Violence, self-defense, gun rights and the Bible

Nowhere in the Bible does it say not to defend yourself. First of all at least some of the apostles owns swords. And when Jesus tells Paul that those who live by the sword will die by the sword he was not talking about killing in defense, but about people who live for killing. Warmongers, murderers, etc.

Further there is a strong Biblical obligation to preserve life. In fact we are taught that our bodies belong to God not to ourselves. Sometimes this means doing things that on the surface seem contradictory like killing. It takes an eye for nuance and more than a surface reading of the Biblical texts.

Psalm 82:4 for example says “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” This doesn’t tell us to kill to rescue the weak and needy, but it does require us to ask how we might rescue the weak and need if not as a last resort turning to violence.

Ezekiel goes further saying “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.”

In other words, the watchman is specifically called to be the one to kill the offender. This is one of the scriptures used to support capital punishment. Now to be clear, again this doesn’t say that you are to kill in advance or proactively, but it does again demand nuance.

When it comes to killing, we have to recognize the unique, cultural context blood plays in society. Ables blood called out from the earth.  

And let us look to David. He was prevented from building the Temple because he had blood on his hands, but he was never rejected or punished because of that blood.  By this time David had waged war, fought for and against his own people and had Uriah killed. So what does God really have to say about taking a human life?

Its a tough question but ultimately HE says it’s a very big deal and not to be taken lightly. It is not forbidden but it is never encouraged and it always comes with a price.

But what of the Ten Commandments. Aren’t we told Thou Shalt Not Kill? Actually no. We are told not to commit murder and there is a difference. This is why some groups were set apart for killing by God, not because killing was good, but because in the eyes of God their actions did tremendous harm to the very concept of civil culture.  This is by the way why we have capital punishment, because the crime is so obscene that not putting the person to death makes a mockery out out of life itself.

Some people argue that God condones revenge killing but this a misreading and not supported by the text. If a person kills another and it is the result of negligence and not deliberate then that person might be killed by the victim’s family (not required to be killed) thus God, to protect life created refuge cities where no man could be put to death and after the death of the high priest they could return home, or in other words, after a few years and tempers cool.

It all comes down to this..

Will you trust God and only use a sword as a tool, even as a tool to kill? In some circumstance That is fine within reason. thought of course it is always better to protect life.

Will you use a sword to replace trust in the Lord? That is clearly wrong. It is killing for greed, for arrogance, for selfishness or anger. In other words, if the motivation for killing is condemned then the act of killing is also condemned.

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Day’s of Vinegar. – The decline of American public virtue

I would point out one last thing, as it relates to your bad apple analogy. If you want to eat a fresh, crisp apple or make tasty apple juice then a bad spot ruins the flavor. But a bad apple can still make effective apple vinegar. These days, I predict, are to be America’s vinegar days.

We admire Capt. Sully, who refused leave his plane until he knew that all passengers were safe. They were not customers to him, nor travelers. They were his responsibilities and he took that seriously, even to the point of risking his own life.

Why? willingness to sacrifice for others; perspective when faced with hardship;  commitment to do the right thing. These three attributes are what we most admire in people, yet as a society we so easily reject them when they are most needed.

Contrast this with the captain of the Costa Concordia, who fled his ship before his passengers knew what happened. To him, those passengers were just byproducts of his job, not his responsibility They were consequences that could be ignored and erased.

32 people died because the captain abdicated his responsibility. It wasn’t because people died, that we despise this man,. Had Captain Sully lost some of his passengers he would still be seen a hero because he absorbed and internalized his responsibility. Sullys heroism came to be called the miracle on the Hudson. That miracle however began before the water landing. It began before the engine failure, even before the plane landed. It began when Captain Chesley Sullenberger made a choice to take responsibility for the people who are dependant on him. His experience made it possible to land safely, but his choice to land when he did, and be willing to sacrifice himself was the miracle.

Who Inspires you and why?

Aspire vs Inspire

We confuse inspiration for aspiration. We worship at the altar of celebrity because we aspire to the sort of lifestyle they live.

Love is universally attractive. But love is also selfless. When love becomes corrupted by the self then it becomes tainted.

Politician Francois Fillon recently spoke of his own country when he said, “France is not a sum of communities. It is an identity.” Though Fillon represents the political right in France, it is unlikely any French person would argue with this statement, only perhaps how to define that identity.

