Use of Force: A Biblical Survey
The issue of the shooting of abortionists surfaced, and I thought it deserved a closer look. I am a pro-life leader who has, after much prayer, study, and counsel determined that such acts may be morally justified if they are motivated by an attempt to save an innocent victim from an unjust aggressor.
I do not believe that this is the means by which abortion will end in this country, but I do believe that people like Paul Hill will not be condemned for their acts by God.
I did not want to come to this conclusion because I knew it would cost me. It has -- but that is beside the point.
The Scripture Template
In any discussion of the biblical principles of the use of force, the first thing one must determine is that we must come to the Scripture first and the conclusions later. We must first determine what the Scripture says about the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of using force, then apply the general principle, or template, to the specific case at hand -- in this case, the shooting of abortionists or torching of abortion clinics.
In my many discussions with pastors, theologians, and fellow believers, the most common error was to try to determine the legitimacy of shooting an abortionist before determining what the Scripture says about the use of force.
This puts the emotion-laden circumstances in the driver's seat instead of the Word of God.
The second trap I found in my discussions was that there was a presumption that if one said that the use of force against abortionists or abortion clinics was morally justified, that this was the same as saying that it was the best or only way to save babies from abortion. The claim of justifiability was then incorrectly transformed into an “advocacy” or “call to action.”
I hope we can all discuss this without false characterizations and that we can look at Scripture in a dispassionate way and draw conclusions before we attempt to apply the “template” to contemporary situations.
In addition, I want to avoid confusing the issue of “justifiability” with the issue of “tactics” (Does it “harm the movement”? Does it work? etc.) I want to stick with first, the biblical template of whether force is justifiable and under what circumstances and, second, how has that template been used historically.
In order to look at the Scriptures on the use of force, we must first step away from the situation at hand -- i.e., the shooting of abortionists -- and from the inflammatory language and rhetoric the debate engenders -- e.g., murder, assassination, terrorism, vigilantism, execution, etc. -- and look to the Bible for the definition of killing.
The use of inflammatory language in this debate will not resolve anything.
The Bible has many different kinds of killing it speaks to: Killing of animals (for sacrifice), killing during war, killing for capital punishment, murder, and killing which has no moral overtones at all.
The Sixth Commandment uses the word specifically translated “murder.” Its meaning is further understood in the many places where “innocent blood” was shed.
An extensive look at the meaning of blood to God would be useful, but too much of a rabbit trail if we ever hope to get to our topic. Suffice it to say that God told Noah that whosoever shed man's blood, by man his blood would be shed (Genesis 9:6). The shedding of blood here is the word that defines murder or shedding innocent blood. This is the initial biblical basis for the death penalty -- a form of vengeance permitted by God (See Romans 12 & 13).
God also said that the only way to clean up the evil of innocent bloodshed was to shed the blood of the murderer (Numbers 35:33). He thought this serious enough that if a “John Doe” body was found outside a city, God would curse the city for the innocent blood unless the elders came out and truthfully swore that they had no part in the murder and did not know who did (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).
I wonder where this leaves America in God's sight?
A Useful Example
There are several scriptural examples of the use of force which could be brought to the fore, but the best is the story of Moses and the Egyptian (Exodus 2: 11-12).
11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. (KJV)
This familiar story has been variously used as a proof-text for many a sermon topic over the years, but let us look at what the Word says.
Many have said that Moses was “ahead of God” and “trying to accomplish God's will in his own strength” when he slew the Egyptian. I, however, am loathe to speak ill of another Man's (God's) servant (Romans 14:4) -- especially when the Master describes the servant as “the meekest man on earth” (Numbers 12:3) and lists him among His most impressive servants (Jeremiah 15:1) and the servant shows up as only one of two men who can stand in the glory of God (Matthew 17:2-3).
The Scripture actually answers our question -- in the New Testament, for those of you who think that such things suddenly changed after Jesus rose from the dead. Remember the first martyr, Stephen? Acts 6: 10 tells us about how he spoke as he was moved by the Spirit. Here is what he said about Moses:
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Moses was obviously once invested with some governmental authority, but he had given that up by the time he saw the Egyptian killing the Hebrew and responded in a classic “defense-of-others” way. In the original account, we see Moses “look this way and that” before he did it. This indicates to me that he did not have the legitimate government authority to kill, nor would the legitimate government recognize his defense-of-others as justified. It was a crime for a Hebrew to kill an Egyptian under any circumstances.
Nothing in Scripture indicates that Moses was “ahead of God.” Quite the contrary. Stephen (full of the Holy Ghost, v. 55) tells us that Moses thought his brethren would understand that God had sent him to deliver them from bondage -- something he obviously already understood. They did not -- in typical Hebrew (and human) fashion. Note that it took 40 years before Moses came to deliver again -- similar to the 40 years Israel wandered in the desert because of the same pure cussedness. Stephen says that it was the Hebrews who were not in tune with God's will.
