Was the American Revolution Sinful?

by Jesse Johnsonhttp://thecripplegate.com/was-the-american-revolution-sinful/

orriginal colonial flag

“The Bible is clear that Christians are not to rebel against their government, and that rebellion is sinful. The passage that speaks to this most clearly is Romans 13:1-7:

“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.”

So where does that leave the American Revolution? After all, did our founding fathers not rebel against England? Granting that they did, does that mean that fighting for Independence from Britain was sinful?

I don’t think so. Here are three reasons why those fighting for independence were not engaged in the kind of sinful rebellion prohibited in Romans 13:

1) They were not rebelling against their government, but were submissive to their government. The war of independence was declared by the governments of the colonies. In most cases, these were elected governments, often with leaders appointed by England. It was these governments that declared the tax rates unjust, the forced conscription of sailors and theft of property as immoral and illegal, and these governments were the ones that raised an army to enforce the rule of law in the Americas.

Keep in mind that by the 1775, many of the colonists were fourth generation Americans. They had never been to England, and over the previous 100 years cultural and language differences had already developed. The colonies’ assemblies may have had pictures of the King on their walls, but the point is that those legislatures were duly constituted, and were the legitimate government in the Americas. When they declared independence, and rejected the legal prerogative of British Parliament to tax, it then became an American’s duty to obey their government. One could just as easily argue that it would have been a form of rebellion against government to refuse to support the revolution.

Moreover, it was the crown itself that had established these colonial governments. William Penn’s “holy experiment” was described by him as “self appointed government under the crown.” Thus, even the British crown recognized the legitimacy of the local governments, and expected British subjects to do the same.

2) The claim of authority of the Americas by England was arbitrary. If you were a fourth generation American, and had never been to England, a legitimate question to ask is: “Why is the British King my authority?” The British parliament claimed that they had the right to tax the citizens of the Americas. Why were the Indians not the governing authority? Why not the French? Why not the American governments? They all also claimed that same right.

In fact, this is precisely the issue that solidified George Washington’s understanding of British rule in the Americas. As an officer in the British military, Washington’s first mission was to tell a French military outpost in Ohio to disband and leave the area. The French claimed the area fell under their authority, and the Indians agreed with the French. The British claimed it was theirs, and their claim was in essence based on their maps, which simply extended the boarders of the colonies indefinitely to the West. Obviously this kind of claim is not a valid use of Biblical authority and does not compel submission.

colonies with lines

Simply because a government makes a map with you under their authority, does not then bind you under the obligation of Romans 13 to that government (remember how Iraq, after invading Kuwait, quickly published new maps showing Kuwait as a province of Iraq?). In the colonies, Americans were bound under the government that was constituted to collect taxes, pass laws, and enforce peace. By 1775, this was the colonies’ government, not the French, not the Indians, and not the British.

3) There is such a thing as just war. Since the receding of the flood, God had given governments the power to enforce laws and punish wrong doing (Gen 9:6). Since Babel, God has given the earth different governments as the nations spread out from one central point (Gen 11:8-9). Often those governments come in conflict with each other, and this conflict is a form of common grace. It is a check that God has given on evil, and a way of limiting any one man’s power. It is left for the anti-Christ to wield international power, and until then every time a government tries to expand her reach beyond her borders, that government is met with military resistance. When England tried to expand her influence not just to the shore of the Atlantic, but to the mid-Americas, conflict was guaranteed.

It was Calvin that wrote that a lawful magistrate could declare a legitimate government once the leadership of the existing government had given up its right to govern through wrong behavior. This is the difference between a sinful revolution and a just war. It is not individuals that decide they have had enough and rebel–that is unjust, sinful, and lawless. Rather, a just war is declared by a lawfully appointed government in response to a moral wrong imposed on others, and as an act of protection, under the banner of common grace.

Christians have a duty to honor the government. Even if it is unjust, unfair, and wicked, believers are still to submit. If Peter could command people to obey a Roman government martyring Christians for sport (1 Peter 2:13), modern-day believers can certainly submit to their God-ordained governmental authorities.

