"Self-Defense" is a Sin
A Theonomic Analysis
Is "self-defense" ever justified? By "self-defense," of course, we do not mean "defense of self," which might include radar around the perimeter of your house, locking your doors, video cameras, electrified fences, tranquilizer darts, a phaser set on "stun," or ordering Scotty to "beam-up" an intruder to the brig of the U.S.S. Enterprise. All of these actions would defend the self and his property, but without killing the intruder. By "self-defense" we mean killing someone who threatens harm to you. By "self-defense" we mean "lethal force."
I am a "pacifist." I've never met a pacifist who said it was wrong to defend yourself against an attacker by locking the door. If your attacker has a sword, no pacifist I know of would say you cannot use a shield.
As a pacifist, I get some heated conversation on social media from those who defend "self-defense" and oppose "pacifism." These people exhibit what I call the "self-defense gestalt." A "gestalt" is an emotional, non-rational, habitual, instinctive, unexamined, non-systematic worldview.
Their position boils down to this:
The emphasis is on kill.
No pacifist I know would say it is wrong to try to prevent such a murder of family from taking place. Pacifists oppose violence. They do not support or assist it. The question is whether a Christian has a moral obligation to consider non-violent or non-lethal alternatives to defensive killing -- or in fact is there a moral obligation (as I've heard some say) to kill the attacker without hesitation.
Here's a simple question that will prove you are a "pacifist."
Imagine you are "Star Trek" Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. You are walking down the street of a planet in the Deltoid Galaxy with one of your never-ending stream of beautiful women at your arm, when a large burly alien with the tattoo "I AM A RAPIST" across his forehead jumps out from a dark alley, grabs your female companion and says "I'm going to rape this woman!" You pull out your Phaser™ gun and . . . here's the question:
When given such a choice, only a sociopath would choose annihilation or lethal force. Everyone else is a "pacifist." It's that simple.
No pacifist I know would say you cannot put a crazed rapist/murderer to sleep and prevent a violent attack on a woman.
Non-pacifist lethal "self-defense" is pre-emptive vengeance. Vengeance is a sin. You're mad at the attacker (or "threatener") before he has even attacked. A follower of Christ the executed pacifist must ask further questions.
What is "sin?"
"Conformity" is an interesting word. To what should we be conformed?
It is a sin for a Christian not to respond to an attack as Christ responded to His attackers.
The question is not whether you are going to die or not, the question is whether you are going to die as judge and executioner, taking vengeance instead of leaving it to God, or as a martyr, like you are commanded to do.
The English word "martyr" comes from the Greek word μάρτυς. The Greek word means "witness." A witness makes a "testimony" (μαρτυρία).
An attack against you is an attack on God. You are the Image-bearer of God. You are being attacked for the faith. (If you are only being robbed of your property, you should not be contemplating killing the robber. Your stuff is not worth a human life.) Given the opportunity, you should testify to your attacker. Your attacker claims to be an atheist. He claims that there is no God, no Judge. You must refute that claim, with firm prophetic gentleness. You must preach the Gospel. The Word of God in your testimony is more powerful than your attacker.
Are those who champion macho self-defense too embarrassed to witness for Christ? Who is braver: the unarmed witness or the armed killer ready to swat down attackers like flies?
Prudent defense against an attacker is something every pacifist agrees with. But a pacifist also believes in a supernatural offense. The gates of hell will not withstand such an offense.
If someone threatens to kill you, you "witness" to him, announcing the good news of the Gospel. "Witness" here includes the demand for repentance from violations of God's Law, including, obviously, the harm being threatened.
You do not know that God has in store. Your job is to obey:
This shows that intentional use of lethal force is not necessary nor justified. You can stop an evil act from taking place without killing the evil-doer. I've never met a pacifist who said we should not try to stop evil or defend others; pacifists only oppose using lethal force.
The Christian position is that it is better to be killed than to kill. You should not take someone else's life just to preserve your own.
The Holy Sprit promises that God's Word will not return void.
"When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).
If the Lord does not do this, then you may become a "martyr," which comes from the Greek word for "witness." There is no evidence in the New Testament that any faithful Christian chose to kill someone in "self-defense" rather than be a martyr. They followed the example of Jesus.
In the pages above, we criticize the U.S. military machine and the murder of millions of people.
In response, we are usually asked, "what about self-defense?"
The implication of this question is that our "pacifist" position is completely unreasonable, because it would allow evil to triumph.
The concept of "Self-Defense" is always used to justify the existence of "The State," which kills hundreds of millions of people.
Even if there were not other ways to prevent theft or attempted homicide (and there are), how would the concept of "self-defense" justify the concept of "national defense?"
"National defense" does not arise when a nation threatens another nation, but only after an attack has already been made. Here is the analogy: While on the beach at Waikiki, a burglar breaks into your hotel room and steals your valuables. The hotel video camera identifies the intruder as a resident of the island of Kauai. You bomb Kauai and all its residents. Of course it goes without saying that you didn't "intend" to kill the innocent neighbors of the burglar. This is merely unfortunate "collateral damage."
Of course, if a nation engages in a "first-strike" of the island before the burglar has actually done anything wrong, the offense of "the State" becomes particularly egregious.
"National Defense" usually means "defense of the State" or defense of "the government," Not defense of YOU. YOU are expendable. Since the State is an unlawful entity, killing someone created in the Image of God in order to protect systematic vengeance and rebellion against God is not an ethical option. Christ clearly taught it was better to be occupied and put under tribute than to engage in violent revolution against "the powers that be," or "national defense" against the powers that wanna be.
The movement from "self-defense" to a justification of "the State" is never a logical one.