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Christian Duty

I want to try something new for Sunday blogging. I know some people do hymn posts, or thankful posts, or inspirational posts, but hello? Have you met me?

So this is the deal: I want to propose a dilemma and discuss what the appropriate response is for Christians.

A couple of “ground rules”:

  1. This is specifically aimed at Christians as Christians. How does a Christian respond to X situation based on biblical teaching. I would be thrilled if atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, etc read my blog, but I’m thinking a “family discussion.” Not that non-believers aren’t welcome to comment, but I want to focus on how a Christian should respond.
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  3. I want this to be a discussion where we actually discuss the topic based on logic, reasoning, and facts. The Bible is the supreme authority, but other sources can and should be used. Logic is also very welcome. The “I feel because I feel” argument will be mocked. (Yeah, not the most Christian response. I’m not as sanctified as you are. Go be smug. And mocked.)

This weeks situation, in honor of Independence Day:

The Christian and Government — How does one reconcile Romans 13:1-7 (Paul’s exhortation to “be subject to governing authorities”) and the American Revolution where the colonists threw off their governing authorities.  How does a Christian respond to a tyrannical government?

So…Let’s discuss! (I’ll do my discussing in the comments too.)

16 responses to “Christian Duty”

  1. April Avatar

    Okay, this may be a total cop-out, but here goes. The American Revolutionaries were not rebelling against their governing authority, because the person they rebelled against–King George III–was actually disobeying the law. Therefore, he invalidated his right to rule them. Of course this only holds up where Christians live under a rule of law, not man. But it’s where I begin.

    I also recognize that this is a fairly weak argument. Go shoot it down! 😉

    1. Mary Holley Avatar
      Mary Holley

      The colonist believed that rebellion to tyrants was service to God.

      1. April Avatar


        I’m not thoroughly versed in this history, but many of our founding fathers were influenced more by enlightenment philosophy than by biblical exegesis. I think that many Christians came to believe that it was biblically appropriate to rebel, but many opposed the Revolution for on biblical grounds. The question isn’t so much what did they come to believe as it is, was it right? (I know, stirring up a hornets nest. But you know me!)

  2. Katie K Avatar
    Katie K

    It was an ethical & Biblical rebellion bc the King & his local enforcers in America were violating the rights given to man by God. His laws are above all human laws. I think the quote above tells us that we should obey both, but when the law of man conflicts with the law of God, it’s our (their) responsibility to exhaust every legal method of disposing with the corrupt law. When our Founder’s attempted this, the King rebuffed them and thwarted their desires of being free men, not unlike the hard-hearted Pharoh in Exodus. Our Founders repeatedly claim to have felt Divine Providence helping them in their efforts & although that’s just a “feeling”, I believe they were sincere; and if God wanted them to fail, He could have easily arranged that.
    (Apologies for any strange typos; typing on iPod)

  3. Jimmie Avatar

    I’m not entire sure that Paul was writing about secular authority there. I believe he was addressing the rather fractious new believers who were n one to keen on being under any authority, spiritual or otherwise. It was important for Paul to remind them that their spiritual authorities — deacons and pastors and teachers — held true authority over the greater body of believers (authority lent to them by God, whose affairs, as he reminded the church at Corinth in I Cor. 14:40, should be conducted “decently and in order”).

    If Paul had intended that to pertain to earthly authority, it would have been a potent weapon in his defense against those who accused him of inciting rebellion against the Roman authority. Paul ended up in Rome, as you know, on those charges. All he had to do was produce that letter with a witness or two that it had been written by his hand, and the accusations would have fallen apart. I’m not entirely sure Paul would have endured the trials he did on the way to Rome if he could have easily avoided them. After all, he had churches to build, preachers to train, and more letters to write!

  4. April Avatar

    Yeah, that’s where I lean *except* the Caesars violated the God-given rights of man all the time and in much more serious ways. My “out” is kind of wiggly: The king was bound by the rule of law, when he violated it, the colonists had a moral right to respond. So it wasn’t *technically* rebellion. Or something.

    I do agree that they felt they were on the side of Right, but a good many Tories opposed the rebels partly for those reasons.

    Also, even if God could cause us to fail when we oppose his will, sometimes he doesn’t. A case of divine, “you get what’s coming to you” so to speak.

