What do Christians have to say in the debate on gun control, at least from a biblical perspective? What I often read are statements similar to this one:
Guns are not the problem. People are. Evil is in people.
The conclusion is then:
Gun control misses the point.
This is articulated well by the Kentucky governor Matt Bevin:
Does this logic fit within a biblical framework?
OUR SINFUL STATE
In the fourth century, the bishop Pelagius promoted the idea that humans are ultimately good; the original sin of Adam did not taint our ability to do good on our own, outside of divine aid. Against that, stood another bishop, Augustine, who taught that sin pervades and corrupts every aspect of the human life. Without divine grace, we are unable to exercise any saving faith in Christ. In the end, the church affirmed Augustine was correct and Pelagius a heretic. The human life is one that is wholly tainted by sin.
In the talks on gun control, many Christians speak from this angle. They rightly recognize the root issue in mass shootings, any shootings, has to do with the state of the human heart. Hatred, anger, murder. These find their root in our corrupt nature. As Jesus says,
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”” (Matthew 15:19–20, ESV)
GOD’S LAW AS A RESPONSE
How does God respond to the depravity of the human heart? Scripture declares that there is none righteous, none seek after God, and each goes their own way (Romans 3). Does that then lead God to conclude:
No laws will be passed. The issue is the human heart. Laws would miss the point.
More specifically, in the area of anger, hatred, murder, does God conclude that practical means (ie laws that forbid it) are pointless because we’ll break them anyways?
As we look at scripture, the easy answer is easily discerned
“Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13).
Though killing had been going on before the giving of the Law and would continue to happen after, God still establishes this prohibition.
Jesus then comes on the scene and takes it one step further.
““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22)
Paul then takes these words and uses them as a prescription, a requirement, for those that will lead the church:
“Therefore an overseer must be a.. not violent but gentle…” (1 Timothy 3:2–3)
This is but a very a small sampling to demonstrate a very simple point. The response of God toward the state of the sinful heart is NOT to conclude laws have no worth. On the contrary, laws are in fact one way God addresses the sinful state of humanity:
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:3–4)
PREPARED FOR THE GOSPEL
The law of course cannot save a person; that’s not God’s intention. The law cannot change a person; that’s not God’s intention. The law, however, does provide a means in which the righteousness of God is declared, known, and established. He does so, that all may be found guilty for the sin they have. Without the law, the sinful state of the heart is not seen. With the law, the truth of our depravity is clear and we are held accountable to God. It is in this accountability to God that we are prepped then to receive the good news of God’s saving grace in His son, Jesus Christ:
“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:19–25)
What is the conclusion?
First, it is a biblically faithful stand to acknowledge that all sin, including murder by guns, is due to our sinful nature. Truly the problem resides within, and no law without can finally change that. Only the grace of God can do that. We should continue to affirm this.
Second, while the diagnosis of the human state is correct, the statement often used to quickly dismiss any talks of gun control works in a framework FOREIGN TO SCRIPTURE:
Guns is not the problem. Evil is inside. Therefore, gun control is pointless.
That sentiment does NOT HANDLE the sin within us the way God does. God gives us laws regardless if we will obey them or not. The issue is God’s declaration of righteousness through the laws, that holds us accountable, and by the grace of God, and preps us for the gospel. This does not mean ALL laws in relation to guns are a wise and prudent thing. But it is to say that when we nakedly dismiss any talks of gun control, in response to the killing of the innocent, and we use the biblical framework of human sin to justify it, we actually work CONTRARY THE PATTERN OF GOD.
With all this said, my response to the governor of Kentucky in the above video would be to ask:
If it is true that the morals of our society are so far off from where it was 100 years ago, would that not be the VERY REASON we should consider more gun control?