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In Defense of Others

A Biblical Analysis and Apologetic on the Use of Force to Save Human Life

by  Cathy Ramey

In Defense of Others - Cathy Ramey
Cathy Ramey

Punishment or prevention?

The answer to the first question lies ultimately with Griffin, Shannon, Hill, and God, but we are able to make some determinations based on the facts surrounding the events.

Michael Griffin shot an abortionist who was going in to begin the day’s schedule of killings. There were already twelve children (in utero) inside who were to be killed.  David Gunn had rejected all of the usual appeals on the sidewalk, and was only feet away from entering a locked facility. It can be argued that no further effective appeal was possible on behalf of those dozen children scheduled to die by his hand on March 10. 

As we have indicated already, Griffin clearly implied that his intention was to save children who were at risk of being killed by the abortionist. Lucid and convincing evidence of this motive is seen in the letter to his friend and in the court testimony surrounding the conversation he had with his wife soon after his arrest. Anger and thoughts of revenge for children that had been killed the day before or the week before did not drive him to destroy David Gunn. It was simply a desire to see at least one innocent child survive an intended act of murder, cleverly called “abortion” to provide a sense of justification as an act of medical-killing, as if that is ever justified in Scripture, which it clearly is not.

While there are those who would argue that Griffin's gun would have been more righteously aimed at the mother seeking services intended to kill her child, we disagree.
The actions taken against the abortionists were intended to stop the one who held the power of life and death in the immediate sense. To attempt to save an in utero baby's life by shooting the child's mother is well outside of a legal or moral "justifiable homicide" argument. Under righteous rule the mother would indeed be charged and tried for any crime attempted or committed against the child, but that is a judicial process, which takes place not primarily for the purpose of preventing harm, but for punishing a wrong already committed.

Shelley Shannon, the shooter of one of America's few high-profile late-term abortionists, George Tiller, immediately made a statement to police in which she said, "If ever there was a justifiable homicide, this would have been it." In March 1994 court testimony in her trial against the charge of “attempted murder,” Shannon clearly expressed that her motive was to prevent more murders of innocent Unborn babies. Because from a biblical perspective, rename the process any way you wish, “medical killing,” “terminations” or “abortion,” Tiller was habitually engaging in the murder of innocent Unborn persons.

Paul Hill's motives are best known. In countless interviews in 1993 and 1994 he vigorously defended Griffin and Shannon before him, not for punishing abortionists for past deeds, but because of the imminent threat to innocent life that they were posing. He wrote and routinely distributed a pamphlet attesting to his biblically founded belief that Unborn children were deserving of the same protections afforded the Born. His action too was aimed at prevention, not punishment for the aborter’s past deeds of murdering the Unborn.

Justifiable Homicide, as a defense under current civil law, is applied when a death occurs in the act of defending one's own life or property, or the life of another innocent person. Biblically, the Unborn qualify as persons in the full sense of that word. So, while civil law is somewhat schizophrenic in its application of justice toward these in utero individuals, it would appear that Michael Griffin, Shelley Shannon, and Paul Hill intended to prevent more killings of the kind that are clearly forbidden in the Sixth Commandment, not to punish for crimes already committed by these serial-abortionists.

As an addendum to that argument we reflect back on the history of law in what is considered to be modern civilization. Modern law, for the purpose of this discussion, includes that era from the signing of the Magna Carta onward. It includes English Common Law birthed out of the Magna Carta, and it includes Early American Jurisprudence. William Blackstone in his extensive commentary on law provided a standard of reference for the accumulated laws and their underlying principles.

Blackstone stated in his commentary, "Homicide, as is committed for the prevention of any forcible and atrocious crime, is justifiable by the law of nature; and also by the law of England." He then goes on to cite Statute 24, a declaration by England's King Henry VIII affirming the law of nature (and therefore "nature's God" as referred to in the U.S. Constitution) in regard to lethal force used to protect innocent life.

In all of these sources, there is an earlier foundational source from which they derive their legitimacy. It is The Bible. Laws that allow one innocent man to defend himself against another, even with lethal force, spring from the one well of Truth, the Word of God.

Innocent blood?

As to the second question, abortionist Gunn has been credited with killing somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand Unborn children. That he was committed to his profession as a cause is borne out by his refusal to reconsider his career choice over an extensive period of time. At every stop on his route (he killed at five different facilities in two different states) protesters begged him to stop killing innocent Unborn children. Less than two months before his death David Gunn welcomed in a new year by taunting protesters with a bull horn and singing "Happy Birthday" to Roe v. Wade, the January 22, 1973 Supreme Court decision that “legalized” killing Unborn children by abortion throughout all 50 states.

