Self-Defense in Classical Christianity Christian Doctrines of Active and Forceful Resistance Against Evil
Authentic Templarism, embodying the essence of true knighthood and damehood, is firmly anchored in the tradition of Sacred Activism, as the ultimate form of “Faith in action”. This practice is rooted in the most ancient idea of the “spiritual warrior”, as the foundation of the medieval model of the “warrior monk” embodied in the Order of the Temple of Solomon as the legendary Knights Templar.
However, the modern era is increasingly dominated by a counter-culture of “political correctness”, blaming and shaming activists with propaganda, to discourage, censor and suppress all forms of opposition to evil. This is imposed by certain pseudo-religious criticisms, which promote passive acquiescence and tolerance of all forms of wrongdoing and injustice.
Such propaganda especially targets Christianity. Frequently, whenever Christians actively stand up against abuses or defend against aggression, they are told they should “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemy”, “forgive”, and “trust in God”, and are typically accused of being supposedly “un-Christian”.
The original doctrines of classical Christianity all conclusively prove that the typical anti-activist criticisms are false. Indeed, simply looking at the relevant Christian scriptures in context exposes the common criticisms as superficial misinterpretations, which were never a part of the genuine religion.
This report is provided to empower all Christian activists, armed with the power of the Truth, backed by the facts and evidence fully presented below, to easily defend their Sacred Activism for the benefit of humanity, as being entirely consistent with the authentic doctrines of Christianity.
Disclaimer: Self-Defense Primarily by Non-Violence
In the modern era, and in the tradition of Sacred Activism, resistance to evil rarely requires any physical use of force. The type of “self-defense” usually needed is to promote Truth, upholding positive Christian values which justify active opposition to the forces of evil.
While Christianity essentially teaches non-violence, Biblical scriptures often describe fighting against evil in terms of justified lawful self-defense in armed conflict, with reference to killing. In context, it appears self-evident that such doctrines are primarily analogies.
Indeed, the Christian doctrines of “self-defense” prove that when even armed force would be universally justified, then certainly mere social, political or legal activism (all simply free speech) is overwhelmingly warranted, and cannot possibly be criticized.
Active Resistance to Evil in Biblical Scripture
The Biblical Sixth Commandment states: “Thou shalt not kill [murder].” (Exodus 20:13) In the original Greek, the word for “kill” used here is ‘Phonéfseis’, which actually means “murder”, specifically limited to “intentional unjustified homicide” . This same book of the Old Testament also provided a clear example of justifiable homicide in self-defense: “If a thief be found breaking [in at night], and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him [i.e. no guilt for his death]” (Exodus 22:2).
Biblical scholars in 1706 AD confirmed that the Sixth Commandment “does not forbid killing in lawful war, or in our own necessary defense, nor the magistrate’s [Judiciary] putting offenders to death, for those things tend to the preserving of life” . Modern 21st century Biblical scholars reconfirmed that “What the sixth commandment forbids is the unjust taking of a legally innocent life. … God’s people have always recognized that there are some situations where taking a life is not only permitted but actually warranted.” 
In the Old Testament, just before the Magi High Priest Melchizedek blessed Abraham with a Eucharistic sacrament, Abraham went to battle to rescue and defend innocents from aggressors: “Abraham… armed his trained servants… and pursued them… and smote them… and [returned] his brother Lot… and the women also, and the people.” (Genesis 14:14-16) It is precisely for this battle, fighting for a just cause, and thus representing good against evil, that Melchizedek blessed Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20).
This scripture embodies the timeless principle that active pursuit, and even armed lethal force, is wholly justified for the protection of the innocent against the wrongful actions of evil-doers, and is even worthy of blessings as a Holy endeavour. Based upon this principle, the legal doctrine of “self-defense” has always inherently included the lawful justification of “defense of others”.
In another Biblical account, when the builders of Jerusalem learned of covert plans by adversaries to murder them, they responded as follows: “Nevertheless we… set a watch against them day and night” (Nehemiah 4:9). They “set the people… with their swords, their spears, and their bows… and said… fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” With this strong level of vigilance and defensive preparation, “every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded” (Nehemiah 4:13-18). This scripture further evidences the ancient doctrine of active armed self-defense, including the defense of others, by the Faithful in a community of the people of God.
