In Defense of Others
A Biblical Analysis and Apologetic on the Use of
Force to Save Human Life
by Cathy Ramey
Consigned to hell?
Christians concerned over the use of force which has proven to be lethal
often have a sincere concern for the eternal well-being of the abortionist.
As the Scriptures say, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked
(Ezek. 18:23) and neither should we.
By ending the life of an unjust aggressor or murderer in order to save an
innocent victim, is it legitimate to say that Griffin and Hill consigned David
Gunn, John Britton, and James Barrett to hell?
Those who condemn the use of force to save the Unborn child often argue
somewhat schizophrenically on this issue. Using force to assist an elderly
who is being mugged is never condemned as an action robbing the
mugger of his eternal salvation. Yet our compassion is often misguided
away from the victim and toward the victimizer when dealing with those
who kill children for a living (perhaps because we cannot see the Unborn).
Our attitude of "kindness, justice and righteousness" (Jer. 9:24) ¾ in
imitation of God's character ¾ is misplaced so that we fail to correctly
identify with the oppressed and instead wrongly attach our sentiments of
concern to the oppressor. Yet it is to those unseen oppressed who are
denied kindness and justice that God extends Himself toward. So should
In addition to recognizing that the Unborn victim's well being ought to be a
primary concern, we need to recognize that God does not give the
Christian occult powers. We do not have the ability to know when and if an
abortionist intends to quit or repent. We are not called to follow in the
footsteps of psychics and spiritists. Instead, the Christian is simply
enjoined to do justice and to love mercy (Micah 6:6-8).
When God extends mercy, it is most often to those denied it by their
oppressors or others who could come to their aid but do not. Amazingly,
we also see a biblical case for arguing that He has graciously extended
mercy toward those who have murdered Unborn children for decades in
much the same way He withheld judgment from the Amorites of
Abraham's day (Gen. 15:16). And it now appears that their iniquity is
complete, or nearly so, since He has allowed justice for the innocent
Unborn to prevail in a handful of cases.
Gentle Lamb or Roaring Lion?
Some Christians will point out that as far as the right to use force is
concerned, our pattern is predominantly Old Testament ¾ therefore Old
Covenant. And so we are challenged to examine New Testament Scripture
to better understand whether-or-not an individual is entitled to use force to
protect either himself or another innocent person against an unjust
The New Testament does not add new revelation or changes to the moral
standard. This is because God does not change. There is no definitive
Scripture that can be cited to overrule the OT principles regarding a use of
force for defensive purposes. There is no indication that God's personality
progressed, or that He experienced a conversion process Himself as Jesus
went to the cross (from an angry and punishing God to an accommodating
Fellow). Rather, His propensity for justice is constant and enduring.
With regard to NT examples of force, we find that on two occasions Jesus
Christ drove moneychangers, buyers and sellers, from the Temple. "My
house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of
robbers," He proclaims while overturning tables and causing property
damage (Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45-46).
Jesus’ forceful behavior might be dismissed as simply fulfillment of
prophecy except that the incident does occur twice. There is an occasion
recorded only by John, early in Jesus' ministry where we are given more
detail and therefore more insight into the event.
Upon finding a bazaar atmosphere in the Temple, Jesus stops to fashion a
whip. Then this gentle Lamb of God uses the weapon in hand to clear the
crowd. The magnitude of authority and physical presence that He brought
to the event can only be guessed at, but it might be said to be significant.
All His detractors could do, despite the availability of men to arrest and
restrain an ordinary man, was to ask for a sign to authenticate Jesus'
authority "to do all this" (John 2:14-16).
"I and the Father are One"
In dismissing force as a tool which is morally (though not legally) available
to the individual by holding to rhetoric like "Jesus wouldn't do that," we
forget that Jesus is "the exact representation of His [God the Father's]
being" as is written in the book of Hebrews (1:3). The larger question
when talking about forceful, even painful or lethal intervention to save the
life of an innocent person is "Does God ¾ Old Testament to New ¾ allow
for it?" Instead, we stumble over the restrained witness of the personality
of the Lamb who has come, not to judge the world and her inhabitants,
but to lay down His life (John 3:17).
