Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, and Pro-Vocation

Constitution Bible GunI like guns.

 

It’s not a big secret. As a police officer I spend a lot of time around guns. I’m a life member of the National Rifle Association. I’m an advocate of concealed and open carry. In fact, I carry a firearm on my person every day, both on and off duty. I’m a student of history and have a modest collection of odd and historic firearms. I’m a constitutional conservative who recognizes that Americans have a constitutionally protected individual right to keep and bear arms.

 

Reading the paper a couple weeks ago, I came across an opinion piece by Rob Schenck chastising Christians who are pro-gun and pro-life, and it brought up an issue that I have struggled with for a long time – self-defense. To summarize the opinion piece, the author cites Christ’s injunction to, “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Mr. Schenck maintains that the Bible strictly limits the use of deadly force. He reminds Christians that we have an obligation to love everyone, even those who mean us harm.

 

The Christian gospel should quell our fears and remind us of our Christ-like obligation to love all people, even those who intend us harm. This generous view of the world calls us to demonstrate God’s love toward others, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what religion they practice. Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith (Schenck 2015).

 

I can’t say that I necessarily disagree with Mr. Schenck’s broader point. Christians are certainly called to love their neighbors as themselves. I believe that Mr. Schenck however, who states in the article that he is an Evangelical, jumps to a conclusion which cannot be reached, and on which the Biblical doctrine of vocation could possibly shed some light.

 

The question is, is there ever a time when a Christian may use deadly force to protect themselves, or others, from the violence that would be done to them by evil men?

 

Our gut reaction as Americans may be a resounding yes, but this attitude of self-preservation does not seem to reconcile with the “turn the other cheek” attitude Christians are allegedly supposed to exhibit at all times and in all situations. Several Biblical passages which deal with this issue come to mind.

 

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 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. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you…Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done…” See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Matt. 5:38-42; Prov. 24:29; Deut. 32:39).

 

In these passages, and in many other places, Christians are told not to resist evil. In fact, St. Paul, quoting Proverbs, tells us to heap burning coals on the heads of our enemies by doing good to them.

 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).

 

This would seem to bring the question to a close. We must consider, however, that God has ordered his creation and placed men into vocations so that this world can be governed. In fact, this is the purpose for which God has instituted government, as St. Paul describes in Romans 13.

In his explanation of the Fifth Commandment in the Small Catechism, Dr. Martin Luther explains what God requires of man when he commands, “You shall not murder.”

 

We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need (Concordia Publishing House 1991).

 

Indeed, speaking in terms of vocation, Dr. Luther certainly did not believe that Holy Scripture commanded the Christian to be a pacifist who refrained from violence of any kind. In his commentary on The Sermon on the Mount, Dr. Luther wrote the following:

 

You see, now we are talking about a Christian-in-relation: not about his being a Christian, but about this life and his obligation in it to some other person, whether under him or over him or even alongside him, like a lord or a lady, a wife or children or neighbors, whom he is obliged, if possible, to defend, guard, and protect. Here it would be a mistake to teach: “Turn the other cheek, and throw your cloak away with your coat.” That would be ridiculous, like the case of the crazy saint who let the lice nibble at him and refused to kill any of them on account of this text, maintaining that he had to suffer and could not resist evil (Luther, The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat 1999).

 

So, not only does the Christian have a duty not to harm his neighbor, he also has a duty to help and protect him in every bodily need.

A police officer, for example, serves his neighbor by serving in his vocation, by protecting life and property and keeping the peace. Sometimes this service may necessitate using deadly force. A person, however, does not simply hold one vocation. In addition to my vocation as a police officer, I am also a father, a son, and a citizen. Those vocations may also, at times, necessitate using deadly force. For example, a father, in fulfilling his vocation and obligation to protect his family, may be compelled to use deadly force. Dr. Luther, in his commentary on The Sermon on the Mount, continues:

 

Do you want to know what your duty is as a prince or a judge or a lord or a lady, with people under you? You do not have to ask Christ about your duty. Ask the imperial or the territorial law. It will soon tell you your duty toward your inferiors as their protector. It gives you both the power and the might to protect and to punish within the limits of your authority and commission, not as a Christian but as an imperial subject. What kind of crazy mother would it be who would refuse to defend and save her child from a dog or a wolf and who would say: “A Christian must not defend himself”? Should we not teach her a lesson with a good whipping and say: “Are you a mother? Then do your duty as a mother, as you are charged to do it. Christ did not abrogate this but rather confirmed it” (Luther, The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat 1999).

