Christian Martial Arts? The Biblical Case Against Self-Defense

christian martial arts

It’s been on my heart to write this post ever since I wrote “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem; not a gun problem.” For me, the issue surrounding our response to violence first bubbled up around the topic of gun control. Initially, I felt the huge disconnect between pastor Jeff Durbin’s great Christian apologetic teaching and his announcement of free concealed weapons classes through his Apologia Church. Incredulous curiosity brought me to their Apologia Radio iTunes episode #144, “A Biblical And Christian Response To Gun Control” (10/16/2015) where Durbin points to the Bahnsen/Atwood gun debate for his pro-gun/anti-legislation stance. Unfortunately, in that debate, Dr. Greg Bahnsen was much more interested in trying to best fellow pastor Dr. Atwood than he was in furthering the gun legislation discussion. At one point, Bahnsen even earned chuckles from the audience when he declared Christ would carry a gun if he walked the earth today. Atwood had the good sense to disagree.

So if the use of weapons for violence is un-Christ-like, what about other forms of violence? What about competitive martial arts? What about self-defense? Should Christians do karate? What does God say about fighting?

On a personal level, this came up for me recently. I had a pediatrician recommend martial arts for my oldest son (10 years old.) The doctor intended this as a means to help my son burn off energy and bring focus; great goals, of course. My concern was bringing such training to a child who—at this point in his evolution—occasionally suffers bouts of impulse control beyond that of the typical 10 year old boy. A spiritual brother at work laughed when I told him this. He knows of my growing pacifist slant, which we debate since he teaches martial arts in his off-hours. I also have a history of studying and appreciating martial arts, so I can understand the attraction to the sport.

Obviously, I had to get clear on this issue. Well, as it happens, the Apologia Radio gang has a talk on martial arts and its place in Christianity. Here is the description:

UFC to the Glory of God (?), Hobby Lobby & God’s Sovereignty, 7/5/2014 (1:30:07) Should Christians get behind and celebrate systems and arts developed for the purposes of destroying an enemy? Further, should Christians view, participate in, or celebrate professional fighting?

(Before we continue, I mentioned this in the gun control post, but it bears repeating here. A reader may get the impression I’m targeting Jeff Durbin and Apologia Church. I assure you, I think highly of the apologetic training and witnessing they have been producing. They have been doing some wonderful work in the world. Still, it is our job as Christians to bear true witness to the Word of God so when we find errant teaching, we are to be salt and point it out.)

In this episode, the show’s producer, Elliot, voices a concern about whether he—as a Christian—should enjoy watching Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts bouts. It’s funny that Elliot’s own conscience tells him there’s something wrong about this, but sadly, Durbin steps in and lets him off the hook.

In response, Durbin relates his own experience as a nationally-ranked martial artist. Durbin would have us not focus on the obvious violence of the sport, but upon the “art” in martial arts. He gives the beginning of Psalm 144 as proof of God’s stamp of approval:

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;

Of course, though he knows this verse well, Durbin does not mention 2 Corinthians 10:3-6:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

But then, Durbin says it’s about how we apply the “Biblical world-view”. Well, there’s no doubt about that. I wonder though; would Christ agree with how Durbin applies it here?

Durbin would teach us that the self-control of the men in the ring, as they bludgeon one another, is something to be admired. After all, they stop short of killing each other. Their brotherly camaraderie after a bout is heart-warming. It should be the beauty of the art we focus on—the mastery—not the base violence of the activity.

Do not focus on the obvious fact that fighting your neighbor is not loving your neighbor.

Do not focus on the king-of-the-hill spirit of pride in competitive martial arts.

Do not focus on the spirit of besting one another as opposed to raising each other up.

Where do you place your faith?

At one point, Durbin gives accounts of how he was able to use his martial arts training to head off potential assaults on the street. I think most of us would look at this as a very valid point, right? But here again, are we to place our confidence in our power to change a situation? Or—if we are truly taking every thought captive to obey Christ—are we to place our faith in our Father? Where do you place your faith?

Romans 1:17
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

The same friend who teaches martial arts told me an account of a martial arts master in his order, high in the ranks, whose day job takes him to some seedier parts of town. I found it interesting to learn this master—as he has become advanced in years—has lost faith in his own ability to defend himself. He now carries a gun for protection. This master also claims to be a Christian.

God is in control at all times

In an amazing display of irony, this same Apologia Radio show concludes with a completely different segment in which Durbin explains how God withholds evil. Durbin highlights the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50), pointing out that if not for the sovereign hand of God, Joseph’s brothers would have appeased their sinful natures with murder. When the tables are reversed years later and Joseph’s brothers are regretting their actions, Joseph assures them, “God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:5)

Durbin assures us of God’s determination to preserve, redeem and use all things for his glory. While it is our broken nature to desire evil paths that lead us away from God, we (or those who would do evil unto us) will only get as far as our Father allows it. Durbin gives the example of Christ being threatened with stoning multiple times, yet no harm befalls him until it is his time (John 8:20.) God predestined Christ’s exact time of death and was ultimately responsible for giving his Son over to the sinful nature of the people.

