Sunday, August 03, 2014

You say you want a revolution....

Each July 4th I repost my essay Happy Violation of Romans 13 Day! The point of my essay is that in spite of the rhetoric about the "Christian founding" of America, the very revolution itself was an ungodly act of rebellion against the lawful authority of England and by proxy an act of rebellion against God. I have been encouraged by a lot of the comments I get back on this post, some in agreement and others not. I have also seen an increase in the number of others who are making similar points (See Chuck McKnight's post What Did Jesus Think of the Revolution?). As should be expected this has led to some push-back as it contradicts one of the sacred tenets of the American pseudo-Christian cultural religion, namely that America from her very founding was uniquely blessed by God. The latest that came across my desk was linked by a good friend, an essay written by Rod Martin for WORLD magazine Was the American Revolution Sinful? As one would expect from an essay in WORLD the answer of course is no. I read through the essay and posted some thoughts in response to my friend, below are my comments to him:


You will be shocked to find that I found his argument unpersuasive. His argument is based on three points, two brief points that misapply or fail to apply at all the Scriptures and a third lengthy post that deals mostly with irrelevant minutiae of English law.

Point 1 has nothing to do with the American revolution. Paying taxes is not an unlawful order.

Point 2 deals with national Israel under the Old Covenant and is irrelevant. America is not Israel and George Washington is not King David.

Point 3 presumes an out clause in Romans 13 that basically says that whenever we think the government is doing a bad job we should rebel violently against it. Under that logic we would have been justified and/or obligated to violently rebel against the current American system at any number of places in our history including our invasion of Iraq.

He does point out the glaring flaw in his own argument with the common tactic of recognizing the counter-argument to your own by downplaying and dismissing it:

"Your friends will at this point say something about Rome, and note that Paul was speaking to people under a far worse regime when under the Spirit’s inspiration he wrote Romans 13. They will be right, so far as that goes. But these are apples and oranges. Again, I will leave a proper discussion of Roman citizenship, and of Roman rule in Israel, for another day, but Scripture must interpret Scripture, and Romans 13 is only applicable to lawful commands no matter what position you take (see item 1 above)."

Which is fine and dandy except that it depends on his first point which has nothing to do with the American revolution. The unlawful orders clause would only apply when rendering something to Caesar that rightly belongs to God, i.e. aborting a child or worshipping a false god. Conversely Jesus disarmed the question about paying taxes to a tyrannical reign by pointing out that the very currency being collected for taxes was Caesar's and even though it was being used for the most ungodly of purposes (including the crucifixion of Christ). As distasteful and onerous as the situation was for colonial subject of England prior to the Revolution, it pales in comparison to the situation in Rome for Christians. This is the great flaw in his argument and explains why he tries to disarm it. If ever Christians were permitted and indeed obligated (as he suggests with his statement that "To support the king was to reject right and support sin, period.") to violently oppose and overthrow unjust rulers, one might wonder why Jesus never called on His followers to revolt against the Roman rule, a rule instituted on the people of that region by conquest rather than a rule of people who accepted that they were English subjects of the King. If ever there was a time for Christians to be called on to rebel against an unjust ruler, it was in the first century against Rome. Yet they were not.

His essay is eloquent and chock full of fun 18th century legal trivia but it relies on obsolete and inapplicable Old Covenant examples, unspoken clauses in Romans 13 and an utter suspension of historical context in spite of his attempts to the contrary. The American revolution might be considered a good and proper event from a secular standpoint and one can easily argue that America has been a greater force for good than it would have been had it stayed a British colony (although, for example, slavery might have been outlawed in America sooner ,without a bloody civil war and the subsequent racial tension that still plagues us had we remained English subjects). However a violent uprising against ruler far more lawful than Caesar cannot be considered to be a sinless act nor one pleasing to God as it directly violates Scripture in multiple places.

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