The Biblical King Solomon wrote: “Two are better than one… And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) This is a clear mandate to forcefully resist evil, and to actively defend against aggression. It emphasizes the defense of others, further expanding that concept into the collective defense of the Faithful of God, who must unite and stand strong to overcome evil together.
The 13th century Roman Catholic Liturgy for Blessing of New Knight highlights this central theme: “O God, Thou hast only permitted the use of the sword to curb the malice of the wicked and to defend the right. Grant, therefore, that Thy new Knight… may use it always in defense of all that is just and right!” (Benedicto Novi Militis, 13th century)  This evidences that even for military-style armed knighthood, all of the strength and skills of Knights were dedicated exclusively to resisting evil, defending the good, and upholding rights and Justice.
The Council of Nablus in 1120 AD established that even Clergy are permitted to carry and use arms in self-defense. The enacted manuscript noted that in 1119 AD, “Antioch had been defended by the Patriarch following the Battle of Ager Sanguinis”, and one of its Canons specified that “Clergy should have no guilt if he takes up arms in self-defense, but he cannot take up arms for any other reason”. This rule continues as part of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law as “customary law” of the Church (Canon 2, Canon 27). 
“Trust in God” is No Excuse for Passive Non-Resistance
Religious or spiritual activists are often criticized with the modern pseudo-philosophy that Faith supposedly requires an exaggerated “trust in God”, presumably in the form of complete passive non-resistance in the face of evil. Those Faithful who take decisive action to stand up against wrongdoing are thus implicitly accused of being “hypocrites”, by the superficial idea that activism allegedly contradicts having “trust in God”. This wholly ignores the concept that we can also “trust in God” to inspire and guide us to take positive actions. Moreover, as with other fallacies of so-called “philosophies”, this criticism is proven false by the authentic doctrines of genuine religion.
Man Must Fight, but God Gives the Victory – In Biblical scripture, the Magi High Priest Melchizedek blessed Abraham after his victory in battle defending innocents against aggressors, saying: “Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” (Genesis 14:20)
This evidences a core theological doctrine from the Ancient Priesthood: While victory in battle comes from God, nevertheless it remains necessary to fight the battle, in order to create the situation in which God can then intervene to grant such victory.
In the Old Testament account of the defense of Jerusalem by its builders, the scripture states: “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night”, with every worker and their families heavily armed in defense (Nehemiah 4:9). These armed defenders were told: “Be not ye afraid of them: Remember the Lord”. Specifically through this active armed defense by the people, “God had brought their [enemies’] counsel to nought”, precisely because “every one had his sword girded by his side” (Nehemiah 4:13-18).
This demonstrates the real doctrine of the role of God from Biblical scripture: Prayer to God is actually for support of one’s own vigilance, for strength in one’s own active efforts, and for influencing the aggressors, all entirely based upon one’s own actions of establishing a defense.
“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” – The authentic Christian doctrine, regarding both the need for action and the context of relevant prayer, is the traditional proverb: “God helps those who help themselves”. This is not simply a self-fulfilling prophecy, and is not a practice of self-reliance while giving credit to the mere idea of God.
The Old Testament says: “God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.” (Deuteronomy 15:10, 16:15) The Preacher son of David also said: “the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 9:1). The Biblical King David prayed: “Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: … my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust” (Psalm 144:1-2).
These scriptures confirm the Biblical doctrine that whatever the faithful put their effort into, actively doing good works, God then gives more power to bring results to their efforts. They clarify that the role of God is to give us strength, and to enhance our skills, to make our own actions more effective. It establishes that “trust in God” actually means to take actions to the best of our abilities, while trusting God to enhance our own efforts for maximum impact.
Jesus declared: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36); “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation… the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) In connection with this, Jesus also taught: “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:28); “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:21)
Jesus thus emphasized that the heavenly realm of God is separate from the material world. This necessarily means that God does not directly control (and certainly does not micro-manage) events in the physical world. Rather, God’s role is to give humanity access to an additional dimension of the spiritual world, beyond our limited temporal world. He explained that God works from “within you”, giving inspiration and strength to take positive actions, by “keeping” the word of God through “doing”, manifesting “deeds” on behalf of God.
Advancing this doctrine, the Apostles taught that spirituality is empty and meaningless if not applied through positive action: “What doth it profit… though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? … Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. … For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14-26.)
