Ronald R. Cherry
Rebuttal of a Christian pacifist
By Ronald R. Cherry
January 4, 2016

Reverend John Piper recently wrote an essay advocating Christian pacifism in the face of mortal threats to life and limb. The following is a detailed rebuttal.

"As chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, I want to send a different message to our students, and to the readers of Desiring God, than Jerry Falwell, Jr. sent to the students of Liberty University in a campus chapel service on December 4... The apostle Paul called Christians not to avenge ourselves, but to leave it to the wrath of God, and instead to return good for evil." Reverend John Piper

"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12: 17-21

It is not possible, nor does it depend on us, to live peaceably with Sharia-loving totalitarian Muslim jihadists, or with totalitarian Marxists or Fascists, because totalitarian control of the great mass of people by a small self-serving oligarchy, religious or secular, requires destruction of the people's God-given unalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We did not overcome the disgusting evils of Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism by providing them with food and drink because the evil spoken of by the Apostle Paul was of a lesser order, i.e.: social enemies rather than totalitarian mortal enemies. It is not evil to oppose, resist and destroy evil, and will not be confused with repaying evil for evil in the minds of right-minded American Christians.

Reverend Jerry Falwell, Jr. has not called for Christians to arm themselves in order to enact vengeance against Muslim jihadists, or other murderers, rather he has expressed the intuitive, natural, God-given human instinct for self-defense and survival. Reverend John Piper has thus constructed a non-existent straw man, named it Jerry Falwell, Jr., and then attempted to rhetorically take him down.

"And then he [the Apostle Paul] said that God gave the sword (the gun) into the hand of governmental rulers to express that wrath in the pursuit of justice in this world..." Reverend John Piper

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." Romans 13: 1-4

Unlike the tyrannies of ancient times, and unlike modern Fascist or Marxist Dictatorships or Islamo-Fascist Dictatorships, as stated in our Declaration of Independence, the United States was founded on the God-given, natural, unalienable, equal rights of His created people. The Apostle Paul correctly tells us to obey good government, i.e.: government which secures the people's natural rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but it is self-evident from both ancient and modern history that many governments become tyrannical and evil as they destroy the people's God-given human rights, and thus their God-given human dignity and value. Evil tyrannical governments are a terror to good conduct, are not instituted by God – as with Pharaoh of Exodus, and become God's enemy – not God's servant. Notice that the Apostle Paul qualified government as an institution which is not a fearful terror to the people, and a Godly servant to the people's good, thus we are not subject to evil rulers (evil governing authorities) which become an un-Godly fearful terror to their people, and a servant primarily of their own good to the detriment of the people's good. Resistance to evil tyrannical government will not incur God's judgment, rather the opposite, evil tyrannical government will incur God's judgment.

"Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God... I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Thomas Jefferson

"Any claim that in a democracy the citizens
are the government, and therefore may assume the role of the sword-bearing ruler in Romans 13, is elevating political extrapolation over biblical revelation. When Paul says, '[The ruler] does not bear the sword in vain' (Romans 13:4), he does not mean that Christians citizens should all carry swords so the enemy doesn't get any bright ideas." Reverend John Piper

First of all the United States is not a Democracy because our Founding Fathers understood that democratic majorities tend to become tyrannical oppressors of minorities, so our nation was created as a Declarational/Constitutional Republic whose laws (Constitution) secure all the people's God-given unalienable human rights (Declaration). The American Republic, properly administered, does in fact deliver power to the people who, through their amendable Constitution, are the government. Therefore We the People do assume the role of sword-bearing ruler as in Romans 13, thus bringing just political power into compliance with Biblical revelation.

"The Constitution of most of our states, and of the United States, assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press." Thomas Jefferson

"The people – the people – are the rightful masters of both congresses, and courts – not to overthrow the constitution, but to overthrow the
men who pervert it." Abraham Lincoln

It is irrational, and I would add immoral, to assert that our American Government has an obligation to wield the sword in defense of its people, but not the people themselves.

