I’m surprised to see widely respected theologian/pastor John Piper challenge Christians not only on the natural right of self-defense but to go so far as question one’s intent when calling the police.
“I realize that even to call the police when threatened — which, in general, it seems right to do in view of Romans 13:1–4 — may come from a heart that is out of step with the mind of Christ. If one’s heart is controlled mainly by fear, or anger, or revenge, that sinful disposition may be expressed by using the police as well as taking up arms yourself.”
I have always respected Piper. I still do. I admire any individual, Christian or otherwise, who is willing to challenge the status quo with an idea no matter how unpopular – and follow it through to its logical conclusion. Piper has done that here much to the delight of the Washington Post who ran it despite it being five times longer than their normal word limit for an op-ed.
The question of the hour is how can Piper look at the Bible and come to this position while others, looking at the same come to another? (Muslims aren’t the only ones with intrafaith disagreements.) While Christians must agree on the essentials of the Christian faith (deity of Christ, bodily resurrection and salvation by faith), they have freedom to disagree on non-essentials. Self-defense falls into the category of a non-essential.
I believe the genesis of this disagreement has to do with Piper’s “hermeneutic.” Fancy word for the method one uses to interpret the Bible. Piper appears to view some of the moral law of the Old Testament as obsolete and having ended with the state of Israel in 70 A.D. Evangelicals using this biblical framework can have a tendency to major on grace at the expense of the Law.
Others hold that while the civil and ceremonial law of the Old Testament became obsolete at the cross the principles of the moral law (do not murder, do not steal) continue unless abrogated in the New Testament (constitution).
My bias is with the latter. Jesus said there is still a place in the believer’s life for the moral law of the Old Covenant,
Biblical exhortations to leave vengeance to the Lord and love your enemy exist side by side with biblical imperatives such as “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him” and “Whoever sheds man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed” and Christ’s exhortation to his disciples to purchase swords.
These are difficult questions which good men may disagree. I think the challenge for believers such as myself is to properly discern between vengeance and self-defense, between petty theft and lethal danger, between an individual criminal act and state sponsored persecution. We respond differently based upon the circumstance.
The ideal for the believer is to glorify Christ in whatever circumstance he finds himself by properly applying Christ’s commands. Obviously the Christian life is not an easy one and Christ was the only one to fulfill the law perfectly. The rest, such as the author of this post, stumble like a lame, deaf and blind man.
Eric Andersen is a member of the Central Committee of the San Diego County Republican Party and is the Co-Founder of the Republican Liberty Caucus of San Diego County and im2moro.com. He is a former Rock Church Citizen of the Year.