Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms

I've been discussing firearms lately because skill with weapons makes up a vital part of Christian Martialism. This, of course, presupposes a right to keep and bear arms (RKBA).

Before I get into a discussion of the RKBA, it would probably be a good idea to establish a working definition for the word right. Much to the consternation of both the secular humanists and the conservative constitutionalists, I am going to depart from both current and historical usage.

Today people claim a lot of things as a "right". Indigents have a "right" to food stamps. Illegal aliens claim the "right" to collect Social Security. The ignorant and unlearned claim their "right" to a college diploma. The list could go on, but you get the point.

Many of today's rights-so-called belong to the category of entitlements. That is, Congress passes legislation that says a person is entitled to certain benefits. There are two things wrong with this.

First, a congressional entitlement grants people access to benefits that Scripture says they're not entitled to. Entitlement programs are funded by legalized plunder. (If you're not familiar with the term "legalized plunder", you need to read Frederic Bastiat's The Law.) They violate the statute, "Thou shalt not steal."

Second, even if you could find a Congressional entitlement not funded through theft, it would still not be a true right. This is because if Congress can give you a right, then Congress can take that same right away. This constitutes a radical departure from the historical position of rights as inalienable, ESPECIALLY by civil government.

This brings me to the traditional/historical view of rights. Conservative constitutionalists often appeal to Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Although an epistemologically self-conscious Christian (if you don't know what that means, email me & I'll send you a reading list) will dispute the claim that truths are self-evident, that's not where I want to focus my attention at this point. Jefferson says the Creator has endowed us with certain rights that cannot be taken away. On a superficial level, I agree with his words, but on a deeper level I cannot agree with their meaning.

Specifically, I disagree with the meaning that Jefferson attached to the word Creator. While Thomas Jefferson may not have fit the classical definition of Deist, he was certainly a proto-unitarian. He denied the deity of Christ, and in private correspondence he likened inspired Scripture to pile of manure.

Jefferson's god was not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible. And because his view of God was wrong, his view of inalienable rights was skewed. Jefferson's false god is not the God presented in Holy Scripture, and Jefferson's god is not the source of the individual's rights.

If the God of Scripture is the source of our rights, then we must look to Scripture rather than to "self-evident truths" to define those rights. As a result, our views will differ from Jefferson's. A major case in point is that an explicitly Christian nation -- one consistent with Biblical worldview & precepts -- would recognize no right to hold public office by one who -- like Jefferson -- denied Christ's divine nature.

Before I take this any further, I want to make sure that you fully understand my presuppositions in this matter. I think this might best be accomplished by answering the trick question: In America, what is the "supreme law of the land"?

If you answered that question by saying, "The US Constitution," you & I are on different pages. I have wholeheartedly committed to the position that the revealed Word of the living God as found in the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament is the one supreme Law of every land. (I told you it was a trick question, but it is the Enlightenment Conservatives who have tricked you into believing in the supremacy of a merely human document.) The commands of God overrule any and every lesser authority.

Now that you better know where I'm coming from, we can tackle the question of just exactly what constitutes an absolute right that no human authority can take away. At this juncture, the answer becomes very simple:

No human institution has the authority to prevent you from doing what God requires.

That is to say, you have an absolute right to do whatever God commands. If any human government would prevent you from doing so, it is in the wrong. And
to remain faithful to your heavenly King, you must defy it at that very point. You should defy it with grace and due respect, but defy it you must.

This leads to the truth that, in some respects, institutional authority is inversely proportional to individual rights. Since all authority comes from God (Romans 13:1, ff.), legitimate authority ends where the individual's God-given rights begin. No human government has authority to make you disobey God.

This puts me in mind of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who asserted their rights over and against the the king's vaunted authority to enforce false worship.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

Their resistance to the king did not spring from some mythical "freedom of religion". Their right to worship God alone was rooted in His Law:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (Exodus 20:4-5)

In like manner, you must not look for the rationale for speaking your mind in some nebulous "freedom of expression" granted by some nebulous god. You will, rather find it in our Lord's commands to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15) and to proclaim His Word. When the powers that be tried to muzzle the apostles, they asserted their right to preach the Gospel on the basis of God's authority:

Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

The difference between the apostolic assertion of right based on God's Law and the Jeffersonian version based on natural-law theory can be seen in the fruits. Natural law has led our nation to conclude that pornographers have freedom to express their perversions equal to -- or greater than -- the freedom you have to proclaim the truth of Christ. If you take God at His word, however, you must not acknowledge that peddlers of filth possess any such right (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:28).

Take another example: home education. For almost a generation, some Christian parents have tried to assert their right to educate their own children. Many appeal to "freedom of religion" as the foundation of that right. There are two things wrong with this: 1) God recognizes no such "freedom"; 2) They are looking for their rights in "self-evident" natural law instead of in the Word of God.

The Lord of Heaven has declared:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Parents have a right to keep their sons and daughters out of the secular humanist schools because God holds them accountable for the souls of His covenant children. He commands parents to rear them in His discipline and counsel.

Several years ago, I sat in the office of a school district superintendent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He had brought truancy charges against my wife and me that carried penalties and court costs of $28,000. I told him that I wanted to be a good citizen and I recognized his station as a public official.

I also told him that I would do whatever I could to satisfy him, as long as it did not involve either asking his permission or accepting his oversight in the education of my children. He replied, "Well that's the whole thing." He was right; as long as I acknowledged Christ as King and Lord over my family, I could not in any way surrender to the state's lordship claims respecting my children's education.

I told the superintendent that if he seized all my assets, it would not cover the penalties levied against me. I further told him that I didn't want to go to jail, but that I would do so before I turned my daughters over to the him. In the end, this nominal Roman Catholic and thoroughgoing humanist expressed respect for our convictions.

That's more than we received from the evangelical community in general and Christian homeschoolers in particular. They complied with the rules, which they thought were minimally intrusive, and they didn't want us to rock the boat. We often heard the rebuke, "Render to Caesar . . . ." They tended, however to leave out the rest of the verse. Here it is in its entirety:

And Jesus answering said unto them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marvelled at him. (Mark 12:17)

Now, what belongs to Caesar, to civil government? Nothing more nor less than the parameters of authority granted to him/it by God. On the other hand, what belongs to God? EVERYTHING, including Caesar. And also including our children.

Civil authority has no autonomous claim on us. It has no legitimate interest in our lives or our families' that is independent of God. The question is, How does this relate to the RKBA?

Continued in "The Right to Keepa and Bear Arms, 2"

Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

Stephen Boyd said...

Great Post! I can't wait for part II!

We have just been learning in school about the deistic influence on our nation from people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It's interesting to me that Jefferson had the correct view of government until he got caught up in the ideas of the French Revolution.

But Pastor Morecraft said it was books like Lex Rex, instead of Common Sense by the deist Thomas Paine, which incited the colonists to rebellion.

It's astonishing when you read the constitution how much power is given to the government.