Posted in self-defense, Uncategorized

Purchasing Swords to What End? An Article on Self-Defense in Light of Jesus’ Instruction to His Disciples, Part I

And [Jesus] said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take along, likewise a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one’” (Luke 22.36; NASB).1

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword’” (Matt 26.52).

INTRODUCTION:

The Eagles had a hit single in 1976 entitled “A New Kid in Town.” That song serves as a semblance of my life growing up. Several times during my adolescent years, I was the new kid in town that everybody was talking about. And it was during this time of my youth I found out the hard way not everyone likes you.

Sometimes this is your fault. Maybe you have a bad attitude, and this leads to diarrhea of the mouth. Not a popular position to be in if you are spewing words in the wrong direction. There is perhaps an unspoken correlation between vulgarity of the mouth and that which spews from down below as both are fit for the refuse pile (i.e., skubalon).2 Talking in such a way to the wrong person will, more than likely, end up bringing about an uncomfortable situation. One where we are left with a little color on our face and a slab of cool meat to ease the swelling; or worse.

Other times, though, living in the fallen world that we do, the dislike of others is not our fault. The fact is some people will enjoy your personage and others will not. This was a lesson I learned early on as a youngster and I have witnessed little change in this reality as I’ve reached adulthood. Most of the time, the dislike of another rarely leads to what some would consider an act of violence (e.g., fist-fight; i.e., conflict). The dilemma, however, was what to do when such activity became unavoidable (e.g., self-defense).

As a result, I had to learn very early that there were times when fighting was the only option. Violence, aggression, combat, war, battles, are not names normally associated with the Christian worldview. I would imagine that many Christian parents loath the idea of their children getting into an altercation with a fellow classmate. No question, peace is to be preferred (cf. Rom 12.18). My wife and I have six children (two of which have grown and left home to start their own lives), and we prefer, I think as all parents do, that they experience a peaceful coexistence with their peers. Alas, this is not always possible. Remember we live in a world filled with sinful, carnal creatures that have a great inability to see things beyond the concerns of self-gratification. According to the biblical worldview, this inevitably leads to various shades of conflict (cf. James 4.1-2).

Therefore, I taught my children the same lesson I learned when I was growing up: “Do not start anything with anyone, but if another attacks you…make sure you finish it.” To be honest, I thought such a life lesson was common sense. Experience, however, has taught me differently. Interactions with other parents and school administrators at various levels have helped me see how difficult the concept of self-defense is in our current cultural climate. Even a significant number of professing Christians display a knee-jerk reaction against it.

A brief explanation…

This has continually left me with a desire to carefully define and articulate the actual position I am advocating for. Though I personally find the process a bit tedious I realize that providing proper categorical qualifications is necessary, for much of the confusion or denial of seeing self-defense as a legitimate response to counter wanton acts of violence or aggression in certain situations is because people do not take the time to critically think through the issue.

Self-defense while appropriate and normative as an act of protection or deterrence, is only practiced (to be applied) in unique cases. Meaning it is something prepared for with the hope that it is never necessary to use. For example, I have spent many years of my life learning various arts of self-defense; boxing, martial arts and some grappling techniques. I have competed in a few competitions with decent results. Many of my children have shared in these experiences personally as my wife and I thought it necessary to teach such things in case the need called for it.

But one of the key aspects of such training is that you don’t want to use it outside of the ring or dojo unless no other option is available to you. The goal is to avoid confrontation at all costs. In fact, one of the first lessons we were taught in Matsubayashi-Ryu (Pine Forest Style, an Okinawan form of Karate also known as Shorin-Ryu) was to avoid conflict3 (to flee) if the opportunity is presented. Not only to protect oneself from injury, but you may have to live with injuring another, perhaps permanently. Lethal force is always a last resort. The same is true with firearm training. You never point your gun at another unless no other alternative presents itself and you never place your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot.

Self-defense is not violence, although it uses violence as a form of protection or deterrence. Self-defense, properly defined, is never vengeance but a guarding of life—either yours or another. Predators go for weak prey in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, there is little difference between human or animal predators. For a human predator is more akin to a beast than a fellow image-bearer.

