Archive for April, 2017

I’d rather use a list
-If Romans 13 means we can never stand against a government, we cannot stand against the vast majority of injustice throughout history or in the world today
– Authority is given to other entities as well (church, family) and in none of these cases is it explicitly stated the limits of that authority. Yet rare is the person who argues a church or family can demand whatever they wish of its members.
– The two things given that government can do that would be sins for other people are taking money and taking life. The argument for the extent of one exegetically implies the other.
–  I agree that Romans 13 gives the state has the right to take life or property at times and for reasons where it would be immoral for other entities to. The question can they take property or life for any reason they decide and it never is immoral.
– The two listed reasons for Government is the punishment of the wicked and rewarding of good behavior. Arguments that see these as only examples and that a Government exists to do well beyond that import these ideas in.
-The exceptions that even the most strident defender of absolute rights of states, such as that we should not stop worshiping, or that we should inform on house churches, is in no way explicit or even implied in this passage. If the authority taught is limitless, any limits one thinks belong on it must be theological and not biblical and thus are open to the same arguments others make.
– Paul’s command “to not resist” needs to be exegeted, it is more likely he is saying do not rebel as the zealots were doing. There is a far cry between not forming a militia against the Roman Government and giving them overt support.
– If the authority is limitless in scope because explicit limits are not given, though positive duties are listed, we must keep in mind limits are not explicated placed on the Church or Family either. Why then can these entities not take over the state’s role?
– arguments that the churches authority over their members (or husbands authority over wives) are limitless because no explicit limit is given are unheard of.
– the church and family are given authority without any implication of where specifically that authority lies, yet we limit it. The state is given authority WITH clear delineation (carrying out God’s wrath against the wrongdoer)
– Those who argue for full submission in payment no matter what, yet that we should abandon male headship because there is a history of men using it to abuse their wives should be honest about history. Has not the State claiming ultimate authority to do anything they want led to far more harm? Can the numbers even compare to the atrocities that would be excused if it is argued that the state must be submitted to no matter how extreme and for any reason, rather than only within her justifiable authority, the roles given it in scripture? If there are no limts to her what she may do and not sin, let’s stop wining about any “injusitce” done by countries to their citizens.

While there are other passages in the New Testament and many in the old relevant for this discussion I focus on Romans 13. Old testament passages are less explicit in that the state and church are essentially one in such commands. Likewise, many of the commandments are based on Israel being God’s covenant people, and so would really fit better under one another commands. The best question I see being raised from these is if a certain thing was not under the control of national Israel, a theocracy, the most expansive form of involvement in people’s lives (political and spiritual combined), it is hubris for modern states to assume to go even further. Passages where Jesus interacts over the payment of taxes are very situational. When asked about Taxes to Caesar, he is not being proposed with an honest question and gives an answer that denies the ability to trap him. If his answer had meant 1) Nothing belongs to Caesar, everything belongs to God, the Jewish leaders could have gotten him in trouble with Rome. If his answer meant (as many today assume) that anything Caesar wants belongs to him, the Zealot Jews would have turned against him. As it is, his answer did not give any ammunition for either side nor does it define what belongs to Caesar or to God. Merely that there are things, at least financially, which belong to each (and thus one could not claim a monopoly) Other passages are also only inferential. Zacchaeus repents and pays back 4 times what he had “cheated” people of. Cheating people is impossible if a tax collector had the moral right to take as much as he wanted (and he certainly had the political right as far as Rome was concerned.)  Something like this is seen again when the tax collectors ask John what they should do, and he tells them not to collect above what they need to.
The main point is that the right to tax is not limitless. In fact, the purpose for taxing are given
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.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
We pay taxes in order that they can attend to “this very thing”. This very thing is not everything and anything they want but appears to be the bearing of the sword. For those who want to make “because of this you… pay taxes… (so that they can attend to this very thing” mean “anything and everything” I simply challenge them to see what the text is talking about. Their job is “to bear the sword” and “to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” If someone sees beyond maintaining of protection and order in these, it must be imported in from elsewhere.
The Government’s right to take taxes and life are not limitless but are restrained to their proper role for which God ordained them… to carry out his wrath on the wrongdoer. And exegetically to make one limitless (taxes) one must also make the other (taking of life) so that no matter who they state punished they were never in the wrong.  If we say they can take any amount for any reason, and their authority has no restrictions, then we must say the same for the church and family who are also given authority without specific restrictions. Yet we do not, and yet when the church or family challenge the state over some area, people are told “Romans 13!” and the church and family are expected to abandon their claims.
Certainly, there were times in history where the family and the church tried to take over the States rightful domain. One thinks of the Hatfields and McCoys, forgoing the state to meet out justice on their own terms. And this has been played out numerous times in society. Or of the Church in the middle ages punishing criminals. Even if they did a fine job of it and their courts were just, that is not the role of the church. But nowadays it is the State who is infringing, seeing itself as the prime character in the spiritual formation, education, and upbringing of everyone. Unless we would be okay with a Church raising an army or families holding anyone whom they had a grievance against prisoner, we must admit that the state has these rights with the limits of her authority and not without limits. And those limits are determined by God, not subject to any modern idea of the state no matter how universal. However, if we take the positive affirmations of these different institutions as implying what their role is, we come away with a state whose job is maintaining of order while the role of spiritual formation, education, and taking care of one another are done by church and family. And for one of these to try to take over the other’s God-given authority is immoral, just as it would be for a dad from Norway to suppose he has the authority to discipline and raise your family in Nebraska.