Self Defense and Christianity Part 4: Application

Please begin your reading of this thread, if you have not already done so, by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

While the Scriptures indicate that absolute pacifism is not in agreement with the whole counsel of God, we must still use discernment and wisdom in the application of that understanding. Just because we can defend ourselves and others in some instances does not give Christians a blank check to use violence to achieve our own ends.

The Word of God in review does not prohibit self-defense and in fact commands us to take precautions to protect innocent life and liberty. However, we must always temper our response to line up with the biblical witness of wisdom in application. Knowing how to apply truth to life is every bit as important as knowing the truth as an abstract concept!

  1. The most obvious way to win a fight is not to be there. We must be, in Jesus’ words, “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) The wise Christian seeks to avoid physical confrontation and the need to defend themselves or others by practicing Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:18.
  2. It is perfectly acceptable for a Christian to study self-defense and martial arts. However, Christians should avoid those arts that deal with idolatry such as ancestor worship or practices that come into conflict with a biblical worldview. Martial arts training can add to our awareness and understanding of how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and can therefore prevent situations in which physical self-defense is necessary. They can also increase our ability to effectively end a conflict when it arises.
  3. We must obey the command to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and understand that while a particular instance may be defensible biblically it may not be defensible under the laws of our state. (and vice versa) In such instances we must be prepared to incur the penalty that our state’s laws mandate for our actions.
  4. As we learn in Exodus 22:2-3, deadly force is biblically authorized when an intruder threatens our lives or the life of someone else. In Arizona[1], the standard that is applied is the test of a “reasonable person.” In other words, would a reasonable person resort to self-defense in the situation in which you did? The standard of “reasonableness” is sound and should guide us as we seek to apply truth to life. Other states use different standards, but biblically it appears that Castle Doctrine is sound.
  5. We are authorized to use force to prevent assault on another person (such as rape, violence, or murder) as if they were ourselves. We must always heed the biblical injunction to use wisdom in our dealings and respond properly to the situation at hand. Unless a loss of life or grievous bodily harm is imminent, it is not biblically defensible to use deadly force to defend property. From a personal perspective, my attitude is that I am not willing to escalate a conflict to a deadly force scenario to save my insurance company a claim!
  6. Arizona is considered an “open carry” state and a “shall issue” state, meaning that it is permissible to private citizens without violent criminal convictions to carry a firearm as long as that firearm is holstered and visible to a casual observer[2]. It is also possible to be permitted by the state to carry a firearm concealed. Each state has unique firearms laws (access your state’s laws here), so YMMV. It is not biblically defensible to violate the laws of your jurisdiction and carry a firearm or other defensive tool illegally. Also, each individual must assess their own comfort level with tools such as firearms and whether it is wise (not merely acceptable) for them to use such tools.
  7. As Christians we must live in subjection to our authority. If a person wants to take martial arts training or other unarmed defense that is fine. A person who wishes to carry a weapon should have the consent of their authorities when doing so. That means that if a person wanted to carry a firearm at work they should have the approval of their supervisor or manager; if someone wanted to carry a firearm at church they should seek the approval of their church leadership to do so. (in states where this is legal) While I know a lot of people who carry concealed who decide that they need no approval from anyone, in light of the touchy nature of firearms usage it would seem wise to be under authority in cases such as this.

At the end of the day, we must remember that the world is a fallen place and we may be called on to stop evil when we see it. We must be wise in application of the biblical ability to defend ourselves, but we must also remember that James 4:17 tells us that if we know what we should do and do not do it, then we have sinned. Since our calling as Christians is to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16), sinning by commission or omission is never our desire.

It’s a dangerous world; be safe out there!


[1] This is not to be construed in any way as legal advice or binding upon any person. It is my understanding and application of the Arizona Revised Statutes regarding the criminal code, which may be found online at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/arizonarevisedstatutes.asp?title=13 (accessed 10/28/09). In particular, misconduct involving firearms in AZ may be found in ARS 13-3102.

[2] There are restrictions on this in terms of where a firearm may be brought; see ARS for more.

Using and Abusing Scripture

Did you know that the word “politics” is a combination of two terms with great significance? It’s true… “poly” means “many” and “ticks” are blood sucking parasites. (ba-dum…CHA!)

The garbage and mudslinging that I simply can’t stand about American politics comes from both sides. From 2000-2008 George Bush was called a lot of dirty names by liberals, and since the election Barack Obama has been the target of conservatives for vitriol. I get just as frustrated when it comes from those who agree with me politically as when it comes from those I disagree with—wait, that’s not true. I get way more frustrated when it comes from those who lean the same way I do, because it brings me guilt by association.

When politicking intersects with people trying to bolster their disagreements with a political ideology by means of making shady biblical arguments, then my blood really gets boiling. See, God made me to be a shepherd and when someone is hacking the biblical text for a political agenda it REALLY chaps my hide.

