"Self-Defense" is a Sin
A Theonomic Analysis

  1. What is Meant by the term "Self-Defense?"
  2. What is "sin?"
  3. You are Going to DIE
  4. Might as well die a MARTYR
  5. There is no such thing as a "random" attack
  6. The Word of God is more powerful than your attacker
  7. Self-Defense and "National Defense"
  8. Objections and Rebuttals

What is meant by the term "Self-Defense?"

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:

"If someone is going to murder my wife and kids, I'm going to kill him first."

The emphasis is on kill.
With a "religious" zeal.
Failure to intend to kill -- unflinchingly and without internal mental debate -- is said to be a dereliction of responsible headship of one's family. Emotions run high in these conversations.

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:

Do you set the Phaser to "stun" and quickly put the rapist to sleep and call the proper authorities, or do you set your Phaser to "maximum molecular disruption" and utterly obliterate the rapist, ending his life, and dispatching him off to hell?

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 meant by the term "sin?"

What is "sin?"

"Sin" Defined: The violation of God's Commandments:

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 14
Q: What is sin?
A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.1
  1. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
    James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
    Romans 3:23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

"Conformity" is an interesting word. To what should we be conformed?

Romans 8:29
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Philippians 3:10
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
Philippians 3:21
who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
1 Peter 1:14
as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
1 Peter 2:21-24
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
22  “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;
23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

It is a sin for a Christian not to respond to an attack as Christ responded to His attackers.

Matthew 26:52
But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.


John 18:36
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 

You Are Going to DIE

God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). God knew when you would be born and the exact day and time when you would die, before there was even a world for you to step foot on.

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.

Martyr? Who, Me?

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.

Christian Store Owner Commands Armed Robber to
Leave in the Name of Jesus - Inspirational Videos

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.

Be a Witness

Acts 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 22:20
And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

Revelation 2:13
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Revelation 17:6
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

Give a Testimony

Revelation 1:9
I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 6:9
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held :

Revelation 11:7
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ

Revelation 19:10
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have  the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Revelation 20:4
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

John 5:10
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

The Command to Testify - μαρτυρέω

John 7:7
The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.

Acts 14:3
Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace,

Acts 26:22
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

1 John 1:2
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

1 John 4:14
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

An attacker is not a meaningless random event. It is providence. The Bible says "Thou shalt not kill." Where is the Biblical injunction to kill rather than witness?

Proverbs 16:7
When a man's ways please the LORD,
He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

You do not know that God has in store. Your job is to obey:

Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

The Word of God is more powerful than your attacker.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Isaiah 55:11
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Psalm 119:130
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.

Jeremiah 23:29
29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord,
“And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

Romans 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

James 1:18
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth,

1 Peter 1:23
23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever

Acts 2:37
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,

Ephesians 6:17
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

Revelation 2:16
16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

Revelation 19:15
15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.

Isaiah 11:4
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.


  • A robber says "give me your wallet." Is "deadly force" justified?
    • No. Human life is more important than your wallet.
  • You honestly and sincerely believe he MIGHT try to kill you. Is deadly force justified?
    • No. Not Biblically.
    • The power you are using is equivalent to that of capital punishment. Is the death penalty the rightful penalty for contemplating attempted murder? But that's the penalty that you, as judge, would impose on someone you think might try to kill you.
  • You are absolutely convinced that the bad guy IS DEFINITELY going to try to kill you. Is deadly force justified?
    • No, same reason as above.
  • With clairvoyant accuracy, you KNOW the robber is IS GOING TO SUCCEED in killing you. Is it better to take his life or let him take yours?
    • What did Christ say?
    • Wouldn't it be better if you used an incapacitating, non-lethal force? A tranquilizer gun to put the assailant to sleep? A "phaser" set on stun? Something which would immobilize but not kill? Why not?

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.

But it is the act of killing -- the power of death -- which is used to attempt to justify "the State."

Self-Defense and National Defense

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.

Objections and Rebuttals