Opinion: Christians and bearing arms

by Danny O’Neill

November 23, 2023 1:00 AM

American citizens have been providentially born into a country that allows the lawful possession of firearms, and we act in ignorance and neglect if we believe the recent deterioration of our rights will simply correct itself.

If citizens are unable to defend themselves, they can no longer deter evil, and chaos will prevail. Millions of people will be vulnerable to suffering at the hands of tyranny, as has happened throughout history.

This article is the first of a three-part series about Christians and the right to bear arms, written by former Navy SEAL Danny O’Neill.

By what standard? This is the question Christians must be ready to answer. It is also the question to which Christians must be always referencing in their apologetics. Christian ethics must undergird all of life, or else our nation and our world should expect further chaos.

Disorder and mayhem in our nation is closely linked to the erosion of the right to weapon ownership, which Christians must view from a biblical worldview before they view the topic as Americans. This imperative will show that the right to bear arms for self-defense and the preservation of life must be recognized as a responsibility ordained by God rather than the state.

Before the explanation that follows becomes misinterpreted, let me clarify that this discussion is not a Christian call to arms or warfare, an appeal for violent political activism, or an idolization of firearms. Yet the right to bear arms is divinely ordained and must be taken seriously, as with every other position of responsibility presented in the Bible. Nothing more, nothing less.

The church does not have the authority to bear the sword in aggression. Junius Brutus, in Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, referenced the armed Israelites in the book of Nehemiah when they were rebuilding the Temple and concluded: “We say also that the church is neither advanced nor edified by these material weapons, but by these arms it is warranted and preserved from the violence of the enemies, which will not by any means endure the increase of it.” The church has the spiritual sword, the Word of God, to conquer the nations, not a sword of steel or iron.

Even though Christians as private citizens cannot use arms in aggression or vengeance, there is a place for weapons in the possession of private citizens. Therefore Christians ought to view the responsibility to own weapons from a distinctly biblical worldview.

Introduction to ethics

If someone says you ought to do something or that you ought to believe something, they are making an ethical claim. They are referencing a standard to which they believe you ought to conform, thereby implying a behavioral change in response. As a consequence, all ethical statements presuppose a worldview and are in reality religious statements, because all ethical statements appeal to right and wrong, which all religion seeks to articulate.

If the rulers allow abortion and ask that you tolerate its legality, for instance, then the rulers are seeking to enforce a religious ethic. There is no neutrality: everyone is religious, and you are either for God or against him. The middle ground does not exist because even in passive allowance of abortion, these rulers make the case that murder should be permissible.

In every ethical claim, there is an appeal to a standard of right from wrong, whether or not that ultimate standard actually exists. In this case, the legalized murder of a preborn baby is not derived from an eternal standard, and so it is irrational and abominable.

In order for an ethical claim to be authoritative, it has to have an authoritative source. Christians can and should lay claim to this truth because we have the Word of God. To summarize what early church theologian Justin Martyr wrote in his Second Apology, as Christians, whatever is truth belongs to us.

Within any ethical system, there are three perspectives that require interdependence in order to maintain coherence. There is the normative perspective, which revolves around laws, rules, and standards. For Christians, such standards are the Word of God and natural revelation seen through the lens of the Word of God. There is also the teleological perspective, which deals with the goal of every situation and the purpose for which one acts. For Christians, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. There is lastly the existential perspective, which deals with the motive and the orientation of the heart. For Christians, this is the pure heart for God from which our actions ought to be derived.

The contemporary misconception about the right to weapon ownership is that this right comes from the Second Amendment, which is dictated by the government. If that is the case, then the right to bear arms is not derived from an eternal and immutable standard, but is subjected to the whims of governmental interpretations of this right, a phenomenon which we are currently witnessing. In fact, this viewpoint is illogical because the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in and of themselves are not divinely authoritative.

The inalienable rights of man must rather be continuously recalled as divinely authoritative: even if these rights were once seen as derived from the divine standard, this is of no benefit to a society if these rights are not seen as divinely sourced by present citizens. If Christians do not lay claim to truth, the Word of God, then man in his sinfulness will manipulate the truth.

The right to bear arms in Scripture

Concerning the normative standard of weapon ownership for private citizens, the teachings and commands of Jesus are a sufficient place to start. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said:

When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

— Luke 22:35-38

Knowing that his earthly ministry was ending, Jesus commanded his disciples to purchase a sword if they did not already have one. This command indicates that weapon ownership is a divine right alongside other material possessions. If Christians are not supposed to have weapons for potential lawful use, then Christ would not have commanded his disciples to buy them.

Yet during his betrayal and arrest, Jesus rebuked Peter’s assault on the Roman soldier:

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

— Matthew 26:52

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

— John 18:11

The response to Peter indicates a place and time for a sword in his follower’s possession. Take note that Jesus did not tell Peter to discard the sword but told Peter to sheathe his sword.

