Should a Christian Defend Themselves Against Radical Islam?



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  • Should a Christian Defend Themselves Against Radical Islam?

    Having recently had exchanges with a young Christian pacifists regarding the growing presence of radical Islam in the West. I thought it would be ideal time to share my thoughts on the subject, to gain feedback.

    Debates continue between Christian pacifists and Christians who believe in “Just War Theory,” or at the very least, in the God given right to self-defense. Some church leaders are calling upon their congregations to offer no resistance to the attacks by Islamic Jihadists while other leaders are calling on Christians to defend themselves. Fight or flight?

    The Western church has also weighed in on the situation, with the vast majority of Western church leaders calling upon those confronted by being overrun not to use violence to defend themselves, but rather pray, find peace in the Lord, stay calm and endure wholesale slaughter or run away.

    The question which all of us may be confronted in the near future, which course should a Christian take? Should a Christian defend themselves with force of arms or by some means of self-defense to protect themselves and family or should they do nothing besides pray and run for their lives as their homes and livelihoods are destroyed?

    We can learn from history or repeat it for not considering the results. I want to peel back a slice of history to take a quick look at a pivotal point 300 years ago, to help our examination.

    On July 14th, 1683, the Ottoman Vizier Mustafa Pasha arrived at the gates of Vienna at the head of an army of nearly 140,000 men; the Viennese defenders numbered a mere 11,000 men at arms. One year earlier, the Islamic Ottoman Empire had declared war on the Christian Habsburgs saying: “We order you to await us in your residence city of Vienna so that we can decapitate you… We will exterminate you and all your followers… Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable…”

    This was not empty rhetoric. On July 16th, 1683, the city of Perchtoldsdorf was ordered by the Islamic army at its gates to surrender; the defenders threw down their arms and opened their gates. The population was massacred, the city looted, the women raped, and many of its surviving inhabitants enslaved and taken to be sold in the markets of the Ottoman Empire.

    Needless to say, the defenders of Vienna refused to surrender. For nearly a month, the immensely outnumbered Viennese valiantly held the city against the Muslim army despite several sections of their walls being destroyed by Ottoman sappers and untold hardship being endured from being deprived of provisions.

    The Habsburgs had sent emissaries to Christian kingdoms across the continent pleading for aid, and on the 12th of September, with the defenders of Vienna near their breaking point, 80,000 men from Austria, Bavaria, The Holy Roman Empire, Poland, and Saxony converged and crushed the Ottoman army. Vienna was saved, and the battle marked a turning point in the centuries long struggle to defend against Islam’s advance.

    Imagine if Vienna’s allies had done what Christian pacifists are promoting today… which is essentially nothing. Vienna would have been razed to the ground and its inhabitants would have suffered the same gruesome and terrible fate as those of Perchtoldsdorf. And God only knows how far into the heartland of Europe the armies of the Ottoman Empire could have marched, slaughtering and pillaging along the way.

    Vienna wasn’t saved by weekly prayer meetings for the Christian defenders to not lose faith or for them to engage in “interfaith dialogues” with the Islamic army battering down their gates. Vienna was saved by the force of arms wielded by courageous men strengthened by prayers for God to grant them victory over their enemies. If it wasn’t for the courage and ferocity of such men, the Christian pacifists of today may have never had the chance to condemn them for not “acting in the loving and passive spirit.”

    The Christians currently remaining in Uzbekistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Maldives, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia all face emanate slaughter at the hands of radical Islam. All the while, the UK is being overrun in as so much as Paris has multiple caliphate zones, where police don’t patrol. They indeed face a situation not altogether dissimilar than that experienced by the Habsburgs in the 17th century.

    Whether they know it or not, pacifists advocating for Christians not to defend themselves are asking for the horrors of Perchtoldsdorf to be repeated. The noble piety of pacifism is quickly diluted in a river of blood if Christians facing annihilation follow the example of Perchtoldsdorf.

    Perhaps Christians in the 21st century should remember what the Viennese did in the 17th century when they faced an Islamic invasion. Perhaps they should do whatever they can to defend themselves, their families, and their country. The media will vilify them, many unaffected churches will condemn them, but will they be doing what is right and just in the eyes of the Lord?

    Today Iraq's Assyrians, and its Christians in general, fear that their place in this multiethnic, multisectarian mosaic society is shrinking, under severe threat from the Islamic State. Now, the particularly harsh nature of the IS's assault on Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims, and others who do not share allegiance to the IS's brand of ultraconservative Sunni Islam has led some of Iraq's Christians to take the unusual step of shedding their historical passivity and consider taking up arms to defend their families.

    Few have heard the disturbing news about the recent massacres of Christians in Syria. Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, expressed the carnage of the massacre: "Children were not even suffered to live, the elderly were not given an ounce of pity, and so great was the desire of the Muslims to control the area." As a result, a Christian militia has arisen, they are headed by one Hanna, and they call themselves "The Lions of the Canyon." They are so far protecting 33 villages, and even some Alawite and Sunni Muslims have joined them.

    The brutal violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has led even many peace-loving Christians to call for military action. There are “thousands of young Assyrian Christian men that have volunteered” to join the newly-forming “protection units.” The Christians’ initial hesitation to take up arms was overcome by repeated acts of Islamic butchery. “We keep talking about Jesus and peace, and now we’ve reached the point where it’s not enough,” one volunteer said. The men have vowed that, “with our limited abilities, we will try to participate… We’re being killed in our homes, so why not defend ourselves? Then even if we die, we die with dignity.”

