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Obey? Even When They are Wrong?
Okay, we're back in Romans 13 looking at the question of obedience to authority. This is not always easy. One of the things that always comes up when we start talking about this topic is how does this apply to the American War for Independence, especially in relation to government which has come up at least the forty-five years I've been conscientiously looking at this question. This takes me back to pretty much times when I was in high school. We got a question the last time that came in towards the end of class from Paul Yost. I know who Paul is. He's a professor with Tyndale Seminary and I think that's up in the Pittsburgh area.
He asked a question which I think is important. Let me read this to you. He says, "Sometimes a situation appears to be the same kind of issue that faced the founding fathers of this country. One could very well wonder at which point we pick up arms." That's a question many people have thought about and I know I've been asked that question. Many at the time of the War for Independence, had such concerns and were addressing it Biblically. "It can be said that we went to war with a foreign government at that time." I don't think we can put it that way but we did go to war with a government and were seeking independence from the authority of Britain over us. So what about the justification to take up arms?
I'm not an expert on all the things that went on with the American War for Independence. I've read a lot on it on both sides. Paul goes on to comment, "Apparently a pastor in Oklahoma believes that since we were founded as a Christian nation that therefore our Constitution makes us different than Rome." Yes, but it depends on what he means by a Christian nation and our Constitution does make us different from Rome but authority is authority and it's not any different whether it's the authority of Nero, the authority of George Washington or the authority of "fill-in-the blank", whichever president you despise the most. Okay, it doesn't matter because the Scripture says that the authorities are established by God. Whether that's involving His directive will or whether that's involving His permissive will, He is still the One who establishes those authorities.
We'll look at examples historically as we go through this study that God raised up authorities such as the Chaldeans. Habakkuk just gets his knickers all in a knot when he found out that God has raised up such an unrighteous authority to bring discipline upon Israel. Even though he was praying for God to bring discipline on Israel and their disobedience, he just couldn't understand how God had raised up such an unrighteous authority as the Chaldeans. That's within the sovereign prerogative of God. God has His purposes and we have to factor all these things in.
When we look at passages like Romans 13 and we'll look at some others, no passage in Scripture says everything there is to say about the particular topic or the particular issue. So we have to put together these different passages and understand what they are saying. Paul Yost went on to write, "I'm just wondering what your apologetics are regarding someone who believes we were founded as a Christian nation so therefore we are justified to go to war with anyone who they believe threatens that status." Although Dr. John Hanna, head of Historical Theology Department at Dallas Seminary under whom I did my doctoral work, said that we were founded as a synergy between seculars and Christians. Yes, that was Hanna's position and that's one of the positions that's out there.
You can read one segment of the historical scholarly view and they look at what the situation in the colonies was in the mid-eighteenth century. They say they were primarily influenced by secular philosophy. Then you look at some other people who countered that. One is David Barton who has become a favorite of a lot of people on the right and the Tea Party. David Barton disagrees with Hanna and says the founding fathers were coming at it from a Christian perspective. He will cite a number of people such as Charles Chauncey and Jonathan Mayhew. You ought to look their names up in Wikipedia sometimes. They're not orthodox Christian theologians. They're some of the early American Unitarian pastors in New England. They're not orthodox. They're Christian only in a broad sense of the term. Barton has been challenged many times on how he uses the term Christian.
Really we're founded on a Judeo-Christian heritage. The precise way to say this is that we're a country founded on Judeo-Christian values which is how I've always stated this. The primary worldview that governed the colonies in the 18th century was a Judeo-Christian theistic worldview. Having said that, that's a pretty broad concept. Just as today you have a lot of Christians who hold to a lot of Judeo-Christian worldview, they've also been influenced by other ideas in the culture. I can name you some theologians I know who are generally conservative but the way they use history shows they've been influenced by post-modern ideas. I can point out some Greek professors in the way they use language in their linguistic theory they've picked up here and there that shows elements of how they've been influenced by post-modern views of language and language theory. That affects how they exegete and how they interpret. So just because the founders and leaders of this country were primarily influenced by Judeo-Christian worldview there were other influences.