Throughout Scripture we see God's character manifested in first one
attribute and then another. In the beginning we see His organization. He
brings creation out of chaos (Gen 1-2). We see that He desires, for reasons
we don't fully understand, to have fellowship with man even after he has
sinned. We see God's wrath and judgment when Egypt is stricken with
plagues even to the point where all of her firstborn are slain (Exod. 12:29).
We see something of the magnitude of His power and authority over
nature when twice He rolls back the waters and crosses His people over on
dry land (Exod. 14:21-22; Josh 3:17). His character is vast and wonderful,
too awesome to be manifested completely at once to simple man; to see
Him with the eye is to die (Exo 33:20)! So we see only reflections.
And in Jesus Christ, His uniquely begotten Son, we see God’s character
trait of compassion put on display like no other time in recorded history. It
is not only exposed on the cross, it is manifested daily as Jesus proclaims
through His life that no sin is too immense for God to forgive. Every
interaction indulges the notion that eternal life is available to all that
The point in all of this is simply to say that Jesus was atoning for the sins
of mankind and giving witness of a spiritual salvation that transcends the
limits of civil law and even Mosaic Law.
"Sell your cloak . . ."
The NT Scriptures actually leave us with a fairly clear statement on the use
of defensive force. Jesus is teaching His disciples as He has done on other
occasions. He is getting close to the completion of His ministry, and He is
preparing to go to the cross. By reading Luke 22:35-38 we note the
Jesus is reminding the disciples that He has miraculously protected them
and provided for their needs during the earlier missionary journey He sent
them on. They can trust Him.
With His imminent crucifixion He warns them that there are some changes
they should anticipate. The world that hated Him is going to hate them
too. Going to the cross is not the final chapter. They need to plan on and
prepare for adversity.
Among the provisions they need to acquire is a sword. It is not to be used
in a military sense where everyone would be required to have one.
Instead, when the disciples point out "Here are two swords," He says,
"That is enough." Two swords among twelve men is not an aggressive call
to arms. It is a defensive preparation.
Now, if we can defend our own lives, and we are instructed to love our
neighbor as ourselves, we can also defend our helpless neighbor. For an
answer to "Who is my neighbor?" read the story of the Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:29-37). It is reasonable to conclude that Unborn infants qualify.
Those who oppose a moral justification for force will proceed to argue that
Jesus ordered His disciples to "put away" their swords after Peter had
impetuously sheared away the ear of a soldier/servant (John 18:11), but
by citing this as a proof text they pull Scripture out of context. When Jesus
rebuked Peter it was because he was interfering with a foreordained plan.
Jesus was going to the cross. Peter had been rebuked before for
suggesting that "This [the cross] shall never happen to you" (Mt. 16:22-
23). And he had not fully grasped the lesson.
This Scripture, to put away the sword, in no way abandons the concept of
either being allowed to defend yourself or another innocent person from
unjust aggression. Recall that it was only hours before this event took
place that Jesus instructed the disciples to go out and buy a sword. Is the
Son of God so vulnerable to confusion that within hours of directing the
disciples to prepare for their future defense in one way, He then rebukes
them in a manner meant to convey an opposite instruction? We think not!
Others have argued against using this Scripture by stating that the sword
being spoken of by Jesus in Luke 22:26 is a "spiritual sword." But, again,
this can only be deduced by taking the Scripture out of context. Is Jesus
talking about a spiritual "purse, bag or sandals" in verse 35? Of course not!
So why should we expect that He will switch from the physical to the
spiritual when He tells them to sell their cloak if that is what they must do
in order to acquire a sword. Can a spiritual sword be purchased for the
price of a cloak?
