A Biblical Defense of the Second Amendment

Written by Rev. Thorin Anderson

“Seriously,” You might ask?  “How will you manage that?”

Those who actually understand traditional Christianity know that devout Christians typically make the best citizens, even under totalitarian regimes, because we understand and accept the biblical injunction to submit to authority, even when it is unreasonable, so long as it does not demand disloyalty to Christ.  Therefore, my suggestion that there is biblical support for the Second Amendment will likely surprise many because that Amendment is sometimes perceived to provide means for overthrowing a government.  It is emphatically not, however.

It would be correct to say that through the majority of history the idea apparently suggested by the Second Amendment (i.e. citizens prepared to violently confront political leaders) would generally be inconsistent with a biblical world view.  But, we are not in the “majority” of history.  We live in the United States, and that makes a very significant difference!

Generally, governments can be described as a pyramid, with an individual or small group of rulers at the top, and the citizens at the bottom.  This applies to kings, emperors, or oligarchies and even some democracies.  In these cases, the citizens are subject to those who rule.  The place of law in such situations varies from time-to-time or country-to-country.  Traditionally a king or emperor may dictate law, or may be in some cases subject to law.

Paul states in Romans 13 that Christians are to subject themselves to the authority of the rulers as unto God Himself, for “there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”  Historically, then, Christians would not be found taking up arms against “Rome,” so-to-speak.  So, how can I justify a defense of the Second Amendment which would seem to justify revolution?

I will not only suggest that Americans are right to arm themselves, under the Second Amendment, I will suggest that one might make the case that Christians are REQUIRED to arm themselves under that Amendment!

As I noted above, traditional governing structures look like a pyramid.  However, under our Constitution, government would appear more as an hour-glass.  At the very top of the authority structure would be the U.S. Constitution itself, but immediately under it would be the citizens.  Thus, at the top of our governmental structure is every American of voting age.  Beneath the citizens we would find our elected “officials,” local, regional, state, and federal.  It is fine to refer to them as “officials” because they carry out the wishes of the nation, and have limited authority to do so.

In contradistinction to traditional governments, however, OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE NOT THE GOVERNMENT!  They are servants of the government, which is us, THE CITIZENS! Recall Lincoln’s words from his Gettysburg Address,

“. . .that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people. . . .”  Important, by the way, is the fact that the early translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe, wrote in the flyleaf of his translation that, “the Bible is for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

It is true that we, the citizens, find ourselves also at the bottom of the hour-glass shaped figure, voluntarily submitting ourselves to the “authorities” such as police; however, though we are, on one hand, individually at the bottom of the authority structure, it is critical to remember that we are more importantly at the top as well!

As citizen governors we have designated “public servants” to execute many of the responsibilities of a state that would simply be unwieldy for the entire population.  If every highway and bridge being built had to go before the entire electorate we would never see a road or bridge built.  And one can only imagine the catastrophe that would follow if every battle, every military decision had to get a majority vote of America’s citizens!

So, we understand that our actual government, the citizens, has designated smaller, manageable groups, such as legislators, military staff, and the President himself, to run day-to-day affairs of the government, military and wars, etc.

However, having done so, the reality on the ground is that the servants of the government have tremendously powerful weapons at their disposal in the police and military, and should these servants decide that they no longer wish to be servants, but masters, what is the actual government, i.e. the citizens, to do to prevent a revolution?  We must be able to respond!

This explains, by-the-way, the real motive behind politicians’ efforts to confiscate citizens’ firearms.

The Founders, in their wisdom, placed a number of impediments to such a scenario.  First, the head of the military is a civilian, the president.  Coincidental to that is the fact that the president is elected every four years, thus significantly impeding his ability to gain the following necessary to carry out a revolt against the government.  Also, our three-branched political structure, at least in theory, provides checks and balances to prevent any single branch, group, or individual from usurping enough power to over-throw the U.S. Constitution and subjugate the citizens.

These and other constitutional provisions significantly reduce the risk of the servants of the state setting themselves up as the ultimate authority in the United States.  But, no laws in themselves can prevent power-hungry leaders from subverting the Constitution with the intent to make themselves “kings.”  At some point the individual members of the actual government must be able to put down a revolution of the servants against the Constitution and themselves.  Thus the existence of the Second Amendment.

Which brings me back to the Apostle Paul and Romans 13.  As Christians we are to be subject to the Authority of our Nation, which is the Constitution.  One might say that the Founders died and left us ALL in charge.  They placed the responsibility and authority of overseeing the affairs of state, carrying out all the duties of government, in our hands, and we have no choice under the law, but to be informed and involved.  It could be said that the minimum required of American citizens under Romans 13 would be to be well-informed and vote.  But, that is the minimum.

