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Thom Wade

Patriotism and the Christian Faith

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Let's not get derailed, friends! Discussions involving Bonhoeffer and Hauerwas are great, but this isn't the place to go into immigration policy. Thanks.

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I don't think the Old Testament's position on what makes good government is quite as nice and neat as you're trying to make it.

What it is is an attempt at answering two questions. Is there a Biblical form of government? If so, what is it?

Well, I can think of a few Mexicans, plenty of Native Americans, and even some Southerners who might disagree.

Many Americans treated the Native Americans horribly. The culture clash (particularly with different points of view about property) was hard to reconcile, but that still didn't mean we shouldn't have enforced our treaties better. This does allow us to conclude that mistreatment of the Native Americans = following American principles. I personally wouldn't have been able to ascribe to "Manifest Destiny" and it's a political belief that led to our unfairly dealing with Mexico. This doesn't mean the war for Texas independence wasn't justified, or that defeating Santa Ana wasn't still a worthy goal. And oh yeah, Southerners don't count.

Here's the article. I was mistaken, working from distant memory: the success rate is 4 out of 15, where success is defined as the nation having a functioning democracy 10 years after the end of hostilities. In addition to Japan & Germany, the other 2 successes are Panama and Grenada.

I respect Minxin Pei, but he's using an awfully broad construction of the term "nation building." The Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada and Panama all involved intervention designed primarily to prevent the spread of Communism. Looks like he's listed Cuba three times on the list (with three different U.S. actions), but we actually did help Cuba become democratic, but we just lost it to Communism. Besides, the very idea of Nation-Building in the modern world is going to look entirely different than during the Cold War, or during the time our politics was heavily influenced by Woodrow Wilson's idealism.

First, it's this whole "spreading democracy by force" idea that still annoys me. What this sounds like is us forcing other people to do things our way. What it constitutes in reality, is killing or stopping the bad guys, and then simply letting people be free.

Does anyone really think what we did in Iraq was that simple? It's a majority Shiite nation ... are Iraqis free to elect Muqtada al-Sadr should he choose to run for office?

It obviously doesn't encompass everything going on in Iraq, but yes. Democratically speaking, the majority of Iraqis can elect whoever they want to. They have never been able to do this before in the entire history of any people living in that region. Mugtada al-Sadr could even win an election, if he runs for office in the right district. There is more work they need to do to strengthen this new system of theirs, but they've got a start, and most of them are very excited about it.

The words of Christ to the Pharisees who were asking him about taxes go towards whether accepting a combat role would violate his Christianity.

No, they don't. That is a dizzying theological leap across multiple layers of non sequiturs.

If government is ordained by God, then paying taxes to that government is right, correct? If government is an institution ordained by God, then I can find myself owing a particular temporal loyalty to it.

I think there's two separate issues here, though. That college students are taught to be ashamed of some aspects of our history is, I would say, a fact, and we could debate whether that's a net-negative or -positive for the long-term benefit of our colleges and students. But I'd want it to be an informed debate, one citing data rather than just anecdotal evidence. And I'd want us to unpack our personal biases in the process. (By the way, this isn't a debate I'm interested in having on the Internet.)

Having personally experienced this, I'd testify to the fact that they teach we ought to be ashamed of far more than just "some aspects of our history." I admit I have personal biases. But whenever anyone declares that Americans are clueless and have no identity worth believing in, I find myself rather passionately opposed to this teaching. I have friends who died in Iraq. In the small picture, they just died at their government/military jobs and trying to protect their friends. In the big picture, they died working so that another people could be free - and so that doing this could help protect their families at home. Seeing this first-hand makes me frown upon the idea that being American doesn't mean anything good.

But that's a separate issue from the use of language such as "politically liberal elitist minority point of view" in a conversation among friends. You seem to have an entire worldview in mind when you write that, and you're reacting against that worldview despite the fact that, even if I understood what you mean exactly with that particular string of words (Are all academics elitist? Only those who are politically liberal? Am I politically liberal if I often vote for Republicans? Is the shamefulness of slavery a minority view?) -- despite the fact that, even if I knew what you meant, I doubt the worldview you're reacting against is remotely similar to Andy's.

Unlike Buckley when he wrote God and Man at Yale, I have not researched modern day academia's majority points of view. So I'm willing to admit I could be wrong on this. The terms liberal and conservative both still have meaning, and I don't mean anything disparaging by either adjective. But I do find the idea that Americans are clueless and have no identity as an elitist point of view.

