John Piper as chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary has taken a stand on whether or not Christians should get permits to carry guns.
This comes as a response to Liberty University’s President, Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s comments recently when he addressed the students at Liberty:
“I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. And let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Here are Piper’s key points in trying to make a theological case around this issue, that he describes as less about whether Christians may ever use force in self-defense, but more an issue about the ‘tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life”:
1. The apostle Paul called Christians not to avenge ourselves, but to leave it to the wrath of God, and instead to return good for evil. And then he said that God gave the sword (the gun) into the hand of governmental rulers to express that wrath in the pursuit of justice in this world.
2. The apostle Peter teaches us that Christians will often find themselves in societies where we should expect and accept unjust mistreatment without retaliation.
3. Jesus promised that violent hostility will come; and the whole tenor of his counsel was how to handle it with suffering and testimony, not with armed defense.
4. Jesus set the stage for a life of sojourning in this world where we bear witness that this world is not our home, and not our kingdom, by renouncing the establishment or the advancement of our Christian cause with the sword.
5. Jesus strikes the note that the dominant (not the only) way Christians will show the supreme value of our treasure in heaven is by being so freed from the love of this world and so satisfied with the hope of glory that we are able to love our enemies and not return evil for evil, even as we expect to be wronged in this world.
6. The early church, as we see her in Acts, expected and endured persecution without armed resistance, but rather with joyful suffering, prayer, and the word of God.
7. When Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword, he was not telling them to use it to escape the very thing he promised they should endure to the death.
8. A natural instinct is to boil this issue down to the question, “Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?”
9. Even though the Lord ordains for us to use ordinary means of providing for life (work to earn; plant and harvest; take food, drink, sleep, and medicine; save for future needs; provide governments with police and military forces for society), nevertheless, the unique calling of the church is to live in such reliance on heavenly protection and heavenly reward that the world will ask about our hope (1 Peter 3:15), not about the ingenuity of our armed defenses.
To Dr. Piper’s credit, he actually reached out to Dr. Falwell BEFORE writing this article. They exchanged several emails and talked on the phone about the issue. Piper points out that this is a disagreement between Christian brothers who are able to express appreciation for each other’s ministries person-to-person. That’s a breath of fresh air in this whole ‘Christians disagreeing with each other’ area.
Another very respectful rebuttal to Dr. Piper comes from pastor and blogger Bob Thune.
Thune says of Falwell’s initial comments:
Here’s a Christian leader, responsible for the safety of thousands of people, urging responsible citizens to act within their legal rights to obtain gun permits in light of a tragic instance of campus violence. Piper sees this as out of step with the New Testament. I see it as profoundly in line with the Christian responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves. If an active shooter showed up on campus with intent to harm, the loving thing to do would be to take him out before he killed dozens of people.
There’s certainly room for freedom of conscience on this issue. Christians will have differing convictions on the use of lethal force. But the case Piper makes against lethal force is a weak one, and its weaknesses need to be highlighted in order to move the conversation forward. In an age of terrorism where churches and schools are soft targets, Christians need to think more critically about this important matter.
Both posts are worth your time and attention.
Which perspective makes the most sense to you?