Now I disagree with Hanna. I came up under John when I did my Th.M. work. He's changed a lot over the years and I'm told that lately everything about him is about Jonathan Edwards. Well I did an entire doctoral program under him and he hardly ever mentioned Jonathan Edwards. So he's changed a lot of his views over the years and moved a little bit more toward what I would consider to be a mainstream evangelical position. John's done a lot of research. He's done a lot that's very valuable but the truth is closer to Barton than it is to the other side but that doesn't mean Barton is always right. As I mentioned earlier, one example is that he says that the ideas in the Declaration of Independence and a number of phrases were frequently found in the writings and the sermons of the pastors for the previous hundred years, going back into England, even in the mid-1600s. Yes, he's correct.
We have to go back and look at our chronology It's important to understand that perhaps the most formative political document to come out of Puritan Christianity in England was Samuel Rutherford's book, Lex Rex: The Law is King. Its premise is that the king, even in England, is under the law, that he cannot make the law and he is not a law unto himself. Lex Rex influenced a whole generation of philosophers and political thinkers and theologians including John Locke, who was formative in the thinking of many of the American founding fathers. John Locke is a mixed bag. I remember studying him when I did my Masters work in philosophy here at the University of St. Thomas back in the 80s. Don't ask me to pull all of that back up off the memory bank because it's buried pretty deep on the hard drive and I don't know if I can pull it up. I've read a lot since then. I've read some things that Locke said that were good. That's because he was brought up in a very strict Puritan home and in a lot of ways John Locke has a lot of right things to say. But if you look at his broad, philosophical framework he is considered one of the founding fathers of empiricism.
Beginning with the Enlightenment you have Rene Descartes who's a Jesuit mathematician who emphasizes rationalism His very famous statement was "I think; therefore I am." He used the principle that maybe everything around him was an illusion. Maybe God is just playing a big cosmic joke on me and He's making me think that all this stuff I see and everything around me is just an illusion. There's nothing real, nothing exists. I don't even exist." Then he thought, "Well, if I'm thinking then I must exist so he came to the conclusion that 'I think; therefore I am'. That's what he meant by that because since he had self-conscious thinking he must exist. He never could get out of his head. That was called Solipsism which means you're just alone. You never could get from the existence of yourself thinking logically on the principles of logic and reason alone to the existence of other things outside your head.
Now that's a heavy thought for some of you tonight. That may be a heavy thought for your whole life. That's where Descartes was. Eventually the weakness in that system of Solipsism brought out the empiricists. John Locke was one of the foremost empiricists. Now we've studied "how we know what we know" many times. We have three basic ways that human philosophy has come up with how you know truth. The first is rationalism whether you're talking about Plato in the ancient world or Descartes in the modern world which began the modern Enlightenment. Or whether you're talking about Empiricism which would be Aristotle in the ancient world and John Locke and others in the modern world.
But rationalism and empiricism always go bankrupt because no matter how clear your thinking is, you don't have revelation to give you the bits and pieces of important data that you can't get from thinking alone. You're going to run into a brick wall. The same thing happens with empiricism. There's some things you just can't get to. The greatest example is to remember that if Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden and they were the most brilliant human beings ever created, that no matter how well they thought in perfection and no matter how profound their observation skills were they never could have figured out by looking at that one tree in the middle of the Garden that if they ate from it they would die. The only way they could learn that was through revelation.
Revelation gives us the key data we need in order to interpret thinking and in order to interpret the data of sense experience. Without revelation, it's just data. We have to guess at what the unifying principles are in order to get anywhere. But as Christians with a Judeo-Christian heritage we know that is the only way we can ultimately understand absolute truth is if we start with the revelation of God. So the problem with Locke is that Locke starts with human experience in the good sense, the sense data from what we see, what we feel, what we taste, what we touch and what we smell. This is what forms the basis.
The combination of rationalism and empiricism is what we often think of as the scientific method. It's good as far as it goes but it can't get you beyond a certain point. There are a lot of things that Adam and Eve could learn, could discover, and could reason to while they were in the Garden but apart from revelation from God they just couldn't get to universal, ultimate truth and ultimate reality. So the weakness with Locke's political theory is that he came to his position that government is from the consent of the governed. That's not what we find in the Scripture.
In Romans 13:1, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by the people?" Is that what it says? No, that's not what it says. It says there's no authority except from God. Now it may be mediated through the voting booth where the people make choices but ultimately whoever they choose and whoever becomes president, whether you agree with them or not, or whether you like them or not, or whether there was massive voter fraud that was overlooked, the person that gets elected is the person that God in His permissive will has placed in authority. Now you may not like it and I may not like it but that's the way it is.
