John Piper and Guns
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 others who “are not ready for heaven.”
- 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 myopic and 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 don’t know if John Piper’s children are all grown and it’s just he and his wife at home, but many of us do still 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?
Addendum: James White addresses this issue in I Beg To Differ, Brother Piper. Dr. White takes a more wide-angle view than I did. Although the comments section of this post has taken in more, my intention was to focus on Dr. Piper’s single expressed reason for sparing the intruder, i.e., that he is “not ready for heaven” (in case you didn’t get that).