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Romans 13

Romans 13

Postby deadwhitemale » 21 May 2009, 03:34

I think I've been on about this before, months ago. It;s hard to remember. Anyway, it keeps coming up.

I have a special problem with Romans 13, or at least with the way it is often interpreted. Some people say the book of Job is the most abused part of the Bible, in the sense that it has (they claim) been used to justify unjust or at least inexplicable suffering. But I say the most abused part of the Bible is Romans 13, in the sense that is still IS used to justify or rationalize government tyranny and tame submission to same.

" In recent years, Christians have interpreted Romans 13 as a command for unlimited submission to government by God. Many proponents of this belief have sat passively by, in the soft pews of their place of worship, while evil has triumphed in most areas of family and church life. In our pacifistic smugness, many have allowed government to become god without even knowing.

Yet, when confronted with the true meaning of Romans 13, absurd accusations are shouted in religious rhetoric toward those who would dare to break an unjust law or even to question the almighty government. The opponents of unlimited submission to government are deemed as rebellious, anarchist and disobedient." ... E_ID=22417

' Did Moses violate God's principle of submission to authority when he killed the Egyptian taskmaster in defense of his fellow Hebrew?

Did Elijah violate God's principle of submission to authority when he openly challenged Ahab and Jezebel?

Did David violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to surrender to Saul's troops?

Did Daniel violate God's principle of submission to authority when he disobeyed the king's law to not pray audibly to God?

Did the three Hebrew children violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to bow to the image of the state?

Did John the Baptist violate God's principle of submission to authority when he publicly scolded King Herod for his infidelity?

Did Simon Peter and the other Apostles violate God's principle of submission to authority when they refused to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem?

Did Paul violate God's principle of submission to authority when he refused to obey those authorities who demanded that he abandon his missionary work? In fact, Paul spent almost as much time in jail as he did out of jail.

Remember that every apostle of Christ (except John) was killed by hostile civil authorities opposed to their endeavors. Christians throughout church history were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by civil authorities of all stripes for refusing to submit to their various laws and prohibitions. Did all of these Christian martyrs violate God's principle of submission to authority?

So, even the great prophets, apostles, and writers of the Bible (including the writer of Romans Chapter 13) understood that human authority – even civil authority – is limited.

Plus, Paul makes it clear that our submission to civil authority must be predicated on more than fear of governmental retaliation. Notice, he said, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Meaning, our obedience to civil authority is more than just "because they said so." It is also a matter of conscience.

This means we must think and reason for ourselves regarding the justness and rightness of our government's laws. Obedience is not automatic or robotic. It is a result of both rational deliberation and moral approbation.

Therefore, there are times when civil authority may need to be resisted. Either governmental abuse of power or the violation of conscience (or both) could precipitate civil disobedience. Of course, how and when we decide to resist civil authority is an entirely separate issue. And I will reserve that discussion for another time.

Beyond that, we in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country.

America's "supreme Law" does not rest with any man or any group of men. America's "supreme Law" does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court.

In America, the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land." Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of the United States. Do readers understand the significance of this distinction? I hope so.

This means that in America the "higher powers" are not the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, this is how Romans Chapter 13 reads to Americans:

"Let every soul be subject unto the [U.S. Constitution.] For there is no [Constitution] but of God: the [Constitution] that be [is] ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the [Constitution], resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For [the Constitution is] not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the [Constitution]? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For [the Constitution] is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for [the Constitution] beareth not the sword in vain: for [the Constitution] is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for [the Constitution is] God's minister, 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; honor to whom honor."

Dear Christian friend, the above is exactly the proper understanding of our responsibility to civil authority in these United States, as per the teaching of Romans Chapter 13.

Furthermore, Christians, above all people, should desire that their elected representatives submit to the Constitution, because it is constitutional government that has done more to protect Christian liberty than any governing document ever devised by man. As I have noted before in this column, Biblical principles form the foundation of all three of America's founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and The Bill of Rights.

As a result, Christians in America (for the most part) have not had to face the painful decision to "obey God rather than men" and defy their civil authorities.

The problem in America today is that we have allowed our political leaders to violate their oaths of office and to ignore, and blatantly disobey, the "supreme Law of the Land," the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, if we truly believe Romans Chapter 13, we will insist and demand that our civil magistrates submit to the U.S. Constitution.

