It is increasingly frustrating whenever I hear a Christian invoking Romans 13 (the go-to chapter to justify support of every evil imaginable) in defense of the King and his thugs. Of recent note is Jim Wallis, of whom Laurence Vance writes:
Desperate Christians will use Romans 13 to defend any cause, no matter how ridiculous. Left-wing progressive Christian Jim Wallis says the government shutdown is unbiblical. Among his proofs? Romans 13, I kid you not. The greatest monstrosity of a government in history shuts down some functions and Wallis thinks it is unbiblical? I can hardly keep from destroying my keyboard as I type this.
Gary DeMar offers his own thoughts of Wallis’ claim:
Shutting down entire agencies of our present government wouldn’t be unbiblical since many (most?) are unconstitutional. This means that any elected official who advocates and votes for legislative powers not granted by the Constitution is acting in an unbiblical way. He is violating his oath that he took before God to uphold the Constitution.
Printing money out of thin air is also unbiblical. It violates the biblical command of guaranteeing “just weights and measures” (Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13–15; Prov. 20:10). Where is Wallis’s condemnations of this very unbiblical practice?
The bigger point is that Wallis has made the State his God; that is, to oppose the State is blasphemy. What happens when it closes? Well then perhaps Nietzsche applies here: “God is dead.” If it is unbiblical when the State shuts down, then I presume we ought to put our efforts into refinancing fallen States like USSR and the Roman Empire. After all, they shutdown too. Unless Wallis only means that the American government is referred to in Romans 13. The irony here of taking a neoconservative talking point is enough to make one smile.
Joking aside, my point here is that every flavor of “Christian” statism says this: Romans 13 says God ordained the State, therefore we ought to always obey it. There is also an implied, and common, conclusion here that says: God ordained the State therefore it is always right in its actions. This is ridiculous and, to be frank, absolutely no Christian should every fall victim to this (bad) logic. Especially Calvinists. Many Calvinists who support a plethora of unconstitutional or unlibertarian programs will say something like: “Well, did God not ordain the State? Thus, we must support expansionary education policy or the drug war.” But more than any other worldview, Calvinism should prevent such thinking! Romans 13:1-2 reads:
…for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.
The Calvinist believes that all things that exist have been instituted by God. Which Calvinist will disagree with me when I say: “The thief that seeks to coercively rob you has been ordained by God”? Or how about, “the murderer who awaits his prey in an alley has been ordained by God”? The State, the King, El Presidente, the emperor are ordained as well. So then to claim that one’s activity is just, because God ordained that person to exist is absurd. Does not God have an unchangeable standard? Romans 13 is intended to bring comfort to a persecuted Christian base during the reign of Nero. It is not intended to convince the reader that Nero is righteous! To say that resisting the State is resisting what God has ordained is merely a logical extension. When one fights back against the street thief doesn’t he also fight against what God has ordained? This is true by definition. It is therefore not wrong to pray that God would scale back the dangerous power of the State and also that He would scale back the dangerous power of the street gangs.
Now, it is true that God has a law and that some institution, perhaps called government, should exist to uphold that law, whether on the voluntary free market or otherwise. But where is there any Biblical justification for the case that a group of men, calling themselves the government, get to be the exception to Thou Shall Not Steal and Thou Shall Not Murder? Perhaps these same folks also believe that they are allowed to commit adultery and worship idols as well? Sadly, many times this group is in fact the idol itself that the mass citizenry worships.
God’s ordaining something to exist does not make it good even though God can (and does) bring good out of it. Did not God ordain the murder of Christ? I mean, this is Calvinism 101. Secondly, let us admit for the moment that some of the State’s functions are in fact good. Like for example enforcing contracts (even though this can even be done on the free market). Does this simple assumption mean that there are no bad or immoral functions at all? Absolutely not! Thus, even if God ordains something good, if it is used for bad, it is still wrong.
So does God ordain the King? Yes. Does God ordain the thieving street thugs? Yes. Can either group simply do whatever they want to their victims? No way. To say otherwise is to say that God lacks a consistent standard. To say he lacks a consistent standard is to render the necessity of the cross as meaningless. To render the necessity of the cross as meaningless is to put man on too high a throne.
Be careful about your political philosophy. It will impact your theology. And we are saved by what we believe.