John Piper, Guns, Self-Defense

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by BayouHuguenot, Dec 23, 2015.

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Fair enough. We just dispute Piper's premises. His premises support martyrdom when being persecuted for the gospel. But his conclusions want to support other premises. It doesn't add.
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I tried to address this in my initial post but I did think (and still do think) that it's important to draw out distinctions on the spheres of activity in which Christians find themselves.

    I'll repeat, again, that I don't agree with the "watch out I'm packing!" mindset for a Christian. I think we can all agree that we need to be much more circumspect about that.

    Nevertheless, what was the "sphere of activity" that Falwell was speaking of? It was in reaction to men and women being gunned down by armed murderers.

    We need to keep that in mind.

    In one sense, Piper's reminder was valid but it was aiming at the wrong sphere. It's sort of like Job's friends who have a correct theology about the reason why men may suffer for sin but they are off the mark in Job's case because he wasn't guilty of what they assumed he must have been in this case.

    Let's say that there is a grieving Christian who lost a loved one to the shooting in San Bernadino. If they thought: "If only my son was able to defend himself against those murderers" then it seems that Piper's counsel would be off the mark. The victims of the crime were not missionaries or engaged in the work of Evangelism. They were, for all intents and purposes, minding their own business.

    If I'm in a public place and gunmen storm in and start shooting, and I am armed, then my immediate thought is not: "I'm going to be like the missionaries and lay down my life for the Gospel's sake as a witness to these gunmen."

    I'm not operating in that sphere of activity for that moment. I'm in a public place and I have the ability to preserve life.

    I remember years ago a young Pastor counseled all of us that our day-to-day job was not to be military officers or NCO's (this was overseas and many of us were). Rather, we were, first and foremost, Evangelists. The problem with his counsel is that it was false. We were, in fact, duty bound under the Law of God to our vocational spheres of activity and could not claim persecution, for the Gospel's sake, if we decided to work as Evangelists in our military workplaces and forsake our duties.

    We often paint with too wide a brush when we see how the Apostles or other folk acted in their missionary activity as if what we see them doing is normative for our own lives. There's not a lot of ink spilled on the time that Paul spent making tents but, when he committed to making one, he couldn't forsake that commitment and make a tent with poor craftsmanship and tell the man that he didn't really owe him a good tent because his real job was an Apostle. It's interesting that if you read Edersheim, the Jews had a high value in work and even Rabbis often engaged in workday activity and didn't see their vocations as in competition with the Lord's work.

    I guess my point is that we cannot flatten all Christian activity out to witnessing for the Gospel. Are there times when we give up our backs to whips? Yes. Were there times when even the Apostle Paul refused this? Yes as well. Understanding spheres of activity properly means there is no contradiction to suffering for the Gospel in one context (perhaps even losing your life) and fighting to protect the death of another in another context.

    Thus, let's not miss opportunities to speak about the duty of Christians to be humble but let's also not misapply spheres of activity and make the mistake that the ana-Baptists do in assuming that we have no part in the peace and prosperity in the Kingdom of this Age. We are, ultimately, citizens of the Kingdom of the Age to Come but it does not mean that we retreat from it or leave it to others who are under some other general equity of the Law to take up the defense of the innocent for us.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    My statement, in context, was referring to the notion that it is not easy to kill. Even when you've got a handgun there is a natural fear to it. Push-button killing from a distance makes killing sometimes seem clinical but, even when a person is being killed for just reasons, the taking of human life is a very hard thing.
  4. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Exactly. Piper allowed himself to wander when let the subject of guns themselves distract from the topic of the misdirection of our hearts.

    Piper is heroic preacher in many respects. So few times have I heard Christians praying for magistrates conservative Christians don't like. I don't do it enough for sure. John Piper is one of the few that does. I imagine hardly any of God's people pray regularly for Obama. We should be thankful that the fate of the wicked is in God's hand and not ours. The loathing that so many Christians harbor for their leaders is unmentionable. I say this as someone with strong libertarian leanings: God chose our ministers. We must pray for them. I'll stop. I'm getting off topic.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I remember the first time I shot at a deer with a rifle. My hands were trembling. I can only imagine what it would have been like if it were human.
  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    This is bound to happen, though, when an ethical issue is dichotomised in terms of "heart" and "action." The two can't be separated in reality. One's choice of action indicates motivation, and motivation influences action.