Now, how many of us Christians are going to truly obey Romans Chapter 13?'

Unfortunately, the foregoing may not be as clear to many as it is to the author and me. He and I are thinking of the Constitution as written -- NOT as "interpreted" centuries later. We're going by what's actually there on the page, NOT whatever bizarre and unprecedented, unheard of meaning that, by whatever sophistry, may be teased out of the "emanations and penumbras."

Ours is NOT a "living Constitution," into which whoever happens to be in power at the moment may breath whtever new meaning he likes. To us it says what it means, and means what it says, and, aside from certain grammatical problems posed by its over-punctuated 18th century diction, is pretty plain in its meaning to anyone not wearing a black robe.

As for my occasional references to the legal and criminal "justice" system, even a very little experience of being on the wrong end of it will suffice. I mean a little really goes a long way. Get charged with even the most trivial, rinky-dink little thing sometime, maybe under some very vague, catch-all type charge. Unless you are really a SOMEBODY in all capital letters (and sometimes even then), you quickly find out out just how much all your "rights" :lol: DON"T mean, and to what extent that you are a nobody, a nothing, a nonentity.

Whether you are actually guilty as charged, or guilty of anything at all that ever really happened or even could have happened, or entirely innocent, is almost completely immaterial and irrelevant, and is scarcely even considered. Outside of an interrogation room, no one is interested in anything you have to say, and even there they are only interested in getting you (by hook or by crook) to tell them whatever it is they want to hear. If you persist in refusing to confess, they may charge you with lying to them, or obstructing justice, or Malicious Intent to commit Statutory Conspiracy. (See: "Scooter" Libby, Martha Stewart, et al.)

Once in the court room, all anyone wants to hear is you pleading guilty. Try to say much else and you may quickly find yourself gagged, or muzzled, or wearing a remote-controlled "shock belt" to save them the bother of Tasing you. You were probably already shackled.

Don't believe all the propaganda about "revolving door justice" and obviously gulty criminals getting off Scot-free "on a technicality." The whole thing is basically set up to be an assembly line conviction mill. You don't even have to be the "customer" (defendant) to see it. Just spend a day or two "court-watching." Watch a hundred shackled prisoners shuffle and hop up to a microphone and plead "guilty," after falsely answering "no" to the question, "Were any threats or promises made to secure this plea agreement?"

The last time I sat I sat in, I was longing for just one of them to answer, "Why, of course threats and/or promises were made to secure this plea agreement? Why else would I confess to something I never did, or that never happened?" But no one ever said that. Less than one in a hundred wanted to go to trial. That usually ended badly for them too.

I have no faith in juries either. They are easily rigged (I mean it's easy to exclude anyone remotely likey to acquit anyone), and they tend to convict people of things they were never even charged with, just to "send a message" to someone or other, about this or that. :rolleyes:

Seriously, I have observed pre-trial hearings and trials that weren't a whole lot better than this:

Frito: [Acting as Joe's public defender] It says here you robbed a hospital. Why'd you do that?
Pvt. Joe Bowers[a.k.a. "Not Sure"] : I'm not guilty!
Frito: That's not what the other lawyer said.

Judge Hank "The Hangman" BMW: Now prosecutor, why you think he done it?
Prosecutor: 'Kay. Number one your honor, just look at him. And B, we've got all this, like, evidence, of how, like, this guy didn't even pay at the hospital. And I heard that he doesn't even have his tattoo.
[crowd boos]
Prosecutor: I know! And I'm all, 'you've gotta be [kiddin'] me!' But check this out man, judge should be like
[bangs fist on table]
Prosecutor: 'guilty!' Peace.

Female [Trial] Reporter: It started off boring and slow with 'Not Sure' trying to [fool] everyone with a bunch of smart talk: 'Blah blah blah. You gotta believe me!' That part of the trial sucked! But then the Chief J. just went off. He said, 'Man, whatever! The guy's guilty as [heck]! We all know that.' And he sentenced his [hindquarters] to one night of 'rehabilitation.' -- Idiocracy (2006)

Last edited by deadwhitemale on 27 May 2009, 09:46, edited 1 time in total.
"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Romans 13

Postby Jesse Hove » 24 May 2009, 06:47

While I don't doubt the constitution has done alot for America I am not sure Romans 13 means we should take the constitution to be ordained by God in the sense that it is a minister of God. We obey the laws of our countries but as Christians we belong to a different Kingdom, that is far different from any system of Government I have ever seen. God has allowed nations to become what they are, but I would not be so bold to suggest that any are God's mouthpiece. Historically a Christendom does not seem to be a very good idea.

