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What does the Bible say about self-defense?"

Under what circumstances is self-defense appropriate?

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The Bible says:
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." -- 1 Timothy 5:8

If this is true then where does it state or imply that a man, the head of the house, is not to provide protection for his family from violent criminals that would seek to enter his home and do harm to his loved ones? Is he to merely stand by and turn his cheek as his wife is raped in the presence of his children when he has the capability to use his God given strength and skills to thwart the attack using violence if necessary?

This is one of the very difficult concepts in all this.  It is easier to understand that I am not to take up arms to protect myself than it is to believe that I am not to attempt to protect the innocent others that I may.  We are commanded to "obey the king", and yet was it not righteous for Christians in Nazi Germany to disobey the "king" and hide and protect fleeing Jews?  Should an Adventist medic believe that he must not pick up the rifle lying there in the dirt at his feet to protect the wounded man in his charge?  Or if he does, is it a demonstration that he does not trust God to protect him?  And what if he DOES believe that God will protect him, and the enemy soldier comes upon him and kills the wounded man and the unresisting medic - is he guiltless? 

Once a weak as part of my duties while in the military I had to give a class on military history as part of leadership training. My classes were to be given on Medal of Honor recipients.  When all this attention was brought about Desmond Doss it brought much of that time back to mind.  The overwhelming theme you see when you study Medal of Honor recipients is that they are for the most part totally selfless. You have touched on one particular point that bring out the story of Ben L. Salomon. Salmon never defended himself, he defend the helpless, those of whom he had charge over.

 

Benjamin Lewis Salomon (September 1, 1914 – July 7, 1944) was a United States Army dentist during World War II, assigned as a front-line surgeon. When the Japanese started overrunning his hospital, he stood a rear-guard action in which he had no hope of personal survival, allowing the safe evacuation of the wounded, killing at least 98 enemy troops before being killed himself during the Battle of Saipan. In 2002, Salomon posthumously received the Medal of Honor. He is one of only three dental officers to have received the medal, the others being Alexander Gordon Lyle and Weedon Osborne.

Ben Salomon had set up his aid station in a small tent about fifty yards behind the forward foxholes and thirty yards from the shoreline. Within ten minutes of the beginning of the attack, his aid station was overwhelmed with over thirty wounded. Salomon was working steadily on the most serious cases inside the tent when Japanese soldiers began to enter. Ben shot the first one who had bayoneted a wounded American lying on a stretcher. Two more charged through the tent entrance. Ben clubbed them both with a rifle, then shot one and bayoneted the other. Four more began to crawl under the sides of the tent. He shot one, bayoneted one, stabbed another with a knife, and head butted the fourth. Ben ran out of the tent to get help to defend the aid station. He quickly saw that the situation was hopeless. The Japanese suicide masses had overwhelmed the two under strength American battalions. Pockets of resistance fought on inside the perimeter, but the bulk of the survivors were being pushed back toward Tanapag village. Salomon returned to the tent and ordered his aid men to evacuate the wounded while he stayed behind to hold off the enemy and cover their withdrawal. Salomon then grabbed a rifle and fought on with the few Americans still resisting inside the perimeter. Eventually he manned a machine gun after its gunner was killed. That was the last time anyone saw Ben Salomon alive.

The fighting continued throughout 7 July as the Japanese attacked other American units. As the day wore on, it was obvious that the assaulting force had spent itself. Late on the 7th, the Americans counterattacked, and on 9 July the island was secured as most of the remaining Japanese committed suicide. Early on 8 July the positions of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 105th Infantry Regiment had been regained. These units had withstood the worst of the assault. At the beginning of the banzai attack, the two battalions had 1,108 men present for duty; at the end 919 were either dead or seriously wounded, an 83 percent casualty rate.

The 27th Division historian, Capt. Edmund G. Love, accompanied the team that went back to the overrun battalions' position. Love later described what they found:

We had been walking through piles of dead men when the general gave a sudden start, and then stepped over to the figure of a man who was bent over the barrel of a heavy machine gun. Very quickly, almost before I saw what he was doing, the general took out a knife and cut the Red Cross brassard from Ben Salomon's arm. Then he straightened up and looked around. There were ninety-eight Japanese bodies piled up in front of that gun position. Salomon had killed so many men that he had been forced to move the gun four different times in order to get a clear field of fire. There was something else that we noted, too. There were seventy-six bullet holes in Salomon's body. When we called a doctor over to examine him, we were told that twenty-four of the wounds had been suffered before Salomon died. There were no witnesses, but it wasn't hard to put the story together. One could easily visualize Ben Salomon, wounded and bleeding, trying to drag that gun a few more feet so that he would have a new field of fire. The blood was on the ground, and the marks plainly indicated how hard it must have been for him, especially in that last move.http://history.amedd.army.mil/moh/Salomon.html