Today’s case in point, a ridiculous video purporting to show that Jesus told us the name of the Antichrist in Luke 10:18. Want to guess what name that is? You got it, Barack Obama! This was sent to me by a friend for verification of the use of the biblical text. A few thoughts:

  1. There is plenty of evidence that Jesus spoke in Greek (look here on page 188 for some introductory discussion), so saying that Jesus spoke Aramaic in Luke 10:18 is speculation. We know Jesus spoke some Aramaic, but it is likely that He spoke Greek in significant ways and I think likely that what we have recorded of Jesus’ words are original Greek statements He made.
  2. Speaking of Aramaic, it was not “the most ancient Hebrew.” It was a modern language in the first century, while Hebrew was an ancient one. The two might be compared to modern English and Shakespearean English, alike in a lot of ways and not in others.
  3. Even granting that Jesus might have spoke Aramaic, He wasn’t speaking Hebrew for this quote. No one spoke Hebrew in everyday life in Jesus’ culture, not even the Pharisees. So using translations of Hebrew words would be wrong on multiple levels.
  4. Word order is different in Hebrew than in English, so it would not sound like this video purports it would.

This type of argument is ridiculous, and normally I would not even think about interacting with it. This is the realm of conspiracy theorists and whack jobs. However, the frustrating thing for me is that this type of argument is pretty clearly politically motivated.

This person does not like President Obama and that is okay. As historian Howard Zinn (not Thomas Jefferson, as has been misattributed) has said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Anyone who knows me knows that the President and I see differently on a lot of issues. However, taking a biblical text and translating it back into Hebrew, which Jesus wouldn’t be speaking, and choosing which Hebrew words He would have spoken and in what order without any evidence, is poisoning the well plain and simple.

Let me state plainly that ANY biblical Christian should be obedient to what the Bible says about how to relate to government:

1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Whatever the dislike, whatever the disagreement, please do not throw rocks. Pray for your elected leaders whether you like them or not. Pray for God to show them His face, to give them wisdom in honoring Him with their decisions and the courage to choose to do so. Don’t snipe at them from the bushes; dialog and understand and consider, then respectfully disagree. Vote your conscience and take Christ with you into the voting booth.

But please, don’t fall for this type of mudslinging. Be more thoughtful and careful than that. I am pretty sure that when the Antichrist actually appears there will not be any discussion within the Christian community about his identity, whether Tim LaHaye likes it or not. He will be evident to everyone, not just some guy with his Hebrew concordance. And I don’t think that Jesus hid his name in a Greek translation about Satan from a Hebrew original saying.

Never forget what Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 5:43-48:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I’m pretty sure calling someone the Antichrist is breaking this command…just sayin’.

The Just Judge

This morning I had to go to court to defend our church against a small claims lawsuit. I don’t want to go into all of the gory details; suffice it to say that our elders believed strongly that we were in the right and that we shouldn’t pay a company who they felt was trying to wrongfully make demands of us. Please believe that we did not take anything from this company or abuse them in any way. (email me if you just have to have the details) They filed a small claims suit when we told them we would not meet their demands, and today was our court appearance.

I felt fine about the appearance. When I got in the truck, KLOVE was playing Michael W. Smith’s “Mighty To Save.” I remembered Zephaniah 3:17 NIV, which the song is based on, and thought, “Wow! Thanks, Lord, for reminding me that you are bigger than my problems.”

One of our elders and our church secretary met me at church at 7:30 to head to court. Bob wanted to be there to support me and represent our body, and Ilene was the one who communicated with the company in question. When we all got in my truck to head out Bob laughingly told me that God was going to teach me some patience today. Well, I thought, however long it took today at least we would know what we needed to do. The decision of the officer would be final and binding, so at least we would have an answer!

We got to the courthouse early enough to stand outside the hearing room and pray. Bob, Ilene, and I stood in a circle and lifted up the meeting, the hearing officer, and even the officials of the other company up to the Lord. As we prayed Psalm 4 came to mind:

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!

You have relieved me in my distress;

Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

2 O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach?

How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah.

3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself;

The Lord hears when I call to Him.

4 Tremble, and do not sin;

Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,

And trust in the Lord.

6 Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?”

Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! 7

You have put gladness in my heart,

More than when their grain and new wine abound.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep,

For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.

Verse 5 especially caught my eye this afternoon. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord.” So our job in this hearing was to live for Christ and trust that God would take care of our needs! Whether we were ordered to pay them or not, our desire as a church MUST be to honor Him, live righteously in His grace and trust Him to take care of us.

