This question has been much discussed recently because of an article written by John Piper and republished, with I’m sure much glee, by the editorial staff at the Washington Post.
In the article, Piper answers the question with a “no.” Among his reasons are that we’re not called to seek vengeance for wrongs done to us, we are told by Christ to expect persecution and this world is not our home so our hope should be in things above not things below like guns.
Piper is off base in every one of his arguments in my opinion but I’d like to deal with just the last one – the idea that having a gun to defend ourselves and our families shows that we have a misplaced hope and are too attached to the things of this world.
First of all, let’s ask the correct question. Unless Piper is claiming guns are in a separate category from everything else, that they are intrinsically evil apart from whatever use they are put to (as so many on the political left believe), then the question is not can a Christian own a gun as a means of protecting his family but can a Christian take any steps at all to protect himself or his family?
If this world is not our home and our hope is in Christ alone, why should I lock my doors or wear a seat belt or buy life insurance or watch my cholesterol? I mean don’t I trust God? After all, He’s sovereign over everything. The Bible is clear He has numbered my days (Job 14:5). I’m not going to die one second before He’s decided I will. So, why even bother to look both ways before I cross the street?
Because God ordains the means as well as the ends.
In I Samuel 23 we see David hiding from Saul. David has already been told he will be the king, already been told Saul will not kill him, yet David hides from Saul. He, in fact, goes to great lengths to hide from him even pretending to be insane for while. Why? If God has already promised David will not be harmed, why not just move back into the palace? Because God ordained that David’s protection from Saul would be accomplished through his flight from and evasion of Saul (I Samuel 23:14).
It’s the same reason we share the gospel with the lost even though we know God has mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15). The same reason we plant crops even though it is God who provides our food (II Corinthians 9:10-11). God’s provision for our lives and safety comes, in the vast majority of cases, through ordinary means. It is not a sign of weak faith to plan for the future or take precautions to safeguard one’s family. It is simply the prudent thing, and I would argue, the God-honoring thing to do (Proverbs 13:22, 20:4). A gun is simply one tool available to aid in that planning and protection.
On a final note, Piper seems to suggest that based on his understanding of Romans 13, only governments, not private citizens, should have access to and use of firearms for defense. If so, he’d do well to review his history and take note of the body counts in cultures where that’s been the case. In the 20th century alone the number of people murdered by governments (excluding acts of war) is several times larger than those murdered by private citizens. Personally, I can’t reconcile moving our culture in the direction of Pol Pot’s Cambodia or Joseph Stalin’s Russia with loving my neighbor under any theological rubric.