Self Defense --A God-Given Right?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by amishrockstar, May 16, 2010.

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  1. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman


    How would you convince another Christian that
    self defense is a God-given right?

    What Bible references would you use to convince
    him or her?

    Is it a God-given right to defend yourself in ALL
    situations? What about when you're sharing your
    faith or out doing missionary work in another

  2. Sonny

    Sonny Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is a hard subject to answer, because Christ never condone violence he spoke against it. Yet war is apparent in scripture from Davids war to the final war in Revelation.
    I could argue for both sides of this debate.
    Now if my (future) wife and children were under attack by a criminal I would have no question in taking a mans life in the protection of my family. If a man were to punch me in my face, my human nature is to slug the guy to the floor. Now Christ would tell me to turn the other cheek.

    If I'm preaching at gun point at what point do I do I die for the glory of my King, or fight so that I may preach another day?

    What is just defense, and what is sinful defense? If a country like Nazi Germany would reign again (God forbid) would I sit there and be taken captive? If it is sin to fight, to defend than my thoughts of what I would do are sin; for I personally would fight to the death of my grave or to the death of my enemy. The question is what is more sin; to allow evil to happen or to stop evil from happening? Are we to be dogs who only growl at the sight of an intruder and then lay on thy back? That is the question, which one does God command from us?
  3. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Chris,
    It sounds like you have just as many
    questions as I do. Hopefully someone
    on this forum will be able to answer those.
  4. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Isn't there somewhere where he advises his disciples to buy a sword? My opinion on this is three fold:
    1. If you are being attacked for the Gospel than you should not defend yourself because we will suffer for the sake of the Gospel.
    2. If it is you or another person incapable of defending themselves you can and/or should defend yourself/them because to allow yourself to die for no reason would disregard the fact that we are all made in the image of God and allowing yourself to be murdered defaces that image.
    3. We have the right to excersize the rights that the state gives us, if they do not conflict with the bible. My hometown of Florida allows anyone to defend themselves or someone else for a reasonable threat.
  5. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I have been studying this subject for some time now and it looks like I will be for some time yet, but I will try to answer this question as precisely as possible without writing a twelve-page essay on it. =)

    First of all, it's not self-defense that's the problem, it's using force (or, more usually, deadly force) that's the problem. Those who say they are against using force have no problem with and in fact advocate other means (usually, prayer or occasionally singing).

    They typically back this up by arguing that the New Testament teaches a kind of pacifism not found in the Old Testament. While I applaud their good intentions in trying to reduce the amount of violence in the world, and though I must admit I find their system attractive, I simply cannot find it in the Bible. The New Testament passages they cite most commonly, in Matthew 5, either refer to interpersonal insults (not bodily harm or death) or religious persecution. Those two passages form the crux of their argument, and without those the rest of their New Testament case has little to no direct application to self-defense.

    That said, let's take a look at the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, self-defense was permitted, but with restrictions. For example, it was lawful to kill a thief, if he broke into one's house at night; but if a thief was caught breaking in in daylight and was killed, the one who killed him was guilty of murder.

    Furthermore, David sets an example when he flees from King Saul rather than standing up in self-defense. I tend to suspect that this implies that we ought not to act in self-defense against lawful governmental authorities, but I wouldn't stake anything on that until I've studied it further. Nonetheless, he certainly does not shy away from self-defense in other cases.

    There may be other examples as well. I've barely scratched the surface thus far in my study, but I hope to eventually compile a more or less comprehensive exegesis of the pertinent texts--maybe ten or twenty years down the road, I don't know.

    Did that help at all? I can elaborate on some points (not all of them, but the New Testament ones at least) if you like. :)
  6. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the replies.
    Jonathan, do you know where the reference to
    killing a thief during the day is found in the Bible?
  7. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    What else is a sword used for, except to put the pointy end in another person? I always thought he told them to bring a sword for protection. Peter had a sword even when Jesus was arrested. My understanding was, that sword are alright to defend yourself, but not to defend God. Because in the time of persecution, they are attacking God and not you. When persecuted we are not to fight back.
  8. Glenn Ferrell

    Glenn Ferrell Puritan Board Junior

    The historic and confessional view of self defense seems clear in the Westminster Larger Catechism, 135 & 136:

    Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
    The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

    Q. 136. What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
    The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.​

    Biblically nor confessionally do I find any reason for refraining from self defense from an attack coming while worshipping or preaching. The Scottish Covenanters customarily took arms to their outdoor coventicles to defend themselves in the event they were attacked by the king’s men during worship gatherings. Note the weapons present in illustrations of such meetings. Sometimes patrols on horseback were on watch, ready to warn worshipers and defend them as needed.
  9. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Great points.
    Thanks for the posts.
    There's also the argument (from pacifists) that the
    early church willingly laid down their lives rather than
    fight (or defend themselves). So we have record of
    Christians being feed to lions and burned, but there's
    no record of Christians fighting back with swords
    or clubs during the first century persecutions.