We did well in the hearing. I think that our case is very strong and we represented our church with integrity. Remember that Bob said that God was going to teach me some patience, though? The officer decided to take the case under advisement. We will find out her decision within 10 days. So we get to wait some more. Isaiah 55:8, anyone? 🙂

As I was talking with Laura on the way here she reminded me that maybe this is God’s way of increasing our faith in Him. We must continue to trust Him for the outcome and ask Him to give the hearing officer (Mrs. Landon) wisdom in her decision. We must continue to look to Him for our deliverance.

May we learn the same in our lives every day!

Please continue to pray for our church that we would live righteously and trust in the Lord.

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man, Part 4: My thoughts

This series has now stretched out for more than a month…stuff kept getting in the way! Please go back and read parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series if you have not.

The question has been asked as to where Christians should intersect faith and politics. Should we sit on our morals and do nothing but preach the message of eternal life in Christ, or should we advocate for laws that honor God and change our culture to be more moral?

I dislike the question, to be blunt. I think it frames the discussion in terms of a false “either/or” mentality that says that we may do only one or the other, which I think does nothing to help us meaningfully interact with the issue. Instead, I think that the answer here is much the same as in many areas of life: BALANCE. Swinging the pendulum too far in one direction seldom leads to the right answer, and certainly doesn’t in this case in my opinion.

When Paul wrote his command to us in Romans 13:1-7 he was writing to a people who had very little say in the affairs of their life. The people had no real input in their government; since God was in control, they trusted in His sovereignty and submitted to the government that existed. (of course, keep the principle of Acts 5:29 in mind as well) Christians never would obey the law of man and break God’s commands. However, when the secular authority made a law that dishonored God, the church when allowed not to participate would submit and then not participate. The church never tried to outlaw emperor worship in the first century or temple prostitution, both of which were very common in the first century. Instead, the church avoided those practices themselves and reached out with the gospel.

However, we live in a day when we have a civic DUTY to be a part of our government. I vote in every election that comes, and I take my faith into the voting booth with me. I vote in the way that I think God wants me to, both for candidates and initiatives. I recognize, though, that as a fallen person I am not perfect and other Christians may disagree with my voting decisions. I also know that many who are not interested in Christianity would disagree with me, while others would be right with me from a moral perspective.

Now let’s apply that a bit. I voted for McCain in 2008. If you know me that should be no shock to you. However, Obama won. (Phooey) I know the truth of Romans 13:1, that God used the free choices of the people of the United States of America to appoint Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States according to His sovereign will! (this, in my opinion, is a good example of a theological idea known as Middle Knowledge or more commonly as Molinism, though the two are not strictly the same; for a full rundown from an excellent philosophical perspective head here) So today I follow 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and pray for my president regularly. It’s God’s will that he is in the office, so I pray for him.*

Likewise, I don’t lose my mind about laws that don’t go “my way.” There are lots of laws that I don’t like, but outside of my power to vote and run for office I cannot change that, so I allow God to be sovereign and live for Him as best I can.

That said, though, it is clear that we cannot legislate true Christianity into the world. When people don’t know Christ, why in the world do we expect them to live like they follow Him? Jesus went to the tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and undesirables and worked on them from the inside out, not the outside in. He didn’t call prostitutes to give up prostitution; He called them to trust in Him as the only way to atone for their sin.

Our focus must be on the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of man. When we advocate for issues in a civil and respectful manner, that is great. When we shriek in front of San Francisco City Hall, not so much. I can’t tell you how much it hurt me when someone I know and love sent me an email telling me how much it hurt that, since they told me that they were in a same-gender relationship, it meant that my God must loathe them and think that they were trash. By definition, then, I hated them and thought they were trash. Of course, those thoughts never came out of my mouth, but that is the impression this person had of what it meant to be a Christian. Now some of that comes from media misrepresentations of Christianity, but much of it comes from Christians.

When did Christ do that? He didn’t rail against Roman oppression; He met tax collectors in their tax booths and called them to follow Him. He hung out with the irreligious and HAD A GLASS OF WINE WITH THEM.** He met them on their terms and gave them an open door to seek God. Paul did the same thing in Acts 17:22-23. Rather than condemning the Athenians for their idolatry Paul used their culture, even their sinful worship of false gods, to draw a bridge to God for them. The focus was never on their sin, but on God and His calling them to a change of heart.

So in my mind the issue really is not one or the other. Our focus as Christians must always be to shine the light of Christ into the world and provide the message of the cross to people who desperately need it. The world needs Christ, not morality. If we make them all stop sinning on the outside, they will still go straight to hell at the end of their very moral lives. (i.e. Revelation 20:11-15)

I will, though, continue to advocate for those who are powerless. I will seek to be a voice for those who are not yet born, for the child prostitutes on the streets of Phoenix, for the homeless, for the elderly and children and others. I will vote my conscience in every election, knowing that God uses my choices to accomplish His will in His world. And most of all I will try to live for Christ as an authentic and transparent disciple, knowing that I am still a sinner every day, hoping and praying that God sends me people to lead to Jesus. And I put His priorities first and try to help people live lives that honor Him from the inside out.