"It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately." Thomas Jefferson

"The apostle Peter teaches us that Christians will often find themselves in societies where we should expect and accept unjust mistreatment without retaliation... Peter's aim for Christians as "sojourners and exiles" on the earth is not that we put our hope in the self-protecting rights of the second amendment, but in the revelation of Jesus Christ in glory (1 Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:1). His aim is that we suffer well and show that our treasure is in heaven, not in self-preservation."
Reverend John Piper

"This is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly." 1 Peter 2:19

Yes, of course, if we suffer injustice and sorrow because of our Christian faith we will be rewarded in Heaven, but that is not the same as passively allowing others, particularly those people comprising an evil government, to physically maim or kill us our families or our neighbors without exercising self-defense for self-preservation. We should rejoice if we must suffer or die as Christians, but we are not commanded by the Apostle Peter that we must suffer and die, or to passively allow the suffering and death of our children or neighbors at the hands of evil people such as murderers, Islamic Jihadists, other terrorists or evil government. Peter's aim is not that we should suffer well, but that we should suffer well if there is no way out – as always occurs under tyrannical governments devoid of a second amendment. The cure for suffering unjustly, whenever possible, is the overthrow of injustice and the establishment of justice, just as it occurred in our American Revolution.

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security." Thomas Jefferson

"Jesus promised that violent hostility will come; and the whole tenor of his counsel was how to handle it with suffering and testimony, not with armed defense... If we teach our students that they should carry guns, and then challenge them, 'Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,' do we really think that when the opportunity to lay down their lives comes, they will do what Jim Elliott and his friends did in Ecuador, and refuse to fire their pistols at their killers, while the spears plunged through their chests?
Reverend John Piper

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony... You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls." Luke 21: 12-19

Jesus was warning the twelve Apostles in Luke 21 that they would be persecuted and that some would be put to death for speaking His gospel, and that they should make the best of their opportunities to speak, and be prepared for the worst, but Jesus' last word on the subject follows in Luke 22 where he instructed the Apostles to buy swords for self-defense.

"When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." Luke 22: 35-36

Reverend Piper expects the Christian students at Liberty University to lay down their lives when the time comes, i.e.: when a Muslim Jihadist or other terrorist starts shooting, stabbing or bombing, rather than exercise self-defense, and he has perverted the Word of God in so doing.

"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath.'" John 18: 10-11

"But Jesus said to him [Peter], "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." Matthew 26: 52

Jesus did not admonish Peter to get rid of his sword after cutting off the ear of a solder sent to arrest Jesus. He told Peter to re-sheathe his sword, which means Jesus told Peter to keep his sword for its proper use of self-defense. Peter's mistake was to use the sword in an act of aggression when Jesus was arrested by the legal authorities; Peter was not using it in self-defense while someone was trying to murder him or Jesus. The legal officers who arrested Jesus carried swords too, but they did not strike Peter or Jesus with their swords, so it was Peter who used the sword in a wrong way, and Jesus called him on it, but Jesus did not tell Peter to get rid of his sword. Those who live by the sword through aggression often die violently, and justly so, but those who use the sword only in self-defense are known as our courageous heroes.

"When Jesus told the apostles to buy a sword, he was not telling them to use it to escape the very thing he promised they should endure to the death... I do not think that Jesus meant in verse 36 that his disciples were to henceforth be an armed band of preachers ready to use violence to defend themselves from persecution." Reverend John Piper

Jesus knew that after his time on earth was done the Apostles and other followers would be placed in harm's way, and Jesus did not want them to die at the hands of their enemies prior to an effective spreading the His Gospel. Luke 22, 35-36 is the Christian 2nd amendment. Jesus expected His Apostles to carry swords in self-defense so they could carry out their God-ordained mission. I believe likewise that Jesus does not want us to die at the hands of the enemies of our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness today prior to our own God-ordained mission to live and love, labor creatively and to speak the Gospel of Christ in our own day. Jesus was Himself a pacifist, but, despite the assertions of Reverend Piper, Jesus did not order us to be pacifists.

"I think I can say with complete confidence that the identification of Christian security with concealed weapons will cause no one to ask a reason for the hope that is in us. They will know perfectly well where our hope is. It's in our pocket." Reverend John Piper

As Christians we have hope in eternal life thanks to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that is no reason to abandon hope for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in this world. Our hope for the former is in Jesus, and for the latter in our love of life, family and neighbors, in our creative labor, and in our God-given ability and responsibility to defend these precious gifts from God.

