At this point, I see no remaining reasons to claim Christians cannot defend themselves from harm. The arguments against self defense, including the justice argument, the vengeance argument, and the doing good for evil argument, all fall flat in the face of what the Scriptures actually say. Assuming Christians should defend themselves, though, doesn’t really answer the entire question. For while defense may be permissible, we’ve not yet considered what forms of self defense are permissible.
In other words, what means can a Christian use to defend themselves?
We generally find self-defense broken down into four forms, or categories:
- Reliance on the State to defend you
- Passive self defense
- Active self defense with a less-than-lethal weapon
- Active self defense with a lethal weapon
I’ve dealt with relying on the State to provide self-defense above. The State does not claim any duty to defend you, personally; the state is tasked with the execution of justice, rather than the defense of individual citizens.
Many people turn, at this point, to the concept of passive self-defense verses active self defense, stating it is permissible to defend yourself through passive means, but not through active means. For instance, it is permissible to lock your doors, but not to try and stop someone who is breaking in through that door through any personal, physical act. This appears, to me, to be a distinction without a difference. First, locking a door is a personal physical act. By locking a door, you’ve already committed yourself, actively, to self-defense. There is no such thing as passive self-defense, in other words.
To illustrate this case more fully, lets take a more complex case. If a Christian hires a bodyguard, is that a passive or active form of defense? In other words, is putting an active form of defense in place a passive form of defense? Clearly, the person hiring the bodyguard is not taking an active role in the defense, but, at the same time, the defense itself is an active form of defense. To extend this analogy, calling the police when physically attacked is a passive defense in the form of calling an active defense into play. By calling the police in response to an immanent or ongoing attack, you are effectively treating the police as (paid) bodyguards.
Taking another example can show this even more clearly. Suppose you set up an electric fence just inside your door. When someone breaks into your house through the front door, they encounter the fence, where they are physically injured. Is this an active defense, or a passive one? It is set up before the attack is perpetrated, and it is something you don’t actually act on when the attack occurs, so it must be a passive form of defense, correct? And yet, even the staunchest believer in passive defense would object to this specific form of defense. Why? Because it causes physical injury.
All self defense is, in reality, active, because you must take some action to put the defense in place. Whether that action takes place before the attack, or during the attack, is generally immaterial. Hence, there is no difference between the two.
(continued in part 6)