Abortionist Tiller is a nationally known killer who specializes in killing older babies.
(13) A former employee, Luhra Tivis, testified in an affidavit before the Wichita City Council that Tiller was killing approximately 20 to 40 babies every week. To salve the public conscience, Tiller claims that these children are "terribly deformed fetuses," but Tivis says "No."
Her job included typing up information for the records, something that gave her access to patient files including photos that Tiller routinely took of the aborted babies. Most of the babies were perfectly healthy, though the state of their health before being aborted does not give moral license to those who murder them. It merely demonstrates the truth of God’s Word, that His Law is written on the hearts of all men, so that intuitively those who murder the innocent, no matter their attempts to justify their actions, are “without excuse” before God (Rom 1:19-20).

Tiller's in-house crematorium for burning aborted bodies, and a hotel wing permanently reserved to service his clients stand as further testimony to the fact that he is a seriously committed killer. His own figures as to how many children are killed in his facility are more conservative but, whatever the number; all of the children he kills are innocent of any crime. Their ashes linger over Wichita as testimony to the fact that he, like David Gunn, does not qualify as "innocent blood" within the context of these shootings (Gen. 9:6).
John Britton, who was shot by Rev. Paul Hill, was featured in a February, 1994 GQ article as the hardball, twenty-year abortion-providing veteran who replaced David Gunn. In fact, he had failed in all of his efforts to practice legitimate medicine, having been caught abusing prescription drugs and doing abortions even before they were “legalized” in 1973.

Arguably, righteous government, completely unencumbered (pre-'73) by high court decisions, could have moved against him on charges of murder. Instead, he was left to be part of the circuit-riding off-scouring of the medical profession, known as an abortionist, and remembered now for the thousands of innocent children he murdered in his own aborted life time.

All of the evidence leads to the following important conclusions. Michael Griffin, Shelley Shannon, nor Paul Hill shot abortionists for past killings which they had done. They did not usurp governmental authority. They acted in defense of innocent Unborn lives undergoing a real and dramatic threat. And the persons shot (abortionists”), because they were engaged in the ongoing process of shedding innocent blood (murder), were not violated or “murdered” in the Biblical sense. One might merely argue they reaped the violence they were so vigorously sowing.

Preferring the life of the innocent

Next, we address the issue of Defensive Action. Where does Scripture say we can use physical force, even to the point of taking a life, in order to defend another or ourselves?

The concept of defensive action is seen in Scripture in a number of areas; Abram used force to rescue his relatives (Gen. 14:14-16) and Moses actually used lethal force against an Egyptian who was in the process of abusing a Hebrew slave (Exod. 2:11-12). Centuries later God divinely inspired an unknown writer to mention the period in Moses’ life surrounding this event. He is listed in the "Hebrews hall of fame" without a word of reproach for this deed (Heb. 11:24-27). And Stephen, before being stoned, also testified to the nature of Moses' actions in defense of the slave (Acts 7:23-25).

There are clear consequences to actual murder in other passages of Scripture, and the moral censure is also clear. If condemnation for this act by Moses were warranted, it would seem likely that evidence would abound.

And there are examples that date themselves after the giving of the Law to Moses. Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, drove a stake through the temple of Sisera's head (Judges 4:17-21). Only one chapter later, Deborah, who is Judge over Israel, sings "Most blessed of women be Jael...Her hand reached for the tent peg...She struck Sisera, she crushed his head...At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell ¾ dead."

Those who would argue that this was an act of warfare neglect to consider two important facts. Women, in general, were not allowed to go to war (Deborah was an exception, not the rule), and the law of hospitality as practiced in the time of the Israelite Judges made it unthinkable for Sisera to consider himself to be in danger from his friend's wife. Greeting him outside of her tent, she was the epitome’ of hospitality. And nowhere in Scripture do we find moral disapprobation for Jael's act (committed despite the fact that she had no civil authority) to bring a wicked man down in the protection of a community.

On a larger scale, Elijah the prophet of God slew 450 prophets of Baal in defense of a nation (I Kings 40:40). He was certainly not acting under the authority of God's divinely appointed king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel. In fact, there is no indication of a special Divine revelation. Rather, it appears that his action was prompted by the singular and divine authority of God's Law (Exod. 22:20).

It is also important to pick up the theme of self-defense that is so easily overlooked in a later chapter of the Exodus account. In the OT, Capital Punishment is not prescribed for property crimes. Yet the thief opens himself up to the risk of death if he is caught breaking into a home in the middle of the night (Exod. 22:2). It is because of the potential risk to innocent life, implied by breaking in under cover of darkness, that the homeowner is free of "blood guilt" should he kill the thief in the ensuing effort to protect himself or his family.