"Ah," proclaims the opponent of force, "He who lives by the sword, dies by
the sword," referring to Matthew 26:52. If defense to save a helpless victim
is not intrinsically wrong, it is wrong because it will eventually accrue harm
to the forceful defender, is their argument.
We dispute both the claim that this Scripture speaks to defense of self or
another innocent person and the conclusion. If anyone can be said to be
“living by the sword,” we argue that it is the abortionist who is paid by the
head for each baby that he kills. To that end, Scripture appears to
articulate a truth as far as abortionists David Gunn, John Britton, and
James Barrett are concerned. Certainly they have lived by violent means.
Their end appears to be the logical fruit of their labor.
"The weapons of our warfare . . ."
And while we are looking again at the subject of Scripture pulled out of
context and presented to say what it does not, it is appropriate to stop here
and examine Ephesians 6:10-18. It too talks about a sword.
Several of those who say that the use of force to save a womb-inhabiting
child is immoral have postured that these verses describe the limits of our
ability to intervene for the soon-to-be-aborted. "We war not against flesh
and blood" is said to command our attention beyond the physical presence
of an unjust aggressor, so that we understand that he is merely a hapless
pawn in the hand of Satan. This bit of illogic is allowed for the Unborn, but
try convincing any man to stand by while his Born children are savaged by
someone with an abortionist's propensity for murder.
In context we see that the famous warfare verses of Ephesians 6 speak to
something quite different than the debate that we are in. The entire book
of Ephesians is written to believers and speaks to the unity ¾ built on a
foundation of biblical truth ¾ which God the Father is working out through
time and history, so that one day, in Christ, we will see a oneness among
those of the faith that is often lacking from one denomination to the next
and even within individual churches.
Ephesians 6 does not speak to our relationship as believers toward
unbelievers. It does not say that our ability to advocate for an innocent
person is to be limited to prayer and meditation upon the Scriptures,
immensely valuable as those interventions are.(23) It is a Scripture that
holds no prescription for us against the use of force to stop one man from
murdering another, one abortionist from murdering a child.
The larger argument to support the use of defensive action to protect the
innocent is the silence of Scripture. The NT does not contradict, eradicate
or throw out the OT mandate to rescue the innocent (Prov. 24:11-12). The
child in utero is considered to be equal to the value of any Born person
(Exod. 21:22-25). We see no retraction of the right of individuals to defend
against an unjust aggressor (Exod. 22:2). And Old Testament to New, we
find that concern for the well being of another ought to be actively
manifest in our lives (Exod. 22:21, 22-24, 26-27; Lev. 19:33-34; Luk.
Finally, it is relevant to remember that all Scripture is "God breathed and is
useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (II
Tim. 3:16). Those words were written at a time when the word "Scripture"
primarily referred to the wealth of OT records accepted by the Church. The
NT did not exist in the bound and authorized versions we have today. It
cannot be reliably argued that a moral Law must be specifically restated in
the New Testament in order for it to have relevance today.
And if it is right . . .
Often in arguing about the biblical principles surrounding the use of force
to save innocent Unborn lives there is another concern that brews just
below the surface. On occasion there is the honest man or woman who will
admit that they have a fear that if the use of force is right, that God stands
ready to call them into action to do it and ready to condemn all who don't.
In addition to fear of the obvious consequences in a world that is willfully
rejecting God, they experience fear of the act, because indeed the injuring
of another person is never an occasion for pleasure, and they experience
conflict over who they want to be versus who they are.
The serious Christian wants to see himself as someone willing to do
whatever is right. He prefers to see himself as one waiting for direction and
willing to lay down his security, popularity, physical safety, even his life to
do what God requires of him. But in reality, in an era of general peace and
security (at least for the safely Born), there is little that severely tries and
tests him. Suddenly, in discovering that there are other biblical options to
save those threatened by abortion he is challenged beyond his own
willingness or perceived ability to obey. Indeed, there is a high price to pay
for any who would dare rescue a child bound for death in this day of legal
Many Christians, though not all, may come down on the side of pacifism in
the argument over saving Unborn babies simply because they are afraid.
