Thursday, July 16, 2009

Christian Resistance: "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Romans Chapter 13 Revisited



Jonathan Mayhew (October 8, 1720 – July 9, 1766) was a noted American clergyman and minister at Old West Church, Boston, Massachusetts. He is credited with coining the phrase "no taxation without representation." . . . In politics, Mayhew bitterly opposed the Stamp Act, and urged the necessity of colonial union (or communion) to secure colonial liberties. He was famous, in part, for his 1750 and 1754 Election Sermons espousing American rights—the cause of Liberty and the right and duty to resist tyranny; other famous sermons included "The Snare Broken," 1766. His sermons and writings were a powerful influence in the development of the movement for "Liberty and Independence." The extent of his political feeling can be seen in his Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission, a sermon delivered on the 100th anniversary of the execution of Charles I (January 30, 1649/50). Taking vigorous issue with recent efforts to portray Charles as a martyred monarch, Mayhew began with observations on the antiquity of English liberties. The English constitution, he asserted, “is originally and essentially free.” Roman sources, such as the reliable Tacitus, made it clear that “the ancient Britons … were extremely jealous of their liberties.” England’s monarchs originally held their throne “solely by grant of parliament,” so the ancient English kings ruled “by the voluntary consent of the people.” After forty pages of such historical discourse, Mayhew reached his major point: the essential rightness of the execution of an English king when he too greatly infringed upon British liberties. The vigor of Mayhew’s sermon established his reputation. It was published not only in Boston, but also in London in 1752 and again in 1767. In Boston, John Adams remembered long afterward, Mayhew’s sermon “was read by everybody.” Some would say later that this sermon was the first volley of the American Revolution, setting forth the intellectual and scriptural justification for rebellion against the Crown. In 1765, with the provocation of the Stamp Act fresh, Mayhew delivered another rousing sermon on the virtues of liberty and the iniquity of tyranny. The essence of slavery, he announced, consists in subjection to others—“whether many, few, or but one, it matters not.” The day after his sermon, a Boston mob attacked Chief Justice Thomas Hutchinson’s house, and many thought Mayhew was responsible. -- Wikipedia.



Romans 13 (King James Version)


1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.


For many Christians throughout history, the above text of Romans 13 has been used to justify inaction against the tyrannies of their day. German Lutheran pastors hid behind it in the time of the Nazis, giving sermons to their congregations that justified submission in the face of Nazi tyranny as "obedience to the Higher Power." Hitler was happy to let them continue preaching.

Other Christians, however, have resisted this interpretation. In American history, Jonathan Mayhew, the man who was the first practicioner of what King George the Third would later dub "The Black Regiment," was one Christian who correctly interpreted Romans 13 not as an excuse for inaction but rather as part of a Christian call to arms.

On 30 Juanuary 1750, Mayhew delivered a sermon "Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers with Some Reflections on the Resistance Made to King Charles I." Its critique of the proper Christian response to tyranny would lay the philosophocal groundwork for the American Revolution. As Peter Kershaw writes:

John Adams called Rev. Mayhew "the morning gun of the Revolution." Adams also dubbed him a "transcendent genius." Robert Treat Paine called Dr. Mayhew, "The Father of Civil and Religious Liberty in Massachusetts and America." No one today should underestimate the significant contribution that the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew made toward the cause of liberty and American independence. Mayhew preached several sermons on Romans 13. The sermon . . . was considered so important that it was printed and widely distributed throughout the American Colonies. Mayhew was also famous for his election sermons (in Mayhew's day it was common for preachers to preach a sermon to the governor and the legislators immediately following an election). The message of Mayhew's sermon challenging passive obedience and non-resistance to all rulers was radical and unmistakable -- the king must repent of his tyrannies or face the consequences of his subjects forcibly throwing off the chains of tyranny. Mayhew's sermon was even sent to the king and the British parliament as a "remonstrance." Mayhew's habit of serving remonstrances on tyrants became a common practice with many other patriot preachers, as well. King George branded these "nonconformist" clergymen as the "Black Regiment" (mocking them for the black robes they wore). Mayhew's sermon resulted in the motto for the American Revolution: "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."


Now, again in the 21st Century, we are faced with tyranny rising. And once again timid Christians are seeking cover behind Romans 13. In the essay below, Chuck Baldwin takes up Mayhew's standard.

Like Jonathan Mayhew and Chuck Baldwin, I too have discovered many Christians hiding behind Romans 13 in an effort to avoid their civic duty. It is almost as commonplace as "Christ-is-coming-again-tomorrow-morning-at-10:38-so-don't-bother-me-while-I-get-my soul-in-order" excuse. Almost.

My thanks to Armdcav, Jackie J. and others who brought this to my attention, so I can bring it to yours.