America is piety and crassness, freedom for all and unfathomable greed, the inherent dignity of each human life and total disregard for the most helpless lives. It's no wonder that the rest of the world is so exasperated with us. We are utterly clueless as a nation. We have no idea who we are, and we experience a total disconnect between reality and image, but we'll gladly sell that image to anyone who may or may not be interested.

You keep using this term "we", but you're voicing what is only a politically liberal elitist minority point of view.

I would disagree. Andy's comments sound like how almost all my extremely conservative, Republican friends and aquaintences talk about America.

Point taken. I made an unfair generalization about one political philosophy. Although, if I had to guess by "extremely conservative" you might mean libertarian? I have some libertarian friends who look down their noses on America quite frequently.

The funny thing is I don't approach these issues from the standpoint of political parties. I'm not even particularly interested in thinking in those terms. I'm interested in the Kingdom of God coming to earth, and I believe there's some precedent for praying that way. I'm firmly convinced that Republicans don't have the answer. I'm firmly convinced that Democrats don't have the answer. But I'll work with either, or both, when their interests seem to coincide with bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. The naive part of me views this as part of the Christian life, although I've been around long enough to know that it's hopelessly convoluted, imperfect, and inexact.

So Andy, I'm sorry if I was offensive. I know some other friends who believe their love for Christ excludes their love for country. I'm saddened by this point of view, but that doesn't mean I still don't respect it and can't learn from it. So I value your point of view. You make some very good points about how unquestioning and uncritical patriotism can be contrary to what Christianity teaches. And yet, it is no coincidence that the only countries in the world that possess some form of self-government are countries with heavy Christian influence at some point in their history. My patriotism is closely tied to my loyalty to our form of government and Constitution. The Army Oath of Enlistment that every modern American soldier takes focuses upon protecting and defending the U.S. Constitution.

If there is, in fact, a Biblical form of government, and if there are Biblical principles for how to form a good government, then following those principles is something to be valued and advanced. Being critical of our country for not following these principles is a worthy position to take. But such criticism can be engaged in as much out of a sense of patriotism than out of a sense of none.

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What it is is an attempt at answering two questions. Is there a Biblical form of government? If so, what is it?

There are five Biblical forms of government and/or social organization: (1) enslavement in a foreign country;

(2) tribal theocracy; (3) monarchy; (4) living in exile in a foreign country; (5) living in your own country under foreign occupation.

You and I don't live under any of those conditions, so the extent to which we ought to seek to establish a "Biblical form of government" is, at best, open to a variety of interpretations.

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Anna J wrote:

: Let's not get derailed, friends! Discussions involving Bonhoeffer and Hauerwas are great, but this isn't the place to go into immigration policy. Thanks.

Fair point. But to be honest, I don't think we even WERE discussing immigration policy; I mean, we certainly weren't getting into the politics of it. Rather, it seemed to me that we were having more of a meta-discussion of whether the Bible is useful in shaping immigration policy, which ties into similar questions regarding whether the Bible is useful in shaping financial policy, or military policy, etc. -- all of which tie into the larger question of how Christian faith can be related to participation in a secular democracy in general.

To come at this from another angle: A&F doesn't have a politics forum any more, but it does have a "Faith Matters" forum ... so a thread, like this one, on the relationship between faith and politics will inevitably get into a bit of both. But for my part, I was trying to focus on the faith angle, and specifically on the question of whether the Bible speaks with one voice or "contains multitudes", so to speak, on this subject. That, to me, seemed to be within the purview of this subforum.

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America is piety and crassness, freedom for all and unfathomable greed, the inherent dignity of each human life and total disregard for the most helpless lives. It's no wonder that the rest of the world is so exasperated with us. We are utterly clueless as a nation. We have no idea who we are, and we experience a total disconnect between reality and image, but we'll gladly sell that image to anyone who may or may not be interested.

You keep using this term "we", but you're voicing what is only a politically liberal elitist minority point of view.

I would disagree. Andy's comments sound like how almost all my extremely conservative, Republican friends and aquaintences talk about America.

Point taken. I made an unfair generalization about one political philosophy. Although, if I had to guess by "extremely conservative" you might mean libertarian? I have some libertarian friends who look down their noses on America quite frequently.

Nope...straight ahead Republican conservatives. Mind you, they tend to aim their aggression at East and West Coast liberals. I remember people I knew trying to argue that the 9/11 attacks were partially Hollywood's fault-because Hollywood exports sex and violence. (My conservative film snob friends did not fall into this because they have actually seen foreign films)

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If government is ordained by God, then paying taxes to that government is right, correct? If government is an institution ordained by God, then I can find myself owing a particular temporal loyalty to it.

It was Paul, not Jesus, who claimed that government is ordained by God. Jesus said you should pay taxes to Caesar because it was Caesar who issued the coin ... not because God ordained Caesar's government.

Paul, a Roman citizen writing to Christians in Rome, did indeed suggest in Rom. 13 that the Roman government was ordained by God to do justice ... although, as mentioned earlier, a government that consistently fails to do justice isn't holding up its end of the bargain.

So far, so good, but from here your arguments start running into trouble. You're trying to equate paying taxes to the government with putting one's neck on the line for the government. Becoming a soldier means rendering one's entire self, up to and including one's very life, to the government to use at its disposal. That is a huge stretch from Jesus' statement about taxes. The same Paul who said government was ordained by God also taught us that our bodies are the temple of God, we are bought with a price and therefore we should honor God with our bodies. I don't know what that means to you, but a Christian might reasonably and seriously conclude that while his money indeed is Caesar's and should be rendered to Caesar, his body and his self are God's and should be rendered to God. Caesar gave me the coin; God gave me my body. This belief was very common in the early church under the Roman Empire, when after all, soldiers weren't allowed to be Christians, and those who became Christians while serving, or who were appointed without anyone knowing they were Christians, faced martyrdom if they were found out (St. Sebastian, the 40 martyrs of Sevaste, etc.).

You've stated earlier that the Bible specifies that good governments are democratically elected, citing David and Saul as proof. Yet Saul (democratically elected) gets failing grades in the Bible, whereas Josiah (ascended the throne at 8 years of age after his dad was assassinated) gets a glowing report. You've said that accession by means other than election = bad government. Yet Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans sometime between A.D. 51 and 55 — meaning that the "government ordained by God" he wrote about was that of either Claudius (put on by the Praetorian Guard after they assassinated Caligula) or Nero (nutjob who became Caesar because he was Claudius' adopted son, and proceeded to persecute the Church like nobody's business). Most scholars like the later date for Romans, meaning that Nero was probably already on the throne.

So, if the government of the friggin' Emperor Nero was "ordained by God" according to Paul, then what business do you or I have declaring ANY government illegitimate according to some "Biblical" standard? Saddam Hussein was one bad hombre, but I should think Nero still has him beat.

Edited by mrmando

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So, if the government of the friggin' Emperor Nero was "ordained by God" according to Paul, then what business do you or I have declaring ANY government illegitimate according to some "Biblical" standard? Saddam Hussein was one bad hombre, but I should think Nero still has him beat.

This is something I find interesting about the Romans 13 verse. What is the message to a Christian living under the tyrant-because according to Romans 13 all governments are ordained by God to weild the sword-not just the ones we like or are comfortable with. The Christian living under Saddam is being told the same thing by that verse about their government as we Americans are about ours. There is no "Evil Dictator Clause" in Roman's 13.

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If government is ordained by God, then paying taxes to that government is right, correct? If government is an institution ordained by God, then I can find myself owing a particular temporal loyalty to it.

It was Paul, not Jesus, who claimed that government is ordained by God.

Whatever happened to Christ telling Pilate that "you would have no power had it not been given to you from above"? (Jn 19:11)

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Whatever happened to Christ telling Pilate that "you would have no power had it not been given to you from above"? (Jn 19:11)

Fair enough, but that still doesn't mean one has the same duty to serve in combat as one has to pay taxes. And anyway, the fact remains: this is not the argument Jesus made in support of paying taxes. Dragging in an argument he made elsewhere in the Bible, at a different time in a different place to a different person on a different topic under different circumstances, recorded by a different Evangelist, is only marginally better than dragging in an argument from a different author at a different time in a different place to different people under similar-but-worse circumstances on a related-but-not-necessarily-equivalent topic. What's wrong with the argument Jesus actually gave?

Edited by mrmando

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So, if the government of the friggin' Emperor Nero was "ordained by God" according to Paul, then what business do you or I have declaring ANY government illegitimate according to some "Biblical" standard? Saddam Hussein was one bad hombre, but I should think Nero still has him beat.

This is something I find interesting about the Romans 13 verse. What is the message to a Christian living under the tyrant-because according to Romans 13 all governments are ordained by God to weild the sword-not just the ones we like or are comfortable with. The Christian living under Saddam is being told the same thing by that verse about their government as we Americans are about ours. There is no "Evil Dictator Clause" in Roman's 13.