 

The laws of the state of Illinois confer upon the citizen the power to effect arrest and the right to use appropriate force in order to stop crime, just as it does for a Peace Officer[1]. Therefore, I would urge Mr. Schenck to consider that a citizen, acting in his vocation as such, is not committing sin if he lawfully owns or carries a gun for the purpose of lawful protection. He is simply acting according to the vocation of citizen into which God has placed him, under the stewardship of the government which God has ordained.

 

The implication of this view is, however, that while one may be justified in using force to protect his neighbor according to his vocation, he may not be so justified to protect himself. I suppose this “good citizen” argument might be extended to include the individual protecting himself from crime, but for me the jury is still out. It seems to me that, when I meet that robber or terrorist who wishes to do me harm, as an individual Christian I am bound to turn the other cheek. Luther seems to agree with this view.

 

We have now [with the first four commandments] finished teaching about both the spiritual and the temporal government, that is the divine and the parental authority and obedience. But now we go forth from our house among our neighbors to learn how we should live with one another, everyone himself toward his neighbor. Therefore, God and government are not included in this commandment. Nor is the power to kill taken away, which God and government have. To punish evildoers, God has delegated His authority to the government, not parents. In earlier times, as we read in Moses, parents were required to bring their own children to judgment and even to sentence them to death (Deut. 21:18-21). Therefore, what is forbidden in this commandment is forbidden to the individual in his relationship with anyone else, but not to the government (LC 1, 180-181) (McCain, et al. 2005).

 

Of course, there is a difference between punishing evil-doers and defending one’s self or one’s neighbor from harm. A police officer foiling an armed robbery is not punishing the perpetrator when he uses force to stop the crime and make an arrest. The punishment comes after the criminal is tried, found guilty, and sentenced by a judge. Similarly, when a citizen uses force likely to cause great bodily harm or death to stop the same armed robbery, he is not “punishing evil-doers” outside of the bounds of his vocation. Rather, he living up to his obligation to protect and defend his neighbor.

 

The problem with Mr. Schenck’s statement that one cannot be pro-gun and pro-life is that it is not accurate and causes the Christian the type of cognitive dissonance Mr. Schenck exhibits in his article when considered apart from the doctrine of vocation.

 

Works Cited

 

Concordia Publishing House. Luther’s Small Catechism. Translated by Concordia Publishing House. Saint Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1991.

 

Luther, Martin. “The Large Catechism.” Chap. 1, 181 in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, edited by T. G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

 

Luther, Martin. The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. Vol. 21. Edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999.

 

Schenck, Rob. “Commentary: You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun.The Chicago Tribune, December 30, 2015.

 

End Notes

[1] 720 ILCS 5.0/7-6 (2015): Private Person’s Use of Force in Making Arrest (Illinois Compiled Statutes).

About Joseph Klotz

I believe in God, the Father Almighty; and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; and in the Holy Spirit. One God, trinity in unity, and unity in trinity. I acknowledge and accept all the canonical books of the Old Testament and the New Testament as the revealed Word of God, verbally inspired and acknowledge and accept all the Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, contained in the Book of Concord of the year 1580, to be the true and genuine exposition of the doctrines of the Bible. Also, I'm a cop.

Comments

Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, and Pro-Vocation — 16 Comments

  1. Personally, I like to refer to Jesus’ words in Luke 22:36 as support for self-defense.

    But I too would also point to vocation. As a husband and father, I am not allowed to permit anything to happen that would jeopardize the life of my wife or children. If a man were to approach my family with intent to harm them, there would be justification-yea, even a mandate!-to prevent that from happening through the brandishing of a firearm. It would be a sin for me to sit by and allow harm to come to them which could easily be prevented by self-defense.

    Furthermore, as I understood Jesus’ words, the point behind them was to not exact revenge or personal vindication. Personal armament was common in Christ’s day, and there is nothing suggested by Jesus or the apostles that such protection was forbidden.

    And besides… guns are fun 😀

    Edit: btw, I seem to recall that Luther himself carried a sword at one point in his life.

  2. Like.

    (quoted in the article – not a statement of the author)
    > > Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith

    I can’t call “crap!” in the FB group, but maybe I can here.

    Helping defend my fellow sheep, and my family, is highly amicable.

    And if this practice becomes commonplace, and the word gets out, it will even help the faith of the would-be murderers, since they’ll hesitate, and will have a bit longer to think about things, and maybe repent.

    Law, Law, Gospel.

