What do the supreme court ruling on guns and the martyrdom of missionaries have to do with each other?
Noël and I watched Beyond Gates of Splendor, the documentary version of End of the Spear, the story of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint in Ecuador in 1956. That same day we heard that the Supreme Court decided in favor of the right of Americans to keep firearms at home for self-defense.
Here’s the connection. The missionaries had guns when they were speared to death. One of them shot the gun into the air, it appears, as he was killed, rather than shooting the natives. They had agreed to do this. The reason was simple and staggeringly Christlike:
The natives are not ready for heaven. We are.
I suspect the same could be said for almost anyone who breaks into my house. There are other reasons why I have never owned a firearm and do not have one in my house. But that reason moves me deeply. I hope you don’t use your economic stimulus check to buy a gun. Better to find some missionaries like this and support them.
Here is a Rebuttal to Piper's argument by the "Thirsty Theologian."
Here is what he has to say:
Before I begin, I want to say that I appreciate John Piper’s ministry immensely. I have listened to him preach, and, deo volente, will again. I have read some of his books, and there are a couple still on my shelf that I am eager to read. Nothing I am about to say should be taken as a slight to his character or ministry.
However . . .
Today I must strenuously disagree with John Piper. I’ve disagreed with him before, but never like this. In most other disagreements, I’ve at least had some empathy with his position. In this case, I have none; his logic is badly flawed.
If it was almost anyone else, I’d probably ignore it; but John Piper has a following of bloggers who run to their keyboards every time he moves, gasping breathlessly at the profundity of his latest twitch. So I expect to see his latest statement spread virally all over the blogosphere in this and following weeks. In fact, I’m seeing it start already, and it was only posted this morning (it’s Sunday as I write this). And, though his sentiments are noble, I think they are completely wrong-headed, and deserve a rebuttal.
I’m referring to his statement on the Desiring God blog concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the 2nd Amendment was properly (though narrowly) upheld.
Dr. Piper made no statement on the court’s decision per se. His statement addressed why he would not use a gun to defend his home, and expressed his hope that no one else would, either. He used, as his example, Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries, who chose not to defend themselves against the spears of their attackers because “The natives are not ready for heaven. We are.”
I tend to believe that those young missionaries made the right choice. However, I don’t believe their reasoning applies in the vast majority of home-defense situations. My reasons are as follows (none of them would have applied in the jungles of Ecuador):
- In the majority of instances of defensive firearms use, no shots are fired. The threat is enough to subdue or put to flight the perpetrators. Yet being confronted with a violent response increases their fear of other potential victims, most of whom “are not ready for heaven.”
- The knowledge that potential victims, most of whom “are not ready for heaven,” might be armed is a known deterrent to criminals. Violent crime is highest in unarmed cities, and is known to decrease when citizens of those cities arm themselves.
- When an assailant is shot, more is accomplished than stopping the immediate crime: his future crimes — primarily against people who “are not ready for heaven” — are prevented; and a societal atmosphere is created in which criminals are more likely to think twice before attacking.
- While you can be sure that an intruder in your home is “not ready for heaven,” neither are most of his past and future victims — and you can be sure that there are, or will be, others. Sacrificing yourself only leaves him free to move on to his next victim, who is most likely — say it with me, now — “not ready for heaven.”
Piper’s goal of saving the lives of those who “are not ready for heaven,” though noble, is misdirected. It would be better served by doing whatever is necessary to stop the violent criminals who kill them.
Postscript: That was to be the end of this post, but a couple of additional points have crossed my mind.
- I realize that John Piper’s children are all grown and it’s just he and his wife at home. But many of us have children at home, and I am not one who assumes my children are “ready for heaven” just because they say they believe in Jesus. Shall I not protect them? Shall I value the soul of a murderer above theirs?
- Can a Calvinist really believe that evil must be allowed to go unchecked because God hasn’t had a chance to save the evildoers yet? In other words, is this really a dilemma at all?