Thus far in my series on the relationship between Christians and guns, I have dealt with a number of passages in the New Testament that pro-gun advocates attempt to use in their agenda to favorably link Jesus to guns and Christianity or Christians to guns. I have shown thus far, however, that such endeavors are unfounded and misplaced. You can read more by clicking the following links:
In Pt. 2 I also dealt with the theological concept of incarnation and showed how it is both rooted in peace and has the ethical and theological implications of being peacemakers. Here, I want to look at the evangelical concept of salvation and ask what contribution it might play in the discussion of Christians and guns.
All throughout the Bible, that is, across both Testaments, the concept of salvation looms large. For example, several Hebrew words are related to the idea of salvation such as yasa', yesu'ah, yesa', and tesu'ah. These words can mean "to be delivered," "to be saved," "to be victorious," and "to be preserved." In the New Testament, the terms sozo, soteria, and soter carry the ideas of being saved, rescued, delivered, helped, and redeemed. Even Jesus' name "Iesous" is from the Hebrew "Joshua" which means "Yahweh is salvation." (I have, of course, linked nouns, adjectives, and verbs together here so as to help keep this post succinct.)
The fact is, across the cannon the concept of salvation is central. For this reason, it is also at the heart of evangelical Christianity. For evangelicals, a large premium is placed on the doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. The belief is that humans have submitted to corruption instead of God and in the process, they became estranged from God. By way of this act, they forfeited their relationship with God and caused a rupture in that relationship. Grieved by this, God set a plan of salvation in motion. This plan was to overcome the rupture. It would be overcome by sending Jesus, the divine who would become human and show humans how to reconnect with God. Or, put more theologically, Jesus would help humans realize their need for God and show them the way to God. That way was none other than Jesus himself. Jesus is Yahweh's gift of salvation to humans.
For almost all evangelicals, the concept of salvation is of paramount importance as it drives outreach, evangelism, missions, preaching, teaching, etc. Thus, for evangelicals, those who have experienced salvation already, the aim is to help others experience this salvation. The belief that runs alongside this is that for those who do not accept and confess Jesus' salvation before death, the end that awaits them is hell. Hell is everlasting separation from God while salvation is forever being in God's presence. For Christians, the salvation of the other or the salvation of all is of great significance. In short, it is a first-order doctrine.
Now, one thing that I often hear from Christians with guns is that it is their responsibility, ordered from God-on-high, to protect their family members. This, they say, is why they own and carry guns and are not afraid to use them. However, I must ask: Where is this taught in the Bible? I can't seem to find it. In addition to the problem of the absence of this belief is the fact that it does not square with the first-order belief of salvation. For example, the scenario that we often hear is this: "If someone breaks in my house and tries to hurt my wife or children, I'm going to defend them and if I have a gun, you had better believe that I'm going to use it."
Now, granted a person can be shot without being killed. But much of the time people are going to be killed if shot while intruding. Now, try to follow my logic here. If a person breaks into your home, then it probably stands to reason that they are not a devout Christian. Devout Christians do not do this kind of thing. If they are not a (devout) Christian, this means that probably do not have salvation from God. Now, if it is the Christian's job to "evangelize" and this is the Christian's first order of business, then I must ask: If a Christian shoots and kills someone who does not have salvation, doesn't that go against the very heart of Christian belief? Yes it does, in fact, it goes directly against it. Shooting and killing the intruder deprives him or her the opportunity of experiencing and living out God's salvation. This is a contradiction in terms!!! Suppose the Christian doesn't shoot and kill but just wounds the intruder. Isn't highly likely that the intruder will dislike Christians all the more? Why sure. Either way, shooting the person, whether to kill or not, stands the chance of ruining the intruder's chance at salvation and becoming a Christian. Instead, what could be done is to try to talk the person out of what they're doing. You say, "Oh but that's unrealistic." Well, I point you HERE to an article where two teachers recently talked a shooter in a school out of doing more harm with the gun. And I remind you also of the fact that hostage negotiators often do this kind of talking quite successfully. Thus, instead of taking carry-concealed classes, perhaps Christians would fare better to take negotiating classes if they're really scared, concerned, or worried.
For a Christian to own a gun and be willing to shoot someone, especially to kill them, goes directly against the heart of Christianity. Whether this means being armed personally as a civilian or as one in the military, it poses great theological and ethical problems. Christians who own guns and are willing to use them on people act against two of the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith, namely, the doctrines of the incarnation and salvation. To put these two beliefs in jeopardy is just not worth it. Of course, there is more to be said and I will say more but for now, I'm settled on the fact that the New Testament does not permit Christians to own and use weapons. As one might expect, the outworking of Christian theology and ethics aligns with this.