Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Civil Disobedience and the Christian

When Christians ponder civil disobedience, they must reckon with Romans 13--a text that, as Doug Wilson argues, may easily be misunderstood.

The relevant text is:

"1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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 he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 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."

Wilson has a great post concerning this, though far too brief, as I would like to find a good in-depth study of the meaning and interpretation of Romans 13.

Wilson writes, "..."obey the existing authorities," in our setting, does not mean submission to arbitrary and capricious government. The president, the Congress, and the judiciary are all part of our existing authority, true. But so are our state and local governments, and so are our constitutions. So the question is this -- does our existing authority authorize such direct action by the people? Is such behavior constitutional?"

He goes on to list some examples which I found very helpful. Note that Wilson in no way advocates violence, but he does advocate disobedience--a careful distinction that must be made.

Read the whole thing.

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