Sunday, February 26, 2006

On obedience to the God-established authorities

More from EO:

In response to 249:

I agree with the Founding Fathers, that the Christian faith is the only solid moral and philosophical foundation upon which our Republic can endure and prosper.

In response to: "Can you cite any examples from Scripture where God's people revolted against the God-given authority over them without a specific command to do so (as in the case of Moses), and it received God's approval?" you wrote:

First, the most direct case in point is David. Goliath was the one hour problem [mostly, to get permission and to sort out conditions under whaich he would have to challenge him], but his situation with Saul would dominate the next 20 years of his life, as he dealt with an increasingly tyrannical figure and fled him when he got tired of dodging the javelins Saul threw at him [literally]. From that he moved from being a general to being a guerilla leader of an alternative government in being [notice the stinging sarcastic comment by Abigail's husband], finally ending up as king of Judah, then through civil war, king of all Israel.
During this process, most of the time he had no recorded special personal guidance from God, and occasionally slipped into some pretty sordid errors. However, all said and done, David was plainly approvced of God. [BTW: I think you need to distingusih force and violence, the latter being unjustifiable use or extent of force.]

David was chosen explicitly by God to be king over Israel. God Himself replaced the authority He had established over Israel (Saul), with David. Man did not make this decision.

Neither is God's approval of a man an approval of all of that man's words and deeds (except, obviously, in the case of Christ).

So then, it appears that you have not yet presented an example from Scripture where a people's rebellion against the authority over them received God's approval, apart from His commanding it.

But in fact, the more troubling point is in your emphasis on a specific contextual "word from God" as the criterion for the resistance to tyranny. [And, who will validate such a "prophecy" as a true word from God, absent specific biblical context? THat is, we have to address the biblical framework in general.]

First, "resistance to tyranny" does not necessarily mean armed rebellion.

Second, I've not mentioned anything about a "word from God." Since He expressly commands His people to obey the authority over them that He has established, it seems prudent (not "troubling") to ask whether or not God in His word has allowed any exceptions to that command.

In short, the issue comes down to general biblical context and sound hermeneutical principles. The biblical framework plainly gives examples and discusses the issue of tyranny and opposition to it....

Is it "sound hermeneutical principles" to advocate and defend the violation of God's clear command?

Again, does God in His Word allow armed rebellion against any authority, even a tyrant? If so, where?

First, I have already noted the conditionality of the covenant of government as is indicated in Rom 13: governors are there to do us good, especially by restraining and punishing those who do evil. Should a governor fail of that duty and join in doing evil by rewarding evil and oppressing the good, s/he turns tyrant; whether by usurpation or invasion.

What specifically in the Romans passage makes the commandment conditional? Where does the text say "If..."?

The Biblical text does not say "Obey as long as...," it says, "Obey...."

--> In that context, the issue of correction arises, which is resistance by words and perhaps by institutiona such as parliaments and courts. But note, these institutions are backed by means of force and depend ont he point that -- as the classical reformers long ago noted -- that ALL civil authorities are servants of God under the same charge of responsibility to do good and resist evil. Thus, we come tot he principle of interposition by existing or emerging civil authorities who speak in the name of the people who are the victims [actual or plainly intended] of the tyrants.

Speaking against evil and pointing out sin do not violate the command for obedience to the authority God has established.

In the context where such correction is ignored, the tyrant has become a rebel against God, and there is a plain power of defence of the people from evil-doers, up to and including the use of the sword by the interposed magistates in full accordance with Rom 13. But notice, we are here speaking about actual or intended tyrannising of the community, so that leads to the point that this is not a justification for lone wolves or cells of extremeists to turn terrorist.

The Declaration of Independence states:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

Unless something specific in 18th century English law allows for rebellion against a tyrant, the need for self-defense brought on by the chain of events appears to be the only argument possibly applicable in justifying our rebellion against the king.

Equally, there is a just war principle at work here: if the credible balance of forces at work is such that physical resistance to the tyrant is impossible, resort to force of arms in defence of liberty would be unjustifiable as all it would do is to cause a larger slaughter than otherwise. In such a situation, what is necessary is to preserve the principles of liberty through the continued teaching of the gospel, in the trust that God will one day raise up circumstances where reformation will be possible. [Notice, revolution is always the last resort, as the 2nd paragraph of the US DOI indicates.]

Are you here arguing that under a tyrant too powerful to overcome by force of arms we wait until strong enough to do so, and that this will not violate God's clear command?

Did God say , "Obey until you're strong enough to rebel," or, "Obey"?

...The house of the Caesars was the alternative to mass destruction by civil war and barbarian invasion, so it was the lesser of evils. And, when the tyranny became unbearable, under Nero in his last years, there was a civil uprising that overthrew him and restored a more sensible government.

This in no way demonstrates any God-ordained exception to His command.

...the American Revolution showed the pathway to a better alternative.]

I completely agree.

...Jesus etc spoke to the general principles of Christian citizenship, the preservation and propagation of the message that would soften men's hearts [thus enabling reformation and recognition of rights and the priority of justice], and the duty to endure inthe face of suffereing and martyrdom.

There's nothing here either that allows for armed rebellion against the authority that God has established.

Christ taught of Two Kingdoms, the earthly kingdom (civil authority) and God's spiritual kingdom. If anything, Jesus demonstrated His obedience to the God-established authorities, except when they required Him to lie about God.

Having said that, let us note how, several times, the APostle Paul used the principles of liberty that were recognised at certain critical points in his career

Recognizing the "principles of liberty" does not equate to "Obey if...." To argue that it does is to add to God's Word something that it does not say. In light of God's warnings against adding to or subtracting from His Word, that would seem unwise.

...This is of course the use of the power of the courts in light of their duty to uphold justice, which is backed by the power of the sword.

An appeal to the courts is not rebelling against the authority God has established. If anything, Paul's appeal to the government through its legal system is an endorsement of the God-ordained authority, not a rebellion against it.

So nothing here either from God's Word allows for armed rebellion against the authority that God has established.

...That major and forceful intervention was of course based on Paul's civil rights as a Roman Citizen. It is worth citing the letter....

Here again, Paul's actions are an endorsement of the authority God had established, not a rebellion against it.

Thus, plainly, we can first make out a credible framework along the lines discussed, for the general patern ogf theology of democratic government as developed in the aftermath of the reformation and up to and beyond the American revolution.

I don't recall questioning whether or not the Christian faith is the foundation for our modern system of government.

My question was regarding whether or not the Founding Fathers violated God's commands for obedience to the authorities He has established.

Since you have not been able to present from the Scriptures God's exception to that particular command, it seems clear that they did.

A, I forgot to note that not only does the US DOI four times appeal to God, but soon thereafter drafted Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, we may read [as is excerpted in my link on modern liberty's roots]

And every State Constitution names God also.

I agree that the principles regarding the equality of Man and his God-given, unalienable Rights articulated in the Declaration are derived from, and consistent with, the doctrine of Christ, but since His Word specifically states that His people are to obey the authorities He has established, I do not see our rebellion against the king as anything less than a violation of the command of God (except, perhaps, as a matter of self-defense).

In this matter it would be wise to keep in mind the words of the Apostle John:

"I, John, solemnly warn everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: if any add anything to them, God will add to their punishment the plagues described in this book. And if any take anything away from the prophetic words of this book, God will take away from them their share of the fruit of the tree of life and of the Holy City, which are described in this book. " (Revelation 22:18, 19).