This is my mission statement: John Correia exists to know Jesus Christ, to grow in Him, to serve Him, and to help others do the same. Not to make them moral, but to help them know Christ, grow in Him, and serve Him. That is an inside-out process.

*Now lest you think I stay up late at night wondering if I voted outside the will of God, I do not. God often gives nations the leaders they deserve rather than the ones they need, as a short reading of the books of Kings and Chronicles shows. I also realize that I can’t equate modern history there, so please do not hear me equating Obama with an ungodly king.

**Yes, I know that I have just had my Baptist credentials revoked. You can have them, though I pastor a SBC church. Jesus drank alcohol. He did. He made wine in John 2. Get over it. Alcoholism is bad, but alcohol consumption is not sin.

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man, Part 2: The Case for Activism

In my first post on this topic we looked at the two dominant sides of the current debate on Christians and political involvement. Now we must look at the biblical evidence for both and see why each side believes as it does.

Before we begin to look at the case for political activism among Christians, let’s take the time to remember an important truth: this is not a “pillar of the faith” of historical, orthodox Christianity.* In my opinion this is not a matter to withhold Christian fellowship over if two people disagree. We must always remember to “keep the main thing the main thing” and focus on our unity with other Christians rather than our differences.

That said, this debate has caused a great deal of emotion on both sides. Unfortunately, the anger has generated a lot of heat, but not much light.

So why do some Christians feel so passionately about the need of Christians to fight our cultural decline and uphold standards of morality and decency in the world? Simply put, they believe that they are God’s children who must reflect His character and stand for His reputation in His world.

Let’s be clear that most in this camp are not theonomists. In other words, most do not think that the Old Testament Law is binding on society today, and few are trying to usher in the earthly reign of Jesus via legislation.

What they are saying, though, is that it brings God glory for people, even those who are not Christians, to act morally. For a great defense of Christian activism, read this excellent post by John Frame. I can’t encourage you enough to start with that post; Dr. Frame is a noted author and it is a good work. Go read it.

Consider also this quote from John Piper:

Justice is God’s creation. Honesty is God’s design. Integrity is the work of God – even in unbelievers – just like their head and heart and hands and feet are his work…The honesty and justice of unbelievers is like a seashell washed up on the beach. There’s no life in it. But it does have a kind of beauty…Since the partial external conformity of unbelievers to God’s designs of justice and honesty does in one way delight the heart of God, it was right for William Wilberforce to devote twenty years of his life in Parliament to the abolition of English slave trading, even though the great majority of those merchants who gave up the trade did it under constraint and not for any holy reasons at all. It was the work of God’s grace that rid England of the barbarisms of the African slave trade. And therefore the Lord looked down with delight on February 22, 1807, when the House of Commons passed the decisive bill. The same will be true when persevering pro-life forces bring an end to wanton, legalized child-killing in America….My prayer is that the truth of God’s pleasure in public justice will inspire many in our day to take up the mantle of William Wilberforce and wear it into battle against the manifold injustices of our day. (The Pleasure of God, 263)

There are also many verses in Scripture that speak of God’s desire for all people to act morally. Consider Proverbs 14:34, which says “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Since sin is a disgrace to any people, it stands to reason that for the dignity of America and its people that Christians should advocate for morality.

Jesus also tells us in Matthew 5:14 that “You are the light of the world.” Christians are told that they shine God’s light into the world, and one way we can do that is by advocating for morality. Failure to live out our morals and advocate for political power and against sin is a failure to act as the salt and light of the world, which Jesus commanded Christians to be.

Another biblical argument comes out of Proverbs 24:11-12. In those verses, the author laments those who don’t stop a death when they knew it was happening, because God will judge their inaction. So to avoid God’s judgment, a Christian must get involved (and most pointedly here in the effort to end legalized abortion).

Christians who align themselves with the concept of social activism also see America as a unique opportunity to affect our culture via politics. In most countries and throughout history the average person has had no say in the laws of their country. In America, though, we practice a Federal Republic form of government (along with a few other modern countries), which empowers citizens to govern and change society. Since we have the ability, if we fail to act then we commit the sin of omission.

Next, we will consider the arguments behind those who believe that political activism is misguided, and that the church should stay out of political matters.

*In my opinion, the pillars of the faith that I am willing to take a major stand for are, (1) The authority and inerrancy of Scripture; (2) The full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ; (3) The Trinity, i.e. that God is one in essence and three in Person; (4) that eternal life is received as a gift from God on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone. Other than those, everything else is at least open for discussion and understanding.