Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem; not a gun problem.

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Cain killed Abel with a rock billboard

A billboard reads “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem; not a gun problem. Jeremiah 17:9” I first shared this graphic on Facebook on October 3, 2015, after yet another school shooting. What came next was a brief but emotionally-charged conversation over gun control. A polarizing issue; some folks clamor for it while some reject the idea outright.

I say the gun, the bomb, the sword—they’re all just inanimate things with no minds or ill-will of their own. The issue is the intent behind their invention, continued production and use. If there was a true respect for life in humanity, there would be no need or desire for these things to even exist.

Therein lies the “heart problem”.

As I’ve entered a period of regeneration in my Christian walk, I’ve been getting clear on God’s guidance in regards to the hot topics that face our fallen world today. One of the ways I have been doing this has been by plugging into learned teachers of the Christian faith like Greg Bahnsen, Joel McDurmon of American Vision and Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church.

Since I’ve begun voraciously listening to the Apologia Church crew via their Apologia Radio broadcast, I’ve stumbled over a troubling pro-gun, anti-legislation stance that isn’t sitting well with me. I normally really respect the apologetic training and message these folks are producing. Their work has been vital in helping me clarify what I believe and why I believe it. Still, this “biblical” slant on the right to bear arms feels out of place when held up next to what is usually spot-on biblical interpretation. In his October 2015 argument against additional gun legislation, Pastor Jeff returns to one of his primary influencers, Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

During a landmark debate against Dr. James Atwood over the issue of gun control, Dr. Bahnsen attempted to illustrate God’s will for us to protect ourselves according to Scripture. The examples he gives are the following:

Exodus 22:2 – Killing a thief found breaking and entering.
While lethal force is not actually condoned by God here, this passage provides legal advice depending upon whether the thief breaks in during the night or by day.

Judges 15 – The story of Samson killing many Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
This revenge story seems to be an account of God’s justice being meted out upon the Philistines through Samson’s berserker rage.

Nehemiah 4 – The builders of the wall armed themselves.
A historical account of the steps Nehemiah’s men took to protect themselves as they worked on the wall; not a call to arms by God. Though Nehemiah trusted God would support their efforts, he and his men were still worldly enough to hold fast to their weapons.

Luke 11:21 – “When a strong man, fully armed, keeps his palace; his goods are in peace.”
When taken in full context, this reads a bit differently. The text goes on to say, “But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” The exegesis here is a reference to Satan being overcome by Christ and being “plundered” of his stolen souls. If anything, Christ is pointing to Satan’s error by trusting in his own power; not telling us we should go out and follow Satan’s self-reliant example.

Luke 22:36 – Where Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword.
Here Jesus is setting the stage for one of his last lessons before his death. Christ does not condone the use of the sword. This is evident when he admonishes the overzealous apostle for cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Luke 22:49-51). Just as certainly as he understands his anointing for burial (Matthew 26:12) and foretells his betrayal (Luke 22:22-23), he obviously foresees the lesson of the sword. This is why he orders the apostles to produce a sword, even if they must sell their cloak and buy one (Luke 22:36). When they offer two, his response is, “It is enough.”

So, I don’t agree with Bahnsen and I don’t agree with Durbin and company. I don’t believe God ever redacted that pesky sixth commandment “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). When the Israelites were led out of Egypt, did you ever notice it was God that doled out the justice? Not once was an Israelite citizen commanded to pick up a weapon and smite their enemy. I believe Scripture when I read:

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:11-15)

If we stop a moment and mentally follow the time-tested litmus test of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), I hope it becomes obvious to us Christ wouldn’t be walking the Earth today carrying a concealed pistol. And if we truly believe he is the Truth, the Way and the Life, we know it is his example we are to chase and emulate; not an apostle’s, not Nehemiah’s, not Samson’s, nor that of anyone standing behind a microphone today.

Christ’s example to us was one of shocking love and meek sacrifice to sinners; not self-defense or self-reliance. Even as he prayed in the garden, his words were “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) If it is God’s will you be attacked in the dead of night, may I offer what is likely to be a grossly unpopular response to this?

God has allowed this to happen.

If we truly believe in God’s omniscience and omnipotence, that not a molecule in the universe is out of place; and if we truly believe in his protection and plan for us, we cannot doubt that either

  1. we will be spared of any wrongdoing through the most elegant, divinely-orchestrated serendipity, or that
  2. God intends to use our purgation in a redemptive, meaningful way, or finally
  3. we’ve earned God’s wrath.

Lest we forget, we are not our own but his alone.

So, is deeper legislation the answer? Well, from a world-centered point of view, it may be a step in the right direction (depending upon the legislation, of course.) Through ensuring the right to bear arms, the founding fathers intended to keep a level playing field between the people and a wayward government or invading force. There is no way they could have foreseen the advances in warfare, technology and moral decline we’ve come to enjoy today. Still, this is man’s self-made law; not God’s.

So, is legislation the answer? It’s an aspirin to a headache. It treats the symptom, but it does little to address the underlying cause.

Yes, I agree tougher controls and legislation are needed in the short-term. Curiously, I’ve seen folks in this discussion make the leap to compare men and their guns with women and abortions (which is ennobled as ‘health care’).