There are two key takeaways for Christians concerning this rebuke of Peter. For one, as noted by Grand Rapids Theological Seminary systematic theology professor David Turner, in the immediate context “Jesus is only speaking realistically and proverbially about the way violence reproduces itself in a fallen world.” For another, the rebuke does not concern Peter having a sword or even the capacity to use one, but the motive and situation in which he used the weapon. Peter did not look to Christ for discernment but looked to his sword and his intuition instead. The fact that Christ rebuked the motive and act of Peter instead of his possession and capacity is important. Christ did not disarm Peter after the incident either.

Also notice in the following passages that weapon ownership and proficiency in their usage was at times an expectation from God:

Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.”

— Exodus 32:27

So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.”

— Numbers 31:3-4

As shown throughout Scripture, God never disarmed the Israelites, but the laws were structured in a way that would punish those who misused weapons.

To complete the triperspectival analysis of Christian ethics on bearing arms: one must use a weapon in accordance with Scripture, one must adhere to these limitations when using weapons for the proper reasons, and one must act from a pure heart and a conscience oriented toward God. Removing one of these three components makes the ethical system incomplete.

Overview of importance

God in his divine wisdom understood that disarming people would not remove their sin. Yet somehow the modern state has concluded that disarming a populace, or a radical restriction of rights concerning weapons, should be implemented under the guise of ensuring safety.

An exploration of twentieth-century genocide, democide, and mass murder campaigns will show that over 200 million citizens who were unable to defend themselves were murdered at the hands of godless governments, according to one estimate from David Kopel, the research director of the Independence Institute. A radical restriction of gun rights and the disarming of a population correlate to mass murder by the hands of totalitarian governments. It is also observable that the majority of mass shootings occur in gun-free zones, as noted by John Lott, the former president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Something is missing if removing guns from the populace altogether is pushed as the correct answer while bad actors and governments still retain possession of weapons. These objective findings support the universal notion of a person’s inalienable right to defend themselves and others from wicked people, which sharply contrasts with the subjective reasoning of anti-gun advocates. Taking this information into account, Scripture provides the left and right lateral limits of lawful weapon usage: one use is the defense of self and others to uphold the sanctity of life, and the other use is a deterrent to tyrannical rule under the authority of a lesser magistrate. Both of these uses are in accord with the love of God and the love of neighbor as summarized in the sixth commandment of the moral law: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).


American citizens have been providentially born into a country that allows the lawful possession of firearms, and we act in ignorance and neglect if we believe the recent deterioration of our rights will simply correct itself. If history, especially church history, has taught us anything, it is that ignorance and tolerance of injustice will create more complex problems as time continues.

We will have all of Christ for all of life, or we will have chaos. If citizens are unable to defend themselves, they can no longer deter evil, and chaos will prevail. Millions of people will be vulnerable to suffering at the hands of tyranny, as has happened throughout history.

The goal is to be consistent and biblical Christians. Therefore it is unwise of Christians to be uninformed on this matter, especially during the volatile era in which we find ourselves. Let us lay claim to the eternal truth of God which applies to all spheres of life.


Yes I am a Christian now since 2005. I believe in the right to bear arms and I am a 2A supporter. I come from a background of law enforcement. I have carried a firearm since the age of 23 before accepting Jesus as my lord and savior. I recently became certified as a USCCA CCHDF Instructor. My goal is to arm as many Christians as I can. Thanks for that great post @OldDude49 and carry on sir.


I am a Christian and a Vietnam-era USAF veteran. I completely agree with the viewpoint of the op and exercise my rights under 2A daily. The battle today is that of light-a Christian, Biblical worldview versus darkness-a secular worldview. I firmly believe that the Christian army advances ON ITS KNEES, as Prayer is the most powerful weapon we posess. I carry for self defense only and will not draw unless my life is directly threatened.


IMHO that is pretty much what the article says… and I think that was as well…

to me it says don’t go looking for it… but if it comes… be ready…


Agree wholeheartedly.
The Bible, God’s Word, comes first. Real history explains the motives and source for the USA Founding Fathers to include the “bill of rights” and especially the 2nd amendment. That source was mostly God’s Word. Hence, when someone who swears to the oath of office required of every elected office holder and members of the military, they’re swearing to uphold the Constitution and the law derived there from. Thus, by extension, they’re swearing to uphold the principles, ethics, and morality defined by God’s Words as was expected by the writers of the constitution. Without that knowledge of history, most don’t comprehend this at all, thinking they’re just swearing to uphold a man-made document they can consider outdated. However, like God’s Word, the principles, ethics, and morality (i.e. what’s right and what is wrong) are eternal and not subject to change by the whim of our fallen condition and mindset.
WE must, everyday of our journey thru this physical life, put God’s Words first.