Independence Day Question

God has blessed America. In every way our country enjoys peace on a scale unknown in human history. Even with all our failures as a people, God is showing great mercy to the United States. If you have a moment please pray for my brother-in-law (Adam) who is in Iraq.

I want to set up a difficult question for our readers today. First read this passage from Romans. Then, watch then watch this video that recounts the history of Communism.

Romans 13:1-5 ESV
(1) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(2) Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
(3) For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
(4) for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
(5) Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

There are some graphic images in this video. So don’t push play if young children are in the room. HT: Doxoblogy

What do you think?

How can Christians reconcile the real evil of human governments and Paul’s endorsement of one such government – the Roman Empire?

Posted By Tony Kummer

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2 Responses to Independence Day Question

  1. Pingback: Independence Day « d o x o l o g i a

  2. Kevin Foflygen says:

    I just found this post and I was impressed by the fact that after two full weeks there have been no answers to your challenge. I’m sure there are plenty of believers besides myself who could give a satisfactory answer. At the same time, in my experience, many Christians wind up sounding like unbelievers when confronted with the reality of such atrocities.

    First, the answer to the general problem of evil, put very simply, goes something like this: God’s concern is first for his own glory, second for the good of the elect, and third (way, way down on the bottom of the list) for the good of the world in general. Certainly God knows best how to glorify himself; and the existence of evil in no way detracts from his glory. Even a simpleton like myself can think of a couple ways for God to be glorified because of evil: (1) Evil gives him opportunity to display his glorious power through his wrath (Rom 9:22); and (2) Evil gives him opportunity to display his glorious mercy in Christ (Rom 9:23-24). Certainly God also knows best what is good for his people. Again, I can think of a couple ways, just off the top of my head, that evil can be used for the good of the elect: (1) Evil results in suffering, and “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3b-4); and (2) Our own struggle with sin forces our humble reliance upon him (Rom 11:32, Gal 3:22), which is ultimately good for us (Prov 16:18). As far as the good of the world in general, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45), and that’s far more than he needs to do for a world full of unrighteous men, “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18b).

    Now to the passage in question (Rom 13:1-5). A couple things need to be observed: First, Paul’s focus is clearly on lower authorities, though higher authorities are not outside his view. I say this, because the Emperor of Rome wouldn’t have been expected to deal with ordinary individuals who did evil or evaded taxes (v. 6). If this is observed, then Paul’s statement that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil” (v. 3) is generally true — even in old Soviet Russia. On the level of everyday life, the Soviet police were there to prevent crime. Which brings us to our second point: although Paul uses universal language concerning the grounding of human authority (v. 1 — “there is no authority except from God”) and concerning our obligation to obey that authority (v.2 — “whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God”), his language in regards to the goodness or justice of human authorities is not put in such universal terms. Certainly it can be taken as universal — that all rulers are good and just. But I’m sure Paul was aware that there were such things as unjust rulers, both lower (Luke 3:13-14) and higher (Prov 28:15), and he could readily have brought to mind instances of such men (e.g. Exod 1:22, 1 Kings 16:30, Dan 6:7).

    The point of Romans 13:1-7 is that we, as slaves of Christ, obey him by submitting to the authorities he has placed over us. “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (v. 2). Paul’s main point was not to describe the character of our governmental leaders. It was to lay out our obligation to those leaders. Our obligation to obedience does not depend on the character of those whom we are obliged to obey. It depends solely on the authority of God, who has placed them over us. Therefore, we only disobey our leaders when obeying them would mean disobeying God. A man in Soviet Russia would not have been obligated to participate in the atrocities of Stalin. Nevertheless, he would have been obligated to pay taxes to Stalin (v. 6), even knowing that those taxes would be used to commit further atrocities. This may sound wrong, but when Christ said “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt 22:21), was it not a bloodthirsty, anti-Christian government he was telling the Pharisees to support? God is in sovereign control of everything, including the atrocities of Stalin, Pol Pot, et al. Their reigns were “established by God” (Rom 13:1). Our concern is “to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (v. 1) that God has placed over us. Not only that, but God says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf” (Jer 29:7 — written to Jews living amongst Gentile captors).

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