Mike
III



Romans Chapter 13 Revisited
by Chuck Baldwin
July 15, 2009


It seems that every time someone such as myself attempts to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to resist an unconstitutional or otherwise reprehensible government policy, we hear the retort, "What about Romans Chapter 13? We Christians must submit to government. Any government. Read your Bible, and leave me alone." Or words to that effect.

No doubt, some who use this argument are sincere. They are only repeating what they have heard their pastor and other religious leaders say. On the other hand, let's be honest enough to admit that some who use this argument are just plain lazy, apathetic, and indifferent. And Romans 13 is their escape from responsibility. I suspect this is the much larger group, by the way.

Nevertheless, for the benefit of those who are sincere (but obviously misinformed), let's briefly examine Romans Chapter 13. I quote Romans Chapter 13, verses 1 through 7, from the Authorized King James text:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."

Do our Christian friends who use these verses to teach that we should not oppose America's political leaders really believe that civil magistrates have unlimited authority to do anything they want without opposition? I doubt whether they truly believe that.

For example, what if our President decided to resurrect the old monarchal custom of Jus Primae Noctis (Law of First Night)? That was the old medieval custom when the king claimed the right to sleep with a subject's bride on the first night of their marriage. Would our sincere Christian brethren sheepishly say, "Romans Chapter 13 says we must submit to the government"? I think not. And would any of us respect any man who would submit to such a law?

So, there are limits to authority. A father has authority in his home, but does this give him power to abuse his wife and children? Of course not. An employer has authority on the job, but does this give him power to control the private lives of his employees? No. A pastor has overseer authority in the church, but does this give him power to tell employers in his church how to run their businesses? Of course not. All human authority is limited in nature. No man has unlimited authority over the lives of other men. (Lordship and Sovereignty is the exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.)

By the same token, a civil magistrate has authority in civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined. Observe that Romans Chapter 13 clearly limits the authority of civil government by strictly defining its purpose: "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil . . . For he is the minister of God to thee for good . . . for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

Notice that civil government must not be a "terror to good works." It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it that authority. And any government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection. This is a basic principle of Natural Law (and all of America's legal documents--including the U.S. Constitution--are founded upon the God-ordained principles of Natural Law).

The apostle clearly states that civil government is a "minister of God to thee for good." It is a not a minister of God for evil. Civil magistrates have a divine duty to "execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." They have no authority to execute wrath upon him that doeth good. None. Zilch. Zero. And anyone who says they do is lying. So, even in the midst of telling Christians to submit to civil authority, Romans Chapter 13 limits the power and reach of civil authority.

Did Moses violate God's principle of submission to authority when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster in defense of his fellow Hebrew? Did Elijah violate God's principle of submission to authority when he openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel? Did David violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to surrender to Saul's troops? Did Daniel violate God's principle of submission to authority when he disobeyed the king's command to not pray audibly to God? Did the three Hebrew children violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to bow to the image of the state? Did John the Baptist violate God's principle of submission to authority when he publicly scolded King Herod for his infidelity? Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem? Did Paul violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail.

Remember that every apostle of Christ (except John) was killed by hostile civil authorities opposed to their endeavors. Christians throughout church history were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes for refusing to submit to their various laws and prohibitions. Did all of these Christian martyrs violate God's principle of submission to authority?

So, even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the Bible (including the writer of Romans Chapter 13) understood that human authority--even civil authority--is limited.

Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just "because they said so." It is also a matter of conscience. This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government's laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Therefore, there are times when civil authority may need to be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate civil disobedience. Of course, how and when we decide to resist civil authority is an entirely separate issue. And I will reserve that discussion for another time.

Beyond that, we in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country. America's "supreme Law" does not rest with any man or any group of men. America's "supreme Law" does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court. In America, the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land." Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of the United States. Do readers understand the significance of this distinction? I hope so.

This means that, in America, the "higher powers" are not the men who occupy elected office; they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to Americans:

"Let every soul be subject unto the [U.S. Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] but of God: the [Constitution] that be [is] ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the [Constitution], resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For [the Constitution is] not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the [Constitution]? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For [the Constitution] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for [the Constitution] beareth not the sword in vain: for [the Constitution] is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for [the Constitution is] God's minister, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."

Dear Christian friend, the above is exactly the proper understanding of our responsibility to civil authority in these United States, according to the teaching of Romans Chapter 13.

Furthermore, Christians, above all people, should desire that their elected representatives submit to the Constitution, because it is constitutional government that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any other governing document ever devised by man. As I have noted before in this column, Biblical principles and Natural Law form the foundation of all three of America's founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

(See: http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/c2005/cbarchive_20050630.html )

As a result, Christians in America (for the most part) have not had to face the painful decision to "obey God rather than men" and defy their civil authorities.

