Flash Back: A look at Romans 13

A while ago I wrote a series of posts “Thoughts on War.” It mainly involved an on going conversation with Brian (glad to have you back).
Below is a brief take of mine on the famously referenced Romans 13 from, Let the discussion begin:

“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.”
This is the first verse of the primary passage I hear cited in reference to why we should support the war. The argument I think is that quite simply God has put our president in place and therefore if our governing authorities call for something we should submit (support) it. To a large degree I find no disagreement with this argument. The struggle with this type of thinking for me comes when I start to think about who “Everyone” entails. That means an Iraqi Christian, if called to join the armed forces under Saddam, should join, and support the cause of the governing authority above him. That means the Nazi German soldier’s where simply following this same Scriptural reasoning when they begin killing the Jews. That means if the authorities in this country have deemed abortion as an acceptable practice, Christians should stop protesting Abortion Clinics and instead should be supporting them.

What followed (and preceded) was an ongoing discussion entitled, Thoughts on War.

8 thoughts on “Flash Back: A look at Romans 13”

  1. A couple initial thoughts…As I re-read your comments on Romans 13, I couldn’t help but think of another passage in Romans. “For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him; who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). To me, that means that Saddam is in power in order for God’s purpose to be accomplished. How? I have no idea…

    I’m not really sure exactly how that fits with submitting yourself to authority, but I’m sure it does somehow 🙂

    I don’t think this passage calls for blind and total obedience to any authority you may be under. I’m thinking of Daniel, refusing to bow to the king and being thrown in the lion’s den…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refusing to bow to anyone other than God and being thrown into the furnace…Moses, leading the Israelites out of Egypt away from the oppression of Pharaoh…the list goes on and on. Even Jesus himself, growing up as a student of the church, did not completely submit himself to the church’s authority. He publicly went against the Pharisees and other religious leaders many many times.

    One thing all these people have in common, however, is that they all were willing to accept the consequences for their refusal to submit (much as MLK oulines in “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail”). Note that accepting the consequences is still submission to authority!! They couldn’t morally obey, but they were willing to submit to the consequences.

    If I were an Iraqi citizen, I would certainly not be submitting to orders to fight against the Americans. I would be forced to take the stand that killing innocent people without cause is wrong, and against God’s will, and that I couldn’t support the leadership that God has placed over me. (Easier said than done…I thank God that I don’t have to make that stand).

    If any Christian believes that America is morally wrong to be fighting in Iraq, then I believe it is their Biblical duty to stand behind that belief, peacefully oppose the authorities making the decisions, and accept the consequences (not that there will be many in our country).

  2. “One thing all these people have in common, however, is that they all were willing to accept the consequences for their refusal to submit (much as MLK oulines in “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail”). Note that accepting the consequences is still submission to authority!! They couldn’t morally obey, but they were willing to submit to the consequences.”

    This part, I agree with.

    Much more to write on this topic. No time at the moment, though. 🙂


  3. John 19:10..

    Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin.

    Besides, St. Paul is just saying be a good citizen. But being a good citizen always means being a good Christian. Note how he also follows up what you guys have taken out of context and tried to debate on it’s own merits with verses 8-10.

    As a side note, it’s always amazed me that a lot of the same people who claim that this President or that Prime Minister was chosen by God completely scoff at the the idea that the Pope could also be chosen by God. It’s almost as if God would be more concerned with who the President of the US is over who is leading over half of his flock.

  4. Marc,
    You’re certainly right that we can’t pull a single verse out of the Bible and analyze it out of context. I tried quite hard not to do that, citing verses from both old and new testament to back up my views. I know from past discussions that Ariah also uses the whole Bible to form his opinions.

    “Be a good citizen.” Ok, I’ll buy that. I think you’re right – that pretty much sums up this passage. It doesn’t sound too different from my argument either. Can you point out where it seemed like I was arguing the idea on its own merits? I’ll try to clarify…

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you on the pope’s authority. I don’t agree with some things in the Catholic church, however the pope is certainly an authority figure and should be treated as such (as should pastors, deacons, bishops, priests, etc). That doesn’t mean, however, that the pope (or any other authority figure) has a “special” relationship with God – at least not any more special than we can strive for.

  5. Well, what I meant was that you seem to have taken the verse and debated it without putting it in context. Tht was an assumption on my part and if I have made the first three letters of the word “assumption” the most important, I apologize. Basically I’m trying to say you can’t take a square inch out of a Rembrant and understand what he was trying to paint with it anymore than you can take a verse and snip it out of Romans and explain what St. Paul was trying to say. You have to have the whole picture……

  6. Marc and Brian,

    Thanks for getting the discussion rolling again. I think you hit on some excellent points (Brian, well done on your initial thoughts, you should have written my post). The goal of the discussion as a whole is to get to the details about war. I’m happy (and maybe surprised) that we all seem to agree on this idea that first and foremost we need to be following God and whenever we come to believe that what God wants for us and what the state wants are opposite, then we should always do what God wants. I guess it’s just a matter of discussing what God really wants for us now.

    As for the Pope, I’d never really thought about that before. Very interesting and thanks for mentioning it Marc.

    Jamie: thanks for always having smart and thoughtful points to add.

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