swords also" is creating from thin air an assumption that the private citizens of the state are assumed to carry swords even though nothing in the passage would imply that. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't but the Scriptures simply don't say and this is little more than making a case from silence, even though the immediately preceding verses in Romans 12 would strongly indicate that even if pagan citizens of the Roman empire carried weapons, Christians did not until several centuries after Paul. Next we turn to the next paragraph and this is where it really goes off the rails...
However, any time the government no longer functions as a legitimate government, the higher law, a natural law, the “Lex Rex” (King Law or “the law is king”) says that people have the right and obligation to overthrow such government. Aren’t we supposed to submit to the government? However, this assumes that the government in question is a legitimate government. It is hard to know where to draw the line from a biblical standpoint (and I have no intention of exploring that question here), but from the standpoint of our government that “we the people” set up and rule over, this is an obligation we carry.
The post jumps from a clumsy attempt at exegesis to a completely extra-biblical principle, "natural law" or "Lex Rex". Note that he even concedes that the Bible makes no distinctions in the New Testament as to what qualifies a "legitimate" secular government. The reason he cannot draw this line is that the Bible never does and just as importantly it never assumes that Christians are to rise up in armed revolt against an "illegitimate" government. The Roman rule over Israel was brutal, as we see in the scourging and crucifying of Jesus Christ and the eventual violent martyring of many of the apostles in Scripture. The Romans would even eventually destroy the temple in Jerusalem. If there was ever an illegitimate government it was Roman rule over Israel but we never, ever find a call to violent revolt from Christ or His disciples. If it was His intent that we rise up, one might think it would be mentioned by Him. He makes an appeal that as American citizens we are obliged to arm ourselves in case of revolt even though that eternal preparation for revolt is completely contrary to what Paul says in Romans 13. Hang on, this next leap is a huge one.
Because of our biblical obligation to the government expressed by Paul in Romans 13, I would say that owning a gun is something that goes beyond just a right, it is imperative to the well-being of our county. Notice this again in the 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” “Militia” is a term that may bring up misunderstanding. People will no doubt think of a rouge of hillbilly nuts who hate the government and form their group to create a cult whose purpose is to disturb or destroy our government. This is not what is meant. What is meant is a group of people who love America, whether or not they agree with the policies of any particular presidential administration or the rulings of any Supreme Court. These are citizens who are intent on obeying the government by keeping the government in check. What an incredibly unique and necessary situation our forefathers set up. Not only are there checks and balances in the three branches of our government, there are also checks and balances of power between the formal government and the people. Our forefathers knew all too well how unguarded governments can and most often do turn into tyrannical messes. And they wrote as one of the first amendments something to deter tyranny.
In spite of his impassioned appeal to the need of an armed citizenry to keep the government in check, something I believe was intended by the framers, he is again making a linkage that doesn't exist. He starts off with "Because of our biblical obligation to the government expressed by Paul in Romans 13, I would say that owning a gun is something that goes beyond just a right, it is imperative to the well-being of our county.". So Christians should submit to the government as Paul writes but then we see that American Christians have a complementary obligation to arm ourselves to keep the government in check. He goes from submission to the government, which is Biblical, to a treatment of why American citizens must be armed. The chasm between these two concepts is enormous. It is effective largely because we as Christians living in America have been so inundated with teaching about America being a "Christian nation", our shared "Judeo-Christian" values and the priority of the American pseudo-Christian civic religion over all else that we can often not distinguish between where Christianity ends and America begins.

His next three paragraphs focus on the topic of "HOW CAN WE EXPECT TO FIGHT AGAINST FIGHTER JETS AND PLANES?". They are not very interesting arguments and have nothing to do with the assertion in his title that Christians are ordered to have guns so I will jump to his closing argument:
I believe that there is a responsibility for us to have this kind of power immediately available to all Americans. The truth be told, if there are any Christians who have a hard time with this (and I know there are and I do sympathize with the objections), we must understand that to obey Romans 13, we must, at the very least, support the right to bear arms. When we go against, we may do so because of conscience or fear, but we have nothing to fear as long as we take all the necessary precautions and educate and train all those who do bear these arms. It needs to be well regulated on the “militia” level and on the level of the individual. Is it dangerous? Definitely. Is a car dangerous as we allow 16 year olds to drive them? Absolutely (I have one of those). That is why we should have diligent training for both. Will people use them for evil ends? Definitely. We live in a fallen world with fallen people who seek their own gain. But, ultimately, we have to understand not only the disobedience to Scripture when we go against the 2nd Amendment, but the radical danger there is when the government disarms its people.
I am not really saying that every individual Christian is ordered to have a gun. If it is something that is truly against your conscience, don’t get one. But those who can, should (and go through training, following the safety rules). But, at the very least, I do believe that in order to obey God, we should support the 2nd Amendment.
This is my musing on gun control. I am willing to change my mind if someone can convince me otherwise.
Wow. In a sense he is somewhat correct. The 2nd Amendment is the law of the land and part of the governing documents of America so we as Christians in submission to the government should of course recognize the right of citizens to bear arms. That doesn't mean we are obligated or permitted to arm ourselves. It is legal in virtually every state to go to a strip club. Many states have legalized gambling. Every state allows citizens to purchase and consume alcohol as long as they don't drive afterward.  I recognize that these are part of the law and as such I am not chaining myself to the door of a nudie bar. Even though all of the above are social ills and harmful, it is the law. There is a difference between what is permitted and what is proper for a citizen of Christ's Kingdom. I am again going to point out that when your title is "Why Christians Are Ordered to Have Guns" but you then write in your conclusion "I am not really saying that every individual is ordered to have a gun", you undermine your own argument. Either stand firm on what you said in the title or change the title to "Why Christians Should Consider Having A Gun".

Michael is sort of making two arguments and mixing them together, first that the 2nd Amendment is a vital part of the law of our land and second that the New Testament at the least doesn't prohibit the ownership of weapons by Christians. The first argument is not terribly well presented but it doesn't contain any obvious factual errors. The second argument is not made at all beyond throwing a couple of Scriptures out and then less than subtly trying to link them to the 2nd Amendment. His unwillingness to engage in the work of exegesis and willful disregard of contrary positions makes his Biblical case completely toothless. In fact it only works when one starts from a U.S. Constitutional and then backs into Scripture to find verses that out of context seem to maybe imply some very weak support for his argument.

There is a case to be made from Scripture in favor of Christians having arms and being likewise prepared to use them in the defense of others, especially those too weak to defend themselves, but it isn't made here. Michael needs to go back, rethink his arguments and read a few decent resources that argue to the contrary and are widely available like Preston Sprinkle's book Fight (see my review here). He acts as if the arguments that run counter to his position are not worthy of being mentioned in specifics or engaged in a meaningful way but if you can't defend your position in the face of critical and contrary arguments, it probably isn't an position worth having.

1 comment:

MikeSnow said...

Unbelievable that Credo House should display such ignorance of the text of Luke 22.