"Christians are freed to rejoice in persecution because our hearts have been so changed that we are more satisfied in the hope of heaven than in the hope of self-defense. This is the root of turning the other cheek and loving the enemy... A natural instinct is to boil this issue down to the question, "Can I shoot my wife's assailant?... This instinct is understandable. But it seems to me that the New Testament resists this kind of ethical reduction, and does not satisfy our demand for a yes or no on that question." Reverend John Piper

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." Matthew 5: 38-42

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5: 44-45

When Jesus instructed us to not resist an evil person and turn the other cheek, it is clear from the text that He was referencing social conflict, not life-threatening mortal conflict. Some Christians may be called to self-sacrificing pacifism – OK by me for them, but the vast majority of us are called to physically defend our own lives, and the lives of our families and neighbors. As Christians we are obliged to love our enemy, yet at the same time we are obliged to hate and if necessary destroy evil as it confronts us.

"The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil." Proverbs 8:13

"Hate what is evil..." Romans 12:9

It is one thing for a Christian clergyman to advocate self-sacrificing pacifism for himself in the face of mortal danger, but quite another to advocate or force pacifism on others against their natural God-given will to live. No one on Earth has the authority to tolerate, through pacifism, maiming injury or death to their own family or neighbor at the hands of murderers, terrorists, Muslim jihadists or tyrannical government; that is not only cowardly and un-Christian, it is evil. As Christians we are under Divine obligation to provide, not only food and shelter for our families, without which physical harm would ensue, but also to provide safety from violent physical harm. Both the New and Old Testaments provide us with a resounding "yes" to the question posed by Reverend Piper: "Can I shoot my wife's assailant?"

"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8

Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:16

As Christians we are obliged by God to physically and courageously defend our families and thereby eschew the cowardice of un-Godly pacifism. Do not allow the Christian church to be perverted into the pacifist suicide cult advocated by Reverend Piper.

"The early church, as we see her in Acts, expected and endured persecution without armed resistance, but rather with joyful suffering, prayer, and the word of God... In all the dangers Paul faced in the book of Acts, there is not a hint that he ever planned to carry or use a weapon for his defense against his adversaries. He was willing to appeal to the authorities in Philippi (Acts 16:37) and Jerusalem (Acts 22:25). But he never used a weapon to defend himself against persecution." Reverend John Piper

"When they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." Acts 5: 40-41

There is more than a hint that the Apostle Paul carried a sword for self-defense since Jesus, setting a precedent, commanded the other twelve Apostles to do so the night before His crucifixion. Unlike Peter who cut off the ear of a solder sent to arrest Jesus, we have no indication that Paul, after his conversion, used his sword unjustly outside of self-defense.

Early Christians were mostly helpless and disarmed subjects of a totalitarian Roman Emperor, not free men and women living in a Constitutional Republic dedicated to securing the people's life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness, so we should not use the example of early Christian martyrs as a blueprint for present day America. These early Christians were unable to avoid persecution; they were defenseless serfs born with Roman saddles on their backs, but we are not. The injustice, persecution and tyranny of old Rome, and of Medieval Kings, has been overthrown by our Founding Fathers. As Americans we now have the protection of our Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights by the grace of God.

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." Thomas Jefferson

"This article is about the people whom the Bible calls "refugees and exiles" on earth; namely, Christians. It's about the fact that our weapons are not material, but spiritual... It is an argument that the overwhelming focus and thrust of the New Testament is that Christians are sent into the world... "as lambs in the midst of wolves"... And that exhorting the lambs to carry concealed weapons with which to shoot the wolves does not advance the counter-cultural, self-sacrificing, soul-saving cause of Christ."
Reverend John Piper

Reverend Piper's article is about un-Godly Christian pacifism where the soul-saving words of Jesus Christ have been perverted into suicidal agitprop which enables the triumph of evil.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke

© Ronald R. Cherry


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Ronald R. Cherry

Ronald R. Cherry, MD, is a board-certified specialist in lung disease who is in the full-time practice of medicine in Sweetwater, Tennessee... (more)


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