Paul had the difficult task of urging his followers to stay strong in their faith, respect Roman authority, pay their taxes, but not to be lead astray by Roman life style. In a sense he was saying submit to authority, but don't become like them, because God's Kingdom is not of this world. Trying to create a legal system around God's Kingdom is tricky because our old man will continue to haunt us until the day of Christ's return, and I suspect Paul's letters will continue to be abused until that day is fulfilled. If Romans 13 (as with all the letters) is examined in it's historical context in faith, there is a beautiful message we can take from it. If it is used to manipulate our own political or moral agenda, things will continue as they have.

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Re: Romans 13

Postby deadwhitemale » 26 May 2009, 06:45

I stumbled across this a while back. Unfortunately, I don't have a link, but I have at least attributed it to its author.

Taking Liberties

' Whoa there, Iain. There is much more to be said about liberty than that.

In the context of American liberty, David Hackett Fischer gives good coverage in his classic Albion's Seed. The four root stocks of Britons who formed the founding population of the U.S.A. brought four subtly different notions of liberty with them to the New World (says Fischer).

• The East Anglian Puritans who populated New England used the word "liberty" in at least three ways. There was publick liberty, a collective notion perfectly consistent with close restraint on individuals. Then there were liberties a person might be entitled to: "understood as specific exemptions from conditions of prior restraint … The General Court [of Massachusetts], for example, enacted laws which extended 'liberties and privileges of fishing and fowling' to certain inhabitants, and thereby denied them to everyone else." Then there was soul liberty, which seems to have meant "freedom to order one's acts in a godly way — but not in any other."

• The "distressed cavaliers," mainly from England's West Country, who populated the Tidewater South, practiced hegemonic liberty, which, as Fischer says, Burke understood very well, as it was the common conception of 18th-century English gentlemen. Notions of pride, rank, and genealogy were to the fore here; and obviously this style of liberty cohabited quite comfortably with race slavery (as Burke pointed out in a speech to Parliament, quoted at length in Fischer, p.414).

• The Quakers from the English North Midlands who settled the Delaware valley looked to reciprocal liberty. This embraced all of humanity. Its central idea was freedom of the individual conscience. William Penn: "Conscience is God's throne in man, and the power of it his prerogative."

• The Scotch-Irish — border Scots and their Ulster relatives — cherished natural liberty, and took this to the colonial back-country they populated in the middle two quarters of the 18th century.

Fischer quotes an observer: "They shun everything which appears to demand of them law and order, and anything that preaches constraint … They hate the name of a justice, and yet they are not transgressors. Their object is merely wild. Altogether, natural freedom … is what pleases them."

It's not hard to pick up echoes of these different "freedom ways" in today's debates. Probably each of us finds some one of the four more attractive than the others. Very approximately speaking, modern liberalism descends from the first and third of Fischer's styles, modern conservatism from the second and fourth.'

-- John Derbyshire

"They hate the name of a justice, and yet they are not transgressors."

British Officer: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all. -- Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Duncan: There is a war on. How is it you are heading west?
Hawkeye: Well, we kind of face to the north and, real sudden-like, turn left. -- Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Maj. Duncan Heyward: I thought all our colonial scouts were in the militia. The militia is fighting the French in the north.
Hawkeye: I ain't your scout. And we sure ain't no damn militia. -- Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Duncan: And who empowered these colonials to pass judgement on England's policies, and to come and go without so much as a "by your leave"?
Cora Munro: They do not live their lives "by your leave"! They hack it out of the wilderness with their own two hands, bearing their children along the way! -- Last of the Mohicans (1992)

" Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

--Plato (400-something B.C.)

"To live outside the law you must be honest." -- Bob Dylan, "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (circa 1966)

Just throwing this out there as a possible discussion topic. The fourth one - the Scots-Irish "natural liberty" -- is of course the one that holds the most charm for me personally.

"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Romans 13

Postby Bluegoat » 26 May 2009, 15:49

deadwhitemale wrote:

Just throwing this out there as a possible discussion topic. The fourth one - the Scots-Irish "natural liberty" -- is of course the one that holds the most charm for me personally.