The recommendation was returned by Maj. Gen. George W. Griner, the commanding general of the 27th Division. Officially, Griner declined to approve the award because Salomon was "in the medical service and wore a Red Cross brassard upon his arm. Under the rules of the Geneva Convention, to which the United States subscribes, no medical officer can bear arms against the enemy."[2] However, the guideline for awarding the Medal of Honor to medical non-combatants states that one may not receive the Medal of Honor for actions in an "offensive". More recent interpretations of the Convention, as well as the US Laws of Land Warfare[5] allow use of personal weapons (i.e., rifles and pistols) in self-defense or in defense of patients and staff, as long as the medical soldier does not wear the Red Cross. Part of the problem in Salomon's citation was that a machine gun is considered a "crew-served", not an individual weapon.
Prior to Salomon, only two Jewish Americans had been awarded Medals of Honor during World War II, and none for Korea, though some (like Salomon) have been decorated years later, including Pfc. Leonard M. Kravitz (uncle and namesake of the pop star Lenny Kravitz) and Corporal Tibor Rubin, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2005.[6]
In 1951, Love again resubmitted the recommendation through the Office of the Chief of Military History. The recommendation was returned without action with another pro-forma reason: the time limit for submitting World War II awards had passed. In 1969, another Medal of Honor recommendation was submitted by Lt. Gen. Hal B. Jennings, the Surgeon General of the United States Army. In 1970, Stanley R. Resor, Secretary of the Army, recommended approval and forwarded the recommendation to the Secretary of Defense. The recommendation was returned without action.
In 1998, the recommendation was re-submitted by Dr. Robert West (USC Dental School) through Congressman Brad Sherman.[7] Finally, on May 1, 2002, President George W. Bush[8] presented Salomon's Medal of Honor to Dr. West.[2] Salomon's Medal of Honor is displayed at the USC Dental School.[9] The Army Medical Department, at this point, was supportive.

I think it is good that we have some here who challenge us with practicing pacifism, but I do not thing they think to hard about what real life and what can happen.  To what extent do we not defend our bodies and that of our loved ones and our neighbors.  After careful consideration I think it is cowardly and unbiblical to not defend a loved one or a neighbor from sexual assault or physical harm.  To me it is a selfish act not to step in harms way when an innocent person is being hurt.  This again is not self defense.

Now on the other hand for example if I am under persecution and the powers that be want to take my home and my belongings because I keep the Sabbath then praise God. No action is required because that would be self defense.  The only question would be through prayer whether to stay or flee.

As for our bodies do we allow others to use our temple against our will.  As part of our beliefs do we allow rape with out defense?   This is a valid question because sexual assault is a part of what is happening today.

If you Dossology, or the excuse for men to be cowards, then no.  If you read your Bible, you will find even the temple of the Old Testament had guards, and Romans tells us that government does not carry the sword without reason.

I wonder if it's just the view that some people believe you can't rely on God during physical self-defense.  It's as if they are saying those acts of defense against someone who is out to kill you, your family or others are automatically done because of hatred or some other evil motive in your heart.  Do they have some supernatural power to know whats going on in others hearts in those moments?

Speaking for myself, I don't believe self-defense is wrong when done with a pure heart reliant on God because there are numerous examples throughout the bible from David, to Joshua, Samson, Elisha and many others.  However, I also believe we shouldn't have a vengeful heart because God says vengeance is his. in my view defense isn't always an act of vengeance.  Going out and trying to kill someone after they shot at you and ran away in a lot of ways can be seen as an act of  defense but in many cases it's actually just rage filled vengeance.  

My belief is that using force to stop someone who is actively attempting to murder others or even yourself is a totally different situation.  It's a type of self-defense that I wouldn't automatically classify as evil and wrong if done with a pure heart; a heart that knows it would have done everything possible to avoid a situation that became unavoidable.  

David relied on God when he fought Goliath the same for Samson when he slew the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Elisha also relied on God as he walked through life, I think we all are aware of the female bears that mauled the kids ridiculing God's prophet after Elisha cursed them.  None of these mentioned were acting out of personal reactive vengeance when they relied on God to get them through those situations.  I think that's an important thing to keep in mind when studying the bible to know if self-defense is right for you.  

In closing I would say keep your circumstances in mind not others.  You can't turn the other cheek when you're dead.  But, in my view you likely won't be held blameless if you aggressively and vengefully pursue someone after they yield to whatever act of self-defense you chose to rely on God to get you through a life threatening situation.  Be it a sling shot, sword, jawbone of an ass, police or prayer. 