Another thing that happened with the American War for Independence is that it was preceded by at least a decade, maybe fifteen years, of intense political negotiations with England. It was a last resort and it may have been a mistake that flared and caused the shooting at Lexington and Concord. When did it occur? Anyone know the date? April 19th and 20th is the anniversary. It's a big holiday in Boston. That's the reason they picked the day for the Boston Marathon. It's close to Patriot's Day and so this is right before San Jacinto Day. Y'all can remember San Jacinto Day, can't you? So just remember that. San Jacinto Day's date is just one day off from Lexington and Concord. The reason you had the battles at Lexington and Concord, the reason the Redcoats were coming, and the reason Paul Revere warned about the Redcoats coming was that the Redcoats were seeking to arrest John Adams and John Hancock who were hiding out in Lexington at the home of the pastor of the Lexington Church. His name was Jonas Clark. When the alarm went out that the British were coming Jonas Clark put the word out to the militia men who were members of his congregation. They came out and stood in the Town Square to protect the life and the property of Adams and Hancock.
We don't know who fired the first shot. The ultimate goal of those British troops was to go and confiscate arms that were being stored at Concord. These arms were for the protection of the colonies. They still had Indian raids and other threats and problems so this was important. Some of this was in violation of accepted British law. Before the first shot was fired they were still making moves in the courts to solve the problem. And that continued. That happened in April of what year? 1775. When's the Declaration of Independence signed? 1776. So for the next fourteen or fifteen months the leaders in the colonies are still working through the legal process with England to try to resolve it.
What we find is that people get impatient. We're hearing questions today and for five or so years about when is this justified? We shouldn't even be thinking the question yet. I made the statement that we're a long way from that. I don't mean that just in a time sense. I mean that in a legal sense. There are thousands of legal and court cases that need to be adjudicated and are being adjudicated. We've got a major election coming up in the fall, mostly Congressional election. It has the potential of turning the tide. There's another major election coming in two years. The sad thing is that people who believe like most of you believe or even who are conservative evangelical Christians who are so "freaking arrogant" [my opinion' in this last election because the Republican candidate was a Mormon and some in their self-righteous haughtiness refused to even vote]. And whether you like it or not, my opinion is that if you didn't vote you voted for Barack Obama.
That's the same thing I've said to every friend of mine who voted for Ross Perot and stuck their nose up in the air and said they couldn't vote for someone who's not right. They claim they're voting their conscience. Well, they don't even understand reality. They're as divorced from reality as any flako-liberal I've ever met because you don't understand the fact that this is a two-party country and when you vote for the third party, whether it's on the left or on the right, you're basically throwing your vote away to the other major party. That's what always happens, like it or not. I don't like it and you may disagree with me and that's fine, but we have to learn to work smarter.
The conservatives are so fragmented we're just like the Jews in the Jewish Revolt in A.D. 66-70. They were so busy fighting each other that they couldn't present a united front against the Romans who were literally besieging the walls and coming over the walls to Jerusalem. The various Zealot and Right Wing parties among the Jews were shooting each other and killing each other as much as they were killing the Romans. How many Democrats talk about Democrats who are Democrats in name only? You don't hear it. Whether they agree or disagree with each other, they present a united front but we have Republicans and conservatives who are shooting each other all the time.
Now there are a whole lot of Republicans that I really don't like. And I don't think they are very conservative at all but one of the things about this nation is that the party swings the vote in Washington. The speaker of the House pulls people in line. We don't like that. That's the nasty side of politics but that's what happens and if you don't get a majority of Republicans in Congress it isn't going to matter because we're going to continue to slide in the direction we're going. The same thing applies in Texas. We've had about ten years of a great Texas administration and we have to be very careful who we vote in this time to continue that because there's a lot of people on the right, myself included, who were very impatient. We have to be careful we're not too impatient. You can be impatient for change and push things and create a calamity. We have to be very cautious about what we're going to do.
Anyway, I tried to answer that question and we'll talk about the War for Independence a little more as we go along. The second question that came in has to do with this Bundy situation going on right now. I think this is a great application. How do we take the Word of God and apply it to real world situations because these are real world situations and they're not clear? They're messy. I think Lexington and Concord weren't as clean as some people would like it to be. Real life is messy because people have mixed motives and people come from mixed backgrounds.