It is charming, especially in fiction. But not, perhaps, so much to live with, as I suspect it is intimately related to natural blood feuds.
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Re: Romans 13

Postby deadwhitemale » 27 May 2009, 07:16

So much depends, of course, on how we define our terms, what we understand certain words and phrases to mean. We are hindered by semantics. We my be using the same words or phrases, but not talking about the same things at all.

Recently I have heard the expression "rule of law" thrown around a lot. It always moves me to ask, "What law? Whose law?"

Some international treaty we should never have agreed to, which erodes or subverts United States sovereignty, or is otherwise not in the the USA's bet interests? Some ruling by some European Union court that certain elements in our own government (and courts) believe we should defer to, never mind what the U.S. Constitution actually says?

I actually Googled "rule of law," and found a Wikipedia article by that title:

' Different people have different interpretations about exactly what "rule of law" means. According to political theorist Judith N. Shklar, "the phrase 'the Rule of Law' has become meaningless thanks to ideological abuse and general over-use", but nevertheless this phrase has in the past had specific and important meanings.[17] Among modern legal theorists, most views on this subject fall into three general categories: the formal approach, the substantive approach, and the functional approach.[7][18]

The "formal" interpretation is more widespread than the "substantive" interpretation, and formalists hold that the law must be prospective, well-known, and have characteristics of generality, equality, and certainty. Other than that, the formal view contains no requirements as to the content of the law.[7] This formal approach allows laws that protect democracy and individual rights, but recognizes the existence of "rule of law" in countries that do not necessarily have such laws protecting democracy or individual rights. The substantive interpretation holds that the rule of law intrinsically protects some or all individual rights.

In addition to the formal and substantive interpretatations of the term "rule of law", another leading interpretation is the functional definition, which is consistent with the traditional English meaning that contrasts the "rule of law" with the "rule of man."[18] According to the functional view, a society in which government officers have a great deal of discretion has a low degree of "rule of law", whereas a society in which government officers have little discretion has a high degree of "rule of law".[18] The rule of law is thus somewhat at odds with flexibility, even when flexibility may be preferable [to some -- DWM].'

Barack Obama has frequently spoken of the "rule of law" lately, principally in the context of what should be done about the prison at Guantanamo and the detainees there. As near as I can understand him, he seems to feel that we are violating those prisoners constitutional rights. I wonder if, 200 years and change ago, then-President Thomas Jefferson ordered Stephen Decatur and the U.S. Marines to be very careful not to violate any of the constitutional rights of the Barary Corsairs, to make sure to read them their Miranda rights and return them unharmed to the United States to be put on trial, represented by the best available defense atorneys? (And then to be enrolled on the public dole when acquitted?)

You can read a little about what course was actually followed here: ... BiotID=221

You might think Thomas Jefferson would have known all about the Constitution and constitutional rights, but he didn't seem to think the Barbary Corsairs had any, or that they ought to be regarded purely as a law enforcement problem, and a tribvial one at that. But Obama knows better than Jefferson. After all, as he often reminds us, he used to teach constitutional law in a university. And don't forget, Jefferson owned some slaves. So what'd he know?

Some of Obama's appointments to various posts, especially the Attorney General's office, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, and now the Supreme Court, make me worry about what he thinks the supreme law of the land is or should be.

Doubts About Sotomayor's Support For the Rule of Law

' We hear a lot about how Obama was once a professor of constitutional law and is to be trusted on whom he appoints, but my guess is that his attorney general, Eric Holder, summed up the Obama philosophy when he derided the idea we should be bound by an "18th century" document and said what we needed instead was a "living Constitution."

This phrase means that judges make up the basic law of the land as we go along -- it is a philosophy that actually gives us a dead Constitution
. My guess is that Sotomayor will be elevated to the court and that this lawless objective will move closer to reality.' -- Jay Ambrose

I don't know any card games so I don't play cards, but if I did play, say, poker, for money, I would not want the game to be played according to "living," evolving rules that changed moment by moment, and never, ever to my advantage. I'd rather it be played according to fixed, settled, well-understod rules.

It takes more than soaring but vague-to-the-point-of-meaningless rhetoric and endlessly repeated noble-sounding but vapid phrases to get me to jump on the bandwagon.

