I respect and appreciate John Piper very much although I must share that my theological perspective is different than his. And, as with all of us, his theology impacts and effects his interpretation of Scripture. I also appreciate the admission by Piper that good men can disagree on these things and there we need not criticize one another for taking other views.
So, first let me say that his opening paragraphs in expressing concern over the spirit and tenor of the remarks made by Dr. Falwell at Liberty University are completely understandable. I share some of the same concerns.
I have stated to many that I might agree with the position LU has taken in allowing students to be armed (I have written much about this earlier). But with where our culture is today, LU should require much more substantial training than they do. One concealed carry class is no where near enough. Secondly, their policy is irresponsible unless they have an excellent system of accountability. For example, the slightest behavioral infractions ought to immediately disqualify a student from firearm possession. Owning, maintaining and carrying lethal force demands the utmost of maturity and judgement.
So as Piper expresses, the heart and the spirit of the matter is the issue. I believe ‘to carry or not carry’ or ‘use force or not use force’ should be considered as the outflow of the more important issue. People on both sides of the firearms debate can have equally wrong motives and heart attitudes.
It seems to me that Dr. Piper draws a conclusion of complete and total nonresistance. And, that is certainly his right. Although I do not draw the same conclusion from the Word of God. He presents a good argument but I would share a few concerns:
First, he seems to present the New Testament as an island unto itself and does reference or draw any connection to the Old Testament. (This is surprising because it seems more dispensational than reformed.) The New Testament fulfills the Old and its teachings are given in the context of, and with the background of, the Old. So when we draw conclusions from the New which are dramatically different than the Old, we are required to explain that lack of connection or change of perspective.
Secondly, it seems to me that Piper does take passages out of context and draws some conclusions which are not there. Often preachers use the “governmental authority” passages to release us of any responsibility when that is not the context of those passages. For example when Paul discusses governmental use of force in Romans, he is using it as an illustration of the law. He is showing how the law is enforced in the human realm as an illustration of the law in the spiritual realm. This is not a proof text for personal responsibility of protection or the lack thereof.
Thirdly, he uses extreme conclusions to make some points and then criticizes the doing so of others. For example, he criticizes Falwell’s implied interpretation of Jesus’ instructions to buy a sword by saying that this was not an instruction for the apostles to become an armed band. Well, that is true and no one says that this was the intent. Yet, he almost criticizes those who, when dealing with this issue, want to boil it down to the question of “would you defend your sister if being assaulted?” I think this is a necessary part of the discussion. We must test our conclusions to see how they hold up in all circumstances of life.
Fourthly, I do believe he is comparing apples and oranges when he compares our cultural situation to that of the time of Christ. He uses the passages about the government and speaks to the way that citizens in Israel in Christ’s day behaved while (as I said before) totally ignores how God’s people responded to God’s teaching at different times in the Word of God.
We do not live in a country occupied by a foreign government. We also live in a representative government where citizens are expected to served in the political process. Rome did not give God’s people the option of (for example) a citizen’s arrest. Rome did not allow a citizen militia. Rome’s “sheriffs” were not begging the citizenry to go out and buy firearms and learn how to use them and defend themselves as many of the law enforcement officials in our land are today. Our context is different and thus the application of God’s truth is as well.
In conclusion, it may be that Piper’s view of sovereignty might be the cause of his conclusions. After all, we need to just trust God to be our defender. But beloved, the normative view of the entirety of the Word of God does not take that to mean passivity or no action. There are many other meaningful passages on this subject that Dr. Piper chose not to discuss in his article.
And frankly, as I eluded to at the beginning, if a man chooses to say that he does not believe in ever using lethal force to defend himself or others, and he is at peace with the possibility of seeing his loved ones tortured or abused or killed while doing nothing, that is between him and his God. But if, he chooses to not take responsibility to protect and defend his family AND he expects another human to do so, I believe he is being unjust. How can he expect another man to go into harms way and risk his life, and that loss to his family, for the sake of yours while you choose not to? Just because someone chooses to wear a badge does not mean we relinquish all responsibility.