Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why I Agree with the American Revolution

Some argue that because the Bible calls Christians to submit to and obey the civil government, there is never any justifiable reason to overthrow it. But I have come to disagree with this viewpoint.

In his recent book, Politics: According to the Bible, Wayne Grudem wrote the following:

“According to Greg Forster, a scholar with expertise in the history of governmental theory, one common argument among Christian writers was that a tyrannical 'government' is 'not really a government at all but a criminal gang masquerading as a government and is therefore not entitled to the obedience that governments (properly so called) can claim.' Another argument was that 'the principle of the rule of law . . . implies the right of rebellion.'” 

On that second point, the idea is that if a government refuses to rule according to law, then it ceases to be a government and the people have the right of rebellion. Romans 13:1-6 teaches that “governing authorities” are those that approve what is good and oppose what is evil. This implies that any centralized power that fails to uphold law (because it opposes what is good and approves what is evil) is not a biblically sanctioned “governing authority.”

John Calvin's view (with which I agree) was that lesser government officials must protect and defend citizens from higher government officials who abuse their power to oppress and harm the people. This is clearly what happened in the Revolutionary War against King George. British officials in America saw that the king committed many injustices and acts of oppression against his own people, and they rightly rebelled.

In the Institutes of Christian Religion, Calvin wrote:

“If there are now any magistrates [government officials] of the people, appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings . . . if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that . . . they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God's ordinance” (4.20.31). 

Scripture teaches that God raised up leaders to deliver people from tyranny. Moses delivered Israel out of oppression in Egypt (Exodus 1-14). The book of Judges is about how God raised up a series of deliverers to oust illegitimate native rulers in the land of Canaan. Judges 2:16 says, “The LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” Hebrews 11:33 speaks of those “who through faith conquered kingdoms.”

King George was a terrible tyrant. If you haven't read the Declaration of Independence lately, let me encourage you to do so. Pay special attention to the long list of serious crimes committed by the king and imagine living under his rule in the colonies.  They include his dismissal of the established legislative bodies, paying judges to rule according to his will alone, quartering troops in the homes of citizens without their consent, using the military to overrule the recognized local government, etc.  George overthrew the rule of law.  Had I lived in that day, I would have followed the lesser magistrates in revolt against the tyrant King George.