Now if you're not familiar with this situation it's that you have about a 65-year old Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy who apparently he and his family's ranch have had grazing rights on federal land for a long time. About 85-90% of Nevada is federal land. That's the most of any state in the Union. Can you believe that? That much of Nevada is actually owned and administered by the Federal government. Now the reason that happened apparently is that when Nevada became a state this land that was owned by the state became property of the federal government.
Now the core situation with Cliven Bundy isn't about the little guy versus the Bureau of Land Management, trust me. The Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies have overreacted and intimidated and bullied Americans so much that this is created this scenario. But the reality in this situation is that Bundy hasn't paid his bill to the federal government in twenty years. The reason he hasn't paid his bill is that he doesn't think the federal government has a right to that land. Now that's a problem that goes back to Nevada state law and what happened when Nevada became a state, as far as I understand it. I read the transcript of Bundy's interview with Glen Beck last week and I listened to Bundy's wife interviewed by Greta Van Sustern last night and they both were making the same case. They said they'd be glad to pay the money but the federal government has no right to it. They offered to pay it to Clark County or to the sovereign state of Nevada but they don't believe they should pay it to the federal government.
Now the background to this is that Americans are really frustrated because they view the federal government is becoming increasingly an enemy to them and to their personal freedom. We have examples of the IRS targeting conservative groups seeking a tax exempt status and the IRS seeking not to treat them fairly. Several times its been reported that not a single progressive organization seeking tax exempt status is subject to any sort of analysis or delay by the IRS but conservative causes were. Not only that but according to e-mails released just this last week employees of the IRS and Justice Department were trying to figure out ways they could bring criminal charges against these conservative groups. So an environment of hostility has been created, especially in this administration for individual citizens trying to put down conservatives. As a result people are fed up, frustrated, anxious, and there's going to be a spark that ignites something.
Unfortunately a lot of people showed up in Nevada with firearms. This should not have happened. If you're going to do this, pick a case where the guy you're fighting for is in the right. Like the old adage, "Be sure you're right and then go ahead." It's not clear at all who is right here although it's probably the federal government who has the legal case on their side. Bundy has not paid his bill so legally the federal government has the right to manage its land. Even if the government has other motives, it's irrelevant because he hasn't paid his bill in twenty years. You know what would happen to you or me if we hadn't paid our electric bill in twenty years. We would have been really cold this morning and really cold all winter long. We would've been hot last summer. That electricity would have been turned off for a long, long time so I think in some ways the federal government has been patient.
There are a lot of other cases where the federal government has come down really hard and they're more likely to have been in the wrong. So we really have to look at each case and make sure we know all the facts. I should have started this by giving you a little caveat. When we're this close to a situation in history a lot of times we don't have enough historical distance to know all the facts and every day new information is coming out. We have to be very cautious in jumping to a conclusion simply because there are things that are going on that sound like things we would be sympathetic to. We have to rally make sure we have all of the facts.
I think more has come out lately in listening to both Cliven Bundy and his wife that indicate that the reason they are fighting the government on this is not the reason I hear from a lot of the other people who are supporting them so we have to be cautious. As Christians we have to recognize we have a higher standard and that standard is the Scripture. We have to recognize that on the one hand we have to be involved and be responsible citizens. We have to be very active as citizens in the political process. From the grass roots up. That means getting involved at the local precinct level, all the way up to the state level, being knowledgeable and informed about every race. If we're not we're just abdicating our responsibility but now's the time when things are really serious. We really need to stand up and be counted and be involved. That's the legal process.
People say "What can we do? How can we resist the government?" By getting involved politically. By supporting positive candidates. By finding out more and more information about legal cases. There was a case that came out just a week ago. In fact the e-mail came in during Bible class last week that Charlie Clough sent me about a professor that had been fired at some university in southern California. He took his case to the courts and the court reinstated him. He had an excellent record of doing his job as unto the Lord. He had an excellent track record but because he disagreed with the politically correct views of the establishment of the university they had found some trumped-up reason to let him go when he already had tenure. So the courts forced the university to back his tenure.
