a brief case for a different framework of understanding on Romans 13

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12 Responses

  1. Real interesting stuff mate. I had a long discussion with a friend about this very passage just last week, and I was sure there was a little more to it than simply submitting and obeying everything we are commanded by those in Authority.

    While I agree that Paul was often subversive of the Empire in his writings, I’m not 100% convinced (believe me, I want to be) that Paul necessarily encouraged civil disobedience. I’d like to hear more about that in the future.

    Real good stuff, as always. cheers!

  2. good points! I don’t know just how far we can safely go to say that Paul encouraged civil disobedience, but it seems clear enough that Romans 13 is not an endorsement of blindly following any human government.

  3. anyone questioning whether or not Paul encouraged some form of disobedience should check out my recent post about Colossians 1:13-20 and 1 Corinthians 7. 🙂

  4. I read one thing that took Romans 13 as a definition for what true government should be, and that if it does not match up, it is illegitimate government – therefore it is right to rebel against them. This I rejected because there is no basis for this, especially considering the context of the chapters preceeding and following 13. Studying further, it appears Romans 13 is really a continuation of 12 (Paul didn’t separate the chapters, why should we?) so we should subject ourselves to the punishment we would receive by returning evil for good. You took this and expounded it with brilliant research and contemporary contextualization for a truly remarkable essay.

  5. good essay, well expressed ( I am in agreement)

  6. I’ll not reply, so you “Brave” souls can pot shot all I have to say AFTER I am gone. As such with cowards….Besides, I left my website account. I am quite busy but thought I give some facts, as rambled as they may be.

    Here goes:

    Allow me to say, not a single one of you Pagans are qualified enough to judge Caesar the I, Rome, or any of Rome’s future accomplishments it has given the world. Each of you benifit from Mother Roma’s success, including your own religion, which was NOT a success in my opinion. That’s right, I call Christians, Jews, and Muslims PAGANS. Rome was here first, though she has crumbled only after centuries of glory and success thousands of years into the future, and although we are now existing in a new world, Her virtues exist still.

    Whether you wish to admit it or not, we are Westerners, Hellenists, by culture, blood, and the Middle Sea to the frozen seas. The religions you embrace are not of our native virtues. It traumatises our children, it makes our women weak, and makes our men into slaves and sheep.

    You like to think you, Christians, are a minority without a voice. In fact, even in the logic of seperation between Church and State, Christians are still in charge. So, though you long for persecution and the end of the world, you are all still “the man”. So stop your whining. Thinking you’re a victim is a most NON-Western virtue. Westerners are NOT sheep, true westerners are lions. You keep your pews filled thanks to putting others down and your Satan. Along with disease, war, fear, and famine, they have done more for the Church than your god or Christ. Since I respect Christ, I have nothing bad to say about him. However, you as his followers, are blind, ignorant, and enemies of human progress. I know SOME real Christians and you are NOT them!

    If anything, as it hints in your Bible, it will be Christians who will be the true downfall of Christianity. After your inquisitions, conversions, the cheapening of your religion with modern bullshit, and witchburnings, you have proved this more than enough. and yes, I say YOU since the vast many of you carry on the same bigotry your religious ancestors did.

    Rome acheived success in many of the positive things that survive today. Much of it Christianity tries to claim they invented, but didn’t. Christianity has caused more suffering and guilt complexes than it’s positive aspects, which even I admit there is positivity in Christianity. However, the bad has thus far FAR outweighed the good. And inasfar as FACT is concerned, you’re little better than a Frenchman in occupied France who decided to collaborate with the Nazis. Or, as with those of us of Native American blood, those Natives who sided with the bluecoats to kill their own people.

    THAT is YOUR legacy, not Christ’s. I would not hold him responsible for YOUR perversions of his vision. However, I urge any of you with your own brain to throw off any shackles and embrace the native virtues of your own People. Send the rest back to the “Holy Lands” to live their own lives and tyrannies. Be lions, not sheep! God ONLY loves the honourable, bold, and courageous.

  7. Paul was not advocating civil disobedience. He was advocating submission to “higher” authorities. Meaning that the Roman government was “lower” authorities.

    However he was not advocating civil obedience, or he would have come right out and said it. “Obey Caesar.” After all, he was writing to the Christians in Rome.

    I belive that Paul was advocating obedience to God. If we obey God fully, then the question of civil obedience/disobedience fades away. It’s about being led by the Spirit, so as not to fulfill the lust of the flesh.

    Obedience to God will allow us civil rest with the state as long as the state is in harmony with the true laws of God. However when the state takes an adversarial position against God and His true law, we will find that we have become enemies of the state.

    It is treason against God that we need to fear, above treason against the state.

    Obey God, not man. In obeying God we should be at peace with man . . . . . at peace as long as our fellow man is at peace with God!

  8. Paul doesn’t specifically advocate civil disobedience here, no. But he does give a directive that directly contravenes Roman law in 1 Corinthians 7, and it’s not even on what we modern Christians would generally consider an “essential issue” of faith. I’ve posted on this as well, if you want to look it up.