    Is that a valid argument?

  10. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    Exodus 22:2-3 "If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed."

    Aaron, the usual pacifist argument against that passage is that the disciples brought a sword for the reason Jesus gave--to fulfill the prophecy "and he was numbered with the transgressors".
  11. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    Why didn't Jesus condone the use of the sword, when Peter defended him? Why don't we have an instance in Act, with all of the attacks, where they were told to defend themselves with arms while they were being persecuted? Also, it's never mentioned in the rest of the NT. I know this is aruguing from silence, but the silence is stark. With the Scots, I suppose there may be some arugument that they had their own legitimate government, and that government was defending its people.
  12. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    A) This is an argument against self-defense in the case of persecution, not in general.
    B) Any extra-Biblical case for a moral law must have Biblical backing. Otherwise it is man-made and not of God. Therefore, the historical arguments are, to be blunt, irrelevant to the discussion until a solid Biblical case has been made. At that point they are simply beating a dead horse. That's why I don't favor historical arguments.
  13. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the reference in Ex. 22:2-3.
    I read over that passage, and my first
    impression was that it's talking about
    a "thief" --not an attacker.
    I think that's why it is said that at "night"
    if the thief is killed, then the man of the
    house will not be guilty because he doesn't
    know if the thief is there to do more than
    That may not be a correct interpretation,
    but it was my initial thought.
  14. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I agree, Matthew, but I think defending one's goods is also self-defense in some sense, isn't it?
  15. O'GodHowGreatThouArt

    O'GodHowGreatThouArt Puritan Board Sophomore

    Do you think that the references to "night" and "day" may be symbolism to knowledge (i.e. Whether the victim knows whether the thief's intentions is to rob the house and nothing more, or possibly commit other crimes on top of theft)?

    EDIT: I realize that I pretty much rewrote the Jonathan's quote into my own words, but I was questioning the use of the two terms in the context of this passage.
  16. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    I could be wrong, never having been in either situation, but I don't think daylight really helps all that much with discerning a burglar's intentions. Either way, you don't know if he's hostile until he attacks you. Rather, I think that since you would be fighting in the dark (they didn't have electric lights back then) it would be considerably harder to disable the attacker without killing him. But like I said, I could be wrong, so don't take that as gospel. :2cents:
  17. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    This has to do with the time the attack occurs. It is carried out into our law today. If someone breaks into you house you can shoot them. If they steal you stuff and run off, you are not allowed to hunt them down and kill them. It's just a matter of when it occurs. If they are committing the act you may defend yourself, family and possessions, but if it already occurred you must seek after the authorities to set matters strait instead of taking matters into your own hands. It's not a matter of whether the sun is up or down. The passage is assuming that the thief attacks in the night. So in that case if he is stealing in the night you may defend you property, but if he gets away you do night have the right to go kill him in the morning.
  18. O'GodHowGreatThouArt

    O'GodHowGreatThouArt Puritan Board Sophomore

    Ok, so on your property, you can shoot them if and only if they are committing the crime while you're on the premise.

    What about in a public area (i.e. a bar, grocery store, parking lot, etc.)?
  19. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman


    Self Defense is a God given right.

    Christ defends the Church.

    The Father Defends the Son.

    Both defend the works of the Spirit.

    So, I believe a person should defend his wife and children whenever they are attacked b/c if it is their duty as God's image bearers.

    Now the distinction needs to be made and of course first century context should be accounted for in reading Jesus words. I.E. Christ told the disciples (the 70) to flee from the city they went to if they were persecuted. So I'd say that it is ok to run or flee persecutors if it be possible.

    If a person comes to church with a gun to shoot up the place than the Elders should be armed as citizens anyways to send him to meet the God of the Scriptures. That's my take on it.

    Also, the martyrdom seen in scripture and the first century were usually done by brute force and it's not like the person being killed could defend themselves. So I don't see how that's a valid argument for us Americans to lay down our guns and take a butt whooping. As Children of Light we are the heirs and Salt of the Earth. Thus we have righteous judgment and God's Law (Hammer) shows that self defense is Biblical and an unalienable right.

    Grace and Peace,
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