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What does the Bible say about self-defense?"

Under what circumstances is self-defense appropriate?

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The topic of this thread is "Self-defence and the Bible".  It seems from some of the responses that the motto for the USA has changed to: "In Guns We Trust". I wonder where God, the Bible and Christian principles fit in nowadays?

As was said previously, this is a topic in which Christians may differ.  There is a lot of support in the Bible for Christians to passively await the deliverance of the Lord.  There have also been times when God’s People were specifically instructed to take up arms, and take life.  Not in the New Testament, true, but we Adventists have long held that the Old Testament is God’s word as well.  

So, within Christianity, and also within the Adventist Church, one may find committed Christians who differ on this point.  We have to be careful of “if you don’t believe exactly as I tell you to, you must not be a real Christian”.

Another problematic point, as has been apparent in this thread, is our penchant to decide that a society in which our beliefs are not reflected in law must be an evil society.  Yet the Bible also tells us that God has put the sword into the government’s hand, to smite evil.  It is hard to imagine that in WW2, God was on the side of the Nazis or the Imperial Japanese, or that it was His will that they win.  That being the case, it is also hard to imagine that, if your family is being threatened, it is immoral to defend them with a firearm, but yet moral to call a policeman who will defend your family with a firearm.  Would you not then be equally responsible for the use of the firearm?

This thread and it’s subject is not so cut-and-dried as one might suppose.

Certainly there were times in the Old Testament when God stated that nations had got to the point where they were subject to His punishment. At that point He told Israel to wipe them out. But how does that relate to us deciding as individuals that it is right to take another's life?

If my family is being threatened why, according to your scenario, is recourse to firearms the only option?

Isn't it the function of the state's law enforcement officers to prevent crime? They are not given a carte blanche to kill but are also subject to a law that determines that anyone they kill has to have been lawfully killed. They are subject to restrictions just as ordinary citizens are subject to restrictions. Law enforcement officers are equally trained in restraint as much as they are in using lethal force. It seems rather disingenuous to suggest that the average citizen can just shoot someone because... because what? Does one have to wait for the assailant to actually commit rape before shooting him or is the mere threat of rape enough? Either of those scenarios goes way beyond what the law enforcement officer does in the same situation. His role is to prevent the crime and arrest the perpetrator not execute a penalty for the crime.

The real argument appears to be more about a desire for equality of arms based on emotional arguments rather than a Biblical mandate. It is seen in this thread. Respondents from the USA seem to be very defensive and most quickly resort to emotion-driven accusations towards anyone not agreeing with the possession of firearms. So we see the typical response of "oh, so you would be happy to stand by whilst your mother/wife/daughter is raped." I question this kind of argument which is based more on belittling anyone who disagrees with firearm possession by immediately taking it to an extreme scenario. It is used instead of giving a rational argument as to why followers of Jesus should possess an object designed specifically to take life.

This also skews the argument by assuming that firearm possession is the only form of self-defence there is.


It is not belittling to describe a scenario that is all too common in this country.  And I have no urge or need to tell you that you should go out and purchase a firearm. 

First, the function of the state's law enforcement officers is NOT to prevent crime, but to punish crime.  They have to wait until a crime is committed before they can act.  They have to wait until your daughter is raped before they can arrest someone for raping her.  Or at the most, they have to have evidence of an attempted rape.  Still a crime.  You have a misunderstanding of the role of police.  And a policeman in this country can use his firearm if he believes that someone is in imminent danger of life or limb. They are rarely in that role.  But a citizen may be.  And the laws in this country, since we are talking about laws, vary from state to state (since rape, robbery, murder, etc are state crimes, not federal), but here in Idaho, all that is needed for a shooting to be justified is the reasonable belief on the part of the citizen that he or another citizen is in imminent danger of life or limb.  That is not "way beyond" what a law enforcement does - it is identical. 

But that being said, back to the subject of this thread.  In fact, God allowed in Israel instances where a man may kill another person, if that person had killed his relative.  Remember the Cities of Refuge?  That was where a killer could run to where he was safe from family retribution, as his case was being reviewed.  That was CERTAINLY a personal issue, not an instance where nations were involved. 

If your family is being threatened, of course firearms are not the only recourse.  You can call your armed neighbor, who might shoot the criminal.  You can call the police, who might shoot the criminal.  You might do nothing, and accept whatever the criminal wants to do.  You might harm him short of killing him - but I don't see how that is much better than the first or second instance.  If you accept the harm or death in your family from a criminal, and then call the police, he gets arrested, and then is executed on death row for his crime, have you still not caused his death?  Your only comfort is that the state did it, not you. 

Jack said, "the function of the state's law enforcement officers is NOT to prevent crime, but to punish crime.  They have to wait until a crime is committed before they can act."

Absolutely disagree with you. What you are describing is the function of the judiciary. Law enforcement officers whether police or other departments have the role of apprehending those alleged to have committed a crime and bringing them before the judiciary so that any punishment may be determined. Amongst the reasons for apprehending someone are crimes variously described as "conspiracy to..." or "attempted", that is, planning a crime or trying to commit rather than committing.