    1. Mary Holley Avatar
      Mary Holley

      After watching American Revolution on History chanel last night, I seriously wondered, had I lived in that time and place, would I have been a rebel or loyal to the King? I am so thankful for American and that we live under a system that recognizes that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”. But, it wasn’t an easy thing, it was excruciating for all involved. It’s easy to say what we would have done, but the people who lived it truly had to wrestle with that scripture.

  5. April Avatar

    Jimmie, I’m not sure that text supports that interpretation:

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. … 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. …For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    Taxes–sword–ruling authorities, that’s not church, that’s state.

    But the main charge (by the Romans, anyway) against Paul and other Christians wasn’t rebellion, but atheism (ironically) because they didn’t worship the Roman gods or Caesar as a god. I don’t really think we can do the “not *that* authority” dodge here.

  6. Jimmie Avatar

    I checked a couple different versions of the Bible and, thus far, the one you’re using is the only *big* one that uses “governing authorities”. The KJV does not translate that section in that way.

  7. April Avatar

    Jimmie, I have never ever ever heard that passage applied to anything OTHER than government. BUT you may be right, so let’s go to the text again.

    First, let’s put aside governing authorities (ESV, NIV, NASB) or higher powers (KJV and Douay-Rheims).

    The text also mentions bearing the sword & paying taxes to authorities. These are government powers, not church authorities.

    Okay, back to higher power. I got out my handy dandy “The Complete Word Study New Testament.”
    power: exousia: “In Romans 13:1-3; Titus 3:1 exousia in the pl. denotes not so much the magistracy of a court, but the powers which govern and is syn. with arche authority, thronos, throne and kuriotes, dominion or government.

    Matthew Henry and
    John Calvin are two of a plethora of Church fathers who interpret it as government.

    I think it applies to government.

  8. Matthew Newman Avatar

    Martin Luther said, “…if a prince is in the wrong, are his people bound to follow him then too? I answer, No, for it is no one’s duty to do wrong; we ought to obey God who desires the right, rather than men.” Peter says in Acts 5:29 that “We must obey God rather than men!” (HCSB). If the government has gone beyond the consent of the Governed and is truly in the wrong, then as Christians are we required to follow said government? I’m not saying they are doing something we disagree with, but truly subjugating their people, imposing martial law, prohibiting the people from having a voice, i.e. what the situation was during the days of the Revolution. I say not.

    Basically – if the government is illegitimate as the Monarchy controlling the colonists was, then we are under no requirement to abide by them. That’s my two cents.

    1. April Avatar

      I agree with you Matt. You also have Peter’s example where the rulers forbade him to preach and he said, “Should we obey God or men?” BUT…

      At what point does this kick in? 1. I don’t *think* the British were requiring the colonists to disobey God, which is Peter’s point. 2. If you look at the issue of abortion, I think that in some respects our government has gone far beyond what King George did, yet we don’t rebel.

      I think that it’s clear biblical teaching that if the government compels us to disobey the law of God, we must refuse. But when it’s “just” tyrannical? I’m not sure it’s the same thing. Of course, you have the whole “rescue those being led to slaughter” and “speak up for the oppressed” verses which support resisting tyrants.

  9. Matthew Newman Avatar

    As you said at the end – “speak up for the oppressed…” which, the American Colonists pretty much were.

    That said, what is “just” tyrannical? At the time, the British Crown was stealing from the people through taxes only applied to the colonists, imposing martial law on its subjects, dissolving local governments, stealing private property (firearms, etc), and requiring quartering without consent of the individual homeowner. Theft, deception, dissolution of valid government? Are not these in violation of the natural law of God? I’d argue yes.

    In terms of abortion – we are fighting against said injustice through the current legal process. Is full on revolution required? That I will not say. What I will say is that in order to fight this injustice we do need to continue to change the hearts and minds of the American people.

    Again, just my two cents.

    1. April Avatar

      I think you’re right on both counts. If you read the list of offenses in the Declaration, I think it clearly passes the line.

      With abortion, I think as long as we are aloud to work within the process to end and prevent abortion, then rebellion isn’t called for. If we had a situation (like in China) where abortion was compelled, I think it would be a different situation. But then, at that point, the government would more tyrannical than anything George could dream up.

      1. Matthew Newman Avatar

        Exactly. We’re allowed to voice our opinion and fight the good fight from within the process. Revolution is not a necessity. What our founding father’s faced was a different situation. There was no recourse for them as the government had become illegitimate, not granting them a voice.

  10. […] for Sunday blogging: propose a dilemma and discuss what the appropriate response is for Christians. I think it went well, so I’m doing it […]

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