(Retrieved from http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/uncategorized/epic-response-to-treating-abortion-like-gun-control.)
(Retrieved from http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/uncategorized/epic-response-to-treating-abortion-like-gun-control.)

There have been over 54,000,000 abortions in the US since it was legalized 1973. (For perspective, the WWII Holocaust killed over 11,000,000.) While gun control is definitely an issue, crazed assault weapon owners haven’t even scratched the paint in taking this many innocent lives.

I see both issues as ‘heart’ issues. Both gun control and abortion could be removed from the table completely if humanity’s heart was in the right place. The fact we mass-produce killing machines and glamorize violence in our entertainment and media is indicative of the same heart sickness we suffer when we fail to recognize the value of human life in utero.

If we, as God’s people, held a true respect for life, guns and other instruments of warfare would be reduced to relics in a museum; dusty reminders of a medieval mindset that took way too long to dry up and blow away.

matt signature


This conversation on self-defense and violence is continued in the post Christian Martial Arts? The Biblical Case Against Self-Defense.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Great response I agree with the bottom line that the whole problem is the heart of man..
    But in Romans 13 God says that those who bear the sword do it for the fear of the punishment of wrong behavior…He doesn’t bear it in vain…
    God uses fear to deter evil. So in society we have swords guns bombs to keep evil in check
    God set punishments for that also
    Deters such behavior eye for eye tooth for tooth and life for life ..also prison. So the answer is not to remove guns …we give them to our police and military to protect our lives.. As in the founding Fathers intent to protect us from a a corrupt government and enemies within. Saying all this i agree that the whole problem is the unregenerate heart.. And for Christians to trust the Lord and not their guns
    But until Christ is seated upon the throne and Isaiah 2:4 is fulfilled it seems to be a need till all is fulfilled.

    • Its a complex issue no quick or easy answer…52 out of 55 men who formed the constitution were Christian men so it would pay to find out why they made it the 2nd amendment of the bill of rights

    • Thank you for Romans 13, however it led me to Romans 12:14-21 which seems to further reinforce the notion bearing arms by which to exact our own justice or protection is an error? Thoughts?

      • I hope I explain this better. You are right. As Christians, we should overcome evil with good and trust GOD with our lives. That is my position too. I’m now trying to explain why guns are here. The point is with the sword being threatened in 13 is for sinners that practice evil or Christians’ thinking on wrong is to fear the sword the punishment for evil for they’re appointed by GOD. Sword, gun or bomb is a deterrent to keep people from attacking us. As the military or police force keeps evil at bay for fear of retaliation or punishment. I believe as in the Pentateuch that it is a structure set up for protection by God. Hell is Gods deterrent with avengers on earth that can punish or take life by bringing judgement on those doing evil. This being said, bottom line is that this fear is to keep the unregenerate in check by fear of punishment.. but not us born again Christians. We have new hearts. So these weapons are necessary in our evil world till Christ is seated as King over it. Isaiah 2:4 read this it should give insight.

        Christians shouldn’t need guns unless they hunt. Our hope is in GOD and in him to protect us or allow things for his glory… a confidence in His sustaining power through all life’s demands.

        I was trying to explain both perspectives and show where we are to stand as Christians. As you stated, it all comes down to the condition of the heart. That’s why the preaching of the gospel is the final answer for heart conditions.

  2. This was a very good post. Something to consider.

    Does Evil exist in this world because God permits it? Psalms 115:16, Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18

  3. Did Cain kill Abel with a rock, or is this imagined billboard deceitful? Let us look at Genesis 4:8. The earliest Greek Bible says “??? ??????? ?? ?? ????? ?????? ?? ?? ????? ??? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ?????????? ?????”, which doesn’t mention any rock (“?????”, you know, like “Peter”), and the Vulgate Bible (used from 400 A.D. onwards) says “Cumque essent in agro, consurrexit Cain adversus fratrem suum Abel, et interfecit eum”, which doesn’t mention a rock, and the King James says “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him”, which doesn’t mention a rock. There’s a bunch of medieval references in art and literature that show Cain using the jawbone of an ass, confusing it perhaps with the weapon in Judges 15:16. Shakespeare’s Hamlet mentions Cain’s use of a jawbone, too. There is a Book of Jubilees that does say Cain used a rock in 4:31, but that book that is probably not a part of your Bible, as it is considered a pseudepigraph, and only canonical to some Ethiopians both Christian and Jewish. That’s not to say there isn’t room for Christian interpretation and questioning of the Abel and Cain story, as the point is stated to be that no one yet knew how to murder, yet Abel’s sacrifice involved killing sheep, and animal sacrifice wasn’t prescribed among Jews until after Moses. Now if you want to dive into Muslim and Jewish minor texts, it really gets crazy, with alternate versions of Cain and Abel that involve them fighting over which of their twin sisters they get to marry, the Devil teaching Cain how to use a rock to kill, and a raven that shows him how to bury the body, but hey, that’s what makes Bible study so fun. Now if you were a deluded loner looking for inspiration about being pissed-off and taking revenge on large groups of people by killing them, you could probably overlook the “do not kill” and “love one another” parts of the Bible, it wouldn’t be hard to find a few tales of wrath, too, but lacking magical powers to wipe out whole cities at one swoop, you’d probably choose to use guns instead of stones. Finally, Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

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