So it is with Christian and western morality. We can not disconnect biblical morality, even old testament morality from the story of Christianity because they are one and the same, just as the story of western civilization is part of the story of Christianity. Remember that the faith was not a part of what made the western world, it was the foundation of the western world, and its walls and windows and doors too.  The arrival of Christ as messiah did not overturn an old order in any way and Christ’s own words are clear (not one jot of the law). Instead the old law was reinforced and perfected while also being reoriented away from our obligations and obedience to do what is righteous and to our reliance on Jesus Christ who is all righteousness. When Christ speaks of sexual sin he is not changing the old law. In fact he makes it even stronger, with a greater obligation to not only do, but also to think or not to think about sexual sin. This is why adultery moved from being asin of the flesh to a sin of the spirit and the mind.

While we were asked to put our faith in the shadow of things to come in the old testament, through the new that shadow moves into the light and what is to come, is manifested. Which is why Christ says “It is finished”. All the work of creation was completed and all things set right on the cross. For this reason we do not uphold the old law to keep us in line, but because the old law is now the present and eternal reality of things. Our sinful world is sinful, yes, but the work of purifying the world was completed on the cross. The race was won, as Pope John Paul II once said, we are the Easter Children, meaning that we are not meant to be warriors fighting a war that could go either way, instead we are the inheritors of a great victory and an eternal peace in Jesus Christ. This does not mean that the world itself is repaired or that sin no longer exists. Only that sin and broken’ness no longer hold sway or power over the world that we humans do not willingly allow to be present. Satan still has his kingdom, but that kingdom is like a world in a snowglobe, small and confined and utterly in the hands of the Lord. We enter it by choice and that choice will remain for us to make until the new heaven and the earth are realized.

Why is the earth sinful if the cross finished all things?

As culture declines and as forces from within the church assimilate to secular culture in more profound ways church doctrine becomes filtered down, removed from the arbiter of morality based on biblical principles they instead becomes church bureaucrats managing systems in such a way that secular and sacred are blurred, and because the commitment is to social justice and not just behavior under the Lord, when there is a point of contention, it is the church law, tradition and morality that is cast aside. The result of course is a division that goes from denominational differences, which can be robust and healthy to the balkanization of church.

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Types of Evil

Moral evilIs personal, it is a choice, it is disobedience to our true natures, and embrace of our corrupted natures. Moral evil is like rot on a wood, it requires something that should be healthy but is diseased to grow from.

Natural Evil – Physical corruption, the state of the earth and of man after the fall. Natural evil is impersonal. It is evil for the sake of evil, like a fungus that we perceive is a form of rot but is actually a thing all it own.

Supernatural Evil Evil that is perpetrated by things not of this earth. Demonic.

Eternal Evil The evil of hell, damnation and final torment. It is not a place we are sent to, rather it is the place we choose to go to. It is the ultimate outcome for self-deception and disobedience. A world without parental authority, but also without parental love can care. To borrow from CS Lewis, it is always winter, never Christmas.

Evil put to use: The greatest outward display of our love is seen in our urge to protect those we love, and our desire to lavish affection on those we love. We might protect a stranger, and this is good, but we are not driven with a need to protect the stranger. We protect the stranger because we are taught it is good to do this because we learn to treat the stranger as a friend. Which is why the phrase My brothers keeper was never meant to contained to biological brothers, but to the brotherhood of all mankind. Evil put to use is any act that goes against either the ingrained desire to protect those we love or the trained desire to protect those who are strangers. It is self centered in the extreme.

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Four simplified rules for biblical exegesis

When reading the Bible critically and arming ourselves to defend the faith we need to keep four things in mind…

  • Does the text contain an ERROR? Define error.
  • Does the text CONTRADICT itself? Define Contradiction.
  • Does what the text claims represent an IMPOSSIBILITY? Define Impossibility.
  • Does the text make sense to original or intended audience? Who was that audience?





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In pursuit of fulfillment



A speech delivered by Tory S. Quinton

Candlewycke Society for Biblical Studies

Duration: 20 minutes

Props: well bucket (maybe)


Who woke up this morning and thought to themselves, I don’t want to be happy?

Right, almost no one did. We want to be happy and yet by the end of a typical day we are stressed, fatigued, annoyed, often angry or apathetic but rarely, honestly happy. Why is this?

I believe the answer lies in being off target in our lives.  You see, Happiness comes from what we do, fulfillment comes from why we do it. I

Happiness is only a product or an outcome. Fulfilment is born before we even take any action. The victim of religious of persecution is unlikely to be happy suffering persecution but they can certainly be fulfilled. The widow mourning for her dead beloved would not be happy, but can be fulfilled. The broken, the battered and the torn can all have found fulfilment in places where happiness is absent.

Fulfillment is the why that motivates us, the why that drives us forward, the why that really matters. Right now ask yourselves, am I fulfilled today?