I think you realise this as you go on to mention an "attempted" crime and the use of force when there is "imminent danger". You also contradict yourself in reference to Idaho's laws when quoting that all that is needed is "the reasonable belief on the part of the citizen that he or another citizen is in imminent danger of life or limb" and then claiming that is identical to what law enforcement does.

For example, part of the mission statement of the NYPD is: "Fight crime, both by preventing it and aggressively pursuing violators of the law." The US Legal Definition is as follows, "A law enforcement officer is a government employee who is responsible for the prevention, investigation, apprehension, or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the criminal laws..." etc.

Proportionality also come into effect, as you state, there must also be an imminent danger to life and limb, there is not a carte blanche to kill - which is why law enforcement officers are investigated when they use deadly force. Anyway, I suspect that I am digressing.

The concept of Cities of Refuge is an interesting part of OT law but one must remember that this only applied to the accidental or inadvertent death of an individual and investigation was to be made at the entrance of the city, or, application for refuge. Whether this allowance was actually carried out is a moot point but it was God's way of dealing with something that had apparently been brought out of Egypt with the Children of Israel. At the time there was no police force and the intention appears to be to remove hasty or tribal retribution by the goel or "avenger" - who was also the "redeemer" of stolen land or those taken in slavery. Oh, the parallels with Jesus Christ who performs both roles.

However, the Cities of Refuge also highlight the difference between the individual taking revenge and the "state" enforcing law. The one seeking refuge is tried by an impartial judge and the equivalent to a jury of his peers - the parallels with modern western legal systems (which are based on the Biblical model) are readily apparent. It takes the punishment out of the heat of the moment and allows for a rational verdict to be given - so there is quite a difference from someone acting "on-the-spot" and the person being carted off for trial at a later date.

You also appear to be close to presenting the issue in a binary way: either kill the person or do nothing. I accept that you did bring in a caveat of "you might harm him short of killing him" but then appear to dismiss that option by saying "I don't see how that is much better than the first or second instance" (i.e. the binary option of shoot him or allow him to do what he wants).

I will answer that by quoting from an interview that I had with a man who was serving an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment (that is a prison sentence without a guaranteed release date - potentially life imprisonment). His crime was rape. Briefly, he and another man had lured a drunken girl away from the main road (part of his mitigation was that he had drunk alcohol for the first time in his life) and attempted to rape her.

As he was in the process of committing the act a third man appeared with a flashlight who shone it on them and shouted out to them. He immediately ceased his act and ran away. No firearms were used, no-one was shot, the man ceased his criminal act and was later apprehended and sent to prison for his crime.

Now I do accept that the USA was founded with guns and that citizens have the right to bear arms albeit regulated by law so I am under no illusion about how incredibly hard it would be to try and change the status quo. But just because something is allowed does not mean that one should do it - it is not an imperative. One must also remember that despite citizens having the ability to legally bear arms the USA has an incredibly high crime rate and is regularly quoted as being in the top ten highest nations for incidence of rape (as we are using that example) per capita. So the ability to use deadly force does appear to have made the country any safer.

Still we seem to be stuck in a debate about guns and not about self-defence as such or how that relates to the Gospel - especially to Christ's instruction to love those who despitefully use you. I note that the argument about gun use comes mainly from citizens of the USA, hence my perception of "In Guns We Trust".

That may be your opinion, but in the US in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that police have no “duty to protect” citizens.

Jack, I haven't said anything about the police having a duty to protect so I'm not sure why that forms the sole basis of your response. 

However, you may want to carefully read what the Supreme Court decision was. Whilst it ruled that the police do not have a specific duty to an individual it did not deny the general duty to protect the state/community. Protecting the community is part of the duty of care, hence the issuing of tickets for traffic violations.

But, as I said, I don't see the relevance as I didn't express an opinion on that. Neither does it advance the topic under discussion.

Sorry to interject. 

My wife was told by the Sheriff that she needed to be trained and armed because it would take 45 minutes for help to arrive from his deputies.  We live in a rural area but meth and heroin are trafficked on the road we live on from the reservation to places beyond. My neighbor has had 3 cars stolen out of his yard.   For many years we had a large Belgian Shepard that shadowed my wife like a guardian angle but she has since passed away of old age.  I doubt she can be replaced because she was both protective and good with children.  Our Sheriff had genuine concern for my wife. 

There is much to unpacked here.  If God would allow an animal to protect my wife then why is it wrong for her to have defense.  At 120 pounds and older my wife is defenseless.

The rhetoric here is not genuine nor helpful and doesn't take in real world dangers and considerations.  I hate violence but part of being a man is defending the weak.  I think God demands it.  Firearms or not we have to stand in the Gap. 

The example of David - he stood against large beasts to defend his sheep.  Are we saying we should be weak sissy men.  It seems there is enough of this in our world and I have always wondered about this attitude of being weak and defenseless men as an Adventist.  I just cannot see Jesus not standing up for the women and children in his life because of an attitude like some show.  Of course Jesus would not have to use a sword so do not suggest it, that is not what I am saying.  By most accounts I get the impression that when violent characters show up some are suggesting we bend over and grab our ankles to show how righteous we are.

