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Popular author and pastor John Piper has sparked an online and social media firestorm by arguing the Bible does not permit the concealed carry of guns by Christians – and he’s receiving plenty of pushback from friends and those who normally agree with him on other issues.
The chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary and former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Piper said he was led to address the issue after Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., during a convocation, encouraged students to arm themselves in light of terrorist threats against the United States.
“Falwell and I exchanged several emails, and he was gracious enough to talk to me on the phone so I could get as much clarity as possible,” Piper wrote on his website, DesiringGod.org. “I want it to be clear that our disagreement is between Christian brothers who are able to express appreciation for each other’s ministries person to person.”
Piper then added, “Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, ‘I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me’? My answer is, No.”
Piper’s essay has nine major points and is more than 3,700 words long, and begins by asserting that it is the government’s responsibility alone to avenge evil.
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“The apostle Paul called Christians not to avenge ourselves, but to leave it to the wrath of God, and instead to return good for evil,” Piper wrote. “And then he said that God gave the sword (the gun) into the hand of governmental rulers to express that wrath in the pursuit of justice in this world.”
For example, any claim that in a democracy the citizens are the government, and therefore may assume the role of the sword-bearing ruler in Romans 13, is elevating political extrapolation over biblical revelation. When Paul says, “[The ruler] does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christians citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn’t get any bright ideas.
Piper also argued that the Bible promises suffering for Christians, and that concealed carry conflicts with this notion.
“The apostle Peter teaches us that Christians will often find themselves in societies where we should expect and accept unjust mistreatment without retaliation,” he wrote. “…Few messages are more needed among American Christians today than 1 Peter 4:12: ‘Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.’”
Further, Piper wrote, Jesus “promised that violent hostility will come; and the whole tenor of his counsel was how to handle it with suffering and testimony, not with armed defense.”
During a convocation in early December, Falwell said he believed Jesus would allow concealed carry. He added that the mass shooting in California had spurred his comments.
“I just can’t help but think if … some of those 14 killed and 17 injured, if just one or two or three or four of those victims had carried permits and guns, maybe there only would have been three or four deaths,” Falwell said, according to Liberty University News Service. “I don’t know who in this country could say that it was not a good thing if 10 lives were spared. It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:36: He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because He knew danger was coming, and He wanted them to defend themselves.
“So with those comments made, I just want to say as a Christian university community, we must trust God and pray for His protection on this campus, but we must also look out for each other and report suspicious activity and be alert. We just need to be supportive of those who choose to carry concealed permits and be supportive of those who don’t.”
One popular Christian blogger, Wade Burleson, wrote in a reply on his blog that he carries a concealed weapon. Burleson is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma.
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Burleson also quoted Romans 13:4, which references government bearing “the sword.” The Bible may not require the carrying of guns but it does allow it, Burleson wrote.
He then quoted the U.S. Constitution:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“The United States is not an aristocracy, nor a monarchy — We the People form the government,” Burleson wrote. “Our Founding Fathers made it very clear that the People of the United States were the highest authority in the newly established country. God makes nations, but the people of this nation (the United States) are the authority behind the government.”
The language of the U.S. Constitution, coupled with the biblical text, Burleson wrote, makes the concealed carry debate in America unique.
“Contrary to almost every other nation in the world, the People of the United States of America are the highest authority and have the right and duty to abolish their government and form a new government to provide ‘new Guards for the nation’s future security and to provide for the common defense.’ I arm myself as a citizen of the United States of America. I am the government,” Burleson added. “I have often worked through my mind whether or not I would give my life for the good news and gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a question that I take seriously.”
Burleson wrote: “I’m ready to die, and will never be ashamed to die for Christ. I will not deny Him in order to live.”
“However, I live in America. And as long as our founding documents remain, and the citizens of the United States are called the highest authority in the land, then I will hold a concealed weapons permit and carry a concealed weapon,” he wrote. “I will not hesitate to use it if I’m in a mall and someone opens fire on innocent bystanders, or I’m in a movie theater and someone opens up on American moms and dads and children, or I’m in any other public forum and evil doers seek to do harm on citizens of the United States.”
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