Others will find that they are not nearly as "in love" with obedience to the
full measure of God's Word as they are with the facade of security around
them. And still others will look honestly inside of themselves and
understand that there is still much work to be done before they are truly
conformed to the selfless image of God's one unique Son, Jesus Christ.
They have not yet learned to place the welfare of others even above their
This last may take the form of denying that God would ever require a man
to risk his own life and freedom. But that is precisely what God required of
Queen Esther when an unjust law threatened the lives of her people.
Failure to act in their defense would have resulted in judgment against
Esther and her family, even though there was a very real threat to Esther’s
life in approaching the king without being summoned (Est 4:11). When
God calls, a man must listen and obey. That appears to be true of Griffin,
Shannon and Hill.
"Rarely will anyone die . . ."
In Scripture, we see again and again the astuteness of God in discerning
the human heart. We also see His great patience and mercy. In the debate
over saving children by the use of force there are those who claim that if
we say that it is morally (though not legally) justifiable, then we are
declaring "open season" on abortionists and their accomplices in murder.
"Everyone will be doing it," I was told by a radio talk show host. Indeed,
when the suggestion is made that there will be much of this forceful
intervention to save Unborn lives, we strongly disagree. Scripture indicates
With the precision of a surgical instrument Paul, writer of the book of
Romans (5:7-8) lays bare the nature of man. His point, in context, is to
show how God demonstrated an unparalleled love for us in that "While we
were still sinners, Christ died for us." To make his point, Paul the apostle is
inspired by God to use as an example the unique man.
"Rarely," we are told, "will anyone die for a righteous man," though he
goes on to tell us that "for a good man someone might possibly dare to
die." In other words, it is the unique individual who will risk his life. Most
human beings, including most Christians have not attained to that "greater
love" that compels one man to lay down his life for another. And in stating
the truism that it is the rare man who will lay down his life, we find no
condemnation in this Scripture passage. It is the wonder of God that
knowing our frailty and our failures He sent His Son to redeem us.
No, it is unlikely that we will see more than the occasional man or woman
as brave as Michael Griffin, Shelley Shannon and Paul Hill who will, at
great cost to themselves, act to save the life of an innocent in utero child.
In fact, assuming the morality of defending Unborn infants with force, God
is under no obligation to raise up other defenders before dealing harshly
with any of us, including couch-potato pietists or detractors, for our
neglect of justice on behalf of those who are of the class of persons we
refer to as "Unborn."
Anarchy and slippery slopes
Those Christians who are not in touch with reality ¾ who do not fully
comprehend that over 4,000 children are being brutally murdered every
day in the name of "choice" ¾ have reared away from discussion on the
morality of the use of force because, they contend, “It is anarchistic.” We
can tolerate the sterile and systematic putting to death of the out-of-sight
Unborn, but your occasional dead abortionist is indication that the very
fabric of society is being rent.
We assert that they are wrong, that in fact anarchy has been upon us in
every sense of the word since our highest court abandoned justice in favor
of industry ¾ bent on murder.
There are too, those who comfort themselves that the evil represented by
abortion is only a modicum of the base moral behavior that man is capable
of exhibiting; that we are moving down a slippery slope which will
eventually push us further into the realm of moral wrong. In their view,
there is opportunity at some point to hope for a hand or foothold that will
keep us from tumbling further down.
To slide further down implies that there are worse degrees of killing; that
things are bad, but they will eventually get real bad when it is the Born
who are at peril. To speak of a "slippery slope" is really to denigrate the
seriousness of the holocaust against Unborn children.
In reality, we are at the absolute bottom of the canyon. There is nowhere
further we can go. We, as a nation, have accepted the unwarranted
execution of those who are completely innocent; we have embraced that
model of injustice that is the undeniable opposite of God's standard of
justice. How can things get worse?