What do you do for a living? (pick someone out of the crowd) We assume this means what is our profession, our career, or perhaps what we do to earn money. But how often do we consider this simple question in a way that… might be a little unfamiliar, and even a little uncomfortable?

So let’s think about that again, what do we do? A doctor or lawyer, sales or teaching? Artist, janitor? We teach our children that it doesn’t really matter what you do so long as you do it with love or passion. Of course we hope our children will have wealth, just as we want this for ourselves, but would you wish wealth on your children if it also meant sorrow?

You see, it’s never really about what you do, but Why do you do it? That’s the question that matters. Simple right? It should be, but It’s also a question too many people are afraid to answer. Let that sink in for a moment. One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is the one question we are often too afraid to think about.

* look around the room, resting on individual eyes.

I believe that right now, in this very room there is someone who is afraid of that question. Don’t worry, I won’t call anyone out.  This isn’t time for emotional show and tell after all.

But why do you do it… Why do we do it? Why do I do it? Why does it even matter?

Why… why… why… Maybe we can simplify this uncomfortable question somewhat and instead ask it this way? What is your why?

Why is the reason for doing, that’s easy enough to understand. But it is also The substance of whats done. It’s the craving, the recipe, the ingredients AND the finished pie, waiting for us to take a bite. It’s that taste were all looking for, and it’s something called fulfilment.

There’s a powerful word right?

*look around again and repeat FULFILMENT…. RIGHT?

We could finish here I suppose, but I think we’re still missing the mark. Lets go just a little bit deeper.

To be fulfilled is to be sustained. As a Christian I respond to stories. Afterall the word Gospel itself means “Good Story”. One of those stories that always resonates with me occurs when Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a theological discussion, I am speaking here of the event as a story.

Jesus spoke spoke of living waters. It was mysterious, enigmatic, but something about it draws people in and it has for 2000 years. How can we understand what is the living water is as it relates to being fulfilled? Imagine a bucket and a well. The well gives water and that water refreshes us and even cures our thirst but its just water. A drink and no more. What was being talked about here is water that sustains. Remember when I said to be fulfilled is to be sustained? We have to draw a from a deeper well than what we are familiar with when we thirst for only happiness. Fulfilment is the water that sustains us. That’s really what were all really looking for. And as we think globally we see this same theme occur over and over again. It’s what mythographers (that’s such an amazing word isn’t it) call a foundational story but I want you to take away is the importance of knowing your own foundational story. The story of you, where you are on the journey an where you are going when you let go of of your fears and your presuppositions and really get moving. That’s why the phrase “Happily Ever After” resonates. It’s a fulfilled ending, completely complete.

Should we worry about the difference between happiness and fulfillment? After all, we have so many things to worry about in our lives certainly a difference that may be only semantic isn’t worth the effort. I believe that is is and I think everyone benefits from knowing why that difference is important. There are degrees to happiness. You can be a little happy, or a lot happy, sometimes happy or occasionally happy you can measure happiness on a slide rule, weigh it on a scale, or gauge it by how much you can hold in your fingers like sand, but always it slips through those fingers, lost to time, a relic of our imperfect self-awareness. But there is no degree to fulfillment. You are or you are not, there is no middle ground, no one is a little fulfilled or sometimes fulfilled. There is no partial sustaining to the human spirit.  To be fulfilled is literally to be filled full. Like the bucket that has no more room for more water. How often can any of us say that this day we were filled full of the things that really mattered?

Happiness is fleeting. Because happiness is fleeting we are always looking for a new source of it, forever digging new wells, much like a addict looking for a new fix. There are real similarities there too. Happiness bring with it a need for caution. Fulfillment does not.

Hedonistic pleasure, for example often gives happiness, but at what most agree is a great price and it never leads to fulfillment. The brothel or pornography, the casino, the race track, even the workplace can be like drugs delivering a jolt of euphoria, which is a type of chemical happiness. The aged adult film star, Drug using Rock Icon, or party loving celebrity rarely express fulfillment with their lives.Nor does the workaholic, the gambler or, if we were honest with ourselves, many of us.

We can become addicted to happiness both emotionally and chemically and once the addiction takes hold we do almost anything to keep it. That’s right, we try to keep the thing that by its very nature cannot be kept. And like the drug addicts those who chase after happiness often end up lonely, powerless and spirit-broken.  But when you are fulfilled you will never be lonely or powerless. You are completely-complete and your spirit will soar! Isn’t that something worth looking for?