William Blackstone states, the law "which punished no theft with death, makes homicide only justifiable, in cases of nocturnal house breaking . . . or even by day, if he armed himself with any dangerous weapon."

Out of context

In condemning Christians who have used force to protect Unborn lives, those who consider themselves to be authorities on the subject may sometimes bring shame upon their office of pastor or prolife leader. It is not uncommon to see Scriptures pulled out of context in order to make a point that was never intended in the Word. When investigating the claims of any position on the debate over the use of force, it is important that we examine both specific commands and any underlying principles.

We address with concern the manner in which an investigation is made of the issue because too often it is the case that we first deduce a position, then make every effort to justify that view. It is the worldly "scientific method" of stating a theory and then attempting to force all of the information to conform to our idea of reality. But when looking into Scripture, there are rules that must apply.

The specific Scripture which tells of the thief who breaks into a home in the middle of the night gives us opportunity to stop for one moment and examine how a simple distortion can both wrongly convince others of our position, and erode the integrity with which we handle the Word of God.

A pastor, anxious to establish that the use of force is morally wrong when applied to the rescue of the Unborn, cited Exod. 22:2 as a proof text that the shooters of abortionists were in error. It was his estimation that the text allowed for the death of the thief without bloodguilt to the homeowner because the crime was occurring on private property. When it was pointed out that the issue wasn't "private property," since the theft of almost any property would fall under that heading and that simple property crimes did not warrant a death penalty in Scripture, he stopped arguing that text.

Months later, he issued a position outline for why he believes the use of force to save the Unborn is illicit and immoral. His reason then, in citing Exodus 22:2, was to say that the killing of the thief was allowed only because it occurred during the nighttime. (The implication being, that if those who shot abortionists had waited until dusk they would have been on morally solid ground?)

We assert that he is straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

At no time does Scripture refer to the culprit as a man bent on murder. He is a common thief who under normal circumstances can be stopped without the loss of his life. Later, if he engages in physical combat to threaten the life of a homeowner, even in midday, he then becomes something quite different. However, in Exodus 22:2 he is nothing more or less than a thief.

The lesson here is that we ought not to read into Scripture something that is not there, especially when dealing with a specific command. There are other commands that deal with the issue of physical assault. View Exodus 22:2 as an instruction in how to deal with the unusual thief ¾ the one whose motive is obscure and who may pose a threat to physical safety. Understand the principle being conveyed, that an unclear threat to the lives of innocent people creates a more serious situation.

It is not the hue of the sky that is paramount. It is the threat to innocent life, and the principle that innocent life is to be protected, even if it issues in great harm to the one who violates a lesser law. God simply prefers the life of the innocent over the life of the guilty. It is His right to establish such a hierarchy.

A consistent standard of justice

It is also His right to establish a standard of justice for all men. And while that standard is only fully realized by an examination of all of Scripture, there are patterns that we may observe which give us an indication of His divine disposition regarding justice for the Unborn, as well as the born. There are three simple passages of Scripture, which articulate this point well. They are the famous "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" Laws. But before looking at them, it is important to realize that there is an underlying principle, which is our focus. As Jesus instructed in His Sermon on the Mount, we must avoid an opportunistic interpretation that opens the door to individual retaliation.

On the first occasion when the Law prescribes the "eye for eye" rule of thumb, it is in the case where a woman with child is struck and caused to go into premature labor. The NIV translates it "gives birth prematurely," but more precisely, the Hebrew states "brings forth her child" and "prematurely" is implied. The nearest antecedent is the child. Therefore, if any injury to the child results, the man who struck the woman and brought about the early delivery of the child is to be wounded so that his injuries are consistent with the injury he has caused to the child (Exod. 21:22-25). There are other Laws that address the issue of any injury that might come to the woman herself.

In the second instance the principle of consistent punishment for wrongful injury is more broadly stated. It is said that the "eye for eye" rule of thumb applies in the case where "any human being" is callously injured by another. "As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured," reads the Law (Lev. 24:20). The punishment is meant to fit the crime; not too much, and not too little.

And finally, even the intent and willful act to harm another through perjuring one's testimony is cause for this punishment. The "malicious witness" is to be punished with the consequences that would have applied to the victim of his lies (Deut. 19:21).

