Ask the Pastor … Guns in Church?

Dear Pastor Bret,

In light of recent tragic church shootings, should churches consider having members carry concealed weapons to church?

Thanks in advance,

Shawn Channing

Dear Shawn,

Thanks for writing.

I will answer this question in terms of the laws of the State of Michigan. In Michigan, Shawn, those with a concealed carry license cannot carry on any property or facility owned or operated by a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other places of worship, unless the presiding official allows concealed weapons. So, in Michigan, one can legally according to Michigan state law conceal carry in Church if one has secured the presiding official’s permission.

Some would counsel to consult law enforcement for expert advice and perhaps even training for those who desire it before the presiding official allows such carry and I would concur with that as long as it was only one factor in the decision-making process. People must realize that law-enforcement officials could well have an interest in making sure only they are the ones carrying weapons.  All because someone is in law-enforcement doesn’t make them singularly able to provide counsel on this decision. The decision process should also realize that a Church that is declared as a gun-free zone is a church that is advertising to potential wolves that the gathering of the saints is also a gathering of easy picking sheep. The decision process should also include considering the many recent church shootings where the mortality rate may have been far lower if someone in the congregation where the shootings occurred had begun shooting back at the sociopaths who were discharging their weapons against judicially innocent church-goers.

Secondly, common sense teaches that owning and carrying a gun is a reasonable means of protection. A recent Pew survey reported that two-thirds of American gun owners cite protection as the major reason they own guns. Now, Shawn, some well-intended but misguided people might somehow extrapolate that Pew survey to mean that people are relying on guns as idols instead of relying on God for protection. Such thinking is most unfortunate. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than carrying a chainsaw proves that someone who wants a tree cut down is not trusting in God for the tree to come down. Carrying a weapon no more proves that one is not trusting in God than a Chef carrying a frying pan proves that the Chef is not trusting God for the meal to be prepared. A gun is a tool, much like a chainsaw or a frying pan. Having the proper tool for the proper job that might need to be done should not inch us towards concluding that the one carrying a chainsaw, a frying pan, or a gun, is treating that tool as an idol. Such reasoning is quite beyond suspect. American gun owners carry guns because that is one tool God has provided in order to to be protected.

Another truth we might offer here Shaun is that guns do not create the problems they solve. The problems guns solve are men with wicked hearts who wish to bring harm to us, our friends, or our families. Guns don’t create sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm. Guns are just one solution to sociopaths who might well show up in Church to do harm.

We should be a people who rely on God as we rely on more potential shooters as the solution to a potential active shooter situation. If we don’t rely on God this way we should seriously examine our hearts to ensure that we have not misplaced our faith by trusting in God in such a way that doesn’t include using all the tools that He has put at our disposal for safety. We need to be careful that we don’t become the butt of that well-known joke,

“Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

To this, the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this, the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

If we refuse to carry weapons to Church and end up getting shot by sociopaths in Church God may well reply to us upon our discussing the matter face to face with him,

“I sent you a Ruger, a Smith & Wesson, and a Glock, what more did you expect?”

Scripture clearly teaches that self-defense is biblically set forth (Exodus 22:2-3). To insist that one should not make provision to defend themselves so they might instead just trust God is its own kind of specious idolatry.

Finally, on this score, we should consider our history on guns in Church. There is a long storied history of guns in Church that even found, at times in history, guns be required by force of law to be carried to Church. In her book, ‘The Sabbath in Puritan New England,’ we learn this from author Alice Morse Earl,

“For many years after the settlement of New England the Puritans, even in outwardly tranquil times, went armed to meeting; and to sanctify the Sunday gun-loading they were expressly forbidden to fire off their charges at any object on that day save an Indian or a wolf, their two “greatest inconveniencies.” Trumbull, in his “Mac Fingal,” writes thus in jest of this custom of Sunday arm-bearing:–

“So once, for fear of Indian beating,
Our grandsires bore their guns to meeting,–
Each man equipped on Sunday morn
With psalm-book, shot, and powder-horn,
And looked in form, as all must grant,
Like the ancient true church militant.”

In 1640 it was ordered in Massachusetts that in every township the attendants at church should carry a “competent number of peeces, fixed and compleat with powder and shot and swords every Lords-day to the meeting-house;” one armed man from each household was then thought advisable and necessary for public safety. In 1642 six men with muskets and powder and shot were thought sufficient for protection for each church. In Connecticut similar mandates were issued, and as the orders were neglected “by divers persones,” a law was passed in 1643 that each offender should forfeit twelve pence for each offence. In 1644 a fourth part of the “trayned hand” was obliged to come armed each Sabbath, and the sentinels were ordered to keep their matches constantly lighted for use in their match-locks. They were also commanded to wear armor, which consisted of “coats basted with cotton-wool, and thus made defensive against Indian arrows.” In 1650 so much dread and fear were felt of Sunday attacks from the red men that the Sabbath-Day guard was doubled in number. In 1692, the Connecticut Legislature ordered one fifth of the soldiers in each town to come armed to each meeting, and that nowhere should be present as a guard at time of public worship fewer than eight soldiers and a sergeant. In Hadley the guard was allowed annually from the public treasury a pound of lead and a pound of powder to each soldier.