So when right is on our side, it may take longer and the process is slower but we have to work through the system. As long as there are legal avenues available, that's what we need to be involved in. And it takes time. Unfortunately, a lot of us, myself included, happen to be just a little too impatient to take the time to go through the process. But when we look at the other side, we see that they have worked for forty or fifty years to build their structure. They've been following the "Rules for Radicals". They've been building things. They've been working. That's what conservatives need to do. They need to take their own action. We didn't get here overnight. We're not going to change it overnight and violence is not going to bring that about.
So we need to work very, very smart and recognize that we are a nation governed by a rule of law. Because of that, because of law, we haven't nearly exhausted all of the options. That's why it's important to teach authority orientation to children in the home. There's been a rather humorous little thing going around through e-mail recently that says, "Yes, I have a basic psychological problem. My parents spanked me regularly when I was a child. Then they grounded me and they disciplined me. Now that that I'm an adult I suffer from psychological disorder called "respect for other people's property." If you want to see an example of what is happening to kids that are not disciplined, you go into classrooms in many public schools and they're absolute chaos because the teachers can't really do anything and there's no discipline in the homes. It's been going on for a couple of generations. We have to recognize we have a systemic problem here. Until we recognize the real problem which needs a spiritual solution, we're not getting anywhere.
Until people shift away from relativism and start thinking about life in terms of the absolute, the political solution isn't going to go very far. Because many conservatives are just as self-absorbed and just as arrogant as many liberals. They're not grounded on Divine viewpoint any more than liberals. Just because a lot of their opinions may align with ours a little more consistently doesn't mean they're really right. Often we can get caught up in making a selection between one form of arrogance versus another form of arrogance. The only way to really change this country is what made it to begin with and that's the influence of Biblical Christianity and a Judeo-Christian worldview. Until that changes, nothing else will change.
I've got unfortunate news for you. Apart from a massive work of God, not that He can't do it, it's not going to change. It's just going to get worse first, a lot worse. People have been saying that for forty years and if you look back since World War II there are a few places where the progression slowed. It didn't stop though and it didn't pause and it didn't reverse. It just declined less rapidly for a few years. What happened during those times is that progressives reorganized and regained strength. For some reason conservatives don't do that. I saw this little cartoon today and thought it was amusing about the Bundy thing. The sign says "Federal Land. Grazing by Permit Only." The cow in the middle is the Bundy ranch with hundreds of guns pointed at him. He's saying, "I should have disguised myself as an illegal immigrant."
The federal government's response on this was such a problem because they sent in Special Forces. They sent in snipers and troops. Their reaction has been horrible. Their action has been unacceptable. It hasn't been warranted at all. It is typical of the way the federal government has been handling a lot of things recently so it's no wonder people want to react to it because they resent having a federal government that is so opposed to their property rights and their freedom.
Now as we go on what we have to remember is that it was through God's use of unjust authority, a tyrannical authority that accomplished salvation. Tyrannical authority both on the part of the Sanhedrin and especially on the part of Rome. Jesus' crucifixion was the result of unjust rulers who were forcing their politics upon the population in Judea. What was Jesus' response as He was being forced to an illegal execution by the unjust powers? Did He react? Did He assert His rights? Not at all. Philippians 2:8 tells us that, "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." He was perfectly righteous. He was totally without sin but He refused to assert His just rights against the unjust authority of Rome and the unjust authority of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. What that tells us is something we don't like to hear. It's not comfortable. In many cases it is more Christ-like to submit to injustice and to put the situation in God's hand than to rebel and to disobey because we know that God has a greater plan and we have to learn to trust in Him.
So in the U.S. we're ruled by constitutional law. We're proud to say we're a country based on the rule of law. Sadly too many people who say that are breaking the law out the other side of their mouth but we are a nation of laws. Under our constitution we're a republican form of government. That's a representative republic. As conservatives like to remind everyone, we're not a democracy. Democracy means mob rule. We are a representative republic. That means we elect representatives and senators to go to the legislature and to represent us as a body politic, we the people, to vote and to make laws.
The problem with that is that the laws that they make may not be the laws that we want them to make. Whether your representative represents you or not, whatever they do, represents you legally. They're your representatives. Some of you may live in a district where you have a liberal democrat. And that representative always votes ways you wish they wouldn't. But guess what? That's your vote whether you like it or not. That's your vote. Just last week I heard a speaker at a Republican Women's meeting and in the midst of his message he did something that is typical rhetoric of someone trying to rouse the crowd to action. He asked three questions. He said, "Did you vote for the IRS to investigate conservative organizations for tax exempt status? Well, did you, what's your answer? Did you vote for the IRS to investigate conservative groups?" Everyone said "No.". He went on, "Did you vote for the Bureau of Land Management to round up the cattle belonging to Cliven Bundy?" "Did you vote for Congress to socialize our economy by voting in Obamacare?" They all screamed no but the reality is that all of those people live in one of the most conservative congressional districts in the state and in the country. Their congressional representative voted against all those things and is opposed to all those things. But the reality is that if we believe in majority rule which we do then under that principle we all voted for this.
That's what representative republics do. That's what our representatives do. You don't like it? Change them. My frustration is that I like my congressman. He votes just the way I would vote. I like my senators. For the most part they vote just the way I would vote. The problem is I can't go change those idiots who get voted in from New York and Maryland and Virginia and Connecticut and Massachusetts. We're outnumbered, especially in the senate but not in the House. If we want to change things we've got to be involved somehow in effecting this change. So we have to recognize we operate on the rule of law and when we don't win the elections we don't get to make the rules.
It's sad when there are certain people on the other side they use that to try to completely eradicate any future use of power by the opposing position. It really is bad when their gamesmanship is better than ours. And what happens? We get frustrated, very frustrated. We have this state that's the best state in the union. We have a state that is the most conservative, well, not quite, I think Oklahoma is more conservative than we are. But we're pretty conservative. But we could do better. It's only going to happen when we vote.
Now the problem we have is this aspect in Romans 13:1 that says that everyone should be subject to governing authorities for there's no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Right now I want to look at that word authority. That word is EXOUSIA and it means an authority and a power. Now that word is used in a very interesting context. What Paul is saying in Romans 13 is that there's no authority except from God. You may think it's a bad authority. You may think it's a corrupt authority. Guess what? Jesus had a conversation with one of the most corrupt authority figures around and that was Pontius Pilate. John 19:10, "So Pilate said to Him, 'You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?' " Authority there is the same word. "I have the authority to crucify You and I have the authority to release You." Jesus answered in John 19:11, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above." Jesus affirms that the power that Pontius Pilate wielded wrongly was power that was delegated to him through the permissive will of God.
These are difficult things to grapple with when we're the one who get put between a rock and a hard place by a federal government that isn't doing what we think is right and when we believe that the Constitution of the U.S. is totally against them. One of the problems we have is that for the last 150 years the legal entities have all agreed in all of the cases that go against what we believe to be the correct interpretation, strict constructive interpretation of the law. Maybe not all of them because they change.
But we have to realize that the tide of history is going out. It came in before 1850. It's been going out since 1850. You know there's not a whole lot we can do to change that. These things have happened. We can fight some battles but I don't think we can win this war because we're living in the devil's world. We have to remember that and that's not a pleasant thing to remember. It was much worse for Christians who lived under the Roman Empire. God appoints every ruler, though, even when they're unjust. He allows them to rule for His purposes. So in Romans 13:1-5 Paul says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake."
Now there's several things we're going to look at here as I continue this study. There are some who take this word in Romans 13:1 "governing authority" and argue that the core meaning is to excel, to exceed, and to be better than. They then argue from that a logical fallacy and a linguistic fallacy that citizens should only obey those authorities who possess a higher standard or a higher value. But that's not what this word implies. As the article in the Bauer, Gingrich, and Arndt lexicon goes on to demonstrate, a word's meaning is determined by its context.
This word is used in the context of governing authorities and talking about higher authorities versus of lower authorities. There's a hierarchy of authorities in every country from your highest authority in the land, whether it's a king or a prime minister or a president to the lowest authority in the land. We have local city government, then we have county government, state government, and then federal government. There's a hierarchy of power there so what this is talking about is higher governing authorities. That's how the word is used when in a context of talking about government positions.
This is a reference to a book that was originally published in 1853 by James Wilson, called The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7. This book was republished by the American Vision Press. Now this publishing company also publishes a lot of home-school material. Those of you who homeschool need to be very much aware of this because these folks are reconstructionists. They're post-millennialists and reconstructionists. What is hidden behind a lot of their political theory and their activism is their desire to change American into their version of a Christian nation.