In examining these Scriptures we find that they point us toward a single and consistent standard of justice. There is not one standard for Black people and another for White people; One for Jews and another for non-Jews; One for Unborn and another broader, more protective ¾ standard for those who are Born. And it is a principle that we see carried over into the New Testament (NT) when Jesus tells us that we are to render the care and concern for others that we would wish for ourselves (Luke 6:31).
It is argued that if we wish the right to protect ourselves and other innocent Born people from the Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahmers of this world, we ought not to think that we can deprive the Unborn of that same standard of protection.

Reaping the whirlwind

We hold forth with our own theory here, but the proving of it is not based on reference to the world and her scientific method. It is based on a pattern that we see in Scripture; one of reaping something of what we have sown.

As the Church has hardened her heart against the innocent by refusing to protect them, she has run the risk of removing herself from God's hand of protection and placing herself in an unscriptural position with the world. In fact, with a dramatic increase in litigation against churches; the ever-increasing number of arrests of Christians who are merely making a public protest on the sidewalk;
(18) the removal of religion from the public domain;(19) and the recognition of more ungodly behaviors as merely "alternative lifestyles," the Church is even now caught up in an intensifying storm of persecution.(20)

There was a time, even from the founding of our nation, when Christian values were the stock and trade of America. Under God's standard of justice there was protection for the innocent and punishment for the wicked. Those who had committed no crime were to enjoy life, health, liberty, and freedom from fear. Those who violated laws and strong moral standards stood in fear. They could loose their liberty, their livelihood, and even their lives. Rough though it was, our system of law was a conscious effort to model ourselves after God's own measure. Consider:

On January 22, 1973 our highest court embraced a new standard, one that was completely antithetical to God's standard.

While God said that the innocent were to be protected, our Supreme Court said that the most innocent of any crime could be summarily executed upon the whim of a woman and the availability of an abortion-minded doctor.

While God said the wicked were to be punished and prevented from posing a further threat to the innocent, the United States Supreme Court said that those who kill children could walk free; they could go to their social clubs; sleep in the comfort of their own homes, and avail themselves of the opportunity to kill again and again.

And while the United States Supreme Court tore up and threw in the trash our two-hundred-year-old imitation of God's Law, the Church, in confusion over issues like contraception and abortion, stood silently by.

In God's economy, we will reap what we have sown. God, who despises dishonest scales (Deut. 25:14) and orders that only one measure be used, will eventually allow even those He loves to suffer under the weight of their neglect of justice. Even now, it is argued, the Church is being turned over to the standard of justice she thought fit for the Unborn, which is no justice at all. The same can be said for this nation.

On premeditation

Now, we return back to the particular arguments against the use of force in defense of Unborn children. Opponents will say, "Oh, but there was a 'premeditated' aspect to the shooting of the abortionists!" In fact, all "violence" in the form of bombings and arson have an aspect of pre-planning. "Weren't premeditated acts denounced when Scripture says, 'But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from My altar and put him to death' (Exod. 21:14)?"

The King James Version (KJV) gives it a more precise rendering closer to the original Hebrew and reads, "But if a man comes presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from Mine altar, that he may die."

Again, this text does not support an argument against forceful intervention to save an innocent person. The key word rendered "presumptuously" in the KJV and "deliberately" in the New International Version (NIV) is from the Hebrew word zid. It is a word that literally means to act proudly, presumptuously, rebelliously. It combines three aspects of pride:  1) Presumption that assumes too much of a sense of authority,  2) Rebellion or disobedience by asserting the individual will over that of legitimate authority, and  3) A willful decision to act outside the realm of authority given the individual by God.

The verse speaks to attitude and authority. And ultimately we are led directly back to the question of individual authority to mount a forceful defense. Does God allow the individual the right to use force to defend his own innocent life or the life of another innocent person against an unjust aggressor? Scripture affirms this right.

Certainly acts that are done outside the realm of authorities which God has given to the individual and which are done willfully, rebelliously, out of an attitude of pride are condemned by this Scripture. But if God has indeed given the right of defense to the individual even though it may result in bloodshed (Exod. 22:2), then Griffin, Shannon and Hill did not violate this Law. Again, they sought to prevent future murders on the part of the serial-abortionists they shot.

A clear and present danger

The argument over "premeditation" often moves another step after it is made clear that simply planning to use force to save the life of an Unborn child is not outside the scope of biblical morality. When the first argument has fallen, those who would condemn Christians who have used force will often cite an objection based on the imminence of harm.

"If Shelley Shannon's use of force against George Tiller wasn't wrong because it was planned in advance, it is wrong because it was premature." The implication is that any use of morally defensible force must be done at a point when the abortionist is actually starting the procedure to kill the child, perhaps even as he lifts the curette or suction tubing and advances toward the woman on the table.

