A couple months ago there was a bit of an internet firestorm because of John Piper’s views on Christians arming themselves with guns. You can read that post here. As always happens, many other pastors and bloggers chimed in, seemingly mostly trying to refute Piper. Tim Challies had a good round up here.
If I could summarize in one sentence Piper’s views: Christians should be so radically Christ-centered that we will pause for the sake of the gospel in the face of radical violence, even at the cost of our lives or the lives of loved ones.
If I could summarize the pushback against Piper in one sentence: Christians should be so radically other-centered that we will not pause to protect the lives of loved ones in the face of radical violence, even at the cost of our lives.
Something like that. I offer three points of (hopefully) contribution:
- How a Christian cannot praise Piper for his disagreement with Jerry Falwell, Jr. I have no idea. Piper was attacking the mindset that says “Christians need to teach terrorists a lesson with guns!” Give me a break! Of course John Piper is right in that! And I believe every critiquer agreed with him in that, but I just do not think enough emphasis was given to that agreement. One writer says Fallwell’s comment about teaching terrorists a lesson is “unnecessarily provocative.” No sir. That is flat out un-Christian.
- Some argued that in the U.S. individuals who carry weapons are a legitimate extension of the government using the sword (Romans 13.4). I almost fell for that reasoning. But is it legitimate to equate the “right to bear arms” with “he does not bear the sword in vain”? If anything, the right to bear arms in the U.S. gives many people the ability for stronger self-defense (if I could put it bluntly). But Romans 13 is not addressing the issue of self-defense. Romans 13 is about God meting out earthly justice through the government. And John Piper is right to draw a line between the civil magistrate and regular citizens. Romans 13 makes no sense if you do not draw a clear line between those two entities (i.e., citizens are called to submit to the government).
- The most heated reaction came because it seems John Piper would not automatically know what to do in a case where, perhaps, his wife was being attacked. Most made the case that the only Christian option is to “protect your wife, John!” First of all, how can you not see where Piper comes from? I might conclude that I disagree with him, but I see where he is coming from. It seems most Christians’ application of “turn the other cheek” is to never turn the other cheek. Secondly, I think everyone is missing something there (in my humble opinion). What should we do when another human being is being harmed? The answer, I believe, is to protect life. It may even be necessary to use force. But that is not a distinctly Christian thing to do. That is a distinctly human thing to do. Protect the image of God. As Christians, we should do that by faith in Christ, in the power of the Spirit, and in hopes that perpetrator and victim come to Christ through our preaching.