Biblical justifications…

So far I have sought to be reasonable regarding this issue. (Actually, I have attempted to do this for some time as I have worked through what I believe were pertinent issues raised as a result of the national debate sparked by the Kyle Rittenhouse case). I realize that this topic is a worldview issue, and depending on what a person’s worldview is they will have already drawn their own conclusions regarding it. Contrary to popular opinion, facts and pieces of evidence do not lead a person’s thoughts on a given issue, their presuppositions do. As Greg L. Bahnsen explains,

“The unavoidable fact is…that nobody is a disinterested observer, seeing and interpreting the facts without a set of assumptions and pre-established rules. All men have presuppositional commitments prior to their examination of various hypothesis

Each worldview has its presuppositions about reality [metaphysics], knowledge [epistemology], and ethics [law]; these mutually influence and support each other. There are no facts or uses of reason which are available outside of the interpretive system of basic commitments or assumptions [i.e., presuppositions] which appeals to them; the presuppositions used by Christian and non-Christian determine what they will accept as factual or reasonable, and their respective presuppositions about fact and logic will determine what they say about reality.”4

In short, people are not neutral. They are not neutral when they look at issues. They are not neutral when presented with proofs. Nor are they neutral when they reason (think through) subjects like self-defense. Individuals will have prior commitments that will shade their understanding and limit what they accept as truth. This is true for members of the believing and unbelieving world.

And so, the question is ultimately by what standard do we appeal to in order to decide a matter? Since I am convinced that nothing makes sense of reality besides the revealed Word of God, this is where I go. The Bible lays out the purpose, principles, and justification for the “what and why” of all reality. A point that I have been attempting to make through various posts related to self-defense. In this post, I begin to look at Jesus’ command to His disciples which seems to offer biblical justification for Christians to practice self-defense. In a follow-up post, I will address what many think is a counterclaim to this command.

Figurative or according to the letter?

At the beginning of this post, I cited a couple of biblical texts where Jesus spoke about swords with His disciples. The first text mentioned was Luke 22:36. To avoid confusion let us look at this verse within its surrounding context.

And He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything did you? They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that which is written must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was counted with wrongdoers’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (Luke 22.35-38; NASB).5

Notice in this passage, Jesus is telling His disciples what they are to do in the days ahead. For, He compares their former mission with the next one, illustrated by the phrase: “But now…” (Luke 22.36a). Previously, the Lord had sent them out in pairs to share the gospel of peace. At that time they were instructed to carry no “money belt…bag…[or] sandals” (Luke 22.35; cf. Luke 9.3; 10.4). It was a faith-building exercise. They had little to fear, for they were under divine protection. A change was about to occur. Hostilities would increase. They would be venturing outside of their nation (Israel) to other nations. This is not to say that they would no longer be under God’s protection, for Jesus reminds them that they “lacked nothing” in terms of need (Luke 22.35; He does this with the use of a rhetorical question). God provided everything. He would continue to do so. As Abraham said of the Lord God, “He provides” (Gen 22.8, 14).

The training wheels, however, were about to come off. The days ahead, Jesus warns them will be of greater difficulty, and so they need to be prepared.6 He instructs them

But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his cloak and buy one" (Luke 22:36; emphasis added).

Many of the commentaries that I read tend to say that Jesus was only speaking about “selling your cloak and buying a sword” in a figurative sense. This is a popular notion among many Christian leaders.7 They secure their interpretation of the text on Jesus’ response here (Luke 22.36, 38) and in the subsequent narrative in the Garden of Gethsemane during His arrest (Matt 26.52). (Later on, we’ll address the one in Matthew, but for now, let’s keep focused on the instructions recorded in Luke.)

In Luke 22:38 Jesus’ disciples respond to His instruction in Luke 22:36 with the following statement, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” To that, the Lord says, “It is enough” (Luke 22.38).8

Supposedly, the idea is to take Jesus’ comments about swords in a figurative sense, or as John Calvin asserts, in a spiritual sense. He wrote,

“It was truly shameful and stupid ignorance, that the disciples, after having been so often informed about bearing the cross, imagine that they must fight with swords of iron…it is evident, at least, that they were so stupid as not to think of a spiritual enemy.”9

I don’t deny that spiritual enemies are real enemies. Nor do I deny that spiritual enemies are to be fought off with the Sword of the Spirit (cf. Eph 6.17; Heb 4.12). If that is what Jesus meant by his early words in Luke 22:36, then I have no problem with it.