Shelley Shannon shot abortionist George Tiller as he was driving away from the facility where he routinely killed. Would she have been on a more consistent biblical footing if she had waited at least until he was returning the next day?

To discuss the issue of "imminent harm" it is helpful to more clearly define how Christians throughout the ages have viewed the concept of immanency. To do that, we will use as comparison a fundamental Christian doctrine, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

When Christians discuss the return of the Savior they often refer to the "imminent return." What do they mean by that? A survey of Christians will reveal that for some there is a strong hope that His return will be in the next moment, only days or perhaps months away. Others understand that it may be years, perhaps even long after they have fallen asleep in death. Yet all of these Christians claim that Christ's return is "imminent."

Imminent then appears to mean something other than immediate with reference to a timetable. Instead, it clearly refers to a certainty. It is certain that Christ will return and the Christian is to be diligent in responding to that fact. With regard to abortion then, it appears that the issue is not the nearness in time but the certainty that the abortionist does intend to kill again.

Shannon cannot be condemned based upon the proximity in time to which she shot the abortionist. What was certain, based upon his strong commitment, past behavior, public pronouncements, and significant financial investment, was that George Tiller did intend to kill again. Shelley Shannon was certain of that fact; certain that there were no other significant remedies available to save lives, and we argue that she cannot be condemned as having acted outside of a threat of imminent harm.

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9 This raises a justification for those like a man, Don Benny Anderson, sentenced for kidnapping an abortionist and his wife to prevent abortions. If he had kidnapped a mother attempting to have her child killed, that too would be equally as justifiable under God’s standard, since he was attempting in either case to prevent the unjust killing of innocent Unborn children.

10  We might also refer to them simply as “serial-killers” since a serial-killer is one who targets innocent victims for some perceived gain to himself. He then murders again and again, based on meeting his own determination of “needs.” Abortionists conspire with the courts and pregnant women to the same end, a perception of personal need and gain that is used to try and justify the killing of innocent persons.

  11 Wm. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4, pg. 180.

12  This is precisely why Deconstructionists (Atheists, Agnostics and social engineers) have worked for decades to undermine Christianity and The Bible in America. Their socio-political agenda cannot stand up to the high and majestic standard of God’s Law.

13 At the time of this reprint, George Tiller is deceased. He was shot by Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009. Roeder too testified he was engaged in an attempt to protect future victims of this serial (“abortionist”) killer.

14    As a contrast, it might be appropriate to read through the story of David the king who orchestrated the death of a faithful soldier, Uriah the Hittite. God's Word makes clear pronouncement against his act of deception and murder (2 Sam. 11-12). 

15 Judges 5:24-31 describes in song the sequence of events surrounding the death of Sisera, and ends with an imprecatory plea that all of the Lord's enemies should thus perish. Such jubilation seems out of place in our modern age, yet there is something in each of us that appreciates a justice done.

16 Wm. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4, pg. 180-181.

  17  It is interesting to reflect on the frequent criticism leveled at the "eye for eye" Scriptures. While vulnerable to abuse, they are none-the-less part of God's Law. In fact, in the current debate over abortion and the use of force, they are critical in understanding that God has an equal affection for justice toward the Unborn. No wonder that they are so severely analyzed and found to be at fault. If they can be invalidated, the argument for a consistent standard of protection for both born and Unborn is weakened.

18    The First Amendment to the Constitution establishes the right to hold and express contrary views as a fundamental right accorded all citizens in the United States of America. Such an inclusion in the Constitution was never meant to protect popular speech, it was to safeguard the rights of those, like Christians today, who hold unpopular views.

19   Consider that it is deemed to be illegal now in many cities and states to display a manger scene or a cross on public property during the Christmas season. Public schools make much over the ghosts and goblins of Halloween, but are threatened with lawsuits for any religious portrayal during holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

20 At the time of this reprint, we are less than two months away from a shooting incident in Newtown, Connecticut in which a crazed shooter, Adam Lanza, took the lives of 20 children and six adults at a grade school. A nation that rejects God and His Law and will not protect innocent children of the Unborn class has, sorrowfully, placed themselves and their own children outside of God’s protection. We all fall prey to the gods the masses choose to worship. When Israelites chose to worship false gods like Asherah, Moloch or Chemosh, it eventually cost them dearly. At first they only participated tangentially by “baking bread” for the worship of these idols (Jer 7:18), but eventually they too were required by the cultists to sacrifice their own children by throwing them into the fiery, white-hot lap of the idols (Psa 106:37). The aggressive drinking and sex associated with these “festivities” were necessary to dull the senses of those parents offering their own children as a burnt offering to the false god.

  21 See Bruce Waltke, et al, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, pg. 239.

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