Based upon these timeless sacred doctrines, Saint Joan of Arc explained: “It pleased God thus to act through a simple maid in order to turn back the King’s enemies.”  Specifically rejecting the pacifist criticism that “if God wills to save France it is not necessary to have soldiers”, Saint Joan replied: “In God’s name the soldiers will fight, and God will give the victory.” She was also quoted as saying: “We must work when it is God’s Will: Act, and God will act; Work, and He will work.” 
“Perish by the Sword” Not a Doctrine and Not Pacifism
Another piece of disinformation used to shame Christians into helpless pacifism is the passage of scripture widely known by the popularized mistranslation: “Live by the sword, die by the sword”. This is commonly misinterpreted as an expanded metaphor, supposedly preventing all forms of activism and resistance against evil. A brief look at the actual scripture in context, however, proves this false.
When the authorities came to arrest Jesus: “One of them which were with Jesus… drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. … But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:51-54)
What Jesus did not say here is as meaningful as what did he did say: He did not rebuke Peter for cutting off someone’s ear with the sword, and did not even say it was a sin. He did not say to throw away the sword and never use it again, but only to “put it back in its place”, thus actually meaning to continue carrying it.
The key phrase is simply that “they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. This was not worded as a doctrine, nor as a philosophical statement for living. Rather, this statement only applied to the particular situation at hand in that moment, in the context of being outnumbered and surrounded by armed hostile forces.
Jesus emphasized his real reason for telling Peter to sheath (holster) the sword, at the end of this same passage. The reason had nothing to do with weapons nor self-defense, but was solely to fulfill his mission from God, purposely to be arrested and crucified, as necessary to be transformed into a greater force for the salvation of humanity: “How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled?”
Indeed, just before and leading up to this event, Jesus had clearly insisted that the Apostles must be armed and prepared for self defense by force: “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it… and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36). (Truly, this is the New Testament predecessor of the humorous American expression of Protestant Christians: “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”)
“Turn the Other Cheek” Only for Minor Provocations
One scripture is most frequently abused to argue that Christians supposedly should allow evil to run rampant throughout the world, entirely unchallenged. Superficially, the already severely mistranslated passage appears to say “resist not evil… turn the other cheek”. However, genuine Bible scholarship, in the context of the authentic Christian religion, overwhelmingly proves this misinterpretation to be false.
“Ye have heard… An eye for an eye… But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil [Greek: ‘mi antistínai tw poniró’, “not oppose the wicked one”]: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.” (Matthew 5:38-40)
This passage begins by signaling its context as referring to legal disputes in courts of law. Historically, the concept of “an eye for an eye” was in fact not for individuals, but was a doctrine for the Judiciary, meaning only that the punishment should fit the crime. The original Greek word for “resist” used here is ‘antistínai’, which actually means to “oppose” , and is often used in a legal context in the sense of “opposing in a court of law”, meaning litigation (i.e. Isaiah 50:8). This meaning is further confirmed towards the end of this passage, by the phrase “if any sue thee”.
This interpretation is supported by the clear Apostolic doctrine that disputes between Christians should not be resolved by resorting to secular lawsuits: “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.” (I Corinthians 6:5-7).
The original Greek phrase mistranslated here as “evil” is ‘tw poniró’, which actually means “the wicked one” , simply a reference to a person engaging in minor provocations. Therefore, the phrase “resist not evil” most certainly does not mean to allow the forces of evil to operate without strong opposition. Rather, it only means not to engage in vindictive lawsuits against wrong-minded individuals in retaliation for petty personal insults.
Accordingly, Biblical scholars have consistently maintained that this passage “does not mean that we should let evil triumph throughout our communities. Jesus is referring to private retaliation, not to public order” .
The seminary Professor Craig Blomberg explained: “We must nevertheless definitely resist evil in certain contexts. Striking a person on the right cheek suggests a backhanded slap from a typically right-handed aggressor and was a characteristic Jewish form of insult. Jesus tells us not to trade such insults even if it means receiving more. In no sense does [this] require Christians to subject themselves or others to physical danger or abuse”. The verse about giving your cloak as well “is clearly limited to a legal context. One must be willing to give as collateral… more than what the law could require”. 