It takes time though. Fulfillment is never easy, and never quick. Did you know the Chinese word for happiness translates roughly to “fast joy”. I want each of you to remember that and ask yourselves later on if you want fast joy or something more, something that lasts, something that fills you to the very top.

It isn’t easy… It isn’t quick…  But it’s worth it.

What happens when we find ourselves fulfilled? We can pass it forward. Fulfillment informs our actions, tells us why to go this way or that, why it matters at all, why we should help those in need, why we should do the right thing, even though we may be penalized for it. Fulfillment, or at least our desire to be really fulfilled carries us through dark days, trials and tribulations.

Are there rules? Not really and this journey can be a very personal one. But there are guidelines that I subscribe to, and maybe you should too.

  1. Know the person you are, the person you believe you want to be and why.
  2. Experience someone else. Walk in the shoes of another, see with strange eyes, listen with foreign ears.
  3. Connect with nature. Learn natural rhythms. Hear the beating heart of an earth that has existed far longer than we do and that will be here far after we have gone.
  4. Love someone: The salvation of man is through love and in love. For me, as a Christian this is the whole story. This is the story of true compassion. In life, do all with love. Live for love, die with love speak and think with love and in this way, every unkindness aimed against us vanishes into the mists.
  5. Suffer. Yes, suffer for something that matters.  I believe that in suffering we discover a way to discern reality that transcends any other lesson.  Viktor Frankl, survived a concentration camp because he came to believe that suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds a meaning.
  6. And this brings us to here… Search for and find meaning.  Not the buzzword we hear in self help seminars, or the hollow phrase that has become a marketing tool. I can’t tell you what it is and maybe I shouldn’t even if I could, but I can tell you what it isn’t. But you will know it when you find it.

A few additional thoughts…

  • As A Christian I can’t say that I am always happy. But I am always fulfilled.
  • Fulfillment is a virtue. But is is also the fullest realization of all our virtues. It begins by striving to live for these virtues, but also by working through them and seeing them realized or manifested in the world through our actions.
  • The Greeks call it Eudaimonia and it means human flourishing, not happiness.  It literally means good or beneficial spirit.
  • Fulfillment and meaning are connected. We will never be fulfilled in life if our life has no meaning. What’s your meaning?
  • In prison, concentration camps, in ghettos or poverty stricken villages and worn torn landscapes happiness will likely not be found, and if it is it will be fleeting. But fulfillment can be found and indeed thrive in these places.
  • It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?
  • Know the place you are, the place you believe you want to be and why.
  • Experience someone else. Walk in the shoes of another, see with strange eyes, listen with foreign ears.

Ancient virtues include: Courage, Temperance, Liberality, Magnificence, Honor, Pride, Good Temper, Friendliness, Wit, Truthfulness, Justice

Or the 7 cardinal virtues of: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, Temperance

Or St. Paul’s simplified: Love, Hope and Faith, and love is chief of them all.





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Why context matters.

Atheists often use selected biblical texts to argue against the morality of the Bible.   But is this a form of honest exegesis or textual fraud? Imagine the following scenario, isolated in it’s context…

It was a great parade, civic pride was on display and everyone was happy. Political and civic leaders spoke up about the booming economy, the improvements in schools and the renovations of upgrades to crumbling infrastructures. When the keynote speaker rose to address the audience everyone cheered. He was after all respected around the world and his speech let no one down. It was uplifting and exuberant. Calling people to great and noble things.

Now let’s imagine this speech were a book and you let the book fall open at random and read without any context. Did you just read about John F. Kennedy? Would you be surprised to learn it was a story about Adolf Hitler? Context matters. Would you teach your children by giving them a rule book, let them open to a random page and then base their life on that one selection? What about your own life? Are you a good person? Could you prove that you are always and in every respect a good person in all things? What if someone read your story at the wrong time, are you suddenly bad just because the random timing of someone else intersecting with your story showed you at a bad moment?

Random selections give random philosophy, ideas that are not thought out, weighed or measured. Merely random.


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Easter on the job – When faith and work intersect

Yesterday was Easter. Pope John Paul, on speaking to an audience in Croatia in 1994 declared “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song.” The religious meaning here is obvious and not to be belittled. But like so many truths, great meaning exists in many layers. One such layer here is that Hope must mean something more than a desperate reaching into the night for saving, or success. True hope comes on wings of strength, held aloft by the certainty that when we fight the good fight, in spiritual matters or in work affairs then we hope for what is already there, only waiting, not for something that may or may not ever come. So with this great truth in mind, and on the cusp of a new quarter of good work I will embrace hope knowing that success, whatever that ultimately look like, is already there, only waiting.

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