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This same scenario goes on today, by the way. As recently as 2009, pastors in the Detroit area have begun to arms themselves in the pulpit and while on church property. Rises in Detroit crime in general as well as attacks in church buildings in particular have awakened the attention of many Christians. While it is illegal in most states to carry guns on church property, Michigan allows it for the pastor and those he approves. [Author’s note: even since the original publication of this article, many states have revised their concealed carry laws to allow for church carry. Consult your state’s laws for details.]

Christians should be aware that the use of force in preservation of life is a biblical doctrine (Ex. 22:2–3; Prov. 24:10–12; Est. 8–9; Neh. 4; cp. John 15:13–14). Likewise, those who possessed weapons in Scripture are often said to be well skilled in the use of them (Judg. 20:15–16; 1 Chron. 12:1–2, 21–22). We can only surmise that 1) God gave them talent in this regard, and that 2) they engaged in target practice regularly. Further, under biblical law, to be disarmed was to be enslaved and led to a disruption of the economic order due to government regulations and monopolies (1 Sam 13:19–22). But the mere presence of a couple weapons had psychological effects that put criminals to flight (1 Sam 13). (See my sermons on these chapters in my Commentary on 1 Samuel, or here online for free.) There is a reason why Scripture tells these stories: they illustrate the defense of life, liberty, and property in the midst of a fallen world (and fallen governments).

The American Second Amendment did not spring into existence from nowhere. It had a long pedigree. The Christian society emerging from the old laws of Alfred continued to include the ideal of an armed populace as a means of securing human liberties. The Founders, many of them lawyers, had studied that legal tradition and would have read William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). The first part of the first volume elaborates on the subject of our “principal absolute rights… of personal security, personal liberty, and private property [i.e. life, liberty, and property].” It then covers five means of securing and protecting these rights “inviolate”:

The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.9

Within that same legal tradition, and more than a generation earlier, the English philosopher John Locke voiced the sanctity of life, liberty, and property as well as our duty even to use force to preserve it:

Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself… so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.

Locke elaborated these views within the context of belief in God’s ultimate sovereignty, ownership, and law-order over all of creation:

being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure…http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/loc-202.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).">10

Thomas Jefferson clearly took his phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from Locke, likely via Blackstone. It is no irony that Jefferson kept a portrait of Locke on his parlor wall. Both hated tyranny, and saw freedom as requiring the defense of person and property via use of force if necessary. Both derived this from the Christian legal tradition they inherited.

Today, so many Christians are brainwashed or affected by progressive propaganda that we have an uneasy feeling even broaching the subject of guns. Constant liberalism in the media and years of government-school indoctrination have eroded the foundations of liberty in this nation. Ironically, Christians think themselves conservative when they back everything the military does. Conservatives think that to oppose the military is to be a leftist. They have no idea that 1) the tradition of imperialistic war grows out of leftist, not conservative, ideology, and 2) the Bible forbids nations to have standing armies or stockpile offensive weapons. The Bible calls for national defense through an armed populace and militia upon necessity. A standing army is an affront to God. But for some reason, alleged conservative politicians easily persuade Christian voters that the next military maneuver is of necessity an expression of conservative values, and the Christians cheer. In reality, it is an anti-Christian position to have all arms in possession of the state and the populace dependent (let alone cheering) on the state for protection and defense.

We are further brainwashed into thinking (and feeling) that guns are somehow dirty and evil, and that Christians should have nothing to do with them. In this view, we have departed from the Scriptures, Christian legal history, as well as America’s Christian history.

As a remedy for the situation, we should both learn and exercise our gun rights. This article provides merely a beginning of the necessary education. We need much more. Every Christian should read and understand the laws of their particular state. Good places to start are www.handgunlaw.us and opencarry.org (the former site includes coverage of concealed carry laws and much more; the latter deals mainly with open carry). Not only should you know about laws pertaining directly to carrying, but also to those pertaining to the use of deadly force. These vary per state, and Christians should be aware.

In addition to knowledge, we should also begin to exercise our inviolable rights. Every able Christian should own a firearm, and each should seek instruction and training in how to use them. This includes handguns, shotguns, and rifles, each of which has a particular strength in self- and home-defense. Elders and pastors should teach on the topic and its history, and should help aid church members in obtaining fitting pieces and proper training in legal settings.

One great expression of both education and practice appears in the Appleseed Project. These training camps are steeped in American history and wish to advance the forgotten legacy of the American rifleman. Using focused and professional training events across the country, this project teaches and hones shooting skills toward the goal of making you accurate at 500 yards.

In addition to that great project, I recommend taking classes in handgun defense and general home defense. These are offered by gun shops and firing ranges around the country. Make use of them.

In states that oppress the inviolable right to bear arms, the best we can do is to organize politically and locally to change the laws. [Even here, things are changing.] This is not easy, of course, but Christian society demands it as a measure to stop the tyranny of governments and the advance of individual crime. To allow unjust gun laws and prohibitions to continue unchallenged is to fail in loving your neighbor and to vote in favor of servitude. This, of course, demands its own article, but deserves at least mentioning here.

Christians need to understand and act upon these biblical ideals. While this article hardly provides the last word on the subject, we ignore the lessons of the Bible and history to the peril of our freedoms and lives. Evil ever advances upon our families, churches, and states. Evil seeks positions of power, such as government, and from there seeks to eliminate the avenues of power that threaten it (an armed populace). Thus tyrannical government seeks gun control laws. Wise Christians see past the propaganda and stand for freedom. Those who remain silent are by their silence complicit in the tyranny and the crimes in which it results.

With relentless expression of our rights through education, publication, exercising the right, and challenging unjust laws, Christians can at least create a society hungrier for freedom. At best we may roll back the various infringements upon those freedoms. If we change the laws well enough, we may indeed once again hear pastor say, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”

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  1. Francis Grose, Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the British Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time, 2 vol. (London: Egerton and Kearsley, 1801), 1:1.()
  2. Francis Grose, Military Antiquities, 1:2.()
  3. William Brigham, ed., The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1836), 31.()
  4. William Hening, The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in 1619, (New York, 1823), 173–174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010); I have modernized the English taken from this work)
  5. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  6. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  7. William Hening, The Statutes at Large, 174–175, http://vagenweb.org/hening/vol01-07.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()
  8. Louis B. Wright,  “The Westward Advance of the Atlantic Frontier,” The Huntingdon Library Quarterly 11/3 (May 1948): 271()
  9. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 4 vol., 1:139.()
  10. Two Treatises on Civil Government, Book II, Chapter II, Sec. 6. [1689], http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/loc-202.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).()