Well, I think the question is - is it possible for a tyrant to act as if he has power that he does not rightfully possess?

Romans 13:1-7

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rules are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs to subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Elisha Williams, pastor of a Congregational church in Connecticut in 1744, taught on Romans 13 which he describes as "a text often wrecked and tortured by such wits as were disposed to serve the designs of arbitrary power, of erecting a civil tyranny over a free people, and as often wrested out of their hands by the force of truth."

Strong words. Williams explains how he believes this passage is misinterpreted to argue for actual submission to tyranny:

"Here then let me distinguish between two things ... between the powers which are, and the powers which are not. This is a plain and undeniable distinction; since it is well known there may be a pretended power where there is really none. Now the higher powers in the text are the powers which are. Since then it is express and certain, that the powers that be, are the powers in the text, the powers which be of GOD, the ordinance of GOD; it is only of such powers he speaks of subjection to. On the other hand - the powers that are not, are not the powers that be; and so not the powers in the text, not the powers that are of GOD, not his ordinance, and so no subjection to them required in this text ...

"A power that is no better than a pretended one, can't challenge any obedience by virtue of this text. As this text does not shew they have such a power, the pretence of obedience being due to them by this text, if they should be so vain as to fancy they have it, is a mere vanity. The truth of the case is plainly this; that this text shews obedience is due to civil rulers in those cases wherein they have power to command, and does not call for it any farther ..."

At first, I thought Williams was making a cheap point by making a difference between "the powers that be" and then powers which "are not." That sounds really tricky. Other newer translations like the NIV put things a little differently - "Everyone 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." So is there really a difference between civil authorities that exist and civil authorities that do not exist? But then I think Williams is really asking a different question. Is it possible for someone without legal authority to pretend and act like he has power over people that he does not rightfully possess? Is it possible for a tyrant to set himself up as the civil authority just because he has the guns and the army to do it? Yes. Not only is this possible, but it has happened over and over before throughout history. So the question becomes, how do governments possess the legal authority to rule? And here we see Williams' Enlightenment/natural law education -

"For the freedom of man and liberty of acting according to his own will (without being subject to the will of another) is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left to the freedom of his own will. So that we are born free as we are born rational ... For tho' the law of nature be intelligible to all rational creatures; yet men being biased by their interest as well as ignorant for want of study of it, are not apt to allow of it as a law binding to them in the application of it to their particular cases ...

"Now to remedy these inconveniences, reason teaches men to join in society, to unite together into a commonwealth under some form or other, to make a body of laws agreeable to the law of nature, and institute one common power to see them observed. It is they who thus unite together, viz. the people, who make and alone have the right to make the laws that are to take place among them; or which comes to the same thing, appoint those who shall make them, and who shall see them executed ... Hence then the fountain and original of all civil power is from the people ... There are too too many arbitrary governments in the world, where the people don't make their own laws. These are not properly speaking governments but tyrannies; and are absolutely against the law of GOD and nature."

So, Williams is daring, in his day and age, to argue that there is a difference between a government and a tyrant. He's making a logical argument, based on natural law principles, that there is something called a civil authority that Paul is referring to in Romans 13, and that there is something called tyranny - a mere physical force that is pretending to have the power of civil authority that it does not rightfully have. Is it possible to pretend you have government authority that you don't legitimately have? Yes, it is possible.

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Well, your "Biblical" argument starts looking more cogent when you appeal to extrabiblical ideas like natural law.

Can anyone take a stab at whether Paul, writing well before the Enlightenment, might have cottoned to Williams' interpretation of Rom. 13? Personally, I like what Williams says here, and I can't really make sense of Rom. 13 any other way. I'm just not sure whether it's really "what Paul meant" or not.

On another note, does anyone know what Islam says about government? What are the chances of the "Arab spring" actually flowering into real democracies? (It would be nice if it happened; sure would save our army some cash.)

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Well, your "Biblical" argument starts looking more cogent when you appeal to extrabiblical ideas like natural law.

Oh, I don't know about extrabiblical. Natural law (which is another way, if you asked John Locke, of just saying God's moral law) seems to be clearly Biblical. I'm pretty sure the Apostle Paul mentions it in Romans 2:14-15 and elsewhere.

Edited by Persiflage

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Hm. The "law" in Rom. 2 is the law of Moses.

Williams:

"There are too too many arbitrary governments in the world, where the people don't make their own laws. These are not properly speaking governments but tyrannies; and are absolutely against the law of GOD and nature."