For decades I have looked around me, and it has increasing seemed to me that there was no more "rule of law" in my country -- at least if the Constitution and Bill of Rights was still supposed to be the supreme law of the land. In the early Nineties I remarked bitterly and sincerely to a philosophy professor I knew then, "There is no more law. There is only force. The only law now is the kind that grows out of the barrel of a gun."

As far as I know just about every public office holder and member of the armed forces (I'm not sure about the police anymore) still swears to uphold and defend the United States Constitution -- not the will of the majority, not a piece of ground, or any particular style of living, or baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. How may of the politicians actually meant it when they sore it is open to debate.

I used to have some contacts and acquaintances in law enforcement. About three years ago, while walking out the hospital with him, I sounded out the local sheriff -- who sings and plays a trombone in the choir of the church we are both members of -- about the possibility of his job and his faith ever coming into conflict. That is, could enforcing some law or other ever violate his conscience as a Christian?

He scoffed at any such possibility. He referred to ... wait for it ... Romans 13, saying "The Bible says to obey authority." Pressed further about the potential enactment of blatantly un- or anti-constitutional laws, he dismissed that by saying, in effect, that the Constitution did not mean much of anything one way or the other until thee was a Supreme Court ruling on it, and anyway, it was not his job to judge or interpret the law, only to enforce it.

To him it was inconceivable, unimaginable, that any law could ever be passed or upheld by the courts that would force him to choose between obeying God's law or man's law. It was just a logical impossibility to him. Furthermore, he seemed to feel that whatever he or anyone in a position of authority -- particularly in law enforcement -- wanted, or wanted to do, must always automatically be right and proper and godly.

Also, in general I have found it counter-productive to bring up any constitutional issue with most people in law enforcement. In general, Constitution is a dirty word to them, something only bleeding-heart liberals care about and and exploit to hinder law enforcement efforts and to get plainly guilty criminals off on "technicalities" (like warrantless searches that violate Fourth Amendment rights, etc).

I suppose it must seem that I am being inconsistent, self-contradictory, or even hypocrital, by expressing concern over the Constitution and the erosion of constitutional liberties in almost the same breath with which I likened the Gitmo detainess and their still-at-large pals to the Barbary Corsairs (and other pirates and common enemies of all mankind), and suggested that I did not feel over-tender about their rights.

It seems that I am not allowed to care more about the rights of real, live, loyal, patriotic, born-in-the-USA-type American citizens (and not just by accident of birth or in name only) -- the very kind Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security seems to consider the greatest threat to security -- than about the rights of America's enemies captured on foreign battlefields, or their Fifth Columnists discovered in our midst.

People will say, "Treat them as P.O.W.s according to the Geneva Convention." Well, were any of the Gitmo detainees uniformed members of the armed forces of any nation that signed the Genevea Convention? And what's the general rule about un-uniformed spies, saboteurs, and traitors?

"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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Re: Romans 13

Postby Theophilus » 27 May 2009, 15:08

In interpreting Romans 13 you must keep in mind the purpose of this authority as stated in verse 4: "He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." As long as the government fulfills this purpose we owe it complete allegiance. When it starts to exercise authority in areas that are reserved to God we must refuse to obey. When Jesus said "Render to Caesar what is Caeser's and to God what is God's" he was speaking of paying taxes, but this principle can be applied to other areas as well.
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Re: Romans 13

Postby gameld » 27 May 2009, 15:40

i find romans 13 to be quite a simple passage to apply: obey the government unless they tell me to do something that violates God's moral character.
for example, it tells me to pay taxes, "give to caesar what is caesar's."
a contrary example, it tells me to stop preaching Christ, "judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's eyes to obey you rather than God."
this allows me to operate reasonably in my culture without too much to worry about. i don't violate the laws (except the occasional jaywalking) and they don't bother me about acting as a christian.
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Re: Romans 13

Postby wigworld » 31 May 2009, 16:31

For me, it's about the meaning of the word 'submission'. Submission is more of an attitude than a specific act. I think it's possible to maintain an attitude of submission, but still disobey an authority (and therefore be in obedient to God's authority).
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Re: Romans 13

Postby deadwhitemale » 02 Jun 2009, 00:59

"Is there any such thing as law, really? Or is it all just rhetoric used in support of power politics? With no stopping condition the legal philosophy that refuses to accept the idea of objectivity becomes legal nihilism: The law is whatever those who have the loyalty of the armed forces say it is, or more precisely, act as if it is." -- Jim Manzi

"It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun." -- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim(1899?)
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