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Is it Right for Christians to Keep and Bear Arms?

Is it right for Christians to keep and bear arms?

Recently, there have been several articles published by good men, Christians who are conservative and liberal, calling into question the right of people, especially Christians, to use firearms in their own defense or the defense of others. To be honest, I have wished that these controversial articles would give those of us who disagree pause and stimulate us to consider the gravity of our potential defensive actions and the responsibility we assume when we consider such things.

It is no small thing to take the life of another person, even if it is justifiable. Furthermore, the consequences and collateral damage of violent defensive action are often difficult to deal with afterwards, and our spiritual, mental, and even financial well-being may be at stake, as well as the well-being of innocent by standers. We should have given a great deal of thought to this before we ever draw a firearm on another human being, and we should pursue a vigilant prayer life asking God to arm us with wisdom, humility, and courage each and every day.

It bothers me though that there seem to be so many who would even be partially convinced by these authors’ pacifist tendencies (and I don’t mean that as a pejorative term), especially when it’s obvious that it is that (pacifist) worldview that is the lens through which they read Scripture, at least concerning this issue. For although it is often Scripture that they cite for their authority, the ideas they propose are fed into it as one would force a puzzle piece into the wrong space. Plainly, they seem to be confusing the clarity of Scripture with something else.

The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people.[1]-Charles Hodge

Plenty may be clear but not all is explicit.

Although many righteous things are given explicitly in the Word of God, understanding Scripture as a whole and doing the work of theology help us to know much more of the truths about how God would have us live. None of that is possible without illumination from the Holy Spirit of course.

Simply put, the Gospel is easily understood by simply reading the Bible, but that does not mean that all things that the Bible teaches are simply understood. For example, one can find several verses that speak plainly about faith as a means God uses to save people. But to make the case that baptism should always follow salvation because the Bible always describes it that way is simply bad hermaneutics. One may hold that position and may very well be correct, but if the simplicity of the Bible is their reason then it is no longer their doctrine of baptism that concerns me.

It is not denied that the Scriptures contain many things hard to be understood; that they require diligent study[2]-Charles Hodge

Pacifism is a hermeneutical problem of that sort.

Passages that call us to love our neighbor, obey the government, and love our enemy are among a few that pacifists use to teach their worldview of peace. Sometimes they may even try to teach a broader principle that Christ himself came to bring peace or that we are called to live peaceful lives as did the Apostles.

The problem is that they assume the application of the passages they cite when there is not necessarily agreement on the application. They must do the work of convincing us that their application is correct.

Romans 13 calls us to obey the governing authorities certainly, but we know that none of the Apostles or Jesus himself always obeyed governing authorities. How then can we simply assume that we are always to obey the government? When is it okay to disobey the government?

In Mark 12 Jesus repeats the law as stated in Leviticus 19 to love your neighbor as yourself. The problem with assuming that this prohibits violence against another person is that some folks say that to fail to defend your neighbor from a violent attacker is not loving your neighbor. Who is my neighbor, my wife or the perpetrator grabbing her purse?

Yes, we are called to live peaceably but this can’t be merely assumed to mean that we can never go to war or that injustice should be forever tolerated. God institutes governments and sends them to war. Governments are made of people who are often part of the Church. The Old Testament is full of accounts of this and unless the Bible contradicts itself, there must be exceptions to our call to live peaceably.

You see, whether we have a right to self-defense by means of violence is an ethical problem. It is something that must be derived from a broad understanding of Biblical teaching and theology by asking the question ‘how should we live’. It should not become a dogmatic issue of the fundamentals of the Faith. It is an issue that because of a lack of clear Biblical prescription must be held in tension with other Biblical teaching that is not meant to be all-inclusive. It cannot always be assumed as right nor can it always be excluded as wrong.

It is for this very reason, the existence of the possibility of a just and violent self-defense, that people ought to be allowed to provide for their own defense effectively, and this day and age doing so effectively means using a gun. It is not the place of church leadership to prohibit gun use or to convict the consciences of gun owners because there are no clear Biblical grounds to do so. If anything, pastors should promote Christian liberty where it is not clearly denied in Scripture and resist the searing of the consciences of innocent people.

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.l So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.n[3] –Westminster Confession of Faith

If it was the purpose of some of these good men to bring to light an ugly truth about living in the world while not being of it, that is an admirable motive. If it was to spur discussion so that Christians would not be flippant gun owners, your concern is duly noted.

In my opinion though, most of these well-meaning folk have lived outside of what is the reality of fly-over American culture for too long. Most Christian gun owners take their responsibility very seriously and have already considered what must seem so foreign to these neo-pacifists. We just live in two different countries.

It’s not pretty. It definitely doesn’t seem very Christian. It is reality though, and it is right for a Christian to provide for the defense of his or her family.


Because it is right does not settle the issue of whether it is a right (endowed by God). Finally, if it is an inalienable right to keep and bear arms, and it is right for the Christian to do so, then why all the fuss? Those questions will be dealt with next.



[1] Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 1, p. 183). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 1, p. 183). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[3] Westminster Assembly. (1851). The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (pp. 107–108). Philadelphia: William S. Young.

I was born in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, born again at a very young age, married a beautiful and likeminded woman, moved to Tennessee, and raised two children in the Southern traditions of loving God and neighbor, exercising manners, and being stewards of the land and its bounty. After becoming involved in youth ministry in our local church, the need of teaching people "what they believe and why they believe it" became painfully apparent, especially in my immediate context (rural Southern churches). We began an apologetics/theology ministry there but have since moved on. After serving in church leadership and being called to faithfulness and duty to protect our congregation from a rogue pastor under church discipline of his previous church, my experiences in this biblical process shape much of what I believe about how churches in the South have become weak and why nominal Christianity is prevalent. I love the Church and Southern culture so you can expect to read about apologetics and theology as well as church and culture here, written southern style, by the grace of God. Deo Vindice

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