No details that could add to safety on the Sabbath were forgotten or overlooked by the New Haven church; bullets were made common currency at the value of a farthing, in order that they might be plentiful and in every one’s possession; the colonists were enjoined to determine in advance what to do with the women and children in case of attack, “that they do not hang about them and hinder them;” the men were ordered to bring at least six charges of powder and shot to meeting; the farmers were forbidden to “leave more arms at home than men to use them;” the half-pikes were to be headed and the whole ones mended, and the swords “and all piercing weapons furbished up and dressed;” wood was to be placed in the watch-house; it was ordered that the “door of the meeting-house next the soldiers’ seat be kept clear from women and children sitting there, that if there be occasion for the soldiers to go suddenly forth, they may have free passage.” The soldiers sat on either side of the main door, a sentinel was stationed in the meeting-house turret, and armed watchers paced the streets; three cannon were mounted by the side of this “church militant,” which must strongly have resembled a garrison. …

In spite of these events in the New Haven church (which were certainly exceptional), the seemingly incongruous union of church and army was suitable enough in a community that always began and ended the military exercises on “training day” with solemn prayer and psalm-singing; and that used the army and encouraged a true soldier-like spirit not chiefly as aids in war, but to help to conquer and destroy the adversaries of truth, and to “achieve greater matters by this little handful of men than the world is aware of.”

The Salem sentinels wore doubtless some of the good English armor owned by the town,–corselets to cover the body; gorgets to guard the throat; tasses to protect the thighs; all varnished black, and costing each suit “twenty-four shillings a peece.” The sentry also wore a bandileer, a large “neat’s leather” belt thrown over the right shoulder, and hanging down under the left arm. This bandileer sustained twelve boxes of cartridges, and a well-filled bullet-bag. Each man bore either a “bastard musket with a snaphance,” a “long fowling-piece with musket bore,” a “full musket,” a “barrell with a match-cock,” or perhaps (for they were purchased by the town) a leather gun (though these leather guns may have been cannon). Other weapons there were to choose from, mysterious in name, “sakers, minions, ffaulcons, rabinets, murthers (or murderers, as they were sometimes appropriately called) chambers, harque-busses, carbins,” …

The armed Salem watcher, besides his firearms and ammunition, had attached to his wrist by a cord a gun-rest, or gun-fork, which he placed upon the ground when he wished to fire his musket, and upon which that constitutional kicker rested when touched off. He also carried a sword and sometimes a pike, and thus heavily burdened with multitudinous arms and cumbersome armor, could never have run after or from an Indian with much agility or celerity; though he could stand at the church-door with his leather gun,–an awe-inspiring figure,–and he could shoot with his “harquebuss,” or “carbin,” as we well know.

These armed “sentinells” are always regarded as a most picturesque accompaniment of Puritan religious worship, and the Salem and Plymouth armed men were imposing, though clumsy. But the New Haven soldiers, with their bulky garments wadded and stuffed out with thick layers of cotton wool, must have been more safety-assuring and comforting than they were romantic or heroic; but perhaps they too wore painted tin armor, “corselets and gorgets and tasses.”

In Concord, New Hampshire, the men, who all came armed to meeting, stacked their muskets around a post in the middle of the church, while the honored pastor, who was a good shot and owned the best gun in the settlement, preached with his treasured weapon in the pulpit by his side, ready from his post of vantage to blaze away at any red man whom he saw sneaking without, or to lead, if necessary, his congregation to battle. The church in York, Maine, until the year 1746, felt it necessary to retain the custom of carrying arms to the meeting-house, so plentiful and so aggressive were Maine Indians.

Not only in the time of Indian wars were armed men seen in the meeting-house, but on June 17, 1775, the Provincial Congress recommended that the men “within twenty miles of the sea-coast carry their arms and ammunition with them to meeting on the Sabbath and other days when they meet for public worship.” And on many a Sabbath and Lecture Day, during the years of war that followed, were proved the wisdom and foresight of that suggestion.

The men in those old days of the seventeenth century, when in constant dread of attacks by Indians, always rose when the services were ended and left the house before the women and children, thus making sure the safe exit of the latter. This custom prevailed from habit until a late date in many churches in New England, all the men, after the benediction and the exit of the parson, walking out in advance of the women. So also the custom of the men always sitting at the “head” or door of the pew arose from the early necessity of their always being ready to seize their arms and rush unobstructed to fight. In some New England village churches to this day, the man who would move down from his end of the pew and let a woman sit at the door, even if it were a more desirable seat from which to see the clergyman, would be thought a poor sort of a creature.”

Alice Morse Earle, The Sabbath in Puritan New England (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), 19-25.



Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Kinist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture . Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *