Christians and the State Part I,
by Rev. Steve Wilkins
Jonathan Barlow wrote:
> Pastor Wilkins,
> Were the Christians at Colosse, under Nero, free to secede? I ask,
> not rhetorically, but out of a genuine interest to see when this is
> possible. Also, what right did the 13 colonies have to secede from
To ask about the Christians under a totalitarian/pagan government that openly declared itself divine and Christians living under the "Christian" government of a professing "Christian" king who has agreed to a "constitution" is to compare two incomparable things.
If we had been living under a Roman totalitarian government which declared itself absolute and gave no lawful avenues for resistance, we would have done just as the Christians of the Roman empire did (live faithfully, preach the Word, instruct the Church on the proper view of civil government and our proper response to it). And, by the way, the Roman government did not view Christians as "submissive" citizens their teachings and profession were viewed as treasonous and nearly every Christian who was martyred under the Empire's persecution was martyred under the charge of treason against the Empire (because they refused to recognize the divinity of Caesar).
If you think Nero was pleased to read Romans 13, think again. Romans 13 is a declaration of the proper role of the civil magistrate (i.e. that he is a "minister" of God) this was viewed by Nero as high treason. He was not comforted by Paul's instruction (if he ever read it). Paul is in fact bringing a scathing indictment against the Roman emperor and the divine State (i.e. he contradicts every claim made by the Roman state). Jesus did the same when He said, "Render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar's, BUT render to God the things that are God's." This was a treasonous statement given the divine claims of the Roman emperor who believed nothing belonged to any God apart from himself.
In other words, Christians did not promote revolution (as did the apostate Jews) against Rome, they did something even more devastating: they preached the Word of God, loved their neighbors, and called men to repent of sin and trust in the only name given among men whereby they must be saved (which btw, was a direct quote from a claim of one of the early Roman emperors another treasonous act!)
Their preaching re-established not only spiritual but political freedom in the world. The State is not God, the Ruler is not God walking upon earth. The ruler must be limited in His authority (he under the "constitution" of God's Word and strictly limited in his power). The ruler as the covenant head of the State (and like the covenant heads in the home and in the Church) has real authority but only "in the Lord" i.e. his authority is limited and the obligation to obey is limited to the rightful exercise of that authority. Any covenant head who rebels against his God ordained position, may be lawfully opposed (always and only, however, in lawful ways i.e. no sinning against him which rules out lawless revolution).
Thus, if a father rebels against his God ordained role, the wife and children may lawfully refuse submission, and, depending upon the severity of his rebellion, may seek sanctions against him, even to the point of seceding from his authority (i.e. divorce). If an elder rebels against his God ordained role, the members of the congregation may lawfully refuse submission to him and, depending upon the severity of his rebellion, may seek sanctions against him to have him removed from office. And, if he is unlawfully allowed to remain in office, the members may then lawfully secede from his rule by peaceably leaving the congregation. As it is in the home and in the Church, so it is in the State.
I would suggest that this is precisely what happened in 1776. Read the Declaration of Independence, and the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms of 1775 and note the delineation of the abuses and usurpations as well as the efforts on the part of the colonists to seek reconciliation with the King. They appealed to him and to Parliament over and over again, efforts were made to maintain the rights he had granted them in their colonial charters. He refused to abide by his own charters ("constitutions") and thus, broke the "covenants" he had made with the colonies. He then tried to enforce his unlawful acts upon the colonies by force through military invasion. The colonies at that point defended themselves and took up arms. They contended that the King was the revolutionary and indeed he was.
> Maybe not. Couldn't a person be consistent who said that political
> secession is never lawful, but other kinds of secession are?
Only if one refused to acknowledge the State as a God ordained covenant institution.
> Why shouldn't the Christian's duty be to submit to all kinds of tyranny?
I could ask, "Why shouldn't the Christian's duty be to submit to the tyranny of murderers?" After all, we are commanded not to resist evil. The sixth commandment gives the Christian (and other men) the right to defend themselves against unlawful attacks (which is what tyranny is in the political realm).
> It seems like if the state makes the laws, and the state changes
> the laws, then nothing can be called "unlawful" if the state does it.
If the state is divine, you are correct.
> Now, in comparison with God's law, sure. But what do we compare
> U.S. law to except for U.S. law in deciding whether or not to secede?
We compare it to the mutually agreed upon Constitution. Biblically contracts must be kept. A contract broken by one party frees the other party from his obligations. Further, the United States was a VOLUNTARY union. Thus, whenever any state viewed the union as something disadvantageous to them, they were free to peaceably withdraw from the union (as the states of Virginia and New York expressly stated in their ratification action).
> Do we compare enforcement to the written law? If so, doesn't the
> judicial branch's sovereignty in interpreting the law (they've
> abandoned strict constructionism for the most part, except Scalia,
> bless his heart) militate against our ability to compare law to
The constitution does not give the Supreme Court "sovereignty" in interpretation. In fact, the States as equal parties to the union, also have the right to interpret the Constitution. To grant sole authority of interpretation of the Constitution to the Supreme Court is to make the Court King and to destroy the whole concept of separation of powers (which was an effort to protect us from total depravity).
> In a nation of men and not law, when can a man ever
> say that a covenant has been broken?
If we are truly a nation of men, then no covenants are sacred. This is precisely the problem we are facing.
Rev. Steve Wilkins
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