  3. From a Christian point of view, the matter is actually quite simple:
    Anything a Christian does for himself is selfish and therefore a sin. But he will be forgiven. The exceptions are meeting bodily needs, which is, I believe, one reason why our Savior said, “I thirst,” on the cross.
    Anything a Christian does to serve others is in accord with the will of God, and he will be forgiven any sin he commits in the process.
    The problem is that a relatively small percentage of the population has Christian motivations. Therefore, it is the duty of the state to keep guns out of the hands of people who are likely to hurt others. If you resist them, the result will simply be that there will be more people out there willing and able to hurt you and yours.
    As citizens, we are allowed to exercise our rights both for ourselves and on behalf of others. As Christians we are urged by St. Paul, Philippians 2:5-8, “5Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”
    In the Greek the verb for “have this mind” is in the passive imperative. That concept does not exist in English grammar. The Greek means to convey that someone other than the addressee is doing the acting. In other words, “allow the Holy Spirit to provide you with this mind, which was also in Christ ….” Don’t fight Him.
    But, as a policeman, you are obligated to do your duty both by God and the civil authorities by always being armed. The argument really applies only to the rest of us.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. As a theologian who tends to bristle at the conceal-carry and open-carry arguments might I offer some context for your 8th-commandment-deliberation? I percieve, within the general public, a tendency to run to killing as a means to solve problems, a lead in reasoning that seems all too simple. And I wonder: does theology have a response to this that would be more helpful than Christians using their freedom and letting their open-carry flag fly? I have found myself struggling between the non-violence arguments presented by, on the one hand, John Howard Yoder, and, on the other hand, someone like Miroslov Volf. Yoder argues that the Christian adheres to non-violence because Christ’s death, in its horrific nature, puts to death retributive justice. Volf makes the counter point that in violence all are guilty by the very nature of human sinfulness. I also struggle with Jacque Derrida who suggests that while on one hand we are expected to honor and care for all persons, once an individual acts to cause me harm they loose their personhood and the victim is no longer obligated by that imperative. As a theologian I am aware and concerned by how quickly we run as a culture to death as a means of redress for justice. I noted to by dad, rather recently, who was himself a cop, that I view the presence of a firearm in a church as sacrilege and a defilement of God’s house. I will accept that some of that was my own verbosity. I do find the argument that deadly force is justified in both bodily harm and loss of property hard to swallow. Loss of property should not be a cause for the death penalty. I thought it might be nice to hear from an opposing view as I struggle with the concept myself. Thanks!

  5. @Jared #4

    As I said earlier, Luther himself carried a sword. Also, one cannot ignore Jesus’ words in Luke 22:36. Advocating for the right of self-defense is not necessarily a rush to bloodlust.

    I do however agree that I don’t exactly cherish the idea of a firearm in the sanctuary either on a civilian or a cop. That being said, Better to have what you don’t need than need what you don’t have.

  6. @Jared #4: “I percieve, within the general public, a tendency to run to killing as a means to solve problems, a lead in reasoning that seems all too simple.”

    Do you have some substantiation for your perception that the general public in the U.S. runs to killing as a means to solve non-life-threatening problems? And by “the general public” I am not referring exclusively to specific ethnic or criminal subcultures.

    “I view the presence of a firearm in a church as sacrilege and a defilement of God’s house.”

    Do you have some substantiation from Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions for your view that the mere presence of a lawful firearm in a church is sacrilege and a defilement?

    “I do find the argument that deadly force is justified in both bodily harm and loss of property hard to swallow.”

    Do you, “as a theologian,” recognize Christians, as members of the Kingdom of the Left, using deadly force under the First Use of the Law, for example, as a state-employed executioner, as an official military sniper, as an armed guard in a bank, jewelry store or other place where valuables are kept, as a licensed bodyguard, as a lawful citizen (i.e., part of We, the People) using a legal handgun against an armed robber, a rapist, an arsonist, etc., in order to protect yourself, a member of your family, or another innocent person?

  7. @J. Dean #5: “I do however agree that I don’t exactly cherish the idea of a firearm in the sanctuary either on a civilian or a cop.”

    Years ago, the chief of police was a member of my hometown church congregation and when he attended he did have a sidearm under his coat, and when he didn’t button his coat it was easily seen.

    In recent years I have attended church services where a member who was a policeman occasionally attended in uniform with a gun because he was soon going on duty or had just come off duty. He did sit in the back pew then.

    What should be more upsetting is that, according to President Harrison’s sworn testimony before a Congressional committee, approximately half of the Missouri Synod are Democrats!

  8. @Jared #4

    I’m sure the black church at Charleston WV would not agree that someone shouldn’t carry armament into the church to protect the congregation.