Our experience of comfort and security is nothing more than illusion. In
fact, there are no guarantees for anyone of any degree of innocence when
we live outside God’s rule and authority as a nation. And it is arguable that
every outlandish injustice that we see is merely a point of reflection where
the reality of the standard we have embraced as a nation has somehow
We counter the argument that those who have used force are bringing
about anarchy. Instead, we see them as individuals who have forcefully
wrenched short-term stability upon us. They have ¾ by an act of courage
and justice ¾ made their stand against the Roe v. Wade pattern of justice
and for God's own. They have stood in the gap for us all.
Of sheep and goats
For all of us, no matter what it is that occupies us ¾ including obedience
to other responsibilities that God has given to us ¾ there is a precaution
which ought to be observed in responding to those who have used force to
save the life of a child. All of those who we have examined for their use of
force (Griffin, Shannon, and Hill) are believers in God.(24)
They hold to the essentials of the faith; that God the Father set forth to
redeem mankind through His one and only begotten Son; that Jesus Christ
was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; born of a virgin; that He
lived a sinless life and died an atoning death by allowing Himself to be
crucified for our sins. He was raised from the dead on the third day,
ascended into heaven after having been seen by many family members,
apostles, and disciples. And He will return one day to make final judgment
upon the living and the dead. His eternal kingdom will have no end, and
those who have attained salvation by faith will be with Him forever.
Michael Griffin, Shelley Shannon, and Paul Hill, by virtue of their faith and
trust in Jesus Christ, are adopted by the Father and brethren to the Lord.
And as such, being members of one eternal family, one Body of which
Jesus Christ is the Head, we ought always to consider carefully how we
treat the members of our body. Christians should avoid hasty judgments
and condemnation of those who are related to the Lord. Instead, we ought
to heed the warning that Jesus Himself laid out for us when He spoke of
the judgment of the sheep and goats (Mt. 25:31-46).
Those confirmed into the family were generous and kind, even to the
imprisoned. (And it is likely that those who were so confined stirred up
every bit as much controversy as have those in our own days that have
used force.) The goats on the other hand failed to render godly kindness
and concern in their actions.
But Jesus does more than suggest that Christians are to be active in
displaying works of comfort and kindness. He tells us (verse 40) that there
is a particular group of people that we are not to neglect. They are those
who are brothers to the Lord. The goats are those who betrayed their lack
of love for the Lord in their lack of love for His brethren.
Finally then, let us not neglect the opportunity we have for open discussion
upon this issue of force. It is an occasion for all of us to delve more deeply
into the character of God. Is He just? How does His character trait of
justice reveal itself, and how are we to be imitators of it? And while we
search the Scriptures, let us not make hasty judgments against those who
may one day be honored by the Lord for loving the lives of yet-to-be-
birthed children more than their own.
22 One might argue that an abortionist is also a neighbor. But, by way of example, if a neighbor-
rapist is attacking a neighbor-woman, you have an obligation to choose which of those neighbors
to throw your lot in with. Which neighbor are we to love when one is being an unjust aggressor,
and the other is a helpless victim? Biblical sense weighs out in favor of the victim.
23 The caution is that we are not to make a false god of our piety, pretending service to God and
neighbor without the necessary actions and deeds that affirm genuine faith (Jam 2:18). Pietistic
promises to “pray for the Unborn” are often a mere deflection of one’s duty to act on their
behalf. “Daring to do what is right… Freedom [in Christ] comes only through deeds, not through
thoughts taking wing. Faint not nor fear, but go out to the storm and the action, trusting in God
whose commandment you faithfully follow.” [Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, poem “Stations on the Road
24 As of this reprint, the same seems true of Scott Roeder and another man, James Kopp who
shot a New York abortionist in 1998.
To contact e-mail:
Or write to: Rev. Donald Spitz
P.O. Box 16611
Chesapeake VA 23328