Monday, 9 May 2016

Douglas Wilson's Letter From Moscow

Guns and Covenants

Douglas Wilson

Another good reason to own a gun — although you already have plenty of good reasons — is that it provides you with an opportunity to take crash course in practical theology. And of course I have in mind the critical differences between the old and new covenants.

There are certain falsehoods about the relationship between the testaments that are very easy to pick up. For example, the God of the Old Testament was a God of __________. If you didn’t fill in wrath, then you must have been squirming around during your catechism classes. This is in contrast with the God of the New Testament, who is a God of _____________. That’s right, class, the right answer is supposed to be love.

Except that God is extraordinarily loving in the Old Testament (Ps. 136), and His wrath burns more fiercely in the New Testament than anywhere else (Rev. 19:3).

Another error — and the one we are considering here — is that God provided His people with temporal and tangible blessings in the Old Testament, and with spiritual blessings in the New. This what is supposed to account for the fact that God’s people in the Old Testament were warlike (Ps. 144:1) and His people in the New spurn carnal weapons for weapons far more powerful and far more spiritual in the New (2 Cor. 10:4).

Now the thing we must assert, in the strongest possible terms, is that there are times when God’s people — Christians — must fight like wildcats and other time when we must go like lambs to the slaughter. These two “times” are not Old Covenant times and New Covenant times. When deciding what to do, the believer must ask what moment he is in, not what millennium he is in.

And here is why:

When it comes to this subject, and all points of the compass related to it, we need to make the 11th chapter of Hebrews our special study. What did the great men and women of faith in the Old Testament confess? That they were “strangers and pilgrims on earth” (Heb. 11:13). All of them did this, not just the martyrs. The warriors and martyrs both did this.

How did this faith work out for them? For some, it resulted in martyrdom and for others it resulted in spectacular victories.

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise” (Heb. 11:32–39).

Look at all the “carnal” victories up through verse 35, and then look at all the “spiritual” victories in verse 36 and following. And of course, a moment’s reflection should reveal to us that all these victories were obtained by faith, and the two different kinds of victory had nothing whatever to do with which covenantal aeon they were living in.

And then reflect on the fact that all of these victories, not just some of them, are set before us as models for imitation (Heb. 12:1). We are to run our race with David in the stands, the man who won great battles with his faith, and with Isaiah in the stands, who was sawn in two for his faith. This calls for moral and ethical discernment on the part of the saints. But it takes no discernment at all to find out if you are living A.D. or B.C. To think that any covenant era provides us with a simple, easy-to-use ethic on violence, where one size fits all, is to do radical injustice to the teaching of Scripture.

So bring it back to gun ownership. This is why the siege of Leiden was a noble Christian endeavor on the part of the defenders, and why the non-resistance of Latimer and Ridley was a noble Christian martyrdom. God’s church has both warriors and contemplatives, fighters and lovers. Not only do we have them now, we have always had them. What we are to do depends on the circumstances, not on the calendar.

In the Old Covenant, Jeremiah was a patriot for telling the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they must not fight the Babylonians. In the Old Covenant, Nehemiah was a patriot for having his men work on the wall of that same city with a weapon on one hand and a tool on the other. By way of contrast, the modern militarist and the modern pacifist have this one thing in common, and it is a very significant shared sentiment. They are both in the hunt for easy answers.

So if you have a gun in your home, you should store it safely, and pick up your Bible. And why? You are a Christian who is done with easy answers.

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