    The problem was compounded when this was made something distinctively "Christian." The idea that Christians live by a different set of standards leads to ethical confusion in every instance.
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I love the way you so compactly summarize something I was trying to say.

    This reminds me of the reputation that some Christians have because they think they can escape some business or other contractual obligations because they're dealing with fellow Christians. They expect they'll simply be forgiven debts or get out of contracts because they're dealing with fellow Christians. After all, if we're called to forgive people and suffer loss then you really ought not hold me to the terms of this home loan if you're a Christian because I just asked you to forgive me and Jesus tells us to forgive one another and do good. One local car dealer (a Christian) had a man come up to him and say: "The Lord told me that you were supposed to give me this car", to which the car dealer replied: "Well, He didn't tell me."

    R.C. Sproul tells a story where he had committed to speak at a Church and the opportunity to speak at some huge conference came up as a conflict. He honored the initial commitment and this surprised some because many operate on the idea that one's word in a certain situation is only binding until the "Lord opens up a door" in another direction. In other words, they'll operate by the idea that "I can minister to more people at this national conference so I just need to tell this small Church that something more important came up and, after all, you'll understand because it's the Lord's work...."
  8. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Rich, I concur. The old English proverb, "An honest man's word is as good as his bond" is a mark of character. It should be the mark of a Christian's character.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Psalm 15. The godly man sweareth to his own hurt.
  10. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    As a North Jersey boy--born and bred, please give him my thanks. My cousin is a Port Authority detective. For those not for the Metro NYC area, that means EVERY bus station, airport, train station, ocean/river/bay entry etc. And some pastors complain about stress. Sorry for the rant--just a soapbox of mine.
  11. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    Just read your dad's story. I'm from Bergen County and Oakland is far from the roughest area in the county-especially 30 years ago. No wonder my home state has such a horrible reputation. Well earned, I suppose. Your father's mention of "adrenaline" is significant. I'm all for the 2nd Amendment, and minister in semi-rural Western PA where kids are given guns at birth (that's a joke). But my fear is that many with carry permits--even with training--have never even been in a good old fashioned fistfight. The predators have. When the situation arises, cortisol and adrenaline will take over.
  12. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Being a product of Bergen and Hudson County public schools, I have been in my fair share of "good old fashioned fistfights". I pray that I never have to discharge my weapon in self-defense. Even if it is justified, taking a life is a terrible thing. I had an uncle who fought in WW II. He killed enemy combatants. He suffered nightmares and anxiety attacks for the rest of his life. We now call that PTSD. He suffered these things as the result of a war that most people believe was just, but he still suffered nonetheless.

    As Christians we should seek peace. Violence, even in self-defense, should not be our default option. But as distasteful as it may be for some people to hear, preserving life sometimes means taking a life. May God be gracious and keep us from learning that firsthand.
  13. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    Australian Gun Law Update;
    Here's a thought to warm some of your hearts....
    From: Ed Chenel, A police officer in Australia
    Hi Yanks, I thought you all would like to see the real
    figures from Down Under. It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by our own
    government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.

    The first year results are now in:
    Australia-wide, homicides are up 6.2 percent,
    Australia-wide, assaults are up 9.6 percent;
    Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!
    In the state of Victoria.....alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent.(Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not and criminals still possess their guns!)
    While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady
    decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since the criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the elderly, while the resident is at home.

    Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in 'successfully ridding Australian society of guns....'

    You won't see this on the American evening news or hear your governor or members of the State Assembly disseminating this information.

    The Australian experience speaks for itself. Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws affect only the law-abiding citizens.
  14. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    "I remember the first time I shot at a deer with a rifle. My hands were trembling. I can only imagine what it would have been like if it were human. "

    I imagine it would be a life changing, gut wrenching experience. I don't relish it. But I am horrified that some brethren would advocate that I be kept defenseless. I believe that on the contrary, we should be helping the defenseless defend their lives. Pacifism is a sin in my opinion.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    One of the reasons I prefer a 12 gauge pump.
  16. Clark-Tillian

    Clark-Tillian Puritan Board Freshman

    I hope my use of the phrase "good old fashioned fistfight" isn't taken as advocating violence. I was trying to make the comparison via the lesser to the greater. I hear an increasing amount of chatter, on the Net, as well as in person, about "standing one's ground" with a firearm, and this is often accompanied by what I'd term "misguided machismo". That is, the person's mistaken notion that they are capable of using lethal force without batting an eye. As you mentioned, Christians should seek peace etc.
  17. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    It's a legal issue, not a social issue. Some states have a duty to retreat. Some don't. So if someone comes after you with deadly intent, in a 'retreat' state you could be the one going to prison if you defend yourself to preserve your life - it will be a question for the trier of fact in your criminal trial as to whether you had any path of retreat.