Some key questions…

However, if we are going to say that purchasing swords is meant to be taken figuratively to protect oneself from spiritual enemies in the future, then shouldn’t we take “money belts” and “bags” to carry one’s luggage in a figurative sense as well?

I mean, if we are concerned about being consistent.

If, however, the text does not allow for us to take “money belts” and “bags” in a metaphorical sense of just “being prepared for hard times ahead,” then where does it allow for us to go from taking “sword” according to the letter?10

Context takes precedence…

In order to answer these questions, biblical commentators attempt to pin their interpretation of “it is enough” to Jesus’ comments about Peter’s misuse of the sword (cf. John 18.10) in Matthew 26:52. But as we shall see in my next post that is an entirely different context. Jesus’ concern while talking with His disciples is in light of what they shall face after He is “counted with wrongdoers” (Luke 22.37), not during. The purchasing of swords and the selling of cloaks in order to obtain them is post-arrest, not pre-arrest. First, Jesus must be counted with sinners on the cross, and then afterward there would come a time when preservation of life in terms of self-defense would be necessary.

Exegesis is not playing hopscotch, it is dealing with the details available in the text. Exegesis is concerned about drawing the meaning from Scripture rather than reading one’s ideas into it. Luke is the only one that recorded Jesus’ instruction for the disciples to prepare for the dark days ahead by purchasing a sword. He stressed the urgency of it by telling them that if they didn’t have one they should sell their cloak to buy it. A cloak (outer coat) in the 1stcentury world was of paramount importance. It was what protected a person from the elements and gave them something to snuggle in at night. To sell it and buy a sword meant to forfeit one form of protection from danger in light of obtaining another.

I believe that Jesus’ comments in Matthew 26:52 are important. They need to be properly weighed. But they are not necessary for understanding what Jesus says in Luke 22:35-38. For it is my contention that two different matters are being dealt with in those two different passages of Scripture. Something that I will do my best to prove in my next post.

To Be Continued…

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB); unless otherwise noted.

2According to J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan the apostle Paul’s use of the term skubalon (G4657) “‘Dung,’ [is] the prevailing sense of this word…its original meaning thus would be “refuse” (RV marg.); but ‘dung’ is probably what Paul meant in Phil 3:8, the only occurrence of the word in the NT.” The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and other Non-Literary Sources (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1929), 579, PDF E-book.

3Shoshin Nagamine, the founder of this particular style of martial art writes, “Karate ni sente nashi (There is no first attack in karate).” Meaning that karate is not a violent martial art but only one to be practiced in self-defense, a method of preserving life. Shoshin Nagamine, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, [1976], 1992), 13. Italics in original.

4Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, Joel McDurmon, ed. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision & Covenant Media Press, 2011), 25, 26, PDF E-book. Emphasis added. This will be found under the heading “The Necessity of a Presuppositional Approach.” I include this since the page number may be different depending on what electronic book reader one uses. For example, my copy of this book in my Adobe Digital Editions will show the quoted material above on page 27.

5All Scripture shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).

6This is not fatalistic teaching. Fate does not determine the outcome. The actions of God, the Creator, and man, the creature bring about the causal experiences of life. God provides for His people. This is true. He gives us food, wealth and health (life), but this does not eliminate our responsibility to work and enrich the talents, the tools, He’s given us. Farmers that desire to see a blessing from the Lord must work the ground in accordance with God’s commands. The farmer cannot hope to see a crop yield without working the soil and planting the seed. Laziness will bring him nothing but an empty hand and stomach. This is true of all our endeavors. Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9), but in order for a person to be saved, we must do the work of proclaiming the gospel of Christ (Rom 10.14-15). God provides but He also instructs us to be prepared for the days ahead, not knowing what they will bring (Prov 27.1; Isa 56.12; James 4.13-16).

