TGC Author: Stopping Active Shooter in Church Is Just Like Peter Cutting Of Servant’s Ear: Jesus Says Not To

Andrew Wilson is a self-described extreme pacificist and frequent contributor to the Gospel Coalition. He’s also the teaching pastor at King’s Church, London and the author of God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World. During his “Good Faith Debate’ with Bob Thune on ‘How should Christians think about gun control and the right to bear arms?” Wilson claimed that the world should not have opposed Hitler militarily, but and instead should have let him conquer. Furthermore, arguing against the second amendment, Wilson suggests that in same way that Jesus rebuked Peter for cutting off Malchus’ ear in John 18, so too would Jesus rebuke anyone seeking to stop a church shooting by employing lethal force.

Question: You mentioned that there are weapons that can kill everybody in this room. Recently, at least in the United States as my context, there have been videos circulating of somebody showing up in a church or elsewhere, with a gun intending to kill a lot of people, but because someone else had a gun, it was stopped. Does that seem like an argument for people to be able to bear arms to you?

Wilson: “No, it doesn’t. And I think for two reasons. I think, firstly, if the camera was to pan back from that encounter with, you know, and of course, it sounds heartless. (to let everyone die) I’ve never been in this situation, praise God, and I know that some have, and there may be people watching this who have seen that or people close to them.

But I think if the camera was to pan back from that specific situation to the entire nation, and you said, actually, the freedom to do this, that applies to this guy defending these people, when extrapolated to all of these 350 million people, means a lot more innocent people die, which I think is what statistics at least suggest, then that changes the moral calculus somewhat I think, at a pragmatic level.

And I also think at a theological level, this is basically exactly what Peter was doing when he picked up the sword and chopped the guy’s ear off is, what the disciples are saying they were going to do, just call down fire from heaven. I think that when Christ engages with Christians raising that question, and it only happens three times, but each time it does, he’s pretty direct. He says, ‘No, you don’t do that.’

And so I think at that point, I think Christians, as we all do in many other fields anyway, is we have to choose the way of the cross to choose to suffer, rather than to take up arms and kill. And I think that’s yeah, that’s essentially what Christian pacifism is. That’s, that’s my position.”

Wilson argues it would be sinful and evil to stop an active shooter using lethal force, using Peter as the comparison, but that doesn’t follow. There difference is that Jesus’s rebuke for severing the ear was because he already told Peter on several occasions that he was to be arrested, put on trial, and then die, and by Peter doing this, he was being unwise and acting out of turn, unlike a legitimate use of self-defense to save another’s life. Timothy Hsiao explains:

…When Jesus sharply rebukes Peter later for drawing his sword and cutting off the ear of Malchus, saying that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” (Matthew 26:52) he is not condemning any and all use of swords. He is instead rebuking Peter’s specific misuse of the sword to interfere with God’s plan (John 18:11: “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”). In other words, Jesus is saying that we may not advance the kingdom of God by force (John 18:36). 

The two verses immediately following the rebuke give context: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” If Jesus wanted to be defended, he could request help on a scale much greater than what the disciples could do with their swords. But in accordance with scripture, he has decided against this option, and any attempt to force another outcome will not succeed.

As Tim Stratton has noted in Love Thy Neighbor & Pack Thy Heat, Jesus does not tell Peter to get rid of his sword. Instead, he merely commands him to put his sword “back in its sheath” (John 18:11Matthew 26:52). Indeed, John’s description of the rebuke completely omits any negative reference to the sword, reporting only the command to sheath it. Likewise, Luke (who is the only Gospel writer who mentions the command to buy a sword) reports Jesus’s rebuke as simply him saying “No more of this!” The sword is not mentioned. In separating the rebuke from the sword, John and Luke appear to be drawing a distinction between the sword itself and how it is being used in that particular situation. It is the latter that is the subject of rebuke.


5 thoughts on “TGC Author: Stopping Active Shooter in Church Is Just Like Peter Cutting Of Servant’s Ear: Jesus Says Not To

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  2. Here are two great examples: David and Goliath, and Israel taking the promised land. God gave them the land but they had to pick up the sword and fight. Mr Wilson you enjoy all the freedom you have but are not willing to pickup the sword to maintain it for yourself, your family, and fellow believers. Just remember your freedom came at a cost of someone elses life. You are disgusting.

  3. The job of a pastor is that of a shepherd. When wolves attack, the shepherd defends the sheep, with deadly and righteous force.

  4. The goal of these demons is to ensure churches are shot up so the house of the Lord is shut down. The goal is to shut down churches. TGC is demonic

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