    In a 'stand your ground' state, the question changes to whether you were in reasonable fear for your life. You aren't going to be second-guessed on what other options you should have considered while the mad-dog killer was coming at you.

    And then, of course, in 'castle doctrine' states (rules may vary some state-to-state) in some circumstances, if it's night and someone breaks into your home, presumptions are in your favor when you shoot them.

    In any event, consult an attorney before talking to the police. But see, generally this list of 'stand your ground' and 'retreat' states:
  18. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Even though this is in the "Law of God" forum, it seems good to close it for the Lord's Day. It can't help but touch on the political, etc.

  19. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

  20. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    "and say he has a good argument"

    See what I did there? Not saying you are not Christian. It is not a good argument, whether or not you are a Reformed Christian or ANY kind of Christian. Of course, you can hold to Piper's view and still be a Christian, as I made clear with previous posts.
  21. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Keeping in line with the sixth commandment...

    This happened a few miles from us in Oklahoma a year ago:

    How would an 89-year old defend themselves against a younger, stronger assailant, armed or unarmed? (also note that it was already illegal for the felon to have a firearm)

    It is estimated that firearms are used in defense of self or others in somewhere between 200k and 2M incidents per year in the US. They are good at saving lives, especially of the weak and otherwise defenseless, which is what Christians (like Piper) should strive for.
  22. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    A/K/A Jah'Keem Yisrael. Just a Muslim chopping off heads. It's what they do to unarmed innocents.
  23. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    "Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. . . . The Scriptural maximum, that 'The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,' is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service to the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit." John Newton​

    Respectful pro-gun response to John Piper:

    "Now here comes the glib accusation. It is easy to say — as some have said — that leaving this open to question is not very “manly,” and that a true husband from ‘Merica would place a tight grouping of at least three holes above the assailant’s right ear.

    John is actually doing something very different, and he is doing it in a very masculine way. He is a biblical absolutist, and he is pursuing a tight, systematic, rational argument from the text of Scripture. Differing with his argument, as I do, is not the same thing as answering him. In the meantime, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that John will go wherever the argument requires him to go, and he will submit to the text, whatever it says. We need more of that, not less." Doug Wilson -

    Mike Leake has something worthwhile to say as a pro-gun supporter @

    "This is one of those heated issues of which I’m a bit timid to enter the fray." He probably reads The Puritan Board :D

    "At the end of the day I will confess that I am not completely sold on Piper’s argument. I lean towards the views expressed by Bob Thune, Doug Wilson, and Steven Wedgeworth (as summarized here). But as I read through Piper’s article I found myself a bit uncomfortable."

    "I’m forced to ask myself whether at the end of the day I trust in God or Smith & Wesson. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I’m not so naïve to think we aren’t constantly in danger of bowing a knee to a modern day Baal to protect us from harm. Perhaps our idols just take a different shape and come with built-in sights.

    Again I’m not saying we need to abandon our firearms or that this isn’t the means God might use to protect our families. But what I am saying is that the imagined protection the handgun in your nightstand promises might be more dangerous to your soul than any intruder."​

    Good food for thought, and helpful of these men to see Piper's intent or rationale here is not folly whichever side of the argument you fall on.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  24. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you Rich. I do understand where you are coming from, brother. All glory to our Lord Jesus who is building His church and that the defensive gates of the evil one will not stand against the will of our King when He saves His own. May God see fit to make us Kingdom builders for His names sake.
  25. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Logan - but what you are ignoring here is the increased threat that broad gun ownership presents in the first place. It's hardly suprising that something like 200k-2M self defence incidents involve guns when there are 300 million of them in the US. If the threat is as prevalent as you suggest I would have thought that number would be much higher.