The problem in America today is that we have allowed our political leaders to violate their oaths of office and to ignore--and blatantly disobey--the "supreme Law of the Land," the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, if we truly believe Romans Chapter 13, we will insist and demand that our civil magistrates submit to the U.S. Constitution.

Now, how many of us Christians are going to truly obey Romans Chapter 13?

22 comments:

Happy D said...

That explained to me why our "living document" "friends" so hate the constitution and need to subvert it better than any thought I have ever had or heard.

James McKenzie said...

All I can say is, what about the following verse (being that it is the word of Jesus himself versus just an Apostle)

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (“Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ”) (Matthew 22:21)


I have included the Greek so that it is not mistaken.
While personally I fully support a revolution if necessary I felt it important to remind people that if you want to be like Islam and misuse your bible than at least be aware of everything else included.

Odds are this comment will never make it on- which will just show the proof- at least to me.

Larry said...

Excellent post, Mike. I would only add that Obedience to God is our duty. We have an affirmative duty to defend our families, our children and our country from all evil, including an evil & tyrannical government bent on stealing their wealth, their liberty and their lives. Failure to do this duty is sin - sin that will have consequences for many many generations to come.

What stops many people from doing their duty is self-love. They just don't want to leave their comfort zones and take any risks for the love of their children, family or country. They love nothing more than their own comfort.

Our Christian duty is self-sacrifice. We deny our own personal comfort, i.e. selling our coat and buying a sword (Luke 22:36), and obey the Lord. We have to decide (if not already), who we love more, ourselves or our Lord. Who will you obey?

Anonymous said...

To James McKenzie: You could have also included the context of that particular verse of Scripture because it applies to paying a tax versus resisting tyranny.

We can quote the Bible all day. How about this one, also from Jesus: "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."

Relationship to your original post?

The purposeful murder of 50,000,000 human beings under the pretext of "choice" is a tool of tyranny, which must be resisted to be obedient to God. It is not 'a thing of Ceasar' to take innocent life.

And, as Pastor Baldwin rightfully points out, Romans 13 only applies to government so long as it does not violate God's word or the true higher power, such as the Supreme Law of the Land, which was set up to govern the actions of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

So, bottom line: If we are obedient to God, we must resist those humans who set themselves above Scriptural principles and on par with the Almighty.

Anonymous said...

James, the point is that you are to render to Caesar only those things which ARE Caesar's. He has no claim upon things he is not entitled to. And remember, that OUR money has George Washington on it, not Barack Obama.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.


-Daniel Davis

Anonymous said...

"Render unto Caesar" was an answer to a trick question posed by Obama's spirito-political ancestors and completely left open the proper discussion of "what is Caesar's?"

Anonymous said...

James, that you make a distinction between what Jesus said and what Paul said suggests to me that you aren't a Christian. What is your purpose in Bible thumping Christians? Before you castigate believers, you would do well to learn more than a few convenient proof texts. (You're not a Jon Rowe sock puppet are you?)

ParaPacem said...

Besides, if we were supposed to be impressed with the recorded words of Our Lord, they would have been in Aramaic.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Oh and by the way... if 10% is good enough for God, the damn gubmint should have no claim for more than that!

Anonymous said...

All of this discussion fails to mention the effect on the cat food supply of a "rendered Caesar".

Aren't there over 32 "Czars", with their various fiefdoms, in the US Federal system? That's a lot of cat food.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we just need to render unto Casar a good, old fashioned, ass whoopin'.

Luke said...

To the other rebuttals of James McKenzie's citation of "render-unto-Caesar", I would add only the following, helpfully pointed out by my pastor Chuck Baldwin in his Patriot Day (Apr 19) sermon (and touched upon in the cited column:

In the United States of America, we are a REPUBLIC, and we do NOT have an emperor. We are NOT under the rule of any earthly king.

OUR "caesar", if we can be said to have one, is the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

For that sermon, cut and past the following into your web browser:

mms://205.178.152.121/932379/Render-Unto-128K.mp3

Or go to:

http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/sermonvideo.php

Also, do not miss Lt Col Cunningham's Independence Day address:

http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/GC-Warfare.html

Sans Authoritas said...

James McKenzie,

Precisely what belongs to Caesar? Did Jesus say? As a particularly insightful author (whose exact quotation I cannot now find) Jesus worded his question very carefully: "Whose are the image and inscription?" The image and likeness belong to Caesar. Take away the silver, and what are you left with? Nothing. Thin air. Sailboat fuel. Read carefully: Jesus did not say that the coin belonged to Caesar.

In Haggai 2:8, the Lord says "The gold is mine, and the silver is mine."

Gold belongs to God and his creatures. Not to the State.

Jesus never said that anything belonged to Caesar (the State.)

As for "the powers that be," there is a translation issue here. In the original Greek text, "the powers that be" was in the subjunctive. In other words, it read "whatever powers might be." An allusion that the powers that be need not be.