Moses fled, all right. But he only fled after he found that even his brethren were against him. It certainly wasn't because he feared Pharaoh. Anyone who has ever experienced what Jesus meant that “they who will be your enemies shall be of your own household” (Matthew 10:26) -- especially when it is those of your own spiritual household -- will understand this well!
Of this incident, Hebrews 11:27 tells us:
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
The whole thing was motivated by faith, not “trying to do the will of God in the flesh.” Moses was acting on his unction from God to deliver the Hebrews from the moment when he forsook the pleasures of Egypt for the afflictions of God's people.
Hebrews 11:24-25 says;
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Everything God says about the whole affair is in a positive light -- specifically in the New Testament. God had plenty of time to make distinctions in the scripture and tell us that while Moses was out of line to kill the Egyptian, that he nonetheless was a pretty good guy. But, no. God heaps praise -- and specifically about the whole issue of the killing of the Egyptian and fleeing from the land.
Isn't that odd?
Actually, it isn't. Try looking at older commentaries and writings about this passage and you will find a consistent reference to the right of a man to use force (even deadly force) to defend a judicially innocent person from an unjust aggressor -- even if that defense is illegal.
Let's review Moses' situation in light of some of the objections raised against abortionist shooters today -- Paul Hill being the best example:
Had legal authority No No
The act was legal No No
The act was to save life Yes Yes
The act was vengeance No No
The unjust aggressor killed Yes Yes
Standard of Justice
The examples given us in the Old Testament are designed to be teaching tools for New Testament believers (I Corinthians 10:11). This verse, since the early Church Fathers, has been used to teach the justifiability of the use of force to defend others from unjust attack. It was cited in Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex and Blackstone's Commentaries on English Law, both men Christians, as cause to place the defense of others justification into law. All 50 states currently have one or another version of that defense either in statute or common law. All of this grew out of the biblical view that the defense of others was a legitimate justification for the use of force.
There were other sections of Scripture also used to defend this principle, but I won't go into them now. There are probably very few people reading this who would not use whatever force necessary to save a two-year-old daughter from an attacker -- and use deadly force if that's what it took.
My question for you is: In that circumstance, who are you supposed to love, the attacker or the victim? And: To whom do you have the greater obligation?
And, finally: Who gave you the right to say that an unborn child has less of a right to be defended than a two-year-old (even your own)?
We are not talking about vengeance here, friends, we are talking about defending an innocent person prior to the danger. The immediacy of the danger is far less important than the surety of it. If someone, for instance, had killed Josef Mengele, the Mad Doctor of Auscwicz, while he was barbecuing ribs with his family on his day off, I doubt anyone here would today be objecting to that. It was a close to a certainty as it is humanly possible to know that the guy would be returning the next day to kill people with brutal experiments in the camp.
I don't hear a lot of objections to Deitrich Bonhoeffer's part in the assassination attempt on Hitler, or Corrie Ten Boom's lies and thefts, or the killings by Resistance fighters. Bohoeffer has virtually been canonized a Protestant saint.
While there may be a lot of debate on the effectiveness of the use of force or whether it has caused trouble for the Movement, I can point out some small children who are alive and happy today that someone counted their lives equal with the lives of all other people -- even at the sacrifice of the rescuers' own lives.
God only has one standard of justice. Innocent people all deserve a rescuer. I know I would want one if I were trapped in a small room and someone else was trying to kill me. For that I can only point out what my Master said:
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
In the use of force debate, the issue of unconditional obedience to the government, a la Romans 13, surfaces often. Here are a list of a number of times where God's people disobeyed the law and were commended by God for it. Some involve use of force, others do not.
15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:
16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
14 And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.
4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:
5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.
24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
12 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
13 And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
14 So the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.
15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab.
16 But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
18 And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
19 But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him.
20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlour, which he had for himself alone. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
23 Then Ehud went forth through the porch, and shut the doors of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
24 When he was gone out, his servants came; and when they saw that, behold, the doors of the parlour were locked, they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.
25 And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth.
26 And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirath.
Judges 13:24-25 (Read Chapters 14-16 as well)
24 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.
2 And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.
3 Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?
4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.
5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves,
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.
23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,
18 And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told,
23 Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.
25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.
26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
The issue of premeditation has surfaced on several occasions. Here are some scriptures which appear to show force used with premeditation:
1) The story of Ehud (Judges 3:12-26) shows guile, deception, premeditation, and flight after the fact. The verses say that God sent him to assassinate the lawful king.
2) The story of Jesus “cleansing” the Temple (John 2:13-17), show Jesus premeditating violence by braiding a whip of cords.
Notice that both acts, while not defense of others, were violent, both were against lawful authority, and both were premeditated. Of course, for those who wish to distinguish what is permissible in the NT -- especially those who would say “What would Jesus do?” -- we have a glaring example here.
As we know, in the NT, it is we, the body of Christ, who are the Temple, not some stone building. Yet Jesus used violence to “cleanse” the stone building.