Therefore, it is conclusively established that the genuine doctrine of “turn the other cheek” is only to tolerate petty personal insults, and to refrain from vindictive retaliation. Far from being any supposed pacifist “non-resistance”, this itself is a form of resistance against provocations to low-minded disputations. This doctrine says nothing contrary to defending oneself or others against unjust aggression, and says nothing contrary to the core obligation of all Christians to actively oppose and strongly resist evil in the world.
The New Testament declares: “If thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he [lawful authority] beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil… not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” (Romans 13:4-5)
This confirms the authentic Christian doctrine that evildoers should incur serious “wrath”, which is actually required “for conscience sake”, and suggests that lawful governmental authorities have an obligation to impose such punishment on behalf of society. However, this also has empowering implications for individuals:
Christians can aggressively and persistently appeal to government authorities to punish wrongdoers and press criminal charges against them; Christians can exercise lawful armed self-defense as permitted by civil law; Christians can also exercise civil power in government service, by serving in armed forces or law enforcement to stop evil by physical force, or serving as Judges imposing harsh sentences.
Given that none of these actions are a sin, and all are entirely and properly supported by the true religion, Christians can most certainly practice Sacred Activism, exercising free speech to expose and condemn wrongdoing, and promoting knowledge and Truth, to empower humanity to reject and resist the forces of evil.
Indeed, Christians are specifically commanded to strongly and persistently resist all forms of evil: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the Faith” (I Peter 5:8-9).
“Love Your Enemies” but “Hate Their Sins”
Other scripture commonly taken out of context is “Love your enemies”, always omitting the companion doctrine of “Hate their sins”. Jesus taught: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) This does not mean ignoring their sins, nor permitting their wrongful behaviour, nor allowing their evil acts to go unopposed or unpunished.
Overcome Evil with Good – The Apostles explained and clarified the teaching of “love your enemies”, as follows: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. … If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. … Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)
This clearly establishes that dealing with enemies “peaceably” is only a preferred option, and only “if possible”. The doctrine to not commit “evil for evil” does not exclude actively exposing, resisting and opposing harmful wrongdoing, as such defensive actions are rightful and have no malice.
The “love” for enemies is strictly limited, meaning only to recognize their humanity, and to practice humanitarian compassion to avoid or minimize any real suffering. This is an effective strategy to “overcome evil with good”. By demonstrating a sharp contrast between the malice of the enemies and the goodness of the defenders, this creates a real possibility for aggressors to realize they are in the wrong and repent, or for others to be inspired to rise up against the evildoers and support the defenders.
Hate the Sin but Not the Sinner – The Old Testament presents the ancient doctrine that notwithstanding compassion for the wrongdoer as a human being, the wrongdoing itself must be categorically condemned: “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live … Hate the evil, and love the good… it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be Gracious”. (Amos 5:14-15)
The authentic Christian doctrine which most completely resolves this issue is the expression: “Hate the sin, but Love the sinner.” This originated from Saint Augustine’s “Letter 211” ca. 424 AD, which featured the phrase: “With love for mankind and hatred for sins” (derived from Jude 1:22-23; Revelation 2:6; Ephesians 4:15; Romans 5:8, 12:9; supported by I Timothy 1:15-16, 2:1; I Peter 2:17; II Peter 3:9; I John 4:8). This doctrine was later widely popularized by Mohandas Gandhi in 1929 AD as: “Hate the sin and not the sinner.”
“Forgiveness” Only for Genuine Repentance
Yet another superficial criticism of activists is that they should supposedly practice automatic “forgiveness”, in complete pacifist acquiescence, graciously allowing evil to run rampant unchallenged. As with the other deceptive pseudo-philosophies misrepresenting religious doctrines, a simple look at relevant scripture abundantly proves this false.
The idea of forgiveness does not negate the obligation to actively expose and condemn wrongdoing, nor to correct or even punish abuses. Moreover, forgiveness must be earned, and should not be given unless and until it is earned, by stopping and never repeating the offending wrongful actions.
In the Old Testament, God said to King Solomon: “If my people… shall humble themselves, and pray… and turn from their wicked ways; then will I… forgive their sin” (II Chronicles 7:14). God also told Ezekiel to “warn the wicked from his way… Say unto them… that the wicked turn from his way… turn ye from your evil ways.” (Ezekiel 33:8-11)
In the New Testament, continuing this Solomonic doctrine, “Jesus said… go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11) “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3) The dictionary definition of the word “rebuke” is “to criticize sharply”, and “to turn back or keep down” (Merriam-Webster). To “repent” means to apologize, acknowledging wrongfulness, with a sincere commitment not to repeat the offenses.