7For example, Paul Carter, a contributor to the Canadian version of the Gospel Coalition, denies that Jesus was instructing His followers to sell their cloaks and buy a physical sword. After citing a few biblical commentaries, he writes,

“On balance it seems that Jesus is not telling the disciples to buy actual swords. He is saying that they are about to enter into very perilous times and they will need to keep the sword of the Spirit ‘half drawn’ at all times.”

Paul Carter, “Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?” The Gospel Coalition: Canadian Edition, December 9, 2017, accessed February 14, 2022, https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/jesus-tell-disciples-buy-swords/.

An unnamed writer for Biblestudy.org states, “It is difficult to imagine Jesus telling his disciples to buy swords, considering that he would soon state the following” comments found in Matt 26:52. A little later and the same writer claims that the Greek term machaira is better understood as a knife according to a popular layman’s Greek to English concordance:

“But in Luke’s 22:38 Strong’s Concordance acknowledges the Greek word machaira (Strong’s #3162) is defined as a knife, dirk or sword…The disciples would need certain provisions [after the Lord’s ascension], including a knife for preparation of food, cutting wood for fuel, and possibly to fend off robbers for which the area was noted. So, once Jesus’ ordeal was over, they should make sure they each had a knife.” The writer then claims that the disciples claimed to have “two knives, and Jesus said, ‘It is enough.’”

“Why did the disciples buy swords?” Bible Study—Newsletter, accessed February 9, 2022,https://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-jesus-tell-disciples-to-buy-swords.html.

Another is John Piper, but I will deal with his arguments in the near future.

8Or it could be translated as “it is sufficient.” Interesting that this possible translation of the text is largely ignored by a great number of English Bible versions (translations). Young’s Literal Translation is one of only a couple that I have found that offer “it is sufficient” as a possible rendering. Although, if “sufficient” is what Jesus meant, rather than “enough” as many biblical commentators like to delimit it, this would remove their “figurative” understanding from consideration.

9John Calvin, The Complete Biblical Commentary Collection of John Calvin: Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, William Pringle, translator, Kindle Edition, loc 395406. Italics mine. For the moment I will limit my references to this one, penned by one of the greatest lights of the Reformation period.

10Normally the term “literal” would be used. Both “literal” and “letter” mean the same thing. They both emphasize “according to” the “literature” or the use of “language” (i.e., letter) in light of the given context.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dr. David Martin’s Urgent Canadian Trucker Update & Trudeau’s Conflict Of interest, Lawsuits Coming [VIDEO]

Dr. David Martin with an emergency broadcast message everyone needs to hear, know about and spread… Real News & Commentary for Patriots:
— Read on www.redvoicemedia.com/video/2022/02/dr-david-martins-urgent-canadian-trucker-update-trudeaus-conflict-of-interest-lawsuits-coming/

No doubt there is a weariness that comes from the battles we wage in this life. The pandemic narrative of the past two years is one such example. It is divisive, contentious, and downright irritating to a lot of people on both sides of the issue. People just want it to go away…to vanish from existence and no longer impact our day-to-day life. At such times we need to be reminded that hiding from reality does not change it. Growing weary is never the plight of the victor. Let us be reminded of this biblical truth in light of the battle we are in:

Then Gideon and the three hundred men who were with him came to the Jordan [River] and crossed over, exhausted yet still pursuing–Judges 8:3; NASB

To use a phrase from Dr. Martin the “fig leaves” that these liars are hiding behind will eventually be taken from them. And it will be the courage of the faithful who will see that it happens. Truth cannot remain hidden forever for darkness cannot overcome the light. Lies wither like autumn leaves. They do not hold sway forever.

Please watch the video in the link and share. Money and power is what has been driving this narrative for the last two years. Stop listening to tyrants. Make them be held accountable.

Also pray for those in Canada who are having their freedoms trampled. Good citizens who are calling on political officials to obey the laws as expressed in their charter. The corporate media likes to twist the narrative calling law abiding citizens lawbreakers, when in fact the lawbreakers are those in power.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blackface Conservatives & the War for True Love

Blackface Conservatives & the War for True Love
— Read on www.tobyjsumpter.com/blackface-conservatives-the-war-for-true-love/

A needed wake up call for conservatives that have adopted statist propaganda in an attempt to lead away from progressive statism. The problem is when you adopt the same methodology as your enemy, you are acting like the enemy but in different garb (outwardly speaking). Or as Pastor Toby points out “black faced conservatism,” which is folly on its face.