Old and New Testaments
Much of the debate Scripture today centers around the Old Testament (OT) vs. the New Testament (NT). This dichotomy does not exist in Scripture or the writings of the early Church. On the contrary, the NT is quite explicit about the value of the OT:
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
To understand this verse in the context of the original writer and readers, we must remember that “all scripture” did not include the NT -- since there was no NT at the time.
Most of the OT vs. NT argument is actually a misconstrued argument over the issue of the Law of Moses, not the entire manuscript of the OT. The issue of the Law and its place in the life of the NT believer, is a narrow issue. It does not include the scope of anything other than whether our access to God and salvation comes through obedience to the Law or observance of ceremonial laws relevant only to the old covenant given to the Jews.
The fact that the Law does not save us, does not invalidate the entire OT -- or even the Law itself. In fact, Paul reminds us that it is the Law which makes us aware of how morally evil we are so that we are prepared to accept the offer of salvation by grace (Romans 7: 7).
Nor does the NT change God's perspective on what is and is not sin or what is or is not a just civil law and commensurate punishment for breaking that law. God does not change (Malachi 3: 6).
The verse above indicates precisely that -- and more. Notice that God says that “all scripture” is profitable for teaching “doctrine.” The justifiability (or lack thereof) of the use of force is an area about which there is “doctrine” so the use of the OT is perfectly legitimate. “All scripture” is also good for “instruction in righteousness.” I think that what we are examining would qualify as an “instruction in righteousness,” don't you?
Some argument has been made about the use of verses like Genesis 9:6 (“Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”) in this debate, but this law was given to all mankind through their progenitor, Noah. The Hebrew rabbis speak of the Noahic Law which consists of seven commands, of which this is one, which apply to all mankind. They believe that the Law of Moses contained covenental laws in addition to the seven, e.g., the Sabbath.
Whether or not the rabbis are right, there are laws which God expects all men to adhere to. Paul writes of this:
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
In fact, the revelation given in nature (Romans 1: 18 et seq) is sufficient for God to exercise judgment upon the unbeliever. (As a side note, the argument that nonbelievers cannot be held accountable for a biblical standard is not true. The Scripture says that the Law was given that all the world might be held accountable to God. Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”)
In addition, the NT also teaches that the problems that Israel had in following God (and by extension, Moses) were examples that we would learn from.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
In this verse, Paul has just listed a number of times that the Jews were stubborn and ungrateful for the leading of the Lord -- and how they suffered for their rebellion. The speech of Stephen in Acts 7 had precisely the same theme. I cannot but conclude that the story of Moses striking down the Egyptian and the Jews “not understanding” that Moses was the one God was sending to deliver them at that time, is not also one of the “ensamples” which are “written for our admonition.”
In the end, the OTphobia under which most American Christians suffer is in appropriate. The OT IS the Scripture -- every bit as much as the NT.
The Value of Blood
The issue of blood and bloodguilt is very important to the discussion of the both abortion and the use of force. Central to the discussion is God's perspective on the shedding of innocent blood.
6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
These verses set the stage for what we, as Bible believers, are to understand about blood and bloodshed. The issue is obviously very important to God. While both of these are OT verses, the first is not part of the Law of the covenant under Moses. The second appears in Scripture after the institution of the Law, but is not part of the covenental, ceremonial aspects of the Law. It is specifically part of the civil law. To show how important it is to God that any innocent blood be cleansed from the land, the Scriptures give us the following illustration:
1 If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:
2 Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:
3 And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;
4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:
5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:
6 And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:
7 And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.
8 Be merciful, O LORD, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.
9 So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
Notice how seriously God wants the people to take the bloodshed. If they did not follow this procedure, they would be held accountable for the innocent blood on the land. What may seem strange is that God would hold them accountable even if He knew that the people of that town were not responsible.
Further, look at how God deals with the people who do not address the shedding of innocent blood when they know it is happening.
2 Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
3 And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.
4 And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not:
5 Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people.
God takes “blood crying to Him from the ground” very seriously. Equally serious is the prescribed manner in which that stain is cleansed.
Nothing in the NT suggests that blood and bloodguilt are any less of an issue with God -- except that we may obtain forgiveness from God for even death penalty offenses (Acts 13: 39), like the shedding of innocent blood, through the blood of Jesus.
The Scripture forms the template of what is justifiable in the use of force by believers. While this is not a complete study, the biblical concept of the justifiable use of force is pretty well established by these verses.
To the use of force against abortionists, there are no easy answers. It falls entirely in the realm of what was in the heart of the individual who resorted to force. Simplistic “you-can’t-be-pro-life-and-assassinate-someone” rhetoric or mere references to the Sixth Commandment are not serious arguments.
Since only God knows the heart, only He can ultimately judge whether Paul Hill or Shelley Shannon or Michael Griffin were justified in their use of force. However, as nearly as we are able to discern the motives, these may have been justified in the sight of God.