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firearms

  • The Problem with “Biblical” Opposition to John Piper’s Pacifism

    About a month ago, John Piper published an article called “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?” in which he confronted the evangelical enthusiasm for carrying firearms. Personally, I rarely find myself on the same theological page as Piper, but as I read his piece, I found that he expressed many of the same ideas that I had come to believe. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was nodding in agreement as I read a Piper article - I was pleasantly surprised. Not so surprisingly, his post unleashed a firestorm in evangelical circles. Pastors and writers across the country (several of whom I sincerely respect) took up their pens and responded with what they usually called a “biblical response” to Piper in which they detailed everything they thought he’d gotten wrong. Since I’m always looking to better understand viewpoints that oppose my own, I was genuinely curious to see how they could biblically refute the theological depth of John Piper’s article. I was utterly disappointed at how unbiblical all of the responses I read were. The arguments against him seemed to fall into 3 main categories. 1. The Bible doesn’t actually forbid us from arming ourselves, so who are you to say we shouldn't? The essence of this argument is that Scripture never explicitly says “Christians shouldn't carry weapons.” In fact, it’s often pointed out that Christ tells the apostles to take a sword with them as they go out into the world sharing the gospel (Luke 22:35-38). I can only assume that the writers using this to rebut Piper didn’t actually read his article. Piper thoroughly covers the breadth of the scriptural case for pacifism, mankind his case using everything from specific verses to broad narratives. He addresses verses that deal with responding to evil and adversity (Matthew 5, Luke 21:12-14), the perils of responding with violence (Matthew 26:52), and rejoicing in affliction (1 Peter 2-4), and he even addresses the passage in Luke that is often used to support the carrying of arms. He discusses the sweeping themes of the gospel that demand our commitment to self-sacrifice, trusting in God for our protection, and holding loosely to the joys of this world. To be sure, there is no soundbyte of Jesus forbidding arming oneself, but Piper's point is that the entire narrative of the gospel compels us to reject the human desire for self-preservation. Conclusion: The Bible does not contains a one-liner condemning firearms, but the entire focus of Piper’s article was on providing the biblical case to oppose a call to arms. Piper makes his case about as thoroughly as anyone can make a case for anything in Scripture. 2. The Bible tells us that government is God-ordained, and the government gives us the right to bear arms, so we have an obligation to do so. First, let’s be clear that as Christians, our citizenship is first in the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:17-21). As we examine the narrative of Scripture, our aspiration should be to live as…