    In Nigeria, CAN national president Ayo Oristejafor stated that Christians can no longer continue to watch while aggressors attack them. "I have a responsibility to defend myself and my family," he said. "Christians in the nation have suffered enough. Dozens of northern churches have been stockpiling arms and training youths to counter attacks from Muslim extremists. However, these efforts are not supported by the broader Christian community.

    Self-defense here is defined as "protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others." Self-defense is not about taking vengeance. Self-defense is not about punishing criminals. Self-defense involves preserving one's own health and life when it is threatened by the actions of others. When we speak about using potentially lethal force in self-defense, we're talking about using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used could kill the attacker.

    The principle of "Just Defense" as found in Castle Law, is that people have the right to defend the weak and persecuted and themselves from attacks. We can find various passages in the Bible reflecting similar thinking

    Psalm 82:4 "Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked."

    Proverbs 24:11 "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter."

    Ezekiel 33:6 "...But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand."

    In Nehemiah 4, Israelites have been sent back from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem. They were rebuilding their lives with the sanction of the civil ruler, King Artaxerxes. This was not a wartime scenario. These were citizens, not soldiers. Nehemiah 4:13 says that people stationed "people by families" around the city. Note that these families were armed, with "their swords, their spears, and their bows." This is a situation where they are willing to apply lethal force to defend themselves.

    "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. ... So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. .... So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water." Nehemiah 4: 17-23

    The final Old Testament passage we examine is in the book of Esther. Here we have a historical example arranged by Divine Providence. In this account, the Jews are under threat of racial violence. The civil authority, King Ahasuerus, grants them legal permission to use lethal force in self-defense:

    "By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives -- to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions..." Esther 8:11-12

    Therefore they were given legal sanction to "protect their lives" using ultimate force, much as we do in most parts of this United States. They are allowed to "kill and annihilate" in order to "protect their lives." Now, as people under obligation to obey God, not just stay within the civil laws of Ahasuerus, what do the Jews do with this legal freedom?

    "...the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them. The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people.... Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction." Esther 9:1-5

    We see that given legal sanction to defend their lives with lethal force, they do not choose non-violence. Rather, as it says in verse 11, to "protect their lives", they use the "sword" (verse 5). Here is another example of widespread use of weapons in self-defense—a non-wartime, non-law enforcement scenario.

    Keep in mind that Islam is not based on the unchanging promises and character of God. Their scriptures from the Quran are very inconsistent. There are verses talking about how murder is a sin, and verses encouraging murder in the name of Allah. Islam is inspired by Satan himself, so it is no surprise that the same book purports peace and violence. Also, it’s no surprise that there are such wide rifts in Islam today. Muslims kill more Muslims each year (on ground of heresy) than they do “infidels”.

    The majority of Muslims are peaceful by ratio. But this does not mean that Islam teaches peace only. Mohammed established the religion on the shoulders of brutal conquest and atrocity in the name of Allah. Mohammad was considered to have been without sin, and therefore Muslims choose to model their lives after him. This in itself has further served to create the rifts we see today between Muslims. Still, most Muslims today do not hold to the more orthodox, “radical”, Islamic teachings of Mohammed’s day. Many Muslims are illiterate, don’t know much about Islam to begin with, don’t even own a Quran, don’t speak Arabic, and only learn about Islam through their local Imam’s own biased opinions about the religion.

    There is no “Islamic Holy Spirit” guiding them to the truth about Allah. Their idea of what Islam is very subjective, because Islam is not resting on the unchangeable, absolute truths of God. It’s created by Satan and by man, so it’s not inerrant, it’s not consistent, and it is impossible for one side to be completely right. When someone tells you that violent Muslims are abusing and violating the Quran, they are right, and they are wrong. It depends on which Muslims you ask. Islam is not the same between one group and another. However Christ IS the same yesterday, today, and forever. Even if the church is split on issues, it’s not the same as Muslims being split on issues.

    Christians do indeed need to be peacemakers. We need to do all we can to reach both the violent and peaceable Muslim. I’ve been blessed to have worked internationally with devout Muslims in Karachi and Faisalabad, Pakistan. I have befriended them for over 10 years, to have learned from them, to have discussed Islam, and to have learned what their Imam taught. It is not merely a one sided consideration.

    I would like to hear other opinions, and certainly no one will be condemned for expressing their thoughts, one way or another.

  • #2
    Well said. This is definitely spiritual warfare and the church needs to recognize it as such. We are in the last days and Satan is going to try to destroy the church (the Body of Christ) before the Lord returns. A great book to read is "God's War on Terror: Islam, Prophecy & the Bible," by Walid Shoebat. It clearly shows how Satan is using Islam to fulfill the prophecies of the Bible. I wish it was required reading for all pastors and leaders within the church.


    • #3
      Very well said. I think in this matter, there is no right or wrong approach, but we ought to have a clear individual conviction as to how to proceed. I grew up in a Christian community where taking up arms would be unthinkable, and that works for them in the context of their whole approach to life and the Christian faith. And here in the US is common for Christians to own arms and defending themselves with them is okay. And maybe in other parts of the world there's a third approach... freedom to decide is key.


      • #4
        I had to delete much of the original content, to narrow it down to the elementals. Whereas, I should clarify that I would not be one to encourage vigilante or Rambo style resistance as seen in the biblically misconstrued "Machine Gun Preacher" movie. Except in the case of anarchy or total government collapse, the first and correct response to imminent threat is contacting local law enforcement. On a wider scale, rely on the response of state and/or national military toward any aggressions. Self-defense for the sake of self or family would be necessary only when the response must be immediate.


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