If your sibling died and left you his/her children, you could hardly shirk that responsibility.  One might say that the minimum required of you would be to provide a roof over their head, clothing on their backs and food on their plates.  However, no good person would say that the minimum would be good enough.  If you care at all for others, you would have to do more.  It is your responsibility.  How much less can we, the citizen governors of the United States, neglect our duty to the Constitution and Nation?  A minimum is not enough.  A good citizen of America will do whatever is necessary for the good of and for the continuation of the nation, and that would certainly include doing whatever is necessary to prevent an over-throw of our government.  This would be the duty of every citizen, and especially every Christian who is submissive to the stipulations of Romans 13.

Addressing Critics

I understand that there are arguments against the Second Amendment providing for citizens’ the right to weapons powerful enough to protect themselves against errant, would-be tyrants.  Among them are these:

  1. The Founders never imagined weapons as powerful as we have today, thus the Second Amendment is obsolete.
  1. If the Founders intended the citizens be able to go toe-to-toe with the government to keep it in line, citizens would have to be able to own rockets, cruise missles and Nukes, which is neither wise nor feasible.  Thus, the Second Amendment should not be so construed.
  1. The Second Amendment refers to each state’s organized “militia,” which corresponds to today’s National Guard, and not individual citizens, therefore, citizens do not need weapons such as semi-auto rifles, etc.

A response:

  1. It is irrelevant that the Founders did not, nor could have imagined the types of weapons available today. “Give me liberty or give me death” was their creed; thus, they were willing to take great risks and pay a great price to remain free.  Their purpose in the Amendment was to provide one more obstacle to any tyrant seeking to usurp authority over the free citizens of America.  What is important to understand is that there are always tyrants seeking to impose their wills upon others.  Most are ineffective in their attempts, but history is largely the story of those who were able to do so.  To ignore this fact is dangerous.  As someone rightfully noted, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”The issue then is not whether Americans should be allowed to have semiautomatic weapons, etc., but how to educate and discipline Americans so that they can be trusted with them.
  1. Yes, the Founders did intend that the citizens be able to stand against any tyrant who would try to subjugate them. Would Washington or Jefferson, if they were alive today, advocate that anyone who wants a cruise missle or Nuke in his garage should be able to have one?  Probably not, but, they were quite radical thinkers!  However, logic would suggest that they would find the question troubling because they valued liberty very, very highly, and would certainly desire the citizens to be free from fear of their government.  I expect that they would consider it a moot point as few people could afford such weapons.  Therefore, they would probably erect strong firewalls to insure against such weapons ever being used against the citizens.  (It was very unsettling to hear a Democrat official recently refer to using Nukes against citizens who oppose the direction he and others are seeking to take the Nation!).But, the argument begs the question: How could citizens armed with at most semi-automatic weapons hope to hold their own against tyrants who have insinuated themselves into places of power and are willing to use extremely powerful weapons against the public?  Those who ask such a question apparently hope America’s Second Amendment supporters will simply concede the point and give up their weapons and their rights without a fight.  They underestimate Americans’ love of liberty, willingness to defend it, and ability to withstand tyranny.I expect very few Second Amendment supporters would suggest that every American ought to have a nuke in their garage and a couple missles in their basement.  But, if a confrontation between a tyrant and a typical American were to occur and the tyrant chose to line up a cruise missle on the citizen’s home, the world and Nation would take note.  In the mean time, a few semi-automatic rifles in trained hands will keep most would-be tyrants sitting by their fire-places merely dreaming of what might have been.
  1. What the Founders intended by “a well-regulated militia” and what we have as state militias or National Guard are two different things. Today’s guard units are under the authority of state governments, and are not citizen soldiers as was found in colonial days.  The militias were rather informal at first, and under threat of war became more organized and trained, but they were largely controlled by the local communities or colony and were certainly not subject to federal control.  The Founders saw the militias as their own wall of defense against the power of a tyrannical state. They would never have ceded control of the militias to others who would or could then use the militia against them.  The militias were not “others.”  They were “us.”Among the several key factors to America’s great success as a nation is the fact that our Constitution was truly designed for self-governing people.  Early Americans understood that they were individually largely responsible for their own success or failure, and for their own adherence to a common political and cultural theory.  Therefore, they inculcated deeply into the thinking of their youth biblical teaching about integrity, character, responsibility, spiritual and moral principles, and self-discipline.  They understood that to avoid the external constraints of a government they would have to individually exercise internal restraint.  For the citizens of the Nation to remain free the majority of its citizens must accept these premises.

Liberty can survive only where good character exists.  And those with good character can be trusted with weaponry.

Therefore, the solution to the dilemma is not confiscation, but godliness!

Illinois Family Institute is hosting their annual Worldview Conference on March 7th at the Village Church of Barrington. This year’s conference is titled “Thinking Biblically About Our Corrosive Culture” and features Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Rob Gagnon. For more information, please click HERE for a flyer or click the button below to register for the conference.