Hope you enjoy.

In Christ,

Kristafal

Posted in self-defense

Is it Lawful or Appropriate? A Question of Governance Regarding Self-Defense and the Loss of Life

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning; from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9.5-6; ESV).

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge. My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, and my Savior, You save me from violence. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies…He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze…I pursue my enemies and destroy them; I do not turn back until they are wiped out. I wipe them out and crush them, and they do not rise; they fall beneath my feet. You have clothed me with strength for battle; You subdue my adversaries beneath me” (2Sam 22.2b-4, 35, 38-40; HCSB).

INTRODUCTION:

Today we return to the subject of self-defense. In particular, we return to the one caveat that gives people fits regarding it…the taking of the life of another. The sixth commandment: “Thou shall not kill [i.e., murder]” (Exod 20.13) is fairly straightforward in the minds of many. I noted this in my previous post. Taken at face value it appears to mean that “all killing” is wrong or unlawful in the eyes of the Lord. But taking things at face value instead of investigating deeper is what children do, not adults.

There are times when killing is appropriate (cf. Eccl 3.3a). Knowing our biblical history reveals that a lot of killing has been accomplished by the time God writes this commandment on the tablet of stone with His finger (an anthropomorphic expression which means, by His power; comp. Exod 8.19; 24.12; 31.18). A clear indicator that not all killing is deemed unholy.

I’m not sure exactly why this teaching is so offensive to our generation of Christian men and women? Don’t get me wrong I have my suspicions about why this is the case. But let us just state at the outset that I believe the reason is related to our modern generation (perhaps, the last few generations) inability or unwillingness to see the Bible as a unified, cohesive whole. Just like our corporate media here in the US cherry-picks their narratives, many professing Christians cherry-pick their Bibles. On some level, we can’t fault them. They have been taught and in many churches across this nation (at least these are my limited observations) are still be instructed to see the Bible all chopped up in verses. And so, favorite verses are chosen as representative of biblical truth, and yet, unfortunately, they have been ripped out of context. The result is a very shallow comprehension of biblical truth.

To illustrate this to the church I pastor I gave them a test where they were given various biblical terms and they had to choose whether these key-word concepts were “good, evil (bad), or both.” I will admit that Gary DeMar’s book Myths, Lies & Half-Truths gave me the idea. So I can’t claim originality. But, I did develop it further than what he did in his work and I went in a slightly different direction.1 The reactions when the tests were publicly graded and discussed were all across the board. Some were delighted to learn their thinking was in error (an eager student wants to learn and so is not discouraged by a gentle correction) but others were angered and attempted to argue the point.

What I have found is that the same is true when it comes to the matter of self-defense, specifically, when the defense in question leads to the loss of human life. However, if Christians would take the time (and put forth the effort) to study what the Bible actually teaches regarding a specific topic there would be fewer negative knee-jerk reactions to contend with. We must allow God’s Word to determine our thinking in this matter. This is why I pointed out at the closing of my last article that there are exceptions to the rule as seen in Exodus 22:2-3 (pertaining to the thief who breaks in), Exodus 21:12 (when civil authorities are authorized to kill murderers), and in Nehemiah 4:11-14 (when war is justified to protect life and property from another nation/people).

Necessary Safeguard…2

That being said, God does not allow us to wantonly take the life of a fellow creature. His law on this matter pertains to all creatures made by Him. Similarly, He protects animal life from being taken without justification. In short, no one is allowed to kill just because they feel like it.

"And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (Gen 9.5-6; ESV).

What do these verses suggest? That whoever takes life without cause, their life will be forfeit. Whether it be a man or an animal. Have you ever wondered why, when a pet kills someone, they put it down? This is why. The Lord God deems it necessary to put a dangerous animal down…just like He does dangerous human beings.3 Though there are many, I will cite two laws to sate the appetite of the curious mind.

"Now if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall certainly be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. If however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death" (Exod 21:28-29).
"He who strikes someone so that he dies shall certainly be put to death. Yet if he did not lie in wait for him, but God caused him to fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which you may flee. If, however, someone is enraged against his neighbor, so as to kill him in a cunning way, you are to take him even from my altar, to be put to death" (Exod 21.12.14).

