“And therefore, as a man is his brother’s murderer, who, with froward Cain, will not be his brother’s keeper, and may preserve his brother’s life, without loss of his own life… so, when he may preserve his own life, and doth not that which nature’s law alloweth him to to do, (rather to kill ere he be killed,) he is guilty of self-murder, because he is deficient in the duty of lawful self-defence.”
-Samuel Rutherford, p. 157 (Lex, Rex)
John Piper citing a question that was sent into him,
“You recently said, ‘you wish people wouldn’t buy a gun with their economic stimulus checks.’ This sounded to some like you’re a strict pacifist who’d rather avoid confrontation with an intruder than protect his family. Would you respond to this.”
Dr. Piper answers,
The context of my comment was that the missionaries in 1956 who were martyred in Ecuador—Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Roger Youdarian, and Peter Fleming—were all speared to death, but they had guns. (This came out through research, and I saw it in a documentary.) And they shot their guns in the air as the spears were going through their chests. They could’ve saved their lives by just shooting horizontally, but they didn’t. They shot in the air because they decided earlier that they were ready to go to heaven but these natives were not. So why would they kill them rather than being killed themselves?
In relation to that, our Supreme Court just declared that the Second Amendment right to bear arms includes not just the right of a militia to bear arms, but the right of a person to have a firearm in his house.
And as I contemplated those two events—the missionaries’ decision and new decision of the Supreme Court—I thought, “If somebody enters my house as a thief, he probably is not ready to go to heaven either.” So then I just ended the blog with, “I hope you don’t use your economic stimulus check to buy a gun.”
I’ve never had one. I’ve never owned a firearm. I had a pellet rifle when I was little and I killed squirrels. But I’m sort of ashamed of the way I killed squirrels, because I didn’t eat them or do anything with them. I just felt it was cool, and I don’t think that’s a very wholesome thing.
No, I am not a pacifist. I am not a pacifist principally, and I’m not a pacifist actively.
Somebody wrote and asked me, “Would you protect your daughter if you had a gun?” I wrote back a one-word answer, “Probably,” and what I meant by it was that the circumstances are so unpredictable. What would you do? Shoot the guy in the head? Or shoot him in the chest? How about the leg? Or just throw the gun at him, or hit him over the head with it? Of course I’m going to protect my daughter! But I’m not aiming to kill anybody, especially an intruder who doesn’t know Christ and would go straight to hell, probably. Why would I want to do that if I could avoid it?
So no, I’m not a pacifist. I believe there should be a militia, and I believe in policemen with billy clubs and guns who should take out guys who are killing people. And I believe in a military to protect a land from aggression. And I believe that fathers should protect their children, even using force. But if they can avoid killing somebody, of course they should avoid killing somebody. And having a gun is a good way not to avoid killing somebody.
We don’t need guns in our houses.
And I’m not against hunters. Don’t get on my case about that, saying that Piper doesn’t believe that you can have bows and arrows and rifles, etc.
And I’m not going to get in your face if you have a gun lying in your drawer. I just think it’s not very wise.
Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.
Really this is a bit of confusing mish mash. But what I think Dr. Piper is saying is,
1.) “I wouldn’t shoot to kill someone in defense of self and family because said assailant might not be ready to go to heaven and I would thus be responsible for sending someone to hell.”
If that is what he is saying one wonders how a Reformed minister of his stature could ever believe he could send someone to hell before God was able to get them ready to go to heaven?
I know there are many times when God sees a person die and says to Himself, “To late again … and here I was going to get that person saved for heaven next week.”
2.) Here is Dr. Piper’s question as put in the mouths of the Martyred Missionaries, and then as seemingly leveraged for a sort of pacifistic disposition when it comes to self defense, “So why would they kill them rather than being killed themselves?
Here is my answer to that question
a.) Because the Scripture gives me license for self-defense,
Exodus 22:2-3 teaches “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”
One conclusion which can be drawn from this is that a threat to our life is to be met with lethal force. During the day, presumably because we can recognize and later apprehend the thief if he escapes, we are not to kill him in non life-threatening circumstances.
In Proverbs 25:26 we read that “A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well.”
Dr. Piper seemingly would have us faltering before the wicked by not being armed.
b.) Because God has called me to be a good steward of all that He has given me and the most precious gifts that God has given us is our family and our lives. To throw our lives away because the wicked are not ready for Heaven is to violate the call to be good stewards.
c.) Love for others requires me to protect the judicially innocent from those wicked who would do harm. It is not love for the judicially innocent for me to be so pious that I allow harm to the judicially innocent because I was too pious to squeeze off a round in order to demonstrate my love to them.
3.) Dr. Piper claims he is not a pacifist but much of his counsel comes across as pacifistic. True, the answer is full of contradictions that can be read both ways but he ends his answer by warning against owning a weapon. (“And having a gun is a good way not to avoid killing somebody.”)
4.) Dr. Piper’s statement, “We don’t need guns in our houses,” belies a serious misunderstanding of necessity of self defense, a serious misunderstanding of the average response time of the Police to a distress call, and a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of the 2nd amendment.
5.) We applaud Dr. Piper for his thoughtful counsel regarding avoidance of taking life it at all possible. However, we should keep in mind that a home invasion crisis, that includes a potential threat to life, often does not allow for easily determining the intent of the aggressor. As such, often it may not be possible to avoid taking life, and in point of fact, to much concern for the life of the aggressor might translate into not enough concern for the lives of those of the family being protected.
6.) One wonders if Dr. Piper is operating from a kind of Big Brother mindset. Note that in his list of people who should have guns he lists all the organs of the State (Militia, Police, and Military). Again, one wonders why those people are more qualified to have tools of protection where individuals are warned off against tools of protection. What makes Big Brother a better candidate for tools of protection as opposed to John Q. Public?
7.) Are we to understand that the warning in Scripture that “those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword” was meant to include those who use weapons according to a Biblical standard? When Dr. Piper says, “those who live by the gun shall die by the gun,” are we to understand that Dr. Piper is including those who use a gun to rescue their wife and children as under that curse?
8.) In the final analysis Dr. Piper’s advice on this matter is unreasonable, uninformed, and what’s worse … unbiblical.