How Do We Uphold Scripture and Yet Submit to Government in All Things?
(Written March 30, 2009, appears pg. 93 in the book, “The Cross & the Constitution,” Tate, 2011)
Today’s dilemma for people of conscience
If we face the truth squarely, asking what has allowed so much evil to overwhelm our country, surely we must admit the silence of good people has contributed enormously.
Our pastor — God bless him — is a man of faith and honor, someone to respect and uphold in prayer. Sunday, his sermon raised compelling questions about faith, submission to authority and obedience to the counsel of Scripture.
Part of his sermon referenced Romans 13:1
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
The passage goes on to explain that anyone who rebels against the government is rebelling against what God has established, bringing judgment upon themselves. Obedience to government authority is therefore a matter of conscience.
Our pastor pointed out that Paul wrote these words while imprisoned for two years, suffering serious mistreatment at the hands of the government of the time. He pointed out that Believers must wrestle with these things, allowing the weight of Scripture to inform our thinking and our behavior. He also said that for him, it was a straightforward matter: obey the government, pay your taxes and support your President, your reasonable service.
I’m wrestling. I find myself suffering severe cognitive dissonance: contradictory thoughts fighting for prominence in my mind and my soul.
I hear the Lord’s voice telling me all Scripture is God-breathed, render to Caesar, store up treasure in heaven.
I also hear the news: the President is using tax dollars to fund abortion overseas; he promotes Planned Parenthood; he is working to destroy all limits on abortion passed by state legislatures; he promotes homosexuality; he is considering a proposal to force doctors to perform abortions even if they object as a matter of conscience; he supports partial birth abortion and has supported the practice of allowing babies to die if they survive an abortion; his appointee to the number two position in the Justice Department has a long track record of defending child pornography; and, AIG and CITI bailout money (our tax dollars) is being channeled to Shariah compliant organizations which fund terrorism.
How does one uphold Scripture and, at the same time, submit to such a government, allowing your tax money to be spent in such ways?
One might say one’s civic and spiritual duty is to pay taxes and let God judge, for He will repay, and He will judge.
Another will say “No! I will not pay taxes, I will not fund the murder of innocent babies, I will not participate in atrocities and grievous sin being practiced by my government!”
Further along in Romans 13 we are admonished to pay taxes, followed immediately by passages reminding us about the commandments, including “do not murder.”
This is a terrible dilemma. For those of us who consider abortion murder, paying taxes to this government amounts to subsidizing murder, it amounts to participating in murder. It is a grave matter of conscience.
What will American pastors do if the government makes it a hate crime to preach against the sin of homosexuality? Will they submit to the government or to God?
The American people have made it clear on many occasions: we do not want tax money funding abortion, we believe doctors should be allowed to follow the dictates of conscience, we believe it is wrong to discriminate against homosexuals just as we believe gay marriage is wrong, we do not support partial birth abortion, and we strongly object to government bailouts, especially when that money finds its way into the hands of terrorists.
Does this President respect our wishes and like a good public servant respond to the wishes of the people? No! He dictates and manipulates and decrees by executive order we comply with his agenda, his policies, and his spending priorities, even if they violate the deepest points of conviction and conscience. Like King George, he imposes his will indiscriminately: a tyrant by any definition.
Is this then a point of no return?
Are there more compelling Scriptural requirements of a Believer at such time as government becomes overwhelmingly evil?
Certainly, Corrie ten Boom was not a scriptural ‘rebel’ for hiding Jews from the Nazis.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a ‘rebel’ for exercising his right to redress grievances.
Abolitionists who helped slaves to freedom, and Christians who fought child labor, were they ‘rebels’ for addressing the great evils of their day?
Was Henry David Thoreau a ‘rebel’ for refusing to pay taxes to protest the Mexican-American War and slavery?
Were the Founding Fathers ‘rebels’ in a scriptural sense for Declaring Independence and throwing off the tyranny of Great Britain?
Eight years ago Baptist Pastor Greg Dixon wrote a column titled “Rethinking Romans 13.” It is well worth reading. (*Pastor Dixon was arrested and his church was seized by the government because he refused to comply with government taxation policies involving the status of church workers, see Resources below for detail.)
Here are some poignant excerpts:
In recent years, Christians have interpreted Romans 13 as a command for unlimited submission to government by God. Many proponents of this belief have sat passively by, in the soft pews of their place of worship, while evil has triumphed in most areas of family and church life. In our pacifistic smugness, many have allowed government to become god without even knowing.
The opponents of unlimited submission to government are deemed as rebellious, anarchist and disobedient. However, there is no practical, historical or biblical consistency in the shallow agreements of these simpletons.
In July of 1774, our forefathers met in Fairfax County, Va., and considered ways of forcing Great Britain to redress American grievances. George Washington and George Mason were the instrumental agents in drafting what has come to be known as the “Fairfax Resolves.”[Resolve #6] “Resolved that Taxation and Representation are in their nature inseparable; that the right of withholding, or of giving and granting their own money is the only effectual security to a free people, against the encroachments of Despotism and Tyranny; and that whenever they yield to one they fall prey to the other.”
In simple terms, the Resolves offered George III two obvious choices. One was to fulfill his covenant obligations and be the king and ruler to the American Colonies that he had agreed to be or, second, to prepare for war. George III was asked to reflect upon the fact, that if he did not keep his end of the covenant, there could “be but one appeal.”
Last –and most important — it is not biblical. Daniel disobeyed Darius and went to the lions’ den. The three Hebrew children broke the law for not bowing. The parents hid baby Moses from Pharaoh. Rahab lied to protect the Hebrew spies. The Apostles went to prison for preaching Christ in the authority of Heaven. Paul and his followers in Acts 17 did contrary to all the decrees of Caesar in order to make Jesus the King. Even Jesus lived in direct opposition of the political religious leaders of his day and went to the cross for us.
. . . we have a practical, historical and biblical mandate to fervently disobey any unconstitutional laws and all government officials who cease to be good ministers of Jesus Christ. God almighty is the only power that deserves unlimited obedience.
Most assuredly, no one is suggesting armed insurrection, or the withholding of taxes for casual reasons, to simply rob the government, the motivation being rooted in truly selfish and rebellious impulse.
However, people of conscience, Christian or no, must allow the weight of the conscience to work and inform both belief and behavior.
If it is true this government has now become a glaring agent of immorality, acting contrary to the moral sense of the community, and indeed contrary to the clear laws of God, then all people of conscience must seriously consider which is the greater sin: giving money to such a government, or refusing to do so, in full knowledge of the consequences.
I for one see the Master in the temple with a whip, and choose to follow.
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