A brief explanation of cited texts:

The first text deals with an animal4, in this case, livestock which was common in Israel at this time as a beast of burden. If the animal proved to be aggressive to the point of causing the death of a human being, then it was necessary to put that animal down. The owner was innocent of the animal’s aggression unless there had been prior cause to warn the owner to be cautious. An animal that had evidenced an aggressive nature in the past was to be put under guard. It was the owner’s responsibility to guard the lives of his neighbor and his animal. Failing to do this, if the animal killed another, would result in the owner’s life being forfeit as well; for he refused to do what was right and was therefore liable.

The only exception to this is found in Exodus 21:30,

If instead a ransom is demanded of him, he can pay a redemption price for his life in the full amount demanded from him” (HCSB).

This is a case of the victims’ desire to be merciful, something God allowed for. Please note it was not the judges’ decision but the decision of the victimized party whether or not mercy was to be shown to the guilty party. The imposition of a fine was what they deemed worthy, rather than the individual’s life, and in this case, a lawful exception was made.

The second text (Exod 21.12, 14) deals with two types of killing. The first we would recognize as murder, the other, from our understanding, would label it manslaughter. Murder is a crime against another human being where they purposefully strike to kill.5 However, as the text points out a person who takes the life of another accidentally (i.e., manslaughter) is not considered a murderer. They were allowed to flee to a city of refugee if the preceding investigation proved that they were not guilty of premeditation (cf. Num 35.24; Deut 13.14; 17.4; 19.18).

But what about accidental death due to negligence? Texts dealing with loose ax heads or not putting a fence up around a dangerous structure on one’s property make you liable if someone was injured or hurt because of your negligence (cf. Deut 19.4-5; 22.8 respectively). Even getting in an altercation where a pregnant woman gets hit and it causes her to prematurely go into labor if that baby is injured or killed whatever happened to the child was required of the attacker who hit her: accident or not doesn’t matter (See: Exod 21:22-24).

Life is sacred. It is a gift from our Creator. Therefore, it is to be protected at all times. This is the meaning of the prohibition announced after the Flood. God was declaring through Noah to the rest of the human race that whoever treated lightly the life of mankind, be it another man or beast, their life was (is) forfeit. To shed the blood of another, which is a figurative way of saying—“ending their life” is to give up the right to life. For God authorizes and requires the use of lethal force against the perpetrator.

And, no, that’s not a contradiction, for as we have seen in just these few examples not all circumstances are equal. The goal of the death penalty (another form of defense in the civil sphere of governance) is the protection of life.6 The sentences were to be carried out swiftly once the court of law had convened and determined the situation appropriately, according to the evidence. Why? Two reasons are given in Scripture. First, so that evil might be purged from the surrounding society. Second, the death penalty served as a deterrent to the other wicked in the community who might be inclined to perpetrate evil. As it is written,

"So you shall eliminate the evil among you. And the rest of the people will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. So you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot" (Deut 19.19b-21; also see: Deut 13.11; 17.13; 21:21).

Wrapping things up…

The question of defense is a governmental one. An unfortunate reality, however, is the average understanding of government is a narrow one. The majority of the passages cited in this article are taken from the case laws of the Pentateuch. They served as instructions for how the civil sphere was to respond to the behaviors of some to protect society as a whole. In this fashion then, we see the application of the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13:4,

...be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a servant of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (NASB).

But is the civil government the only form of government? No. Think about this. To whom were the laws of God written? A nation or a people? A group or the individual? Both. God’s law first applies to the man or woman who is made in His image, and then, it applies to the nation as a whole. Personal government is the sphere where the individual is charged with performing the Law of God in their life. When a person’s behavior is shown to be in rebellion to this standard of holiness all sorts of vile actions are produced. Murder, the wanton taking of the life of another, is one such violation. To strike against another, to end their life without justification is a criminal offense one that aims for the Creator who gave life. One punishable by death.7

Is that the same thing when a person defends their life or the life of another and a loss of life occurs? Is that act of self-defense the same thing as murder? Another related question is this: “Is the civil government the only governing agency authorized to use the sword?” Let us make this a little more relevant to our time: “Is the civil government the only governing agency authorized to bear arms?”