Evil is not from God

Here, Durbin asserts there are no accidents in God’s universe, so therefore God must allow or disallow evil. I agree. He rightly clarifies that God is not the author of sin and goes on to give the following list of passages as proof:

Psalm 143:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

Romans 11:32
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

2 Chronicles 6:36
If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near;

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Romans 3:9-12
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Mark 10:18/Luke 18:19
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Romans 1:18
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

John 8:7
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Mark 7:21-23
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Finally, Durbin states God does not do any violence to the free will of the creature. (Though God definitely tampers with it, as was the case with Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.) In the case of Joseph, his brothers had murder in their hearts already. It was their will to kill him! Fortunately, oldest brother Reuben was there to head them off and they sold Joseph into slavery. It is God’s determination and will that protects, redirects or redeems.

This brings me full circle to the very place I landed in my earlier post. If you find yourself confronted with an attacker in the middle of the night, God allowed it. We’re conditioned to believe there are only two things to do if this happens: fight or flight. I would remind you there is a third option Christ offers us; the way of reasoning. Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Fight and flight are physical responses to physical danger. If we are operating from greater spiritual awareness (as Christ calls us to,) we fear physical death or harm considerably less. But is reasoning and non-violence really God’s wish for us? Was peace and non-violence Jesus’ example to us? What does the Bible say about fighting? Here are some words on the non-violent path found in God’s Word:

Isaiah 2:4/Micah 4:3
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Matthew 5:3-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

(Notice these traits align with peaceful, faith-driven qualities; not grounded in this worldly existence.)

Matthew 5:38-42
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:43-46
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 16:24-26
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 26:50-53
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.

And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Luke 3:14
And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.

Luke 6:27-37
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

John 18:36
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Romans 12:17-21
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 14:17-19
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Ephesians 2:14-18
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Hebrews 12:14
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

James 3:17-4:2
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

I Peter 2:21-24
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 3:8-17
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

The Call to Follow

Those are some pretty serious examples! Did you notice there are no exceptions? No escape clauses? No loopholes? Not even a hint of ambiguity? Jesus didn’t teach us to raise our sword in defense when the thief comes in the night. In fact, Jesus seems to teach an astonishing, amazing love that transcends our physical attachments—including even our attachment to our own physical life.

Psalm 34:7-8
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.

1 Peter 2:21
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Christ is the Way…

Jesus’ example to us was to avoid conflict or to use wisdom in words (Matthew 4:1-11, John 8:1-11, John 8:57-59, John 18:36.) We are to arm ourselves—not by achieving a higher belt or by purchasing a gun—but by strengthening our ability to defend the faith and to reason as Christ would have us reason. Ultimately, we understand even this is faulty and limited in power—it is only God’s will that separates us from misfortune.

Simply put, we are called to follow Christ’s example. We are told not to take justice into our own hands (though it’s a favorite Hollywood theme these days.) We are called to love our Lord and love our neighbor to such a dizzying height it may seem impossible to obtain. Fortunately, we’re not called to climb that mountain on our own. Sanctification takes time and effort and supplication to allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives.

Romans 12:2
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

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  1. Luke 22:36 – “He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” “He” is Jesus, by the way. Also, what are your thoughts on protecting those who cannot protect themselves. I may be courageous enough to turn the other cheek when I am struck, but what about standing by when my wife and children or someone else is threatened? Full disclosure: I am a second degree Black Belt. It’s never been about competition for me. It’s been about health and fitness, and it’s provided some wonderful opportunities to share my faith and disciple young minds. As with a gun, it’s not the tool or the skill that is evil; it’s the heart of the one who wields it.

    • James, thanks for writing! I actually address the Luke 22 reference here in my Cain Killed Abel post on gun control. While I fully admit this is a lofty amount of faith to put into our Lord, I believe He’s due it just the same. I don’t know for sure that my faith is strong enough that I would be able to turn to something like Psalm 91 in the whole “family under attack” scenario. I do know that’s the goal, however. What do you think of this article?

      • I’ve been wrestling with the matter of self-preservation and defense of others. I keep coming back to the message that, if we are truly in Christ, we are already dead. No good comes from self-preservation in that sense.

        The reason I wanted to post, aside from letting you know I appreciated your perspective, was to offer some context for Luke 22. Jesus has his men produce two swords among them saying that those two are enough. It is a symbolic gesture, perhaps pointing to the later incident as you noted. The kicker here is that two swords were not enough to protect the group on the deadly first-century thoroughfares. The point was never for them to defend their lives. It was a symbolic warning for them to shore up their spiritual defenses.