Look at the life of Jesus He was honest, humble, kind, gentle, total love, and merciful.  These are qualities we are to have as Christians.  In regards to defending ourselves with guns or weapons, we are not supposed to kill others.  We don't live in a God government.  Police have been trained to carry a weapon, but they are supposed to use it as a last resort.  As stated before our weapons are spiritual.  To say we are supposed to kill is a mistake.  God will protect His people and any and every situation works out for our good if we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, body, soul, spirit and strength.  When it comes to spiritual warfare we are to have our minds fixed on Jesus and use the bible and mighty prayer to clear our cases before the Judge Jesus Christ.

Jesus was consummate love and purity in its purest form.  and he never laid his hand on a gun or a sword that that man knows about.

Reid appreciate it if you could reconcile the texts which seem to allow for it, rather than just make a statement and ignore all the disagreeing texts.

In closing I would say keep your circumstances in mind not others.  You can't turn the other cheek when you're dead.  But, in my view you likely won't be held blameless if you aggressively and vengefully pursue someone after they yield to whatever act of self-defense you chose to rely on God to get you through a life threatening situation.  Be it a sling shot, sword, jawbone of an ass, police or prayer. 

 

Andrew,

I never told anyone how to go about their method of Self Defense, but I did promote relying on God in those situations.  I pointed out examples where Physical Self-defense was used by people who relied on God and that each person should be aware of their own circumstance and not use others to try and justify their own actions..... Not sure why you overlooked that.  

  

I'd like you to elaborate because you seem to look at self-defense from a "morally" nice and seemingly superior standpoint. However, in my view that perceived view is flawed because it is based only on what humans see which is a way that would condemn many of the nameless who righteously defended Israel by relying on God to get them through their situations. Had you not known their stories like David, Samson and Joshua that gave you a clearer view of what was in their heart and actually controlled their actions what would you say about them using your limited human senses?

 

Are you actually saying you think everyone that uses physical self-defense has their heart set on committing an act like killing in a way that is controlled purely by their own vengeance, greed or other evil desire?  A form of killing that we know today would be considered murder.  

 

I'm not here to promote killing.  I hope no one here ever gets put in situation where courts determine the difference between killing and murder or more broadly self-defense and assault.  However, I do believe that we should be fully aware God has a flawless method of passing judgment.  A method that would make us wise as Christians to not make some blanket statements which can easily be viewed as judgmental when we don't know the full story that would give us insight into something that God has direct access to.  That being what is in a person’s heart.

Rabbit,

Thanks for your responses.  I come from a background where my Dad believes that no one should ever defend himself, no matter what is happening around him, and raising a hand in violence to someone who is threatening to kill or rape his wife or child would be evidence of lack of faith in God.  My son, on the other hand, lives in Phoenix, where he practices dentistry, and where home invasions by the Mexican cartels is becoming more common.  The common practice is for a gang to enter a home, kill all the residents after raping all the women, and use the house as a base for a few days before moving on.

He and I have had a number of conversations about this.  There have been a number of wonderful Christian families who have been murdered, every one of them, by such people.  He asked me what I thought about what a Christian should do.  It is a very real threat.  When I was in the US Army as a physician overseas, I thought about it a lot.  While it is clear that I would not personally be comfortable with the idea of carrying a weapon to perform offensive military duties (as a physician, I would not be asked to do that, so it wasn't really a problem that I could see), the issue was more like what would happen were I to be in a position to defend helpless patients?  I came to believe that defense of their lives would be moral, ethical, and consistent with Christianity.  But not everyone in my position came to that position, including people I highly respected.

And in my Bible study, I see the overriding principle of Jesus' command to "love your enemies", but I also see God's specific authorizations for His people in the past to perform violent acts.  And commands to defend the defenseless.  So I enter into this discussion with relationships with good Christians who love the Lord, coming down on both sides of this issue.  I don't think that merely resting on "our opinion" is a safe position, but I also see that a clear "Thus saith the Lord" on this doesn't exist, unless one picks a text and ignores others.

Jack,

Very true.  My wife comes from a country where there is lawlessness in certain areas.  A while back there was an incident where groups of villagers banded together to fend off bandits who frequently come armed and forcefully steal cattle, sometimes even killing villagers.  Even when the bandits don't directly kill the villagers their actions indirectly cause people to die because famine is common in the arid zones.   

I have a hard time accepting that I am to believe all those people who successfully fought off the bandits were automatically to be considered evil sinners. I haven't seen anything in the bible that tells me that is a correct assumption to make.  Only God knows, some may have gone overboard, others may have simply been resorting to the last resort they would choose but still relied on God's grace since police are very ineffective due to the remote location of most of the villages.

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