Should Christians Own Guns for Self-defense?

Should Christians own guns for self-defense?

While restrictions and requirements differ from state to state, U.S. law generally allows for the ownership of firearms for purposes of self-defense (much less so in Canada). Whether we as Christians should exercise that right is a harder question.

Jesus said that his followers should “turn the other cheek” when struck by an assailant (Matt. 5:39) and strive to love their enemies (5:44). Because of this, Christian ethics has historically been somewhat skeptical about self-defense for believers. When affirmed, it is usually defended with philosophical reasoning rather than in direct biblical and theological terms.

John Calvin, for example, thought that Christians should be willing to allow themselves to be harmed and their possessions taken rather than retaliating against an enemy. Rather than defending themselves, he said, Christians should rely for their defense on public officials vested with responsibility for the common good (the “sword” of Romans 13, as in just war or just policing). By this principle, it would be hard for me to justify owning a gun to defend myself, but more defensible if I had serious reason for concern for, say, my family members and unreliable access to law enforcement authorities.

In addition to whether self-interest or concern for vulnerable others is the motivating factor, we should also consider whether we want to cultivate the mindset needed to use a deadly weapon properly under duress. We ask soldiers and police officers to cultivate that mindset as a sacrifice for the good of society. The fact that it can be a hard sacrifice is shown by what scholars call the painful “moral injury” that soldiers and police officers sometimes experience as a result of their profession’s involvement in violence, even when doing so lawfully and with moral justification.

Do we want to become the kind of people who are ready—primed, vigilant, suspicious—to harm a potential threat? This might be a sacrifice we are called to make on behalf of those we are responsible for. But if it is a matter of concern for ourselves, Christians have a significant reason to be willing to suffer evil: because we believe in grace and resurrection.

About the Author

Matt Lundberg is the director of the de Vries Institute for Global Faculty Development at Calvin University. He and his family are members of Boston Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

See comments (4)


Here's an article attempting to lay out a biblical argument for the right to self defense

"Christians have a significant reason to be willing to suffer evil: because we believe in grace and resurrection." 

Matt could not be more right. Boom.

While a gun owner myself, it is time we read more articles and hear more from pastors about this important issue. Either we claim that God reigns or we believe in a different thing entirely. There really is no middle ground on this issue. I grew up believing otherwise, but a close examination of the biblical text makes the answer to the question clear. Either we believe in the current reality of the kingdom of God or we do not. 

Either we fully embrace the resurrection with our lives or our God is less than capable. 


The author cites John Calvin as stating Christians should rely on public authorities for the common good.  The public authorities in John Calvin's frame of time would include the Vatican, and it would have been lost opportunity to expect protection in John's interests.  And are public authorities a more Godly tool than anything individual?

There are times in recent history when authorities betrayed public trust.     

This article is thoughtful and proposes deeper thought.  Our Brother that discusses Esther is also thought provoking. God's Word seemingly encourages us to turn the other cheek and in other circumstances defend yourself. As a CCW individual myself, I have always thought if ever called upon The Holy Spirit would provide me the discernment to respond correctly.  The first rule in "Self Defense" is to run.  Second rule is to find a safe place to hide, and the third is to defend yourself or others against harm. That defense in relation to the level of the threat may be pepper spray, a knife or possibly a gun. I watch the following video in the church sanctuary and wonder what would have happened if Jack Wilson had not interceded. (   Was this the correct repsonse?  Jack claims he can cope with it as he believes he was fighting evil. May God grant us serenity, first as we discuss this topic, and two for those caught in a position that requires a choice, action or inaction.  May we live with that choice, as assuredly we will second guess ourselves.