  2. Seems like James took the words out of my mouth so no need to repeat them. As far as consistency, I fear that you would yourself Matt, take a different approach than that of your preaching of ethics here if someone broke into your house in the middle of the night and desired to do harm to your family. As an image bearer of God, you have qualities from your creator to protect your young ones. Even the animals have this “instinct”. Some of the verses you displayed as proof for your argument are taken out of context. The eye for an eye for example has to do with Case Law. This was for the orderly conduct of thousands of Israeli families in the desert in their migration to the promise land, which was also to be the laws in the promised land. In order to use Case Law, you must understand Case Law as a whole and how it all combines. We cannot just pick a snippet out and say, “See, here it is in black and white”, we must have full knowledge and understanding of it’s directives in order to apply it correctly. Case Law covers murder as well as safe havens for the accused. It covers slavery and the treatment these sojourners. These all tie into one another for a full comprehension that when Jesus quotes a scripture, they could understand the context of which he was speaking regarding the law for their further insight.
    I also think you should not be so quick to “lump” together apples and oranges in your arguments. There is a big difference between taking a gun out looking for a fight to compare with having a gun for protection say, at home. Advocating rights for people to carry guns, allows for two types of people. As you so stated, it’s a heart issue, yet you bring to the table an argument for legalistic principles. To the people whom have saved a life, by being armed and present at the right time of a crime in progress, I would say good for them. I would argue it was the providence of God to place that person at that place, at that moment, to be available to defend innocence. To the people who went into an establishment with the intention of ill will, I would say they need the gospel. Until all men know the gospel and follow the commandments, there will remain the vile elements of society worldwide.
    Try and think logically along the same lines as above with fighting. Someone walking the streets to pick a fight is entirely different than people who go willingly into a ring to knock the crap out of each other. This is not a gun or a hands and feet issue, it’s a heart issue. You really need to see this as a fractional equation and find the common denominator. What is the root cause of a problem, not a side issue of it.
    Look at another example of those honored workers during the Sabbath. They include guards in the watchtower, did they not? Do police officers fall into this category? Are they of a mean spirit seeking to do harm? Some do probably, but most have taken their vows seriously, to serve and protect. There is a certain need for such things in the world. Remember, we walk in this world but not to be of this world.
    Vengeance is the Lord’s and we are not to be of a mean spirit with someone whom has wronged us, seeking to even the score. We are to recognize that it is the evil nature of this sinner, who is suppressing the truth in his own unrighteousness that is the “root” of the problem. It’s a heart problem. It’s our responsibility to forgive that person as Christ has forgiven us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness, that is the path you walk in righteousness with Christ. This was the basis in Matthew you referenced. For the record, I am not going to go through each and every scripture you quoted to give commentary on, I am using it in the hope it gives a clear example of what I speak to you. A lot of the passages are referencing our spirit and heart if you will.

    Context is very important and I would encourage you to re-read some of the scriptures you quoted and ask of it’s deeper meaning and principals behind it. Usually helps when we look at the verses around it in order to grasp what the writer was trying to get across to us. I am not saying it’s not God breathed, the Word of God – 2 Tim 3:16-17, but each writer has his own style pulling from his own life experiences, and God superintended it. This is exactly why I do not agree with the exegesis of all the scriptures you quoted above.

    There are multiple arguments from atheists, who state that God, is a God of war. Now, why would they say that? Could that be from all of the war that God himself has ordained? War that God has willed as he is perfectly just? Have you forgotten of the bloody battles that took place for the promised land? God used the Romans in 70 AD to do his will with the cleansing of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple. He also brought down that evil empire. Another example is Sodom. These all differ from one another, but God has proven in scripture, not only does he use unrighteous people to conduct His will, but also those whom He saw as righteous. We cannot overlook this point. We must recognize that spirit within ourselves, did we seek it out? Or did it seek us out?

    My last concern is name dropping. You mentioned 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. This is Paul, defending himself from a church that is back talking him. They are accusing him of writing one way, and acting another way in person. They accuse him of preaching something and not himself acting upon it. This is also a person who was not the best of speakers, but was a great writer. What is so funny to me is this. You are calling out Pastor Durbin’s position on an issue, while referencing a scripture that Paul himself is telling other believers not to behave in nor endorse, in this very manor. Honestly Matt, if you have an issue with the pastor’s position, why not go and engage him with it? Truly try and seek his position of what he is saying with the intention of understanding. Posting it up here on your blog is your right, but that doesn’t make it right if you get my drift. For example, I am responding to your post here and you can then refute it here. I am also within my right to respond back if I so wish, same as you. We would both have the ability to defend our position. If you have not engaged in dialog with the man with regards to his position, I have a hard time asserting your solid understanding of his position, which I would remind you, he is not here to defend. See 2 Corinthians chapter 10.

