Church Security Teams Revisited: Still Unbiblical
Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, Church Security Teams? Verdict: Unbiblical, that seemed to be quite popular. Although, if I had my druthers it would have been popular because people agreed with it. But seeing as the article garnered a paltry two Facebook likes and the comments were rife with disagreement, it seemed to be popular (or should I say unpopular?) for my brazenly stupid idea of suggesting that church security teams are unbiblical. After reading a number of objections over the past two years, I believe that it is time to me to pick up the mantle of brazen stupidity once again and go another round with my interlocutors. My position has not changed at all since I first wrote nearly two years ago when I said:
When the dust settles, I believe the easiest way to arrive at a sound biblical answer on the question of security teams is to embrace the two-kingdoms doctrine, which adequately provides a framework for the use of deadly force in the civil kingdom but not in the spiritual kingdom. Or to put it another way, a framework which allows for the use of deadly force in the home but not in the church.
This position sparked quite a volley or arguments from the opposing side. Although I did respond to commenters at the time, I wanted to use this post as a more formal space in order to answer objections that were posed to me then. Hopefully this post is fruitful in helping us carry forward the discussion to the next phase.
A Brief Note on Frameworks
One thing that I can’t underscore enough before getting to the actual objections is that readers must keep in mind that my position flows from a broader theological framework, the two-kingdoms doctrine. I do not view my position as rising and falling upon a few isolated Bible verses ripped from the bigger covenantal narrative in Scripture. As such, while I will answer specific objections that deserve answering, I would need to be convinced against the larger schema in order to really be swayed from the position. If you are looking for a primer on two-kingdoms thought, it can be found on our blog here.
Dealing with Objections
Objection #1: Luke 22:33-52 shows that Jesus encouraged his disciples to be armed. This passage was brought up by a number of commenters so it is probably the objection most worthy of a response since it comes directly from the Word. For many in the pro church security team camp, verse 38 is the verse that the whole charade hangs on. Here Jesus is preparing for his betrayal and arrest with his disciples. He tells his disciples they now ought to sell their cloak in exchange for a sword. The disciples then reply, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Jesus replies, “It is enough.” The best way to read this passage is to understand Jesus’ words, “it is enough,” as being a dismissal of the disciples foolishness. After all this time they have spent with him, the disciples still believe that Jesus’ kingdom is somehow connected to a physical kingdom. They believed it even after the resurrection (Acts 1:6)! When they tell Jesus they actually have swords, he is shocked that they don’t get it yet and simply says, “It is enough.” In other words, “Enough out of you, this is ridiculous.”
Additionally if Jesus had really wanted them to have swords for the occasion why did he yell at Peter saying, “No more of this,” after Peter had struck the ear of the high priests’ servant? Did Jesus just want the swords there for show? Seems highly implausible.
Finally, whenever a passage is hard to interpret or can be interpreted in various ways, it is up to the reader to seek the understanding of the harder passage in light of the clearer passages of scripture. And how much more clear can you get then Jesus’ words in John 18:36 when Jesus tells Pilate, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…” This is the closest verse to a slam dunk in the entire discussion.
Objection #2: Vague references to the use of force in the Old Testament. Christian’s can make significant errors in parsing out this discussion by trying to make connections between how the Israelites protected themselves in the Old Covenant and then fuse that into the New Covenant era. If you miss the major distinctions here then the whole conversation goes up in smoke.
In the Old Covenant, God’s people were given a physical land and had to protect against physical enemies. In order to do this they needed physical weapons. In the New Covenant we are given a spiritual land (Hebrews 11:8-10; 12:22-24). And we have to fight against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6:12) with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6).
Objection #3: Revelation 6 does not imply the martyrs were killed without offering resistance. This is an interesting point because the person raising the point is correct. There is nothing explicit in the text that states that the martyrs did not offer resistance prior to death.
However, I think we would be wise to consider the manifold witness of the early church which acted in almost uniform accordance when it came to resisting persecutors. How did they resist? They didn’t. The witness of the early church is that of non-resistance. Are those in favor of church security teams simply willing to turn a blind eye to the saints from days of old who so evidently disagreed with their position?
When one opens Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, he is inspired by those who went boldly to their death, professing Christ to those who would torture and kill them. No one is moved or compelled by a Christian who went down fighting it out. No. Rather, Christians are moved to tears by those who with Paul looked at their life and said, “’For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered’” (Romans 8:36).
A Way Forward
I truly do appreciate those who took the time to respond to my last article and contribute to a constructive conversation. I thank those of you who wrote and did it with such tact and graciousness. It is now my hope that this post will help to alleviate some questions as to how my position squares with certain biblical passages.
Let me suggest that we continue the same spirited discussion below.Let’s carry on the discussion with passion and humility as we analyze this issue from various perspectives.