Some Thoughts on the Piper-Falwell Defense Argument

· Personal Reflections

“Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?” Dr John Piper suggested that this is the fundamental question at the root of the argument between himself and Dr Jerry Falwell, Jr. concerning Christians’ Biblical rights to defend themselves and their loved ones. The argument (link) formed due to Piper’s disagreement with Falwell’s campus address at Liberty University, in which Falwell challenged students to get certified to carry and carry a firearm to school. Piper suggests that Christians are to submit and endure, whatever comes their way, for the glory of God. While there are others refuting Piper’s criticism (link), I’m reminded of a disturbing discussion I had a few years ago with a couple of Christian friends at college.

My friends (a guy and a girl) and I were discussing the very scenario Piper brings up – If an assailant were to break into our group and attempt to rape the girl, what would be the Christian thing for each of us to do? While I was rigid in my stance all the way through the discussion, we entertained thoughts as to submitting and yielding (for the girl), kneeling down and praying, and defense (for us guys) and resistance (for the girl). In the end, both of my friends opposed my stance. My guy friend said that he would not lift a finger against the assailant because God is in control of all things and because his humble response might, at some point, bring the assailant to salvation. My girl friend acknowledged that a meek and submissive response to being raped would likely have a profound impact on the assailant, possibly making him seek salvation at some point, but she didn’t know if she could simply yield to being raped, even though it would be the ‘Christian’ thing to do (in her opinion). My opinion was simple: Protect my friend, killing the assailant if necessary.

Coming from a family where several female relatives have been raped, one murdered, this defense scenario is personal to me. I’ve long struggled with my protective instincts warring against what theologians like Piper propose as Christian sanctification. Of course, I’ve tried many ways of having it both ways, justifying my natural tendencies with technicalities. If I ever marry, I intend to include the phrase ‘to protect’ in my wedding vows (It’s appalling how many versions of wedding vows say nothing of a man protecting his wife), but I know it’s largely due to my need to say, in the event of lethally defending her, ‘I’m justified because I promised.’

Perhaps Piper is right. Perhaps this is the ultimate surrender that God seeks in a man. Perhaps this is what it takes to be welcomed as a ‘good and faithful servant.’ In the end, nevertheless, and after much thought and meditation before God, I know that I will kill in defense of my loved ones. It is not in my blood to willingly yield them to pain and suffering when it is in my power to protect them. May God forgive me, but I would rather be judged for rebellion than to live with the guilt that Piper’s ‘sanctification’ would bring.


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  1. Jamie Carter

    Odd. I’d have expected Piper to stick to his complementarian guns and gender roles and instruct men to protect women from other men. But I guess only married guys are expected to protect their wives during home invasions or being mugged downtown. At least he’s consistently inconsistent. Deut. 22 goes into detail about the OT rules, which Jesus never countered with: “you have heard it said … but I tell you”. If they have any force at all, then we ought to pay attention to ‘there was no one to rescue her’ – it seems that the God of the OT hoped that in the cases that when one would sin against another, there would be a rescuer – that’s what he sent Jesus to do for us and what we ought to do for each other. I think that she ought to fight it as much as she can – she might save her own life in doing so. Now I’m not comfortable with the idea of shooting somebody dead, but there are a lot of places you can put a bullet in a human body that doesn’t result in their death – take a knee-cap, for example: so the next time a guy gets that idea into his head (assuming if he’s the sort to do it one, he’s also the sort to try, try, try again), women will be able to out-run him. Now if the same scenario happened – this time the woman in question was a thirteen year old girl, you’d naturally try to protect her right? What makes someone five to ten years old any different that you would just let it happen to her?

    • Jabin Miller

      I agree. The refuting article I linked addresses the Biblical stance on defending others, largely from the OT, and I think it’s sound. I think numerous other Biblical defenses can be made for use of force/violence in certain cases. Even Christ used violence, albeit nonlethal, when cleansing the Temple. Revelation paints a clear picture of His use of force at the Second Coming.

      In my article, I’m simply reflecting upon my own experiences in light of the case if Piper was right, which I do not believe he is.

      To answer your questions, no, I would not stand by and let it happen to any woman, child, or even a weakened man, regardless of whether I even knew them. If I see it happening, I’m going to do whatever I can to stop it.

      Thank you for reading!

      • Jamie Carter

        I’ve often notice that there’s a tendency for Piper to fail to understand human nature: some people are bullies, for lack of a better term. Submitting to bullies never causes them to stop, repent, and change their ways. It often encourages them to keep on pushing the limits until they are satisfied.This bully side of human nature shows up in relationships, when one person tries to control the other. As a complementarian, Piper tells women to endure a season of abuse, he doesn’t realize that he’s also encouraging abusers and limiting the options of their victims. It’s only through resistance do they realize that person means ‘no’ and they won’t get any joy in asserting control. Christianity would be well-served in reading books about the psychology behind this so that they can do a better job of counseling bully types – helping them to stop doing the damage they do and equip their victims with the tools they need to fight back. Otherwise Christianity will simply perpetuate it and that’s the tragedy of this teaching.

      • Jabin Miller

        Again, I agree. In the story I told about my discussion with my friends, I could only imagine the line of guys that would assemble for the girl and the wife of the guy to ‘help them out’ with their sanctification. There’s a great difference in undergoing forced persecution and just giving in.
        Then again, I’m well known among my Christian friends for being a deviant rebel 😉

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