Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seeking A Biblical Position

As a Baptist, I am driven to basing my positions on what I read in the Bible. It is an ideal my denomination doesn’t really hold to much anymore, but a part of the roots of my faith that have me still claiming the label these days. Many Christians in America these days don’t read their Bibles much, and they certainly don’t stop to look to Scripture to determine what they should think on an issue. It is far easier to let your favorite pastor tell you what you should believe… or worse, your political party. Because, as every Christian knows, Jesus was very clear about His political affiliation.

When it comes to the issue of guns, Americans have an even harder time being Biblical. We have a complicated relationship to these killing machines. We have amended our constitution to preserve the ability of normal citizens to remain armed so that we can fight of the Government should it ever get out of hand again.

Of course, the problem with that is that it just doesn’t work anymore. No citizen could ever maintain the kind of armory necessary to defeat the U.S. government, and only cult leading kooks ever even try to do so. When that happens, we all stand behind the Government when it swoops in and puts a stop to it. No one wants those kinds of kooks having an army!

So, we fudge on the second amendment. We say that it really applies to the right of a citizen to defend themselves without having to wait on trained authorities. Even then, we don’t really think that will ever apply. No one wants a return to the Wild West where everyone walks around with a gun. What most really want is the right to collect guns for entertainment. We love everything about guns. Shooting targets. Shooting animals. Playing simulations of killing people. It runs deep in our cultural roots.

The question is: What is the correct, Biblical, position on guns for a follower of Jesus? Would Jesus carry? As His people, should we?

Seriously. What do you see in Scripture about this? Be sure to use a good hermeneutic. Go.

6 comments:

  1. Good stuff, Jason. I've also recently blogged on the guns issue (http://derekwebster.posterous.com/of-guns-and-men). To me, there are four distinct issues upon which you've touched:

    1. What does the Bible say about weapons?
    2. What does the Bible say about violence?
    3. What does the Bible say about human nature?
    4. What does the Bible say about the followers response?

    And all of that against the backdrop of culture - U.S. culture versus other countries.

    Rather than quote chapter and verse, I'll give a broad hermeneutical argument:

    1. Weapons are used in the Bible for a variety of reasons, including hunting and killing. The focus isn't the sling, but the giant (David v. Goliath). It's not the sword but the obedience (I think of Gideon's army here). In the New Testament, the principle of having weapons remains the same, but contextualized: even holy battles should be carefully weighed (consider Peter's lopping off of the ear of the soldier, or the non-violent response to the stoning of Stephen).

    We also know that we are to care for God's creation (Genesis-Revelation). Outside of that, using weapons for entertainment or hunting, etc. seems perfectly acceptable.

    To me, this is reminiscent of the drinking vs. getting drunk debate. It's not about the alcohol - it's about the use and loss of control.

    2. Violence - this is an argument we've all had in seminary many times. Personally, I think the Bible justifies violence in specific instances. Even Jesus used violence to clean out the temple. But it is not a precept upon which to build a theological concept of love or God's love. That is reserved for self-sacrifice (1 John).

    3. Fallen. The propensity of humanity is on a slide. No morality can be indefinitely sustained. In that light, then, societies should never romanticize armament.

    4. We are told to follow Jesus and to stay true to the Bible. In many ways, that's the most difficult response. We should not pretend that to champion the 2nd amendment is to champion the Bible (something which I fear many do). At the same time, we should not propagate responses that are more about the tool and less about the person. To do so can be incredibly dangerous.

    What's the line for societies on the types of weapons we can have? I've no idea. I've little problem with a .22 and more of an issue with a bazooka. Add to that the romanticism of weapons (any current XBox 360 first person shooter game will do), and the danger is that there's a combination of callousness and respect for weapons with the romanticism of using them.

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  2. this comment box wont give me enough space so I will post in a response on my blog.

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  3. Although Derek seems to have done a far better job than me!

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  4. Here is Jeff's comment from over on his blog, posted here for conversation's sake:

    Part 1:

    The short answer is there is no mention of guns in the bible. I know this sounds like I am being trite or trying to be funny, but plain and simply there is no mention of guns in the bible. So we must look at what weapons or other killing things were used. Swords, spears, axes, slingshots, there might be more in the way of weapons. Then there are things used to kill for food, protection or financial gain such as nets, clubs and much more.