Whereas, the law of Moses is not presented in Scripture as an example of people making their own laws; rather, it is received by revelation directly from God. I happen to like the idea of people making their own laws, but calling it Biblical seems like a bit of a stretch.

So, to clarify: the idea that the basic moral precepts contained in Moses' law are "written on our hearts" — it's Biblical and I agree with it. The idea that the desire for freedom is written on our hearts — it's Biblical (see Exodus) and I agree with it. The idea that the impulse toward democracy is also written on our hearts — I agree with it but don't think it's Biblical.

(Edit) Circling back to an earlier post of yours ...

In Exodus 18:13-26 we see the form of the temporal government of Israel being created. Those captains over thousands, hundreds and tens were elected by the people. Moses chose the captains that the people chose (Deuteronomy 1:9-18).

Two versions of the same story, with different details. In Exodus, Moses himself selects the captains; there's no mention of them being chosen by their own tribes. Deuteronomy suggests that the tribes were involved in the selection process. So, which account is accurate? Who knows? Whatever the answer, it's certain that the people didn't select Moses himself -- God did!

Edited by mrmando

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Whereas, the law of Moses is not presented in Scripture as an example of people making their own laws; rather, it is received by revelation directly from God. I happen to like the idea of people making their own laws, but calling it Biblical seems like a bit of a stretch.

Right. God's moral law, or natural law, is not something we make ourselves, it's something we are given by an outside source (the Creator). When we talk about the people making their own laws politically speaking (or electing the people who make the law), that's self-government - it's our duty to make our temporal laws in society coincide with God's law.

So, to clarify: the idea that the basic moral precepts contained in Moses' law are "written on our hearts" — it's Biblical and I agree with it. The idea that the desire for freedom is written on our hearts — it's Biblical (see Exodus) and I agree with it. The idea that the impulse toward democracy is also written on our hearts — I agree with it but don't think it's Biblical.

How about instead of saying "impulse toward democracy" we just say self-government. Democracy is just one kind of self-government, and pure unadulterated democracy is not particularly a good thing. So it might be fairer to say that the moral (or natural) law being written on our hearts leads to specific logical conclusions about government. Conclusions that we are also helped to reach by how Moses was told to set up Israel's government and by what the Apostle Paul explained about the purpose and role of government.

In Exodus 18:13-26 we see the form of the temporal government of Israel being created. Those captains over thousands, hundreds and tens were elected by the people. Moses chose the captains that the people chose (Deuteronomy 1:9-18).

Two versions of the same story, with different details. In Exodus, Moses himself selects the captains; there's no mention of them being chosen by their own tribes. Deuteronomy suggests that the tribes were involved in the selection process. So, which account is accurate? Who knows? Whatever the answer, it's certain that the people didn't select Moses himself -- God did!

Well, assuming the Bible is true, both versions of the story must be true. Is it possible that Moses and the people chose these representatives of the people? Yes, it's possible - if Moses was directed to select those representatives he instructed the people to elect. As far as Moses himself is concerned, the government rule that the people of Israel didn't select for themselves was the slavery to Pharaoh that they were all born under. Every single Israelite that left Egypt under the leadership of Moses chose to do so (and yes, God did choose Moses to lead the people out of slavery). But the idea that the people ought to choose the leader that God chooses is again confirmed in Deuteronomy 17, I Samuel 9:15-17 + I Samuel 10:23-25, and I Samuel 16:1-13 + II Samuel 2:4 + II Samuel 5:1-4 - all cases of the people needing to choose God's choice.

The fact that God has proscribed a way for us to act or a path for us to choose doesn't still mean that we aren't still the ones who have to choose it. The idea that the Bible teaches natural law is not a new idea. Again, another pastor, Samuel West, taught that:

"A revelation, pretending to be from God, that contradicts any part of natural law, ought immediately to be rejected as an imposture; for the Deity cannot make a law contrary to the law of nature without acting contrary to himself, - a thing in the strictest sense impossible, for that which implies contradiction is not an object of the divine power ... The doctrine of nonresistance and unlimited passive obedience to the worst of tyrants could never have found credit among mankind had the voice of reason been hearkened to for a guide, because such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law."

West then applies this specifically to Romans 13 -

"If magistrates are ministers of God only because the law of God and reason points out the necessity of such an institution for the good of mankind, it follows, that whenever they pursue measures directly destructive of the public good they cease being God's ministers, they forfeit their right to obedience from the subject, they become the pests of society, and the community is under the strongest obligation of duty, both to God and to its own members, to resist and oppose them, which will be so far from resisting the ordinance of God that it will be strictly obeying his commands. To suppose otherwise will imply that the Deity requires of us an obedience that is self-contradictory and absurd, and that one part of his law is directly contrary to the other ...

