Is it right for a born-again Christian to own and use a fire arm for self-defense?

Posted: January 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

I think a Christian has the “right”, perhaps even, the responsibility, to use the same weapons in self-defense that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians, up to the reign of Theodusius, used.

“From the accumulated literature of the ante-Nicene church, three facts emerge as relatively noncontroversial. First, from the close of the New Testament era until 174 C.E., no Christians served in the military or assumed government offices. Second, from 174 until the Edict of Milan (313), the ancient church treated those Christians who played such roles, including previous office-holders who converted, with great suspicion. Third, underlying this ecclesiastical antipathy to state positions exerting compulsion stood a theory of nonviolence hermeneutically derived from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. According to the ante-Nicene Fathers, the kerygma necessitated that Jesus constituted the Christian’s only commander, such that placing oneself under any other commander would spell treason.

“The first Patristic references to the issue of Christians and violence sprang from Justin Martyr (110-165), the early church’s foremost Greek apologist. Refuting the charge of sedition, which the Romans saw latent in the Christian proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Justin apprised Emperor Antoninus Pius that believers lived as citizens not of an alternative human kingdom governed by anti-imperial politicians but of an already inaugurated divine kingdom, presently ruled by Christ from the heavenly realm and soon to be physically implemented when Christ returns. When the Kingdom is manifested on earth, Justin insisted, it will be a kingdom of peace fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, as people ‘will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks’ since nations will never again train for or engage in war. Since Christians find their citizenship in God’s Kingdom, Justin informed the Emperor that this prediction was starting to find fulfillment through the church and its missionary expansion: ‘That it is so coming to pass, let me convince you. . . . We who once murdered each other indeed no longer wage war against our enemies; moreover, so as not to bear false witness before our interrogators, we cheerfully die confessing Christ.’

“We now turn to indirect evidence for the early Christian repudiation of warfare provided by the anti-Christian satirist Celsus (fl. 170-80) and the apocryphal Acts of Paul (c. 175). A staunch patriot and leading representative of Roman bureaucracy, Celsus rejected Christianity in large part due to its nonviolent stance. Repeatedly attacking Christians for their refusal to fight in defense of the Roman Empire, Celsus sneered that if everyone behaved like the church, the emperor would be virtually isolated, and the empire would soon be conquered by the unruliest and fiercest barbarians*. Based undoubtedly on firsthand knowledge of Christian behavior, Celsus’ objection corroborates our observation that the church of his day would not permit believers to serve in the military. [*Interesting that we here the exact same argument against non-violence today…from CHRISTIANS!]

“Our earliest evidence for Christians serving in the military dates to 174 C.E., when a sizeable number of Christians in the eastern Cappadocian region of Melitene joined the Roman Legio Fulmata to fight against the central European Quadi tribe that was invading the region. Although the evidence renders it uncertain whether these soldiers were chastised by their local congregations, the incident appears to have received little notice by either Christians or pagans outside Melitene. Such an assessment is evidenced in the pre-Montanist writings of Tertullian, who in his early period showed categorical opposition to the military profession, notwithstanding that his father was a Roman centurion. Hence Tertullian articulated a position in Apologeticum (197) identified by Edward A. Ryan as ‘pacifism’: ‘We are equally forbidden to wish evil, to do evil, to speak evil, and to think evil toward all people. . . . So if we are commanded to love our enemies, whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become as evil as our attackers. No one can suffer injury at our hands . . . since we do not bear arms nor raise any banner of insurrection.’ This remained true despite the fact, as Tertullian provocatively pointed out, that in certain provinces Christians were sufficiently numerous and powerful to unite and stage an uprising: ‘For what wars, granted these unequal forces, would we not be prepared and eager to fight, we who so willingly surrender ourselves to death by the sword, if in our religion it were not better to be killed than to kill?’ But since the Kingdom of God belongs not to this world, Tertullian insisted that Christians could not, without forfeiting their citizenship in the Kingdom, defend themselves by earthly weapons but must accept death when under attack. In his treatise De idololatria, written between 198 and 201, Tertullian explicitly answered the central questions of whether a believer may join the military and whether a soldier, once converted, can stay in the military.

[The punctuation in this article leaves a bit to be desired. This is, I believe, the text of the Tertullian speech. JH] But now inquiry is being made concerning these issues. First, can any believer enlist in the military? Second, can any soldier, even those of the rank and file or lesser grades who neither engage in pagan sacrifices nor capital punishment, be admitted into the church? No on both counts—for there is no agreement between the divine sacrament and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot serve two masters—God and Caesar. And yet some people toy with the subject by saying, ‘Moses carried a rod, Aaron wore a buckle, John the Baptist girded himself with leather just like soldiers do belts, and Joshua the son of Nun led troops into battle, such that the people waged war.’ But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.

“Prior to the Edict of Milan, the ancient church leadership’s aversion to civic occupations invested with the sword, including magistracy and military, could be summarized in three observations. First, Christianity on principle rejected war and the shedding of human blood. Second, magistrates under certain circumstances were obliged to pass the death sentence, and soldiers were obliged to carry out all acts of violence ordered by their military commanders. Third, the unconditional imperial oath or sacramentum required of the civic official stood in direct conflict with the baptismal sacramentum to God.

“On this threefold basis, church leaders universally denounced the practice of baptized civilians serving in either the government or the military from the New Testament period to the reign of Constantine. ” Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience

Note, again, that all of the arguments we hear in favor of Christians using violence in self-defense (or the military) today, including most of the answers thus far, are nothing new; they have been made since the beginning of the Faith. What we know is that until Constantine (and the execrable time of Theodosius, when “Christianity” became the state religion—I prefer to say it was the beginning of Christendom, the pseudo-“Christification” of the state), the Church Fathers’ answer was “No”, as they rightfully preferred to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his example and that of the Apostles, to the extent of even disfellowshiping or excommunicating believers who violated those principles.

Like Celsus, the unbeliever, we play the “what about” and what if” game too much: “if everyone behaved like the church (fathers), the emperor/our government would be virtually isolated, and the empire/U.S. would soon be conquered by the unruliest and fiercest barbarians/Muslims/North Koreans/Canadians…” Not to worry. Today, most of the church behaves exactly like the world, not Jesus or the Church Fathers.

I am reminded of a pastor who, when he was of age in the 60s, had a discussion with the officer questioning his conscientious objector status. The officer asked, “How about flying a bomber? You’d never see the people you dropped bombs on.” The pastor said, “Do you think Jesus would drop bombs on people?” The officer snorted and said, “Of course not!” “The pastor said, “Then I can’t, either.”

“Die for my country?” he asked, “Never! For Jesus Christ? ANY TIME!”

Image result for aint gonna study war no more

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