But that being said, they are compelled to obey the government they have now, not one from generations past, and not simply any claim made on them by any government anywhere in the world. They are called to obey and submit to the one that collects their taxes and enforces their laws, even when that government declares a war for independence.”

-Jesse Johnson

Do We Dare Defend Our Rights?

Awesome post from Collin Hansen on the Christian and political involvement. Very timely as we see politics dominating the American public forum as we approach the fall elections. Full post here:   http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/03/01/we-dare-not-defend-our-rights/.

Here’s an excerpt:

“…Those of us who live in democracies give thanks that we can be involved in the political process and shape policies out of love for our neighbors.

But we seem to be fighting a losing cause of late, at least in theUnited States. Our vision for the common good is being eclipsed by a new order that seems not to understand Western culture’s debt to the Christian vision for humanity.

Contrary to appearances, this new vision does not support a “live and let live” ethic. Religion continues its centuries-long retreat into the private sphere. Christians replace gays in the closet. Our future feels tenuous, so we appeal to help from the state. But we haven’t yet determined if the state is friend or foe.

“For democracies, like all governments, are based on affirming and supporting certain values and visions of reality, and proscribing others,” D. A. Carson writes in his new bookThe Intolerance of Tolerance. “But when the values and visions of reality that sustained such democracies in the past shrivel away, in the domains where the shriveling takes place the only über-value is the new tolerance, backed up by the coercive power of the state.”

We may have only a few reasons for optimism about the difference we can make in coming days. But neither should we fall prey to faithless pessimism. Though embattled, thousands of evangelical churches thrive across the country. We can learn from the example of congregations worldwide that maintain a vigorous witness where Christian rights have been restricted most severely.

Or we can look back to the body of beleaguered believers encouraged thus by the apostle Peter: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Though slandered and scattered, these believers trusted that God would glorify himself among unbelievers through their good deeds and patient endurance. That’s the ethic captured in The Gospel Coalition’s Theological Vision for Ministry. Notably, this document says nothing about our rights. But it does hold out hope for significant cultural influence if we seek service rather than power. And it warns, “But if we seek direct power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”

We dare not defend our rights if this defense assimilates us into the culture of ressentiment [sic]. State-sanctioned persecution would be a better fate.

But there is a better way, laid out by Carsonat the end of The Intolerance of Tolerance. Let us practice civility toward our neighbors, believers or not. Preach the gospel and watch seeds of faith sprout. Be prepared to suffer—“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

All the while, trust and delight in God. No one can snatch your joy from the Father’s hand. But you can squander divine delight and squelch the witness of the Spirit by fighting for your rights while forgetting the sovereign Creator who endows them.”

-Collin Hansen, 03-01-2012

A Prophetic Message to an Ungodly Nation

A Prophetic Message to an Ungodly Nation: Jeremiah –John MacArthur

Our society is dominated by naturalism. Naturalism assumes that God exists only in the imagination of religious people. Decisions are made based on the belief that we have randomly evolved to be this way.  Belief in a god is acceptable though feeble-minded, but those who believe in the God of the Bible are dangerous and should be kept out of the public discussions on life, ethics, morality, economics, politics and any influence on society. This is the ‘intellectual’ way. However, it is a love of sin not a love of science which drives this.

Jeremiah 5:20-25: The majesty of God on display, the providence of God being manifest  should stir up worship of God with fear and trembling. Men should say let us fear the Lord but do not submit to His Almighty power. He is a source of provision and protection, controlling the ocean keeping it in its place. But Judah broke all the boundaries placed by God. Man in hell-bent on revolt.

Jeremiah preached for 42 years under five kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah. His preaching in no way stopped the slide or halted the judgment. He was faithful but despised. No national revival came.

We likewise stand on the brink of the holocaust soon to also see the judgment of God. The gospel is going forward, we’ve had revivals, Bibles blanket the country, media has extended the reach of the gospel, yet the church is superficial and shallow. People are consumed with self-fulfillment and self-gratification. Like Jeremiah, How do we approach a nation on the brink of judgment?

I. Jeremiah understood that he had a divine mission.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) likewise Jeremiah’s commissioning came from God. Our mission is not earthly but from God.