    Now, I read your statements above that seemed to me to be your “arguments” of your stance and so I quote and then respond in brackets below:
    Do not focus on the obvious fact that fighting your neighbor is not loving your neighbor.
    [First problem is “obvious fact”. How exactly are we fighting our neighbor? Is this a verbal argument? Are we physically fighting our neighbor here or are we teaching our neighbor how to physically defend themselves? The “art” of fighting, IS a training session, you learn more about it the more you do it, be it practice or competition. If your physically fighting your neighbor, why? Are they attacking your children? Did they fornicate with your wife? For what factual purpose is your argument to pertain? This is a problem with your argument, it’s vague and your point is not coming across because you haven’t defined exactly what it is. What is the fighting specifically and who exactly is this neighbor? I had a bully in school when I was younger. My Dad taught me how to stand up for myself and fight back. One day, in line, I socked him in the nose in defense of his pushing and shoving. I was found not guilty of any wrong doing by the principal as there was a history of the bullying, nor was I of that spirit. Not only did I learn an important lesson, so did the bully. We later became good friends out of the process and discovered we lived two blocks from one another. It was a father’s love that taught me to defend myself. It was love that taught the bully how to see his errors. Prov 13:24. I did not seek the fight, it came to me. I was not provoking the fight, but by God’s providence you could say, I was the one disciplining him. If I was to take “fighting our neighbor” to the extreme, should we not call all sports a sin? No more bible verse memorization in sunday school because it promotes pride in competition. No more chess club either. This brings us right into your next quote.]

    Do not focus on the king-of-the-hill spirit of pride in competitive martial arts.
    [If one’s purpose for competitive fighting was to be the king-of-the-hill as you state, then I could argue it as a good pursuit like running a race as if you intend to win it. 1 Cor 9:24-27 there. If the heart is full of pride and you want to be the best boxer to raise up your own glory, then once again, the heart is in the wrong place. Time and time again scripture talks about this, which you have quoted numerous times. If your a great boxer and after every fight you praise God publicly, does that display a spirit of self pride? Once again, it’s a heart issue. Where is the intent of the person’s heart? We cannot answer, for only God knows the heart. We can however, see the evidence, from where the heart the mouth speaks. If they don’t speak, we can only speculate, and that is dangerous.]

    Do not focus on the spirit of besting one another as opposed to raising each other up.
    [Again, your presuppositions are taking you down a path too deep of which I think you fail to answer all possibilities due to a lack of explaining a specific here. By now I would hope that I have explained clearly to you, the range of categories you have lumped together. I’m going to be honest with you Matt. I see this blog post as a spirit of besting, a proving of your right and Pastor Durbin is wrong. Not only that, my point is emphasized with the inability for Pastor Durbin to refute and defend his position. Along with the last statement, you have failed to properly identify exactly what Pastor Durbin’s stance is, while assuming your audience knows of what you speak. You have placed an overwhelming number of scriptures in the blog, but you have not gone point by point on how each scripture applies to a specific argument you make as contrary, or “fact” as you stated, to Pastor Durbin’s teachings. You have used a common tactic of winning an argument by overwhelming without explanation. I pointed out earlier a couple of fallacies within scripture you’ve claimed support your idea, are out of context. These three arguments of yours, of which this third I think to be a repeat of number 2, has just been worded differently. I do not see the need to explain that point any further.]

    I beseech you brother, to be very careful as the ice is thin of which you walk. Choose your words wisely and let the heart not deceive you. I say these things with love but be careful with language that you used earlier: “Still, it is our job as Christians to bear true witness to the Word of God so when we find errant teaching, we are to be salt and point it out.” Caution should be exercised before making such bold claims as false teaching or false witness. I am always quick to listen and slow to speak in such matters, as you should be also. Do you know what the biblical approach is to someone you think may be teaching falsely? It’s not blog posting brother.

    I close with this, John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
    Jesus is talking here and is explaining His love toward us. He states in verse 15 we have become his friends, applying it to himself. We are commanded in verse 17 in conclusion of his speech that we love one another. Remembering that Christ died for us, his love was to the death. Likewise we are to follow suite. If we were to take a passive stance to defending our family/friends/stranger/enemy/unborn babies, we would by no means be able to apply our commandment in John 15:13 to our life. This my friend, would make your analysis inconsistent. We should fight to the death, to preserve that life for what is righteous and what is good. We bring God glory when we serve Him, not ourselves.

  3. Matt,

    I am deeply saddened by your lack of response. As I can see your presuppositions are still forbidding you from seeing biblical truth, I have but no option(since you are a professed Christian) than to express this one last time to you, as well as to any confused readers that may find their way here. As I stated in my last reply, you have taken scripture and applied them to the wrong problem, your exegesis is wrong. The simple matter is I am within Christian duty to call you out on this and anyone who reads this will be witness to my testimony of correction to you.
    I will be quoting from a book titled The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates by Matthew J. Trewhella. I will be specifically directing you to page 101, Appendix E: A Biblical response to those who say we should disarm; To those who teach pacifism; To those who think the Bible has nothing to say about arms.
    Again, this is for your benefit and any of your readers who seem to be confused on the issues you have brought up in your post and since I would confidently bet you and most of your readers do not have this book, I will now begin the quote.