"A very little attention, I apprehend, will be sufficient to show that this text is so far from favoring arbitrary government, that, on the contrary, it strongly holds forth the principles of true liberty. Subjection to the higher powers is enjoined by the apostle because there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God; consequently, to resist the power is to resist the ordinance of God: and he repeatedly declares that the ruler is the minister of God. Now, before we can say whether this text makes for or against the doctrine of unlimited passive obedience, we must find out in what sense the apostle affirms that magistracy is the ordinance of God, and what he intends when he calls the ruler the minister of God."

" ... that the nature and reason of things require such an institution for the preservation and safety of mankind. Now, if this be the only sense in which the apostle affirms that magistrates are ordained of God as his ministers, resistance must be criminal only so far forth as they are the ministers of God, i.e., while they act up to the end of their institution, and ceases to be criminal when they cease being the ministers of God, i.e., when they act contrary to the general good, and seek to destroy the liberties of the people."

Of course, this is entirely contrary to guys like John MacArthur who interpret the passage exactly like you'd imagine a Tory preacher in the 1770s would. In Why Government Can't Save You, MacArthur writes -

" ... how many present-day believers would even partially approve of the Puritans’ bloody overthrow, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, of the English monarchy in the 1660s ... Over the past several centuries, people have mistakenly linked democracy and political freedom to Christianity. That’s why many contemporary evangelicals believe the American Revolution was completely justified, both politically and scripturally. They follow the argumentation of the Declaration of Independence, which declares that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are divinely endowed rights. Therefore those believers say such rights are part of a Christian worldview, worth attaining and defending at all costs, including military insurrection at times. But such a position is contrary to the clear teachings and commands of Romans 13:1-7. So the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings that God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers."

I'm assuming MacArthur just never bothered to read any of the sermons that were actually preached from the pulpit to the Founding Fathers, let alone George Buchanan's 1579 De Jure Regni Apud Scotos or Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica circa 1274.

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How about instead of saying "impulse toward democracy" we just say self-government. Democracy is just one kind of self-government, and pure unadulterated democracy is not particularly a good thing.

Right, because it's essentially mob rule. So ... you are in fact arguing for any form of government that entails people choosing their own leaders, even if it's a monarchy.

Well, assuming the Bible is true, both versions of the story must be true.

Holy cow. :blink:

OK, please reconcile the two conflicting creation narratives in Genesis, or tell me at what point in his ministry Jesus cleansed the Temple, or explain how Judas died twice in two very different ways.

...

Again, though: marvelous stuff on Rom. 13. This is precisely the way I've understood the passage for a long time. It is, however, a double-edged sword: the government established by the Founding Fathers has not always fulfilled its obligations under moral law either.

Edited by mrmando

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Holy cow. :blink:

Are you that removed from conservative American evangelical culture that such a statement is stunning? Such attempts to reconcile these difficulties in the text are furthermore not just an American evangelical thing, but reach back into earlier Christian and even early Jewish ways of reckoning with the Scripture's competing narratives. You may deem such reconciliations either naive or silly, something Christianity has been thankfully shaking off over the past few centuries, but such an approach isn't without precedent.

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"A revelation, pretending to be from God, that contradicts any part of natural law, ought immediately to be rejected as an imposture; for the Deity cannot make a law contrary to the law of nature without acting contrary to himself, - a thing in the strictest sense impossible, for that which implies contradiction is not an object of the divine power ..."

What of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son? Of course, in ultimate terms, God proved himself consistent with his nature. But it does seem that God is not unwilling to challenge individuals by making provocative statements that may seem incongruous with what is else known about him, at least for a time (see, also, Jesus' original proclamation of "you must eat my flesh and drink my blood," a teaching after which many of his followers leave and Jesus nevertheless refuses to elaborate/correct their face value reading of his comment).

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Are you that removed from conservative American evangelical culture that such a statement is stunning?

No. Used to be quite the champion at Biblical inerrancy and free-association prooftexting myself.

Such attempts to reconcile these difficulties in the text are furthermore not just an American evangelical thing, but reach back into earlier Christian and even early Jewish ways of reckoning with the Scripture's competing narratives. You may deem such reconciliations either naive or silly, something Christianity has been thankfully shaking off over the past few centuries, but such an approach isn't without precedent.