Therefore, Christian scripture clearly teaches that we must denounce and condemn wrongdoing, and that we should not give forgiveness unless the offender genuinely makes amends and turns from their wicked ways.
“What Would Jesus Do?”
When Christians are criticized for actively resisting and opposing wrongdoing, they are often rhetorically asked “What would Jesus do?” This is used to invoke (and is usually followed by) all of the popularized misconceptions which promote pacifism, to falsely shame Christians into allowing evil and wickedness to continue unchecked. However, one answer that never seems to follow this loaded question of false rhetoric, is the most prominent example of what Jesus actually did, to actively stand up to wrongdoing:
“Jesus went into the Temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers… and said unto them… [This is] the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46) “And when he had made a scourge [whip] of small cords, he drove them all out of the Temple… and overthrew the tables.” (John 2:14-16) “And Jesus… would not suffer [allow] that any man should carry any vessel through the Temple. And… they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” (Mark 11:16-18)
In this famous and memorable scene, Jesus strongly denounced and condemned wrongdoing, wielded a weapon for punishment as a deterrent, aggressively disrupted and dismantled the corrupt operations, imposed a blockade by threatened use of force, and chased away the wrongdoers, thereby initiating an embargo and boycott of their activities.
Further demonstrating the truth of “what Jesus would do”, he told the Apostles: “He that hath no sword… buy one.” (Luke 22:36) He also declared: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
Therefore, in the practice of Sacred Activism, all Christians are fully justified, and indeed obligated, to strongly expose, resist and oppose the forces of evil, with vigilance, aggressive persistence, and when necessary even with lawful armed force. All Christians, as well as all of humanity, have an overriding moral and spiritual duty to actively detect, expose, denounce, condemn, boycott, resist and reject all wrongful abuses, and to exclude and impede those who would inflict harm or injustice upon others.
Academic Source References for This Topic
Note: All Bible verses are quoted from the Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990).
 Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Greek-English Interlinear, 2nd Edition, The Apostolic Press, Newport, Oregon (2013), Exodus 20:13; James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “Strong’s Concordance”, Jennings & Graham, Cincinnati (1890), “Phoneuó”, No. 5407; Helps Word-Studies, Helps Ministries (1987), explaining Strong’s No. 5407.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (1706), “Complete and Unabridged in One Volume” Edition, Peabody (1991), Hendrickson (1996), Exodus 20:12.
 Philip Graham Ryken & R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois (2005), p.616.
 Emile Leon Gautier, La Chevalerie (1833); Translated in: Henry Frith, Chivalry, George Routledge & Sons, London (1891), Chapter IV, Commandment X; Citing Benedicto Novi Militis, 13th century.
 Kingdom of Jerusalem, Council of Nablus: Concordat of Canons (1120 AD), established by Patriarch Warmund and Kind Baldwin II of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Preserved in the Sidon Manuscript, Vatican Library, MS Vat. Lat. 1345: “Introduction to Canons”; Canon 20.
 Second Private Examination of Joan of Arc, 12 March 1431, National Archives of France; See: Barrett, The Trial of Jeanne d’Arc (1931).
 Trial of Nullification of Joan of Arc, 1449-1455 AD, Testimony of Duke Jean d’Alençon; Etienne Robo, The Holiness of St. Joan of Arc, Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, London, citing the examination at Poitiers.
 Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Greek-English Interlinear, 2nd Edition, The Apostolic Press, Newport, Oregon (2013), Matthew 5:39; James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “Strong’s Concordance”, Jennings & Graham, Cincinnati (1890), “Anthistémi”, No. 436.
 Charles Van der Pool, The Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Greek-English Interlinear, 2nd Edition, The Apostolic Press, Newport, Oregon (2013), Matthew 5:39; James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, “Strong’s Concordance”, Jennings & Graham, Cincinnati (1890), “Poniró”, No. 4190.
 Leon Morris, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids (1992), p.126.
 Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, New American Commentary, Volume 22, Broadman Press, Nashville (1992), “Matthew”; Doctor Craig Blomberg, Ph.D., is a New Testament scholar and Distinguished Professor at Denver Seminary in Colorado.