Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 3

Continued from "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 2"

The sixth commandment explicitly sets forth the individual's right to life: Thou shalt not kill (murder). Traditional Protestant interpretation also sees there an implicit responsibility to defend both oneself and others. Witness the Westminster Larger Catechism' s explication:

Q. 134. Which is the sixth commandment?
A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. 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. (emphasis added)

Exodus 22:2-4 makes the right to self defense more explicit. I have treated that passage in my post "What Does the Bible Say about Self Defense?" You may want to pay special attention to the questions and answers in the Comments section.

This Biblical understanding of self defense crossed the Atlantic and was considered a given among Congregational and Presbyterian ministers.

As a 1747 sermon in Philadelphia put it: He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature to defend itself.(The Religious Roots of the American Revolution and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms by David B. Kopel)

The Rev. Simeon Howard reiterated that point in 1773:

The New Testament said that a man who neglects to provide for his family has implicitly denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. “But,” asked Howard, “in what way can a man be more justly chargeable with this neglect, than by suffering himself to be deprived of his life, liberty or property, when he might lawfully have preserved them?” (A Sermon Preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston quoted in op.cit.)

The argument here is that the Christian has many God-given responsibilities to fulfill, and in order to so so, he must live. It is a dereliction of Christian duty to passively submit to life-threatening violence when one has the power to resist. (Note: Howard's use of the word lawfully probably refers to compliance with God's Law.)

Of course any right to self defense presupposes the means necessary to that end. This leads us to conclude that weapons or arms are a logical corollary to the right of self defense. Rev. Howard wholly embraced that corollary:

A people who would stand fast in their liberty, should furnish themselves with weapons proper for their defense and learn how to use them.(ibid.)

Puritan New Englanders did not leave this principle in the realm of theory alone, but put it into practice:

The meeting houses for church services were fortified buildings where the community could gather if attacked, and where arms and powder were often stored. (The community supplied militia arms to families which could not afford their own.) (op. cit.)

Contrast that image with the one you get from this passage of Scripture where the king of Israel and his son led the people to rise up against their Philistine oppressors:

Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, "Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears:" But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.

Scripture recognizes that an unarmed people is a people in bondage and servitude. And, conversely (or is it inversely?), the civil power that disarms them is tyrannical and oppressive.

There is also a passage in the Bible that relates the tale of a man who fashions his own weapon (very much like a Scottish dirk), conceals it, and uses it to assassinate a tyrant. Read the tale of Ehud:

But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.

And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret errand unto thee, O king."

. . . [The king] said, "Keep silence." And all that stood by him went out from him.

And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God unto thee." And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out. (Judges 3:15-22)

Presumably, Ehud had to make his own dagger because the Moabites, like the later Philistines had disarmed the populace. Further, while it says that God raised up Ehud, there is no record that He specifically spoke to him. It looks as though the Lord providentially raised Ehud up as a martialist sheepdog for His people.

Now, I have not said that you should carry weapons contrary to our society's laws. That would, in most cases expose you to high risk at this point, with a low return. I have just given you principles that I find in the Word, that you need to make up your mind about. At this point, you have to take God's Word, meditate on it, and decide for yourself how to apply it to your life in the context of today's society.

Bookmark and Share


dlr said...

Great post!

Gravelbelly said...

Thanks . . . but why do I feel as though I have to keep looking over my shoulder?

dlr said...

Don't sweat the small stuff!

Stephen Boyd said...

I believe Stonewall Jackson once said, "Trust in God and do your duty".

Great series!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I just wish I could pack and carry cold steel everywhere, all day long. :-/


Stephen Boyd said...

I don't think so, Spencer.

Remember the old saying, "Those who live by the sword (cold steel) get shot by those who don't!

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

No, when I say "pack" I mean carry a gun as well. So I'd have both. ;-D

Gravelbelly said...

Packing heat & cold steel.

Hot and cold give you a lot of choices.

BTW, is it true that in CA that it's a weapons violation if you have a cane without a doctor's prescription?

I read that somewhere awhile ago, and I don't remember where.