    And I very much doubt he would have come right out and said it, as you say. That was a good way to get yourself and 100 of your closest friends crucified in ancient Rome.

    I would argue that submission to the higher authority, God, directly entails going against the lower authority in quite a number of circumstances.

    Obedience to God will allow us civil rest with the state as long as the state is in harmony with the true laws of God. However when the state takes an adversarial position against God and His true law, we will find that we have become enemies of the state.

    I’ve actually argued elsewhere that the modern concept of nation-state itself is in a sense anti-Christian in terms of its values and function. It’s one of my earlier posts in this blog. It’s not as simple as the state being able to take adversarial positions. The state and any other human authority could rightly be said to be a “power and principality” of the type Paul talks about on more than one occasion, particularly in Ephesians and Colossians. The reality is that every human institution is deeply permeated by sin, and participates in the spiritual nature of evil. That doesn’t mean we necessarily should dismantle all institutions, for any institution we reconstructed after the revolution would likewise be tainted with sin. But we CAN seek to be sanctified in such a way that every step we take is on holy ground, because the Holy Spirit lives among us and we are in deep communion with the will of God.

  9. I would argue that submission to the higher authority, God, directly entails going against the lower authority in quite a number of circumstances.

    I would not argue, as I agree. There will be times that what God requires of His children constitutes civil disobedience. But to advocate blanket civil disobedience is not God’s heart.

    It goes back to Romans 12 (I believe) where Paul says, as much as is possible within yourself – live at peace with all men.

    If men set their faces against God, and I’ve aligned myself with Him, then I may be accused of civil disobedience. I may not be able to be at peace with all men.

    There are 2 kinds of authority. Lawful and unlawful. Lawful authority is that which has been received from God. Unlawful authority is that which has been received from power.

    Is Romans 13 suggesting that all of the kingdoms of men have received lawful authority. I don’t think so. Where do they recognize recieving their authority from? Most nearly 99.9% of the time it’s not from God.

    Hosea 8:4 – “ They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves— That they might be cut off.

    Good thoughts. I’m not trying to disagree with you. Just trying to give my viewpoint on the same topic! 🙂

  10. I actually think we’re saying similar things, for the most part. I just don’t think Paul was generally positively disposed towards the Roman government/family/social/economic institutions, pretty much at all. There is much in his writings that attacks and subverts those institutions. Not least is what I mentioned in this post, Paul’s statement that the ruler “does not bear the sword in vain”. This was a direct allusion to Seneca’s famous letter to Nero, De Clementia, which lauded Nero as one in whose hand the sword was idle. This satire does not exactly reveal a positive attitude towards Nero, and I’m not convinced it’s simply because Rome used its power wrongly. He rhetorically sets up a large part of his church around the idea that Christ and church are the reality Emperor and Rome are trying to usurp. I brought it out a bit in my post on 1 Corinthians 7 and Colossians 1:13-20.

    For that matter, the church as a whole was not exactly favorably disposed towards Rome. Revelation, in particular, contains a number of references that are critiques of the Roman system. The household codes in Ephesians, Colossians, and Peter’s letters critique the Roman domestic culture. It’s everywhere. I think our relationship towards human governments and authorities should perhaps be shaped more by the understanding that Christianity was born as a minority movement started by a revolutionary figure who re-defined and redeemed the concept of revolution, and we should take for ourselves the banner of prophetic critique of power wherever it us used and abused. I just think the problems Paul points to were more systemic than most (particularly American) Christians realize given that we’ve been brought up to believe “big brother” is our friend, and even on God’s side.

    I’m rambling a bit, so I’m going to stop now. Thanks for stimulating me! 🙂

  11. There are 2 kingdoms at war. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom(s) of man.

    The true Kingdom (of God) was never meant to fight a defensive battle – although historically the church has.

    Instead it was meant to be offensive. The violent take it by force type thing.

    Paul’s citizenship was found in the Kingdom of God. As was every believer who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in those days. They understood the true purpose of Jesus coming. To bring glory to God by once and for all firmly establishing His Kingdom on earth. A Kingdom that knows no jurisdictional or politcal party lines.

    Jesus came to give people the opportunity to live in this Kingdom. They changed their very citizenship when they entered this Kingdom.

    Paul was not at all partial to the Roman Empire – because it was the counterfit, rival empire of the one true Kingdom. These two Kingdoms were at war. I don’t believe Paul was even remotely referencing obedience to the Roman empire in Romans 13. What he was advocating was living in the true Kingdom.

    Fighting the good fight to lead people from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. But darkness is not fought by trying to combat it. Darkness is vanquished when the light is turned on. Paul wasn’t suggesting to push back the forces of darkness in the Roman empire as much as he was proclaiming for the citizens of the true Kingdom to turn on the light.

    Turning on the light in and of itself is offensive to the darkness!

    Blessings!

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