Christian Living

The Folly of Prohibition: Taking the No-Trespassing Sign off of God’s Gifts

Guns are dangerous. Guns are evil. Guns kill people. There are numerous articles one may find on the internet that seem to substantiate these claims.[i]

Guns cause division in our society, even in some homes. Guns are the source of grief, of sorrow, of mischief. The cycle of gun violence is guns. Therefore, the best and safest option for people is to practice abstinence. By eliminating guns, we are left with a world with no gun-related harm, the innocent in society are not murdered, families are not shattered, people retain their health, promotes the love of neighbors, offers no harm to others.

What is wrong with this line of reasoning? Can you see it? What are the logical fallacies present in the previous dialogue?

Did you notice the italicized section above? “The cycle of gun violence is guns.” What is wrong with that statement? Is there anything misleading by it? Of course, the cycle of gun violence is not brought about by guns. A gun is an inanimate object. A gun cannot load itself, nor hold itself up, nor point itself in any direction, nor can the gun pull its own trigger. The argument above is based on a false premise that guns are negative. Guns are neither good nor bad in and of themselves.

What is then necessary to make the use of guns good or bad? You’ve got it…people. The problem with gun violence is not guns. Guns are not the source of the wickedness that we see, but the people who use them. A gun may be used in a God-honoring way if used in a way that God describes it, self-defense. Protecting oneself, one’s property or one’s neighbor is seen as a good use of necessary violence, even violence with a gun.

The problem with gun violence is that sinful people are willing to use something that is a gift in a manner that does not honor their Creator, nor their fellow man. The gun is not sinful, the person using the gun in a manner that is not restricted by right values, is. Eliminating guns will not remove the violence that is embedded in human hearts.

Now if you’ve read thus far, you probably are assuming that I have an ax to grind against those who wish for the prohibition of all guns. That is not my intent, but I am driving a point home that you may have not otherwise taken the time to consider. The things that we are given in this world are gifts from our Creator. Any one of them may be misused and therefore used in a sinful manner. The call for removing such things from the world is not a solution to the problem of abuse. Rather, when individuals seek to take away the gifts of God, they have established themselves in the position of god; they are guilty of being a legalist.

As God told Peter in Acts 11:19, “What God has cleansed no longer consider unholy” (NAS95). Genesis 1:31 states very clearly that God made all things “very good.” What perverts the “very good” is the perverted heart of the individual who misuses the gift of God. Our sin has the potential to corrupt everything that we touch. Every good thing that God has given us.

To argue that something may be misused and therefore should be abstained from is to commit the slippery slope fallacy. This plays on the fears of others in order to convince them that the best option is to totally do away with it. Well-meaning Christians do this sort of thing all the time. The religious leaders in Jesus day were likewise guilty of this mentality.

To enter into the market place put them at risk of being ceremonially unclean (i.e. unholy before God), therefore they would wash themselves before they ate (their concern was not hygiene). To keep from breaking the Sabbath day—a day set aside for worship and rest—they would restrict the number of steps a person could take, call spitting on the ground and mixing it work (sorry kids no mud pies!), condemn the healing activities of our Lord, and point out how bad of a teacher he was because his hungry disciples were allowed to pick kernels of grain, grind them between their fingers and eat the wheat (the equivalent of breaking open peanuts, sunflower seeds, or pistachio’s).

This attitude was carried into the body of Christ. The apostle Paul condemned such teachings.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col 2.8; ESV)

What sort of philosophy based on human traditions is Paul speaking about?

“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch…These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2.21, 23; ESV; italics added).

Telling Christians to abstain from the gifts God has given (i.e. money, friendships, family, food and drink, sex, etc.) does nothing to promote godly holiness. Not to mention by so doing you are playing the part of a Pharisee condemning what God has not condemned. What then prevents Christians from abusing those gifts that God has given (for any number of them can be abused)? Self-control. “But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control” (Gal 5.22, 23; ESV). A disciplined life restrains the mature from using God’s gifts sinfully.

Take for example the use of alcohol. There are many well-meaning Christians who assume that the only true approach to alcohol is prohibition—total abstinence from any and all related products. Some will quote from Proverbs 23. Verses 29-31 read as follows:

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly” (ESV; italics added).

Notice the phrase that is in italics. What is the point of these verses? Those who tarry long (linger) over wine. Those who are intoxicated by their own desires. They are a slave to their appetites (cf. Prov 23.2).[ii] The warning given in this Proverb is not to abstain from alcohol (wine), but to abstain from uncontrollable desires. The wise man or woman will know self-control. They will “not [be] among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber with clothe them with rags” (Prov 23.20-21). In other words, a godly man or woman will not abuse the gifts that God has given them.

Gifts you say? How is alcohol a gift?

God has given “wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Ps 104.15). The Lord instructed His people in the past to use wine and strong drink as a celebration before Him (cf. Deut 14.26). He has even promised that those who honor Him will receive abundant blessings in return: “then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Prov 3.10). Jesus provided the best wine for the wedding celebration in Cana (cf. John 2.7-10), it served as the sign of the New Covenant (cf. Luke 22.20), and it is the sign of God’s blessed eternal kingdom celebration (cf. Isa 25.6).

This is not to say that there are not warnings given regarding the misuse of the gift, but this is true of all the things that God has freely given His people. If God does not condemn the use, but only the abuse, then we have no right to do otherwise. If this bothers our hearts, then we need to examine them, for we are called to submit to the authority of God and not man.

The same arguments used regarding guns in our society, are the same foolish arguments used in Christ’s church. May we adopt heavenly wisdom, rather than wisdom that comes from below.  May we take a firm stand on what is right and condemn what is wrong.

ENDNOTES:

[i] “Guns in the US: The statistics behind the violence,” BBC News, January 5, 2016, accessed March 6, 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604; “Gun Violence By the Numbers,” Everytown, accessed March 6, 2018, https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/; Kara Fox, “How US gun culture compares with the world in five charts,” CNN, February 15, 2018, accessed March 6, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/03/americas/us-gun-statistics/index.html.

[ii]  This verse says, “…put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite” (Prov 23.2). The language is poetic and uses an expression of hyperbole, but the meaning is pretty clear. If you do not have a control over your appetite (desires) then you are encouraged to cut yourself off from, away from, whatever it is that you are being tempted to give into. Jesus uses a similar expression of hyperbolic speech when he says, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9.43). In essence, do what ever it takes to remove yourself from the situation, from giving into uncontrolled desires.

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