Now this wing of evangelical Christianity is extremely small but they have a publishing house and they influence a lot of people through their publishing house and they've influenced a lot of families through the way they promote their political theory in homeschool material. I know people whose families have been disrupted because they had people in their families who have changed to become hyper Calvinists because that's the position of these post-Mil, theocratic reconstructionists. We have to be careful. This is a very popular book promoted by a lot of conservatives because it's promoting the idea that the U.S. is a Christian country and out of frustration, a lot of evangelicals gravitate to these kinds of things because they're looking for information. They're trying to understand the influence of Christianity in the history of this country and especially the background during the American War for Independence so they go for books like this.
Unfortunately Wilson's arguments and his Biblical exposition doesn't stand up to accurate Biblical analysis and understanding the language of the text. He will interpret these references to government authorities to mean only the institution of government. But that's not what the text goes on to say. When you compare it with other passages in the New Testament, Paul is not just talking about authority in the abstract or the institution of government in the abstract. He's talking about individuals who hold positions of authority. We'll see this brought out in other passages. He makes the point that whoever resists the authority. That means whatever the authority is. He's not just talking about the king but any authority, whoever resists that authority is resisting the authority of God and those who resist that government will bring judgment upon themselves. So this is talking about opposition.
I know there are some of you who are saying, "Well, wait a minute, we're not just puppets under a tyranny." No, we're not. Whether you're talking about children to parents, wives to husbands, students to the authority in the classroom, or soldiers to officers over them, this is not a carte blanche check. There are exceptions in Scripture. We have to pay attention to those exceptions.
The reason I'm teaching it this way is because the default position of your sin nature is to rebel. That's what you got from Adam. We are inherently rebels against authority. I don't have to teach you to oppose authority if you don't like it. You're going to figure that out all by yourself. My problem is getting you to really understand how firm the Scripture is on obedience to authority. We live in a nation, especially from those who are baby boomers and younger, who have been influenced by a society whose mantra is to question authority, no matter what. We think that's good because that makes us independent thinkers. Well, there's an aspect of that that's true but if we're questioning authority in the sense of always rebelling, never accepting it, it leads to chaos. Only under authority orientation can we have order and can we operate as a team and achieve an end.
The Scriptures are very clear. Remember the very first sin was one that was in opposition to authority, the sin of Satan. The sin of man in the Garden wasn't an egregious sin but it was disobedience to a command by God. Eve just sat there and said, "Well it doesn't look all that bad. It looks pretty good. It might even taste good. That's what the snake said." The snake also said that God was just trying to keep good things from them. So there was a whole rationale behind that. She said, "I'm just going to eat it and find out for myself." That's the pattern. It's not so bad for me just to disobey my parent this one time but it sets a precedent. It sets a pattern. It happens in marriages. It happens in the work force. That's why the Bible is emphasizing again and again this whole issue of submission.
Now one of the things that Wilson and others today do is come along and look at a passage like Hosea 8:4. God is speaking to Hosea approximately the time of Isaiah and he's pointing out the spiritual failures and flaws in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In God's critique he says that they set up kings but not by me. Now this is taken out of the whole Biblical context of Biblical history. Number one, if there's no authority established except from God [Romans 13:1] then you have to reconcile Hosea 8:4.
Were the Jews in such autonomous rebellion that they could put up a king that's not from God? No. What God is saying through Hosea is they set up kings that weren't according to God's desired will, His revealed will, but He allowed them to do this because they have volition. And they chose wicked rulers. They chose bad rulers that weren't righteous according to God's standard but God allowed them to do that because they have volition. They made princes but God did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold they made idols for themselves that they might be cut off.
The people chose leaders that reflected the values of the people, the spiritual rebellion of the people and if we've got a problem with the leaders in this country, then we [and I'm using this collectively not in terms of us individually but as a nation] we just have to look in the mirror to see what the problem is. We're electing leaders that reflect the values of the majority of the people in this country. Whether that's actually true I don't know because there's a lot of people who won't get involved in the political process. They think that since they're Christians, well, that's too secular. John Nelson Darby was like that. He thought that it was carnal for Christians to vote or for Christians to even be involved in the political process. That's the secular world. We're ambassadors from the eternal kingdom so we shouldn't be involved at all.