    If this all comes down to a numbers game, then you have bigger problems than a rogue magistrate or self-defence. Any cause that goes viral could raise a strongly armed militia overnight - I would have thought this potential to be a bigger threat.
  26. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Are you certain I'm ignoring it? I've researched and read considerably on this topic trying to honestly evaluate the evidence. Have you looked at the Harvard paper someone posted earlier? Have you looked at crime vs gun ownership across various cities in the US? Or across countries? What is the correlation, if any? And regardless, how does that affect the Christian's response regarding the two (among a myriad) stories I posted? And no, the threat is no more prevalent here in almost all US cities than in your own country, but we prefer the individual have better means to defend themselves.

    Matthew, consider that you have repeatedly argued against the admonition of dozens here who normally I think you would seek for advice on any other topic. Some are elders in the church, many more experienced than you or I and not just from the US. Yet you seem convinced that everyone but yourself has a log in their eye. That may be the case but please put a little more study into it first.
  27. richardnz

    richardnz Puritan Board Freshman

    There seems to be a number of related issues on this thread. There was some discussion about whether Christians should practice self-defense. There seemed to be a general consensus on that issue. Then there is the issue of the correct Christian attitude in engaging in self-defense. Mixed in with this is the issue of whether the government had the right to determine what kind of self-defense you used, whether handguns were appropriate, whether preoccupation with ownership of handguns leads to ungodly attitudes.

    As an outsider it is difficult for me to have a clear understanding of the concerns in the USA regarding gun ownership. It seems to me that in the USA there are serious concerns about the encroaching power of the state. There are also serious concerns about the number of gun homicides per head of population. Unsurprisingly some have drawn the conclusion that there may be a connection between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of gun homicides. I would like to make the point that statistics are next to useless in this kind of discussion.

    For example the decrease in gun homicides in the USA has occurred during a time of increased gun ownership. This is used to show that more guns means more public safety. The decrease in gun homicides in Australia has occurred since they restricted gun ownership and destroyed a large number of guns, which some say proves that less guns means more public safety. In New Zealand while our government has done next to nothing about gun control, there has been no upsurge in gun purchases and as a result (?) there has been a decrease in gun homicides . What does this “prove”? Maybe the reasons for gun homicide reduction in all three countries is caused by something that is unrelated to the purchasing and restricting of guns. I do not know. I do not think anybody knows. The point is that statistics are of next to no help in deciding what is a morally correct course of action.

    When I visit Australia I see the police carrying weapons. I initially found this somewhat disconcerting. I thought that they must have a really violent society if the police have to carry guns. But is that conclusion warranted? Maybe the society is no more violent than here in NZ, but the Australian police carry guns because they think that they might be useful occasionally. Maybe the Australian police love guns. Maybe the Australian police are making a terrible mistake and encouraging criminals to arm themselves in order to level the playing field. Maybe in the USA gun control is a hot topic because it is a constitutional issue and is therefore touches on concerns beyond self-defense. Maybe there really is a constant danger of armed holdup in the USA and so self-defense really is the big issue. I do not know the answer to any of these things. There are a lot of issues to consider in deciding whether to arm yourself with any kind of weapon and everybody's situation is different. My own perspective on gun control is that everyone should have the freedom to decide what is best for their individual circumstances.
  28. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    That is a very thoughtful post. I enjoyed it Richard.
  29. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    So you didn't bother to read any of the links to studies I posted awhile back in the thread. This is one line of evidence in our arsenal, its not merely conjecture as you think it is. Interact with the evidence and post a well informed response please.
  30. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Why so high and mighty Logan? Do you hope to chide me like a schoolboy and that I would cower?

    You've certainly made your ardent support for a well armed Christian community very clear both now and in the past.

    Your studies tell us what is in the past.

    Piper gives us a challenge for the future.

    The pace of change within society with respect to social media and its impacts on relationships mean that all the studies in the world might not inform us very well about even the next 10 years.

    I maintain the latent threat of a flashmob/viral cause is much to be concerned about with 300 million guns in circulation.

    The fact that you dont accept that is neither here nor there but kindly refrain from trying to reduce my point to a matter of seeking the speck in your eye.

    If I pray for cultural change brought by the Spririt through men who God raises up into leadership within the church and civil government who would bring about intensely restrictive gun ownership do I sin? or am i just offending you?
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