Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Civil Disobedience

In our efforts to influence the world around us, Christians often engage in Civil disobedience. Looking though scripture, I see times when Christians complied with injustice, and times when they rebelled against injustice. How do we decide which course of action is appropriate?

In Acts 12:1-19, Peter escaped from prison, sparing his own life, but costing the lives of the guards who failed to keep him. An Angel of the Lord came and directed him, so it is pretty clear that this was in line with God's plan.

In Acts 16:16-38, however, Paul and Silas are freed from prison by an earthquake, but the remain, sparing the life of the guard. Even after the guards asked him to leave, Paul refused to comply until the magistrates who wronged him would come and escort them out in person. When the magistrates asked them to leave the city, they complied.
Romans 13:1-7
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule. Is there a scriptural basis to determine when we should submit to an evil ruler, and when we should resist?


At 11:22 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

I think the answer is in the Romans text. As long as the governing institutions are judging right from wrong then they are to be followed. However, when the governing authorities divert from truth (that which is right) they give the option for the ones under such authority to revolt.

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Jeff Smith said...

The challenge in this passage is that the Roman governing authorities were diverting from the truth in many ways when God penned this through Paul. In a fallen world, the goodness and truthfulness of civil government is only ever a matter of degree. What threshold(s) must be crossed to know when one should revolt?

I'm not sure of the answer at this time, but we do know from Scripture that we must always obey God rather than man. This is something distinct from revolt, however. Christians are called to suffer for doing good, as Peter tells us.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Jason Barr aka "Prophetic Heretic" said...

In addition to my article on Romans 13, I specifically made a post about passages from Paul's letters where he seems to be at least setting up a theological framework that allows civil disobedience and one where he seems to outright encourage it. I attempted to send you a trackback for my Romans 13 post, but I'm not sure if blogger allows trackbacks and if it does they seem to be moderated, so I can't see at the immediate present if they are allowed. So I hope you will check out my writing and maybe we can dialogue in the future.


At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Joann said...

The government doesn't speak the truth when it supports a woman's right to have an abortion and therefore uses some of our tax dollars to support Planned Parenthood and other baby-killing clinics. I think we Christians have the right to work towards outlawing all abortion methods and surgical procedures without killing doctors or blocking and/or bombing abortion clinics. Don't you agree?


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