  9. @J. Dean #1

    J. Dean, interestingly the text note in TLSB suggests that Jesus was using hyperbole here. Obviously, the notes are not inspired text, but I think the prooftexting approach on this question leaves something to be desired.

  10. @Carl Vehse #7

    What should be more upsetting is that, according to President Harrison’s sworn testimony before a Congressional committee, approximately half of the Missouri Synod are Democrats!

    I don’t know what kind of poll SP Harrison relied on, but abortion policies (the Democratic platform) have probably killed more people than people with guns in this country.

  11. @Jared #4

    Perhaps your perception that “within the general public, a tendency to run to killing as a means to solve problems”, is fueled more by entertainment media than real life?

    Entertainment media is so vile that it really has no place in the life of a Christian any longer. Meanwhile, other than criminal on criminal violence, the media, especially on the national level, hypes every instance it can to further its agenda which may have an effect on your perception as well. Local media tends to cover a story with a bit less sensationalism. If one only watches the major news networks one could get the impression that the streets are running gutter to gutter with blood. Looking out the window the reality is somewhat different.

  12. @Nate Bargmann #11: “Local media tends to cover a story with a bit less sensationalism.”

    Perhaps that might have been true at the dawn of the printing press. But at least here in the People’s Socialist Sanctuary of Austin, the local fifth-column media are just as sensationalist in propagandizing their anti-Christian, leftist agenda as the national “news” network apparatchiks.

    This year a new Texas law came into effect allowing people with a CCW license to also open carry in public. State universities, bastions of anti-2nd Amendment hate, were also required to allow CCW except for “sensitive areas.” For the past several months local stations have been broadcasting slanted reporting and interviews about the harmful effects this new law will bring, and all but salivating at the thought of reporting a mass shooting directly caused by the new law.

    “If one only watches the major news networks one could get the impression that the streets are running gutter to gutter with blood.”

    When the fifth column media report blood-filled gutters, the spin is to associate the cause with conservatives, Christians, or cops. Rarely is there reporting of the nightly subculture bloodletting in Democrat-governed sewers in the U.S. And any shooting reports invariably anthropomorphize “gun violence” and include air time for some gun-control spokesperson.

  13. @George A. Marquart #3

    George, could you elaborate on this statement: “Anything a Christian does for himself is selfish and therefore a sin. But he will be forgiven. The exceptions are meeting bodily needs, which is, I believe, one reason why our Savior said, “I thirst,” on the cross.” It sounds much more restricting than it should, or maybe not? Please explain, and thanks in advance.

  14. A husband using a gun to protect his wife from being raped is recognized in Texas, including in this unusual case:

    One December night in 2006, a husband returned home early to see a pickup truck parked in front of his house and in it his wife was in the arms of another man. Seeing her husband, the wife yelled that she was being raped. As the man in the pickup truck quickly tried to drive off he was killed by the husband who fired his handgun at the driver, hitting him once in the head.

    As it turned out, the wife secretly had been having an affair with the man and was not being raped.

    A Texas grand jury refused to indict the husband on a murder charge, but the wife was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison because her false claim of rape prompted her husband to shoot the man with whom she instead was having an affair.

    A Texas Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s judgment.

    It’s not known if any of the parties were Lutheran.

  15. As a Marine Vietnam veteran and a retired police officer, I have been around guns on a daily basis for almost 50 years. I have a concealed carry license from my state, and I carry almost everywhere I go, including to worship. I have always looked on this issue as an act of love. No one knows that I regularly carry a firearm except maybe my wife, obviously, but I have such an aversion to violent criminal activity that I consider myself a first line of defense against this type of criminality wherever I go. I would guess that this is probably a carry over from my previous vocation as a police officer, but I would never consider my actions sinful. To me it would be sinful to run from a situation when you could have helped others survive.

  16. @Jared #4

    Jared: It is often difficult to apply Scripture or even the Lutheran Confessions to modern day situations. I recall that somewhere St. Augustine wrote about a time he was informed of a particular situation and he immediately thought that it did not conform with his beliefs. Only much later did he find the passages in Scripture to support his view. He attributes his reaction to “spiritual discernment.” When one has been a Christian long enough, one develops an instinct about what is right and wrong. As I recall, he quoted St. Paul in support of his position, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.14The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for,
    “Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”
    But we have the mind of Christ.”

    I suspect you are on the right track, but ultimately, if Yoder, Volf, and Derrida do not arrive at their beliefs from clear Scripture, they cannot serve as authorities. So, using your “spiritual discernment,” which gives you a frame of reference, you will find the answer in Scripture eventually. It is the only place where a Christian answer can be found.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

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