Not all such reconciliations are problematic. The two passages in question (Ex. 18 and Deut. 1) don't necessarily contradict at all; it's just that one includes details the other one leaves out. But the idea that both passages must be true in order for the entire Bible to be true ... well, such a statement would have to apply to all contradictions in the Bible, not just this one, and many of those contradictions can't be so easily reconciled.

Edited by mrmando

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Not all such reconciliations are problematic. The two passages in question don't necessarily contradict at all; it's just that one includes details the other one leaves out. But the idea that both passages must be true in order for the entire Bible to be true ... well, such a statement would have to apply to all contradictions in the Bible, not just this one, and many of those contradictions can't be so easily reconciled.

Actually, in one account, man is created first, then the animals... in the other the animals are created and then man. One can certainly argue that is not an important contradiction...but both cannot be true either.

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Actually, in one account, man is created first, then the animals... in the other the animals are created and then man. One can certainly argue that is not an important contradiction...but both cannot be true either.

My statement referred to Deut. 1 and Ex. 18, not to Genesis. If you believe in Biblical inerrancy then no contradiction is unimportant ... especially if it occurs in the creation narrative. And yet, there it is.

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Whoops...sorry...not sure how I missed that.

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Not all such reconciliations are problematic. The two passages in question don't necessarily contradict at all; it's just that one includes details the other one leaves out. But the idea that both passages must be true in order for the entire Bible to be true ... well, such a statement would have to apply to all contradictions in the Bible, not just this one, and many of those contradictions can't be so easily reconciled.

Actually, in one account, man is created first, then the animals... in the other the animals are created and then man. One can certainly argue that is not an important contradiction...but both cannot be true either.

I know that this is not the central topic of this thread, but there are other ways to read the passage that resolve the apparent contradiction (perhaps Genesis 1 is a literary framework rather than a chronological recounting of events, or perhaps Genesis 2 tells of the creation of the Garden of Eden specifically while Genesis 1 is about the whole earth, etc) while remaining confident in the inerrancy of the Bible.

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So ... you are in fact arguing for any form of government that entails people choosing their own leaders, even if it's a monarchy.

Yes. Even Oliver Cromwell would have supported a specific kind of monarchy.

Well, assuming the Bible is true, both versions of the story must be true.

Holy cow.

I don't know why there's a problem with this. The Law of Non-Contradiction can be applied to the Bible. A contradiction is when one proposition or story excludes the possibility of the other. But whenever there are different versions of a story in Scripture, the fact that supplemental details in each story complement each other and give us the bigger picture is not something to worry about. There's a difference between an actual contradiction, and what appears like could be a contradiction upon a perusory reading.

OK, please reconcile the two conflicting creation narratives in Genesis,

Actually, in one account, man is created first, then the animals... in the other the animals are created and then man. One can certainly argue that is not an important contradiction...but both cannot be true either.

In context, Genesis 2 is focusing in on Man and the Garden of Eden, and is not written necessarily in specific chronological order - "on the first day" - "on the second day" like Genesis 1. The beginning of Genesis 2 is the Garden of Eden, not the planet earth. In fact, Genesis 2:19 does not actually say the time God created the animals, instead it simply says that God brought the animals He "had formed" to Adam to be named. To read this passage historically, instead of just as poetry, still does not demand that every little detail must exactly proceed the other just so. One simply needs to look at the author's intent - Genesis 1 gives an ordered account of Creation - Genesis 2 focuses in on the story of man, providing additional details to what Genesis 1:26-28 only briefly summarized.

or tell me at what point in his ministry Jesus cleansed the Temple,

Twice. Once at the beginning of His ministry in John 2:13-22 - notice the different details, quotes, etc. And once at the end of His ministry in Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46. Remember, all the early events mentioned in John, chapters 1-5, (except for Christ's baptism by John the Baptist) are not mentioned in any of the other gospels. What Scriptural evidence would you use to claim that Jesus only "cleansed the Temple" once anyway. For all we know, He might have done so more than just twice. He was certainly in Jerusalem more than once, and I'd sort of expect Him to do it every single time he walked into Jerusalem.

or explain how Judas died twice in two very different ways.

Come on now, do both Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:16-19 really exclude each other? The different descriptions of the same death are due to the writers (one's a Jew and a former personal friend of Judas, the other's a Greek medical doctor). It would be a different thing if Luke told us the fall was the cause of Judas' death, but he doesn't actually say that, does he? Luke's a doctor, so you would expect him to, but instead he's explaining why Judas' field got its name.