Next: that "whatever powers might be are ordained of God" may be true. But the plague of locusts was also ordained by God. A wildfire is ordained by God. The fact that God ordained (allowed) these things does not mean that we may not resist the evil that these forces inflict.

Lastly, power is not the same as authority. Pilate said to Jesus, "Do you not know that I have the authority [some translations correctly say 'power'] to punish you, or to set you free?" Pilate had no authority to punish Jesus. Jesus was an innocent man. If Pilate had any authority to punish an innocent man, it would have to be done with God's approval. As it is, Pilate only had the power to kill Jesus. Power is not authority! A man may have the power to rape a woman. He has no authority to do so.

Authority is the moral power to command. This authority is either given directly by God, or given by individuals to individuals. The mere fact that an individual has authority does not necessarily imply that he may use violence to enforce his command.

Parapacem, our Lord's words were spoken in Aramaic, but primarily recorded in Greek, not Aramaic.

Luke said...

Oops, I meant LCDR Cunningham.

Gary said...

Apparantly, I need to read more of Chuck...

Deo-vindice.org
deo-vindice-blog.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Mike this may be your Best

James McKinzie said...

So basically you are all using your religion, just like the Islamics, to foment revolution...why not revolt for the right reasons...why not revolt for the very same reasons our founding fathers did.

The RIGHT to remain FREE of someone elses values, the RIGHT to remain free of someone elses tyranny, and above all RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!

Seriously, isn't it time people remember what the founding fathers were really all about?

ExPreacherMan said...

Excellent post as are most comments..

The "render to Caesar..." dilemma is a prop for pacifists and is rarely understood by many Conservative preachers. Baldwin's essay is brilliant.

And the comment, "Power is not the same as authority." is simple yet outstanding. Would that everyone could understand that simple truth.

Thanks for posting this.

In Jesus Christ eternally,

ExP(Jack)

Anonymous said...

Here's a self-consistent approach for a libertarian legal system to take: No human being has a legal duty to support another human being. Note I said legal duty, and not moral duty. It doesn't matter if the human wanting support is in the womb, out of the womb, newborn, age 4 and dependent, age 16 and potentially self-supporting, age 65 and wants to retire, or age 80 and wants $250,000 in end-of-life care. No legal duty.

"would you call it slavery if we punished a woman who freed herself by killing her four year old?"

The legally-acceptable way for a parent to get free of her four year old child is to abandon that child. Just walk away. After which, no other person has a legal duty to start supporting that child, but some might choose to. Of course, this result is abhorrent. I never claimed otherwise. All the hard cases in these scenarios are abhorrent. Hard cases make bad law, and so the correct legal approach to an unclear situation is to refrain from drawing a legal conclusion. The judge does not have to cut the baby in half; he can declare "I will not decide this issue".

"I suppose your slant on this is why I am not a big L libertarian. Most of them, if not all, appear to me to be doing nothing more than trying to establish a system under which they have no responsibility to anything or anyone except their immediate whims."

You're darn right I am. Any other arrangement enslaves them to serve the whims of other people.

"If it's not voluntary -- rape, etc. -- then a new life has not been brought into being."

If presented you with ten children, could you tell which five of them were the product of rapes? I thought not. A fertilization after rape creates new life just the same way voluntary sex does.

"If someone goes for an abortion, she should be holding in her hands the police report she filed against the rapist. No police report -- no abortion."

Why the different treatment? The fetus is not guilty. Anyone backing a rape exception to abortion proves that what they care about is punishing sex-for-pleasure, not saving unborn human beings.

Ymarsakar said...


The RIGHT to remain FREE of someone elses values, the RIGHT to remain free of someone elses tyranny, and above all RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!


I'll believe you have got something there when you use your time and energy to oppose the Global Warming cult and its impact upon our politics.

Not to mention John Holdren's eugenicist religious beliefs substituting for our government policy on 'science'.

Sans Authoritas said...

James McKinzie,

I don't want to foment anything but thought. And certainly not unjust violence. I just want to be left alone. And I want to dissuade people from the idea that the State was an institution created by God. God has created very few institutions. The family was the first. The voluntarily-funded judges were instituted by God. Then, I believe God instituted the Church. God doesn't institute anything that relies upon the initiation of violence for its very existence.

Whatever results from fomenting these thoughts will hopefully be good.

The State shouldn't merely be overthrown. It should be undermined, so it collapses from lack of support.

Bander1643 said...

The sermons of the Black Robed Regiment flowed out of deep biblical thought that came as a result of the Killing Times in Scotland from 1662-1689. An excellent in-depth treatment of the biblical basis for Defensive Arms and Resistance to Tyrants is here:

http://www.truecovenanter.com/shields/shields_hll_head5.html