    Genesis 4:8-12: In this passage, Scripture records the first murder wherein Cain killed Abel. That Cain must have used some sort of weapon to kill Abel is evidenced by the fact that Abel was bleeding (he was not strangled). Notice how God responded to the killing. He did not institute some sort of weapon-control, rather, He punished the one who committed the crime.

    Exodus 20 and following: In God’s holy law, which He decreed at Sinai, nowhere do you see God outlawing weapons in response to the various crimes which He prohibited in His legislation. He always punishes the perpetrator. He never disarms the citizenry.

    Exodus 22:2: In this verse, God declares that if someone breaks into your house at night and you kill them, you are not guilty of murder. This verse makes clear that you have a God-given right to defend yourself and to defend your family.

    Deuteronomy 22:23-27: This passage deals with rape. Notice that verse 27 ends with the words “but there was no one to save her.” What is the implication of such a statement? The implication is that had someone been around to hear her cry out, they had a moral duty to intervene and protect her from being raped. To stand by would be immoral. We have a God-given right to defend not only ourselves, but also others.

    Numbers 1: In God’s economy, He instituted an armed citizenry, not a standing army, in order to deal with the affairs of war regarding Israel. This is what the Founding Fathers of America envisioned for our nation. Even in Switzerland today, every home is furnished with a machine gun (one of the reasons Hitler chose not to invade Switzerland).

    I Samuel 13:19-22: The Philistines disarmed the Israelites. Weapon-control was instituted. No blacksmiths were allowed lest the Israelites arm themselves. A disarmed people is the sign of a conquered people. A disarmed people is the sign of an enslaved people.

    Isaiah 2:1-5: Many, including the United Nations, take the latter part of verse 4 in this passage, which states “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” and try to say that God wants us to disarm. The context makes clear, however, that “swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks” when God rules, not when the United Nations or any other government of man rules.

    Matthew 5:38-39: In this passage, Jesus is not denigrating the law of God in regards to one’s right to defend himself and others, rather He is repudiating the lex talionis – the law of retaliation, which said, “if someone messes you up today, you go back and mess him up five times worse tomorrow.” The Pharisees were even using the law of God to justify the mindset. Jesus is repudiating this personal vengeance which some sought to justify and participate in. He is not saying we cannot defend ourselves or others.
    Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35; Proverbs 20:22). We are not to avenge ourselves. If we see someone who needs our help during the commission of a crime, we have a God-given right and duty to intervene. If, however, the crime has been committed (past tense), we have no God-given right or duty to go and execute judgment upon the perpetrator. God will avenge. God will judge.
    God has given the sword (a symbol of judgement) to the civil magistrate (Romans 13:4). If a crime has been committed, it is to be reported to the civil authorities and they have a God-given right and duty before God to execute judgement.

    Matthew 26:51-52: Some try to say that this passage proves that Jesus was a pacifist and against guns. Quite the contrary. Where does Jesus tell Peter to put his sword? “In its place.” John makes it clearer: Jesus said to Peter “Put your sword into the sheath” (John 18:11). Jesus didn’t tell him to melt it down into a plowshare, rather he told him to put it “into the sheath.” The sword has its proper place. It is not evil. But Peter wanted to use it in an improper situation. Jesus came to earth to die. Peter would be abrogating the purposes of God if he intervened with the sword. As Jesus goes on to say in verse 11 of John chapter 18, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” Jesus was trying to teach His disciples that His Kingdom is not expanded in the earth through the use of force, rather it is expanded through the preaching of the Gospel and the discipling of the nations.
    If someone wants to live by the sword, they will die by the sword, as Jesus says. In other words, he who uses the sword for improper purposes will die by it. It was improper for Peter to have used it in that situation. A criminal of a tyrant who uses the sword improperly will rightly die by it. But the use of the sword in a proper fashion, to defend on’es person or one’s family or one’s country, is not condemned by Scripture, rather Scripture upholds it.
    God is not a pacifist. Jesus is not a pacifist. As Jesus said in the very next verse, verse 53, “Or do you think I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus could have used force. The use of force; the use of swords was simply improper for the situation in which Christ was involved. He was supposed to die. He and the Father are not pacifists. He did not use force because He had to drink the cup of the Father.

