In a recent Q&A video, John Piper exemplified how pastors rhetorically use emotion and circumlocution to avoid crucial questions so they can spend their time and their parishioners’ tithes on more spiritual things. Asked if Christians should keep guns in their homes to protect their families, Piper answers in the negative – albeit a contradictory negative. After hemming and hawing a bit – I’m not sure what shooting squirrels with a pellet gun as a kid has to do with whether I can lawfully take the life of a pagan who’s about to take mine and rape my wife – Piper draws upon the famous story of Christian missionaries who chose to sacrifice their lives rather than those of unbelievers.
This of course is the story of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, and it epitomizes the church’s reckless obsession with saving souls – the same mania that Piper’s answer reveals. Rather than starting a family and keeping his wife safe at home per her calling, Jim took Elizabeth to eastern Ecuador to evangelize the hostile Auco Indians, who today remain largely Animistic in worldview. Piper recounts that when the Wuadani warriors arrived to settle the perceived threat of the presence of foreign invaders with large wooden objects, Jim and his four friends fired their weapons to the sky rather than at their aggressors as the savages speared them to death.
Like Elliot, Piper’s goal is “not to kill anybody, especially if that person is going to hell.” He says that cops should have guns but it’s unwise for us to have them in our houses because “having a gun is a good way not to avoid killing somebody,” and the Christian’s more basic concern is the armed intruder’s soul. Piper then misquotes Jesus, suggesting that merely having a plan of reasonable self-defense (owning a gun) is to live and die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).
Quick questions: Why does Piper think cops should be armed with guns and batons to “take out guys who are killing people” if the possession of these weapons is a good way not to avoid killing people? Shouldn’t cops be evangelists, too? But if it’s permissible for cops to use guns this way, why can’t I too take out the guy who is about to kill people? Odd. And are cops guilty of “living and dying by the sword” because they carry firearms? Piper’s answer seems like a struggle between the visceral will of a popular, trendy pastor and God’s objective word which justifies taking life in self-defense.
Winning souls is certainly important for the kingdom, but not at the expense of the lives placed under our care. While Jesus gave his life for the Church, the cross is no model for finite sinners to act like little messiahs. God blesses us with wives and children, not that we may make widows and orphans, but that we may live long in the land for his glory. The former is impetuous, false zeal, while the latter is the real kingdom-building commissioned by the dominion mandate (Gen. 1: 26-28).
Admittedly, this is a hard message when over 80 percent of Christians send their kids to the aggressive soil of government schools for 15,000 hours of their pliable years. While they intend for their credulous children to evangelize pagans on their turf, under their rules, and in their system, 83 percent of parents who make this mission-minded mistake end up not with battle-proven gospel soldiers, but with a tribe of apostate Marxist-Statists.
Jim Elliot was correct when he wrote in his diary that work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life. But Matthew 16:25 simply means that we are to direct our lives under God’s guidance, not ours. When those that have heard the gospel for centuries continue to reject it, and when indigenous converts continuously fail to bring the faith to their own, foreign Christians are not required to waste their time, resources, or lives on more failure. Such efforts are not even worth the dust on our sandals. Christians need to accept that.
John Piper is right when he says that fathers should protect their children with force and avoid taking life when possible. But this is only meaningful when the father has parity of weaponry with the criminal, for the unarmed man (which Piper prescribes) and his children are but victims before the villain. Short of martyrdom for refusing to curse or deny God, Christians must not flinch to preserve their lives, even if it means dumping a full magazine into the chest of a hell-bound sinner. We need to be okay with that.
Ours is a time in which fathers must turn their hearts back to their families, protecting them from the harmless practices which their derelict shepherds advocate by example or by silence. Treating our families as disposable before the Christ-hating souls of remote barbarians, criminal slayers, and ruthless bureaucrats is not piety but cursed sanctimoniousness.