Again, though: marvelous stuff on Rom. 13. This is precisely the way I've understood the passage for a long time. It is, however, a double-edged sword: the government established by the Founding Fathers has not always fulfilled its obligations under moral law either.

You are right, it hasn't. But no government by men ever will. That's why you arrange a government structure different than pure democracy, so that you have a government of law and not of men.

What of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son? Of course, in ultimate terms, God proved himself consistent with his nature. But it does seem that God is not unwilling to challenge individuals by making provocative statements that may seem incongruous with what is else known about him, at least for a time (see, also, Jesus' original proclamation of "you must eat my flesh and drink my blood," a teaching after which many of his followers leave and Jesus nevertheless refuses to elaborate/correct their face value reading of his comment).

True. But instances of God telling someone to do something contrary to His revealed law is provocative precisely because whenever God does do this in Scripture, He is looking for a response. There is a difference between God provoking someone like Abraham or Peter, and God declaring his revealed moral law.

Not all such reconciliations are problematic. The two passages in question (Ex. 18 and Deut. 1) don't necessarily contradict at all; it's just that one includes details the other one leaves out. But the idea that both passages must be true in order for the entire Bible to be true ... well, such a statement would have to apply to all contradictions in the Bible, not just this one, and many of those contradictions can't be so easily reconciled.

Name one apparent contradiction that can't be reconciled and I'll personally ditch believing in Biblical Inerrancy.

you believe in Biblical inerrancy then no contradiction is unimportant ... especially if it occurs in the creation narrative.

Correct.

And yet, there it is.

By "it," I'm assuming you are referring to a light reading of Genesis 2 that demands that the author intended to mean that animals were only created after Adam?

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(perhaps Genesis 1 is a literary framework rather than a chronological recounting of events)

A passage that places so much emphasis on 1st day, 2nd day, etc., is somehow not chronological????!!!

or perhaps Genesis 2 tells of the creation of the Garden of Eden specifically while Genesis 1 is about the whole earth

The beginning of Genesis 2 is the Garden of Eden, not the planet earth.

The phrase "the earth" occurs five separate times in Gen. 2:4-6, but you both want to maintain that the chapter is not about the earth?

The chronologies are rather more tangled than has been discussed thus far.

In Gen. 1: Vegetation on day 3; stars, moon and sun on day 4; birds and fish on day 5; first animals, then humans, both male and female, on day 6.

In Gen. 2: Man, then vegetation, then animals, then woman. Possibly this all took place in one day, if "day" in 2:4 means the same thing as "day" in 2:3. But in that case, which day was it? The phrase "in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven" (2:4) doesn't correspond to any of the days in ch. 1, since in ch. 1 earth and heaven are made before the first day. If it's the day when vegetation was created, perhaps it's day 3 ... except it would have been inconvenient for man to name the animals without any sun to give light for him to see what they looked like.

A historical-critical analysis of Gen. 1 & 2 would simply suggest that the two stories are separate but partially overlapping accounts of the same events (neither one, obviously, being an eyewitness account), collected from divergent strains of oral tradition. But an inerrantist has to maintain that both chapters are written by the same author — who apparently gives great attention to a strict, ordered chronology in ch. 1, and then goes off his meds in ch. 2, since the chapters don't have a prayer of being reconciled unless you assume that ch. 2 is completely non-linear.

In the end, inerrantists shred the text to chop suey in order to maintain their preconceptions. I'd just rather shred my preconceptions and take the text as I find it.

Name one apparent contradiction that can't be reconciled and I'll personally ditch believing in Biblical Inerrancy.

First we need to agree on what we mean by "reconciled." For instance, you try to "reconcile" one of the contradictions in Genesis by claiming that "The beginning of Genesis 2 is the Garden of Eden," when in fact the garden isn't even planted until 2:8, after the man has been created. If you are allowed to "reconcile" textual difficulties by proclaiming falsehoods about the text, then you are playing with a stacked deck and there is no way I can win.

Edited by mrmando

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Hm. We seem to have killed the thread by going off topic.

It is, however, a double-edged sword: the government established by the Founding Fathers has not always fulfilled its obligations under moral law either.

You are right, it hasn't.

Well, then, the extent to which a given government upholds moral law is the same extent to which it has the moral right to expect service from its subjects/citizens, up to and including military service.

Your disagreement with Andy, then, has nothing to do with how you interpret Rom. 13 — both of you would say that a citizen's obligation to the government is conditioned by the government's behavior with respect to moral law.

Where you disagree is on whether or not this country has an essentially good government — or, perhaps, on whether specific actions undertaken by its government are good.

Edited by mrmando

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