    Exodus 15:3: This verse of Scripture declares the Lord to be a “man of war.” That God is not a pacifist is evidenced throughout Scripture. Even Jesus himself, who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person, and who has declared all that God is (Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18), drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip and overtuned their tables (John 2:15). The book of Revelation defines Him as a King who does what? “Judges and makes war” (Revelation 19:11). The Scripture declares that Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s character does not change. God is not a pacifist.
    In closing, there are some who say that “we should not have guns; we should just trust God.” My response to those who say this is – “Let me ask you, do you have a lock on your front door?” They always say “yes.” I then ask, “Do you lock it when you leave or go to bed at night?” Those who live in the city always say “yes.” I then ask, “Why do you have a lock on your door? Why don’t you just trust God?”
    Just because we have a lock on our door or a gun in our closet does not mean we are trusting in them to protect us with the same trust with which we’re to trust the Lord.
    Rather, we simply see the wisdom and prudence of having such things in order to be good stewards in protecting our belongings and our families.
    The psalmist understood that there was no contradiction. David said in verse one of Psalm 144: “Blessed be the Lord by Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” He then said in verse two: “My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the one in whom I take refuge.”

    Matt, please hear my words. Scripture must interpret scripture. Scripture does not contradict itself. If you find somewhere that you think it does, it’s your own interpretation that is wrong, not the scripture. You then need to go back and figure out where you went wrong.
    I pray that this helps you out and that you find the truth.

    • Mike! Don’t be too saddened, please! You gave me so much to chew on and address in your first comment (and now again in your second comment) that I’ll admit to being a bit overwhelmed. My hair got blown back, man! So, I was intending to make the time to produce another lengthy post that addresses much of what you covered, but such a post will take me hours of research time since I need to get clear on several items you mentioned before I can land on what I believe God would have us do. I’m not saying the way of non-violence would be easy or that I would even be capable of adhering to it under my own power. What I am trying to get clear on is whether God calls us to higher trust and faith in Him, no matter the scenario. I will try to break everything down but it will take me A LOT more research to dive into some of the topics you and a couple others have brought up. Please be patient with me!

  4. I am late in replying to this. I have trained in martial arts for about 6.5 years or so, now as an assistant instructor. My instructor is probably a type of theistic Buddhist. He does believe in God per se, but not the Christian or Judeo-Christian view of it. However, he does not attempt to use his dojo/instruction as a means to prosyletize to the Buddhistic way of thinking or yin/yang. He focuses on practicality, getting in physical shape, self-control. He only mentions the yin/yang in the sense of physical force/yielding, that is how it applies to the physical discipline. We do no meditation, yoga (save the stretching portions which are beneficial), or spiritual aspects. In fact, a lot of the early practicioners of the art I have trained in were ‘Christians’ and started each session with a prayer to God to never have to use their skills unless it was absolutely necessary.

    That aside, I can say through my training, that I have developed more emotional/mental control in my reactions with other people than I ever did sitting in church services all my life hearing about ‘loving your neighbor’ as an information dump (lots of sermons that pastors never took the time to live out in front of me so I could ‘see’ or ‘experience’ what they were talking about) or trying to memorize a bunch of bible verses. In my training through martial arts, I now say that God actually used the physical discipline and the realization of what I am now capable of doing to someone to make me actually LESS inclined to ever do that unless I was pushed to the place of having no choice. It has also made me LESS inclined to even verbally retaliate, even if I am in ‘the right.’ However, I’m not going to to stand by and let some criminal, say, rape my niece, knowing my skill set could save her and him (in the lesson he would learn by getting stopped and ending up in prison). God would hold me accountable for not stepping in and using the knowledge/skill set I have to stop that. ON the flip side, if someone is cursing me, lying about me, threatening me, etc., I have no reason nor motivation to use my skill set to ‘put them in their place.’ I have the ability to walk away while wishing them well (which is my go to move). That is the essence of the art I have trained in for these 6.5 years, even the small weapons training (club, knife). Why use this unless there was no choice? I don’t even like Hollywood movies that misuse martial arts to make it look cool to maim, kill people! It’s insane. I have to tell so many young students (usually under 20) about the realities of life versus what they see in a movie or ‘MMA fight.’ I tell them, “Do you want to go to jail? That’s what happens if you assault someone without provocation because you know you can kick their butt.”