Have you ever wondered why you've heard pastors say you shouldn't be involved in political activism and have taken a strong stand that way and then the next night they're railing about how awful the political system is? It's almost like they've got a split personality or multiple personalities. It's because within our tradition as dispensationalists and evangelicals, half of our spiritual fathers were saying that you didn't need to know anything about the political process because it's all carnal. The other half is saying that you need to be involved up to your eyebrows. So you get pastors coming out of seminaries who one day they're one way and the next day they're the other way.
They don't really define terms for us like Christian activism. On the one hand they say it's okay for people to get involved in politics as a career but don't go down and demonstrate legally and constitutionally for a just cause. Don't lobby Congress. That's activism. That's insane. It's not Biblical. It's not constitutional. Under the principle, "the squeaky wheel gets the most grease", Christians have only squeaked to God. And they should squeak to God but the people who are representing you need to hear your thoughts also. Legally and constitutionally.
Not by going and grabbing your AR off the wall and marching on Washington in something like a Bonus March in the 1920's but by writing letters, finding out what's the most effective way to communicate to a congressman. I wonder how many people in this congregation have their congressmen and their two senators on speed dial on their phone other than me? One or two. That's very good. We all should. Every hand should have gone up. Every time I hear of something or read about some legislation I'm calling John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Ted Poe and letting them know what I think. It doesn't take long to make your voice heard. They figure that for every person that lets them know something, there's a hundred or two hundred who feel the same way but don't have the time to call them. So the voice of one person has a tremendous impact.
It's too bad that whenever I try to send letters to some of those other folks that are representative sin the area, you can't get through because you're not in their district so you can't ever say anything to them. But, anyway, God has a permissive will and He allows rulers that are going to rule but not according to the way you and I would like them to. That's when it gets tough. That's when you have to address the issue.
Now there's another situation which occurs in the Old Testament related to permissive will and that's seen in Psalm 94:20-23, "Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, One which devises mischief by decree?" Anyone want to put a name on that? Don't say it out loud. We'd probably all say the same name. "They band themselves together against the life of the righteous." In other words the governing leaders are evil and they seek to destroy the influence of the righteous. "And condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has been my stronghold." Notice it hasn't been the political action committee. Not that that's wrong in our system. The system under the Hebrew kings didn't have the constitutional setup that we have. The system under Rome didn't have the constitutional setup we have. The constitution we have gives us the responsibility to be involved in the system. It's a representative democracy so we need to be involved. It's not an either/or. We need to be involved but recognize that ultimately the real significant issue is spiritual and the protector is God, not the political process and the political emphasis. The psalmist goes on to say, "And my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our God will destroy them."
We need to be taking this before the throne of Heaven all the time. What the psalmist is saying there is that, even though we submit to authority, it doesn't mean we agree with them and it doesn't mean that we don't do everything we can within legal bounds to oppose them. Now we'll get into the topic of legitimate civil disobedience later. There are clearly examples in Scripture for legitimate civil disobedience and we understand that. But first we must establish the principle of submission to authority and who establishes the authority and then we can understand better how to apply the issues of civil disobedience.
No authority has a right to tell anyone to do anything that violates the direct, specific revelation of God. No authority has the right to tell anyone to do something that harms their life, that is immoral, that is unconstitutional, or unbiblical. No one has the right to do that. But when it comes to issues like no one having the right to tell me what is unconstitutional, you and I have to recognize that what is determined to be constitutional is determined by Congress and the Supreme Court, whether we like it or not. I understand the historical issues there but since the early 19th century the reality is that the Supreme Court has been accepted as the arbiter, whether you agree with it or not. They are the hermeneutical absolute for determining the meaning of the Constitution. Do they have that right constitutionally? I don't think so but that doesn't matter anymore because that's not accepted.
This isn't easy to hear because most of us believe that our country is on the skids and we just want to scream for people to wake up. That's not the reality in which we live. If you had the privilege and the fun of living in one of the dominant blue states, your frustration level would really be high. We live in Texas and because we live in Texas we often recognize problems that the rest of the country just doesn't see. Conversations I've had with many people on the Eastern seaboard who are not conservative is that they think we have absolutely lost our minds and that we are nuttier than fruitcakes and that we are absolutely dangerous to the future of this country. They believe that down to the marrow of their bones. And you believe just as strongly the opposite. The only hope is the grace of God. That's why we have to be in Bible class and we have to be learning spiritual truth as our highest priority. Because I don't think it's going to get better. If it does, it's going to get worse before it gets better.