    Now in your statements you referred to guns as “killing machines” and indeed they can and often are used for such a thing, to kill, but we need to be careful if we are to jump to conclude that because they can kill that they are immoral. All throughout the Old Testament we see God sanction the use of violent and even deadly force in war, sometimes to defend against nations seeking to overthrow His people. At other times we see Him command His people to not only advance on another nation but to kill every living thing, people, livestock and on. In the New Testament we see Jesus command the disciples to cast nets in order to catch fish, to kill these fish for food. Sometimes we see them catch so many fish there is no way they could eat them all. As fishermen it is only logical that they would sell what couldn’t be consumed. God commands the Jews to kill for sacrifice to atone for sins in the Old Testament. What we see is that killing and death entered His creation as a result of sin but that doesn’t mean that in every circumstance it is immoral.

    Guns themselves are inanimate objects used for a wide Varity of things. Target shooting for fun, Hunting, war, and murder amongst other things.

    Are we to assume that because the disciples cast nets and killed fish that they are immoral? Would this make anyone who used a fish net immoral? That when they used a knife to apply the final death blow or to gut a fish they were being immoral? Then why would we assume that a man who owns a gun and hunts and is a Christian and an American is any less biblical? The argument could be made that many hunt today for sport and not out of need for sustenance but the disciples fished for more than just food. They were fishermen and sold much of their catch for profit.

    Am I to suppose that Daniel the young Christian man who loves the Lord with all his heart and just returned from Afghanistan is immoral because he used his gun in war to defend himself and fellow man? God sanctioned war in the Old Testament and Christ himself said he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. Yes I know that has a whole set of hermeneutical meanings that don’t directly pertain to war but Chris and God are one and God commanded His people to go to war many times for various differing reasons not just to defend themselves . The bible says He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    Specifically pertaining to the recent events of last week, I think we need to look deeper and realize the immorality wasn’t gun ownership, it was murder. And to take such a broad brush and say that all guns and or ownership is a morality question because one used guns to commit murder which is a very clear morality issue is quite irresponsible from a hermeneutic response.

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  5. Part 2:

    To me this likens to the same argument as Alcohol. Scripture clearly tells us not to be drunk on wine as in Ephesians 5:18 yet it does not condemn wine itself. Jesus himself drank wine and miraculously made it!
    Does the possession of wine therefore make one immoral? Are we to assume as you did above that one ignores scripture if he has a relationship with these "drunkenness machines"?

    The fact that guns can kill, does that make those who own them immoral or less Christ like? That is an assumption that in my opinion is as much ignoring scripture and just going off of what "ones favorite pastor or political parties says."

    The possession of alcohol and consumption of alcohol are not frowned upon by scripture, rather the misuse of alcohol is.

    Because the misuse leads to heinous sins we like to take it a step farther and call the whole thing immoral but it the end that is adding to scripture.

    What happened this past weekend was horrible, down right evil and immoral! Murder is immoral but to paint gun ownership and murder under the same brush and to say one who supports gun ownership is supportive in any way of murder is painting with far to wide a brush stroke.

    What do you Think?

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  6. (Yeah, unfortunately Derek can kill conversations that way. He is too smart.)

    OK, Jeff, just a few brief responses to some of your points:

    Guns are weapons. Their intent is to kill. Sure, we do use them for target practice, but that is “practice killing.” And, while that can be a valid form of entertainment for some that is not wrong, that hardly seems to be the source of contention in the gun debate. (We just need to keep this point in mind before someone comes along with the statement, “cars kill more people than guns every year.”) What should a disciple’s position be towards weapons and violence?

    Yes. Old Testament passages have God commanding people to kill and even engage in genocide. Do we seriously think these passages relate to something God would command people to do today? In the light of the New Covenant? That is a hugely important hermeneutical question. How do the two testaments relate?

    Some would argue yes, killing and war are still valid for believers, and they may be right. But I tend to lean more towards those that see a call to pacifism in Scripture. If I am going to err, I would rather err on that side. The call to discipleship is a call to self sacrifice.

    What that means to believers in the military is something they have to decide, but the fact that they could be in the wrong is something we have to seriously consider if we truly want to ask the question.

    Alcohol is a poor parallel here for a few reasons. Mostly because alcohol used correctly is not a problem. A gun used correctly, on the other hand, does what it was intended to do.

    Ultimately, what a government decides is a political decision. As a believer I am held to another standard in my personal life, and the older I get the more I find myself disengaged from that whole political process.

    Tons of countries have stricter gun control laws than America, less gun crime, and aren’t suffering the way the gun advocates claim America will. However, that is not simply due to their gun laws. America has a serious problem. We don’t just tolerate violence as a necessary evil in a fallen world. We glorify it.

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