Should a Christian Own a Gun?

By Caleb Keith

Recently, there has been a flood of violence and unrest following both Islamic terror attacks and domestic shootings. As is typical in the United States, such violence has led to a nationwide argument about gun control. As arguments both for and against gun control go flying through the air, I have found one particular argument coming from Christians more bothersome than the rest. Many Christians, both evangelical and Catholic, have labeled it sinful and un-Christian to own guns. This argument stems from what I would call the “Not of this World” movement. These Christians tend to overemphasize the spiritual aspect of the Christian life while often demonizing or ignoring the worldly part. The fact of the matter is that Christians are both citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom and citizens of a broken, sinful world. These two kingdoms, as Luther and the other reformers referred to them, are very different. The kingdom of the right is the kingdom of God, ruled by Grace, which has been won by the blood of Christ. The kingdom of the left is the kingdom of the world, ruled by Law, coercion, and the sword. God rules over both these kingdoms for the good of man so that he might be saved from his sins and live peaceably in a broken world

Being citizens of the right, Christians are called to live by Grace, proclaiming Christ and the forgiveness of sins until they are taken up to paradise. As citizens of the left, Christians are called to live under rulers and governments for the good order and peace of the world. This means that Christians can be both agents and objects of Grace, while simultaneously being agents and objects of the sword. Christians, while being forgiven by God for all sin, are still subject to the earthly consequences. This also means that a Christian can be called by God to forgive his or her enemy and at the same time be called to the defend their neighbor against temporal evil.

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When it comes to the topic of Christians and gun control, it must be recognized that guns are a form of what Luther would call the sword, a force that is used to quell evil and maintain earthly order. The authority of the sword under earthly rulers comes from God. However, the sword can be abused by those to whom it has been given. In the United States, the Second Amendment asserts that citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. While all U.S. Christians have the right to bear arms, not all of them are called to such ownership. The Christian is free to either own or not own a gun in good conscience. Those who choose to keep and bear arms should do so responsibly, not for personal gain or power, but for the defense and love of their neighbor. Those who choose to forgo owning a weapon should not condemn those who do as committing sins against God. Gun control is not a matter of salvation but a matter of the state. When Christians confuse that, it is to the detriment of those residing in God’s kingdom of the left by making that of the kingdom of the right into Law rather than Grace. While a nationwide conversation about guns, violence, and terrorism is necessary, the Christian should have nothing to offer spiritually besides the forgiveness of Christ, both for the victims and instigators of violence.

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5 comments

  1. I’m a Christian, a Lutheran, and a gun owner. “Gun nuts” and even “gun people” make me uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that my Father does not frown upon me for owning a gun to defend my family.

    A lot of anti-gun Christians and non-Christians love to quote the “Thou Shall Not Kill” commandment. As if we’re expected to do nothing should someone come into our homes to do us harm. It actually says: “Thou Shall Not Murder.” Big difference.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Michael. I agree with you and the distinction between kill and murder and would add another even more freeing response. The Christian has the unique ability to recognize that the world is truly corrupted by sin. Firearms and the need for self-defense are a result of that sin. Even if it came to killing somebody for the sake of protecting your family, you need not worry about justifying the sin involved because you are freed and forgiven in Christ. Once again I appreciate the comment.

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  2. A Christina has the freedom to do as he will within the confines of his vocation. to that end, a Christian most certainly can own a gun and may bear arms, officially. personally, I hunt. But my arms are not at the ready, around the house, for anyone to grab and use. They’re locked up. So, their application, defensively would seem a little naive. Anyway, someone breaking in with guns drawn, already has the drop. Why make it easy for him to get more guns by stealing mine? Plus, my old shotguns aren’t as cool as the stuff criminals want. However, should we choose, a shotgun is an excellent defender – they can steal my TV but they’re not making it up the stairs. Plus, anybody can point and shoot.

    As with all sound-bitish aspects of this needed national discussion, this piece uses the word “gun” rather than “arms” and fails to account for reasonable limitations. It also need to distinguish “the people” from “each person”. As with the Church, “the people” denotes a body acting in concert. To that end, we provide for ourselves militias and police forces to bear arms. this is our “sword”, those committed to doing the dirty work and standing in harms way. The military arms against other militaries and the police arm against criminals. Where does personal gun ownership end? Should we lift limits on military grade arms and promote proliferation of semi-automatic handguns based on an abstract principle of “the people” suddenly meaning “each person”? If not, what are those limits? Should we be able acquire weapons easier in some places? Do “the people” have an interest in knowing who is in possession of arms? What types? Why? How can we secure the existing stock of weapons on the streets?

    The thing that gets me is that proper use and safety, let alone common sense, tells you that nervous, angry, and fearful people should not carry guns. Proliferation and posturing does not make a peaceful nation. In my opinion, this is the conversation blocked by the “each person” gun lobby. I no more buy into a nation of “me and mine” than a Church of just “me and God”.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. In your middle paragraph, you wish to distinguish “the people” from “each person” which is one possible interpretation of the 2nd amendment. However, it is not an interpretation that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, quite the opposite was confirmed in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. (see link for quick reference: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment2.html) District of Columbia v. Heller, is only one example of many where the courts have upheld “the people” to mean individuals especially for the purpose of self-defense and not only for the purposes of hunting or sport. As I mentioned in the post, this is exactly the conversation that needs to be had, one dealing with civil law and the implications of our constitution. Thank you for engaging.

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      1. Not a fan of the SCOTUS ruling. The justices, I believe were taking advantage of a majority on the bench to be activist in the cause. There is a logical and legal distinction which they ignored in the ruling. Amendment V could say “the people” instead of “No person…”, if the terms are interchangeable.As in Amendment IX with rights retained by “the people”. But I think this shows that the founders had a more acute sense of personal action vs. collective action that is being lost, ironically, on those committed to original intent.

        I think it just shows that accusations of judicial activism should go both ways and the “right” should be more honest about itself. This ruling reflects the growing change in arms mentality that began about 50 years ago when even the NRA changed from a safety and skill association to one that was responding favorably to anger, insecurity, and paranoia. In fact, then governor, Ronald Reagan supported control fearing armed Black Panthers. No one talks about Knox’s supporters in the late ’70’s and their interaction with the NRA. History is selectively taught by right and left. Historically, lots of armed civilians and backwoods militias have produced anything but peace in Africa and the Middle East. Thinking that with racism, anger, and phobias, here, it is different, is foolish. We have no more respect for God or laws than anyone else. Our restraint comes from satiety, not moral superiority. When that goes, the shooting starts. Every mass shooting has someone no longer satisfied with life at the trigger.

        But I so much want there to be a civil discussion and appreciate the post.

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