The recent tragedies, or perhaps seemingly endless series of gun tragedies, have caused many to re-consider their own view on guns. I ran across a statement that the Bible has no “theology of guns” and therefore we should be willing to view the 2nd Amendment as contrary to Scripture.
I think it bears some examination. Obviously guns aren’t in the Scriptures, but weapons certainly are. This country has a long history of gun ownership, and responsible gun ownership. These kinds of shootings, not associated with mob wars, are new.
Before we get to weapons themselves, let us consider some of the cultural shifts that may be at work in this horrible trend. The most fundamental is a shift away from a Judeo-Christian worldview. While American has never been a Christian nation, it has been dominated by the Judeo-Christian (monotheistic and moralistic) worldview as a form of civil religion. As the gospel has departed from the cultural consciousness we see the wrath of God revealed as we see in Romans 1. Often we focus on the sexual immorality, but there is also a great increase in violence as the culture, and its members begin to devalue life. We see this in abortion, domestic violence, school violence, gang life, euthanasia and more. This leads to the breakdown of the family, and studies indicate that sons without fathers are far more likely to struggle in many ways, including a tendency toward violence.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1
This only makes sense when we think of life after Eden. We see that the world in rebellion to God was full of violence beginning with Cain killing his brother Abel. Abel’s great “sin” against Cain? It was actually about God because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s. Pride and envy gave birth to bitterness and then hatred which resulted in Cain picking up a rock to kill his brother.
Notice God’s response. Before he did it, God confronted Cain and called him to rule over sin before sin ruled over him. Cain was mastered by sin instead. God had a measure of mercy on Cain by not having him put to death. A mark was placed on him so others wouldn’t kill him either. (As we will see in part 2, this changes after the flood.) God did not blame the rock, institute rock-free zones or rock (or whatever he used) control. The issue was not rocks but the human heart.
This cycle of violence continued with Lamech. He is the forefather of the gang mentality we often see among our disillusioned, despairing youth even if they are not in gangs.
23 Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”Genesis 4
We notice here a corruption of sex and marriage as well in that he spoke to his wives. A polygamist, he perverted justice. His wounding lead him to kill another man. He then boasted about it. His “punishment” exceeded the sin committed against him (giving Lamech the benefit of the doubt).
We see here, and in the OT law, that punishments are not to exceed the crime. The “eye for an eye” code puts limits on justice. We are not to kill people for insulting us, stealing from us (except in one instance I will mention in part 2) etc.
To make an epochal adjustment, we see that we should not use guns (or any other weapon or tool used as a weapon) to commit crimes, or to retaliate against those who harm us. The problem is not the tool we use, but rather the wicked design of the person who wields it.
In the NT we see this taught in a few places. Most famously in the Sermon on the Mount.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5
We see that Jesus refers to the law of talonic justice. For a personal insult (the slap) we are not to retaliate in like kind and especially not in an excessive manner (like shooting or stabbing them). The gospel helps us to forgive them instead of seeking retribution. We should rather be wronged than wrong the other person in response.
This doesn’t mean we don’t care about or want justice. It means we entrust justice into God’s hands instead of our own.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12
We remember that God is just, and He has promised to make all things right. That may be in the death of His Son, or in judgment on the Last Day. But God will deal with it. It may also be through the state as Paul noted in Romans 13.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Romans 13
If you are a person prone to anger, or seeking retaliation, you should not own a weapon because you will be particularly tempted to use it for unjust and wicked purposes. It is not intended to be used to right the wrongs perpetrated against you.
Does this mean that a Christian shouldn’t own a weapon (unless he or she is in the military or law enforcement)? No.
We have this statement by Jesus as he prepares the send the disciples out. Previously they were to go with nothing. Now they were to bring particular items.
36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. Luke 22
He wanted the disciples to buy a sword! Surely, therefore, it is not sinful to own and therefore use one. The issue is for what reason. We have seen the wrong reasons to use one: murder, retaliation and would include to rob others or otherwise sin against them.