    What I’m trying to say is that could it be that God used martial arts training to do for me what no one in the churches, even my family, ever did? That is, teach me self-control and meekness? Am I now in a place where I can help others learn that? If so, then good for God! In our martial arts training we also require the younger students to do 25+ hours of community service of various kinds. They are taught to go out and use their skill sets to HELP other people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. I don’t even see ‘Christians’ in my area of the world doing that! I never saw a Sunday School class ever go out and do free community service! What’s up with that? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have thought about martial arts as a believer from both sides of this equation: should we or should we not? There are valid concerns on both sides. But truth be told, nowhere in the Bible did most of those writers have any knowledge or associations with what we think of as modern combatives or martial arts. Most of what we know post-dates the Bible but 500+ years. That’s why I think we have to be careful about reading modern practices back into ancient texts that had nothing to do with our modern practices. I think a believer should let God work with their conscience in this area. It’s a grey area. I would never recommend martial arts to someone who has doubts about it from a theology perspective. On the flip side, I’m not going to let them convince me to give it up. It’s helped me through some rough times and I’ve met some great people through it who have encouraged me not to give up through those tough times. There are people whom I cannot display basic life-saving self-defense techniques to because they look at martial arts as evil. So, I don’t do them around them because I don’t want to be a stumbling block. Etc., etc. I’m sorry that Mr. Wilson, in that video, got so deep into the spiritual side of the martial arts. I don’t plan on ever going there. He didn’t have to either. He was a prime candidate for that because of his early background. I hate that he feels that way about it now. But to try and convince everyone to abandon the good in something because of his negative experiences is just legalistic. It’s the same in the debate between believers over alcohol. Both sides will cite experiences, cherry picked bible verses, etc.. In the end, the individual has to make the choice for him/herself. I think it’s the same in martial arts. But then again, what do I know? :)

  5. Humm- I don’t think its wrong to learn self defense to protect your family. In fact if your family came under attack and you were there I think it would be a sin NOT to try and help or defend them. So learning something to help in that area I think is ok. But not to DO intentional violence.

  6. Jesus allowed himself to be hurt and tortured for two reasons…our sake to take our place and to glorify God in being raised from the dead to show the world He is Messiah and give us a hope…that if we should believe in Him we will never perish but have everlasting life. Though he was smitten, beaten, tortured and humiliated, he did it for the purpose of something much greater. There was purpose behind it. Jesus did NOT say that we should allow others to torture us because that alone brings God glory. Turning the other cheek is not literal but according to Jewish culture it meant that if someone insulted you then give them another opportunity to insult you…again…for the sake of the gospel! So if you learn martial arts for purposes of self-defense, discipline, self-control, and good values, without inheriting the eastern philosophy of the arts itself because you are a Christian, you are fine. And yes, if used when attacked to keep yourself from being bullied, physically hurt, robbed, raped, or killed…not just you, but your family or friends as well, or even defending a stranger you see in trouble, that is fine too. As Christians we should not be afraid of anything… we should embrace everything that is good and give God the Glory for it all!

  7. As a Christian child, I was taught to turn the other cheek, and it left me with many scars over the years as I interacted with the world we live in. If someone wants to beat you up, God will not stop them due to the fact he defends free will. In the end, I am left with no confidence in myself, or that God will protect me, save only that in the end someday….. that he will make it right…… Oh if only my father would have taken me to a self defense school of some kind….. my life could have been different. “They” are always faster, bigger, stronger, smarter, more popular, blessed, lucky, richer, and angrier. Doesn’t a person deserve a fighting chance of some kind in order to preserve some since of self worth, beyond Jesus loves me this I know? I hate bullies, this is why school shootings exists, no one cares, not even the schools, they don’t want to see it, or do anything about it. Pray that there is no such thing as reincarnation, and that if it is that you are born with strength to defeat any bully for your own sake, and your future.

    • Hmmm.. Tom, there is so much to address in your response here. Maybe there won’t be much I can say to pull your eyes off the injustice you’ve experienced this life and get your sights onto the Truth that sets you free. If God says, “Vengeance is mine,” I bet He’s way better at meting it out than we are. If God says He will be our rock and fortress, do we believe Him? (See my continuation of this discussion at ) If we don’t stand on God’s promises, we are building our foundation on sand and will absolutely be buffeted in any storm. If your confidence comes from your own ability to save yourself, it’s misplaced. If you have no confidence in God, I would challenge you may not know Him–nor His heart for you–very well. There is more love and joy and peace available to you. I would encourage you to press into Him more through prayer and worship and ask Him to reveal His heart for you to you. God bless you, brother.

  8. Two things:
    1) Did you get your son involved with martial arts to burn off his excess energy?
    2) I appreciate the plethora of verses you shared regarding Jesus and non-violence; however, I think the lenses from which you are examining verses should be brought into sharper image. Jesus clearly discusses how people should not harm children (better to be drowned), so shouldn’t one ensure that children are protected? Surely, one can conclude that self-defense and/or the ability to assist another person being attacked is prudent. To me, self-defense is both proactive and reactive–it is not retroactive–that’s the vengeance part that God will take care of for me. Would it not be wise to proactively prepare for attack so as to be ready for one? Possessing the tools to defend oneself is quite different from vengeance–where thoughts of getting back at someone are all consuming. As the Holy Spirit guides us, we are able to respond in accordance with His will. Should I see my 80 year old mother being physically attacked, I am not going to holler out, “Hey, I’m praying for you.” I’m going to step in to assist her. It doesn’t mean I’m going to kill the person attacking my mom. I’m simply going to help her get away from the immediate abuse. The Bible is my sounding board. I am 100% convinced that it is God’s word. I also think that God gave me a brain (because I’m created in His image) with the ability to think logically. As an educator for over two decades, I can assure you that prayer works. As an educator for over two decades, I can assure you that 99.9% of bullies (particularly in middle school and immature high schoolers) will NOT stop without a greater incentive for them to stop–school involvement, parental involvement, police involvement, juvenile justice system, etc.
    Jesus KNEW, He could call down the angels to help Him (physical help), but He chose not to. He was listening to His Father’s will. Jesus was proactively prepared, yet He reactively chose to NOT respond with physical force.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. On a side note, kids admire other kids for their physical skills–sports, strength, etc. It just is what it is. Bullies know who they can pick on. You may wish to involve your son in some type of activity where he can develop a high level of physical skill–archery, running, weight lifting, swimming or some type of team sport.