A. He was predestined by God. (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Long before Hilkiah and His wife came together to conceive Jeremiah, God had set him aside to be a consecrated prophet to Judah and the nations on God’s behalf. Jeremiah was intensely human, we love him as we see his weakness and humanity. But his preaching was powerful and his witness faithful despite the relentless rejection of his message. He endured and survived the rejection that marked his entire life. He was so humanly weak he could not stop crying but was so unassailably strong that he would not yield or compromise. He was mysteriously endowed with power from on high.

When there is a crisis people look for a program, God looks for a man or a woman. When the world is falling apart people look for a methodology but God chooses a baby. God sovereignly ordained Jeremiah to do what he did. It was never about results. It was about an overarching divine mission.

B. He was provided for by God with what he needed (Jeremiah 1:7).

People fear public speaking, but when one has something important to say that fear melts away. God gave Jeremiah the words to say; He was given divine wisdom. Jeremiah was speaking for God.

C. He was given divine protection (Jeremiah 1:8).

God took care of Jeremiah despite the nation’s hatred for 42 years. People hated what he said and hated him for it. Even the strongest leaders face the fear that comes with confronting people with the message they do not want to hear.

D. He was given power (Jeremiah 1:9-10).

God put His Words in Jeremiah’s mouth. Jeremiah feared that he was young, a nobody, and unskilled in oration. God said, “don’t fear” the words which come from your mouth will shatter and built, tear down and plant, be destruction to people and nations and construction to other people and nations. No power on earth can approach the power of God. “Kings, nations, empires boast of their power, yet the power in the world belongs to the mouths of the messengers of heaven.”

II. Jeremiah understood that he had a direct message

He did not change the message to appeal to his listeners or to avoid controversy (Jeremiah 14:7; 17:9). He preached against sin, indicting people for their sin. (Chapters 3; 9; 11; 19).

A. He confronted false religion.

He attacked their worship of idols (Chapter 2). People rejected the living water and hewed out empty cisterns full of dead animals. This is not a time for tolerance, “this world is full of damning false religion.” Being labeled intolerance of anything damning people’s souls while promising heaven in a compliment. “We aren’t just talking about making people feel good, we confront lies.” In chapter 7, Jeremiah indicts them for worshiping the queen of heaven who has been recast as Mary by the Roman Catholics. “We have no choice but to confront and expose false religion; that is what Jeremiah did.”

B. He confronted corrupt spiritual leadership. (Jeremiah 5:30)

He confronted the false prophets, the deceivers and liars, corrupt leaders who had infiltrated the true religion. “You cannot be the prophet of God, you cannot be the mouthpiece of God, you cannot be the representative of God, unless you have a direct message that goes at false religion as it exists contrary to the truth and as it exists inside the categories of the truth.” Jeremiah 23; 25. Sure people fill up the places where false teachers tell them what they want to hear, and praise those teachers, but what will they do at the end when they face the judgment.

C. He confronted wickedness in general. (Jeremiah 3:24-25)

Society is immoral; shame describes all conduct. Sexual deviation, perversion of marriage and all wickedness is infused in all people do.

D. He confronted dishonesty. (Jeremiah 5:1-3)

God’s eyes look for truth and cannot find it. Dishonesty is everywhere.

E. He confronted the rejection of scripture. (Jeremiah 11:8-10)

They rejected the Word of God, deliberately abandoning what God says. This perfectly describes our culture and society.

F. Jeremiah 13:1-11 -A visual aid to show Judah’s corruption, God drew them to Himself as intimately as He could, and they became fouler, and fouler, and fouler. Then God separated Himself from them and they corrupted and are under judgment. “God does not change the rules and we do not have covenant protection.”

III. Jeremiah was characterized by a deep mourning.

Jeremiah 13:17 –Jeremiah wept for His people. God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. As we carry the gospel we must be careful to never become calloused and indifferent. We want to have the heart that Jesus had for Jerusalem, even a nation under impending Divine judgment. Jeremiah 9

IV. The result of Jeremiah’s ministry: None listened (Jeremiah 7:23-24)

But God preserved a remnant to redeem. He will give them a heart to know God and obey Him (Jeremiah 24:4-7). Why do we preach when no one listens? Because there is a remnant whom He will save.