Posted by: Scott | Sunday, August 12, 2007

Romans 13 and Conservatism

Some background to this post:

Last Tuesday, Liberaltarian Mike Gonsior was on Speak Your Piece. The topic of “religious litmus tests for office” came up, particularly in regard to the hype over Mitt Romney and Mormonism, Obama’s Islamic ties, even our current President’s profession of faith. Mr. Gonsior’s view is what does the candidate’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) matter? Besides, the Constitution says no religious test shall be required for office.

Well, someone out in radio land heard the discussion and jumped in. She professed her faith in Christ alone for salvation and brought up Romans 13 in defense of the curiosity about a candidate’s religious beliefs. She likes knowing where a candidate is coming from religiously because it gives her an idea about how good of a minister of God the candidate will be.

Mr. Gonsior brought up after a commercial break that he saw what he could remember of Romans 13 as a totalitarian’s dream because of the commands to “submit to the government and pay your taxes.”

Well, no one called to challenge the line of thought, so I sent in an e-mail later on. I don’t know if it will get read or not, but if you heard the Aug. 7 show, here is my reply:

Here is the relevant passage of Romans 13 referred to by a caller on Speak Your Piece Tuesday Morning:

Romans 13 (verses 1-7, English Standard Version)

Submission to the Authorities

1Let 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. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For 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, 4for 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. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

I too am a Christian in the same vein as the caller (trusting in Christ alone for salvation), and this passage is not the nightmare that Mike Gonsior portrays it to be. I have peace knowing that it is God that sets up and tears down the kingdoms of this earth. If that means that He is the One directing the affairs of who the leaders of this nation are going to be then what have I to fear? Everything is in His hand going according to His will. Yes, even the “bad candidates” can have a purpose in God’s plans for this nation. Yes, I will do my part to ensure that the candidates that best represent my views are elected, but that does not mean their faith is a pre-requisite either. At the same time, knowing where a person is theologically coming from can tell you much about him.

Regarding taxes: I don’t like them, but people tried to trip Jesus up on this one too. The Roman government was one that followers of Christ could not endorse, and so they wanted to know about paying taxes to a corrupt government. His response was to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s:

Mark 12:13-17, (English Standard Version)

Paying Taxes to Caesar

13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

The Lord’s command: Pay your taxes

Becaue I’m sure it will come up, I’ll go ahead and answer now:

Q: What if the government requires you to do something that is against the teaching of the Bible?
A: God’s authority is above the authority of the government. Soldiers approached Peter about their order to not preach Christ and his response was that they were going to obey God when the government made a rule contrary to His command. (Acts 5:29)

Edited 8-13-07 1242 MDT to insert one VERY important missing word in the paragraph directly preceding the passage from Mark.



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  2. Hi Scott – good analysis. Glad you included the Q&A at the end!

  3. Obama’s ties to Islam? You’re joking, right?

  4. Mr. Darrell, I’m referring to the discussion that floats about regarding Sen. Obama’s childhood schooling. I know, he goes to a “Christian church” now. I don’t know all ins and outs of his theological beliefs, I’m just using what has been speculated upon as a means of example.

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