  9. Jesus was NOT a PACIFIST. He did not rebuke Peter for cutting off the ear of the soldier because he was against violence. He rebuked Peter because he was acting in conflict to the will of God, which Jesus had already made clear to his disciples, was for Jesus to be arrested and killed as a sacrifice to the LORD. Peter was trying to stop Christ from fulfilling his life purpose!

    Pacifism is not of God. It is RELIGIOUS, and it betrays the basic human faculties of reason. The fact of the matter is that God is the one who has given us life. Therefore, it is HIS and HIS alone to take! If I can’t even take my own life because suicide is a sin, then WHAT makes you think God will permit ANOTHER MAN to take my life if it is not in his divine will?

    Do not mistake my words. I am not saying that God cannot or has not ever ordered the death of man by the hands of another. In fact, such was the very fate of Jesus Christ. But it must be understood that such was the WILL of God. And so the questions then becomes: How do we determine the will of God? The answer to that question can be NONE other than the DISCERNMENT which comes to a believer by having a PERSONAL relationship with God, which indeed enables us to understand our purpose here on this earth.

    Let me tell you something. If someone tried to kill me and God has not told me that it’s my time to go, I will fight that man to the DEATH and only spare his life when and if he is no longer a threat to mine!

    The simple truth is this that if God can allow the execution of a man at the hands of another man and be justified in doing so, then why can’t the same logic be applied to the killing of the man who is determined to take MY life for unholy reasons? Is it God’s will that I should die at the hands of a wicked man or is it God’s will that SAID wicked man should die at MY hands? Your discernment by the power of the Holy Spirit will determine that.

    God is love. If I must die for him, then so be it. But he loves me. And I believe that if I am to die, then it will be to glorify his name. Otherwise, I will kill you where you stand.

    The same goes for protecting a loved one. Unless it was his will, do you think God would stand idly by and watch one of his children be killed or beaten by the wicked? Absolutely not. God has destroyed ENTIRE CITIES for interfering with his divine will for his people. So why would you sit back and allow a man to beat or kill your loved one when you have the power to stop it?

    There will come a time when Christians will have to give their life for speaking the truth. If I am to live in that time period, then my mouth will not cease to speak truth, even at the risk of death. THAT is what Jesus meant when he said that our battle is not against flesh and blood. THAT is what Jesus meant when he said that he who seeks to save his own life shall lose it, but he that dies for my name’s sake shall find it. He spoke about dying for the TRUTH. Not dying for PACIFISM. If God does not change, as scripture plainly states (Malachi 3:6), then the GOD of the Old Testament is GOD everlasting and he STILL demands that his people take a stand against wickedness, even if it means getting violent when justified by God’s love for mankind.

    “Blessed be the LORD, my Rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle.
    He is my steadfast love and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer.
    He is my shield, in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples under me.” -Psalm 144

    “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.” -Exodus 15:3

    God prefers REASON over violence, but if you refuse to incline your ear to his words, you will die. First, by the word, and then by the sword.

    This is a truth I will GLADLY lay my life down for. And that is not PACIFISM. It’s the LOVE of TRUTH!

  10. Yikes…. it just keeps developing doesn’t it. Anyone who allows wicked upon an innocent is in direct contradiction of the the Bible and Holy Spirit. How blind can anyone be to not see this? Key word that is overlooked mostly these days CONTEXED! Props to all the articulate posts really helped solidify my thoughts on the issue. I have grew up shooting guns and keep some for protection and fun mostly fun praise the Jesus. I would use one for defense if needed, but at the last possible choice. Jesus wasn’t against wine or swords ect. God knows are heart. Just look at king David. He killed many men and yet he was chosen by God to carry Christ’s lineage. David did some bad stuff as king too, but he truly was ashamed of his sins. Just like we can discern so can God he knows are heart. It’s almost like knowing of a cure and not getting medical treatment because God will save you. The problem is sometimes intervention isn’t super natural.


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