I want to be careful here because it is easy to be misunderstood. I am only speaking about extreme cases. Self-defense may be a daily reality but it is only exercised on rare occasions. But on those rare occasions, as I’ve put it, is it the right of the individual to use such force in the protection of life? Not as an aggressor, but as a defender?

The text of 2Samuel 22 (and others like it) seems to suggest this is correct. Notice in vv. 3-4 that David states the Lord protects him from violence and saves him from his enemies, but later on, in the same Psalm, David also explains that it is God who “trains my hands for war” (v. 35; HCSB). And those later verses explain that David showed no mercy to those who sought his life. What are we to do with this biblical teaching? Do we ignore it? Do we pass it over? Do we rationalize this passage (and others like it) in an effort to delegitimize it? Essentially, placing it on the proverbial shelf, calling it Old, and thus, not worthy of the New?

When next we meet we shall look at a couple of Scriptural passages that have caused no small amount of confusion for Christian commentators, where Jesus offers insight into the questions I’ve been asking.

ENDNOTES:

1For example, Gary DeMar, wrote in his Introduction, “When I was very young, I remember seeing a western on television where a dispute was settled by the answer to a simple Bible question. I can’t tell you anything else about the movie, but that one scene is etched in my mind. Here’s the question: ‘Who cut off Samson’s hair?’ A smile appeared on the man’s face as he confidently responded, ‘Delilah.’ No doubt the majority of people would have given the same answer, and they like the man in the long-forgotten western, would be wrong [it was a man: Judges 16:19].” DeMar continues, “While the Samson and Delilah hair removal story is not a central doctrine of the Christian faith, it does demonstrate that if a misreading of the Bible is passed on as fact, with few people ever checking the text for accuracy, then misinformation or worse (myths, lies and half-truths) becomes a part of the biblical record.” Myths, Lies & Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2004), xv.

2The reason why safeguards are necessary for the protection of life (both animal and human) is that human beings are violent creatures that love death (cf. Prov 8.36). We live in a fallen world where the wanton taking of a life, be it a human or animal, is a reality. But the warning is given to God’s stewards so that the faithful protect life (sometimes in its preservation, at other times in its removal).

3On this point Gary North writes, “There are no exceptions based on idiocy, temporary insanity, temporary anger, or anything else. Unless it can be proved that the death came as a result of an accident—no premeditation—the criminal is to be executed. The willful shedding of man’s blood must be punished by the civil government by execution.” The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), 116, PDF E-book.

4The application would go beyond livestock, for the principle in the law is in regards to an animal, even though “ox” is mentioned. Being able to draw the applying principle from the cultural consideration of the period, in which, the text was originally written to a specific audience, is of paramount importance.

5This would likewise apply to those who desired the outcome, participated in some way (like paying for an assassin), or refused to offer aid in the preservation of life (cf. Prov 24.11-12; Lev 19.17; Rom 1.32). Thus, the malicious witness falls under the category of “worthy of death” if they are testifying about a crime supposedly committed where the death penalty is applicable. Say, for example, accusing a man of rape when no rape has been committed. The penalty for rape is death, and so the malicious witness in such a scenario would, when they are found guilty through investigation, be applied to them (cf. Deut 19.16-19).

6In light of Genesis 9:5-6 North explains, “[This passage] explains the nature of the [murder] violation: man’s life is uniquely important to God, since man is made in God’s image. An assault on man is an assault on the image of God. [Moreover,] the clause explains why men, by means of the civil government, are required to execute bloody judgment on murderers. Man is made in the image of God; therefore, as God’s image, mankind can bring judgment in the name of God, the supreme Judge who executes final judgment. Man is God’s agent who exercises God’s delegated authority. He is an agent of the King. He is to exercise dominion over the earth… [as] a royal agent, and as such, he deserves protection.” Ibid., 117.

7This is why Kyle Rittenhouse’s use of a firearm had to be investigated. If he wantonly took the life of another, then he’d have been guilty of murder. However, if it could be proved that he was provoked, fearing for his safety with no other recourse, and was therefore justified in his killing, then he’d be found innocent. Which he was.