Bart, it is hard to argue against specific instances when one has no experience of that instance. I assume that the policeman's advice was based upon the practicalities of living in a violent society where guns are the norm and Christian principles are not? Also it appears that you do not have anything near a rapidly responding police force - no doubt down to the practicalities of a rural location.

However, I can equally give personal examples: on one occasion I was walking through a pedestrian "cut-through" where my path was blocked by some youths who, when they saw me, made signs that they were going to mug me. Committed to my path I saw no option but to continue towards them however I walked praying for God to protect me. At the critical point where they made all the motions of be ready to jump me they suddenly turned on their heels and ran off. No-one was behind me, no-one was close, yet they decided to spin around and make off at speed.

On another occasion I was on my way by train to speak publicly against the machinations of the Roman Catholic Church. Someone boarded the train some stops prior to my destination and told me that a mob armed with clubs was awaiting my arrival at the destination station. I was asked to leave the train one stop early where a car was organised to take me to the meeting hall, thus circumventing the mob awaiting me and avoiding confrontation.

On a third occasion, in a war zone, I was asked to look after some members of a Congressional team who were there to investigate the war. Due to one member's foolishness we ended up being hunted by men armed with Kalashnikovs. However, God was able to hide us in plain sight so that those hunting us walked within a yard or two of us but, not seeing us, moved on.

My son was attacked at school by a bigger boy who had pinned him against a wall by his throat. My son prayed for God to help him and the bigger boy suddenly shook his head, released his grip and ran away.

Lastly, a friend who was a missionary in Africa baptised two young men. They told him that he was lucky to be alive as, some time previously, they had been hired to lie in wait for him by a corner in the road with the intention of shooting him as he drove around the corner. They told him that they would have gone through with their plan if it had not been for the heavily-armed soldiers that were in the jeep with him. He assured them that he had never travelled with soldiers, that he was travelling alone that day - but they repeated that they had been deterred by the presence of the soldiers and that was why they had not shot him.

I believe that God is more than able to protect us - if we allow Him. He can choose to use an animal but how can He use a gun?

Many of the responses in this thread appear to be based on OT concepts rather than Christian principles. What do we do with Christ's words?

"You have heard that it was said, "An eye in exchange for an eye, and a tooth in exchange for a tooth." But I am saying to you, you shall not rise up against an evil person, but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him also the other." (Matthew 5:38-39 Original Aramaic New Testament)

It intrigues me that all those who are advocating using guns rather than holding on to God's promises appear to be from the USA.

It also intrigues me that if someone argues against gun use they are accused of being weak and defenceless, like a woman. Perhaps this is part of the whole macho gun-toting attitude that appears to take the place of following Christ's instruction above?

Do our US respondents really regard Christ as weak and effeminate? Is it really just a case of "In guns we trust" not God?

"Many of the responses in this thread appear to be based on OT concepts rather than Christian principles. What do we do with Christ's words?" 

Hmm, I wonder where I have heard those words before. 

Evangelicals use that excuse for getting around not keeping the Commands of Jesus. 

Desire of Ages talks about Peter and his willingness to defend Jesus with a sword and the later falling into the wrong company and failing to stand up and admit he was a disciple of Jesus. Peter and the other disciples thinking that the Kingdom was temporal rather than spiritual.    It is easy to claim how brave you are and how you will stand with Jesus as we see with the example of Peter.  I think many Adventist think that a weapon means armed resistance or being part of a revolution.  It is probably foolish for an SDA to own a firearm but I don't think anyone should be lipping off saying you don't have faith if you own a firearm because you probably just don't know what you are talking about and for people from other parts of the world speaking against the 2nd Amendment in the USA clearly don't understand that once it is gone the rest of the Constitution of the US goes into the garbage.  Owning a firearm probably is not a salvational issue for most people.  It could be if it is something sinful in your life but the same could go for any object.

As a former soldier I have been to refugee camps, witnessed orphans with machete scars and heard stories of people burned alive in churches.  I have witness piles of bloated bodies being pushed into mass graves. When I hear someone say "If you have faith in Jesus you will....", fill in the blank.  You will what? Be willing to be burned alive, watch a loved family member raped.  Forget about the tool, the hunk of metal, a sword or a gun or even a baseball bat.  Are you ready???  God may call you to give your life in defense of your family or your neighbor.  Standing back and just letting it happen and saying God will sort it out with grief, guilt and cowardice is not faith.  

Simply said I think most people are naive to the evil in the world and are easily swayed by news that has nothing to do with them and the fantasy of how they will handle extreme situations. 

The control and dominance by main land China you see happening in Hong Kong.  This creep of soft tyranny to open violence is what will happen in the USA.  The end of the 2nd Amendment will happen and you are happy for it??? It will be a bad day for peaceful unarmed  SDA Christians. Image may contain: meme and text

Again, I have to ask: Where does God or Christianity fit into all of this?

All I see is, In Guns We Trust.


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