Resistance to Tyrants & Obedience to God


For whatever reason, whenever anyone has chosen personal affluence and comfort as their pole star, by which they are resolved to conduct all their navigating, we should not be surprised what harbor they always seem to sail toward.

To change the metaphor, as long as the barn doesn’t leak, and there is hay in the trough, the human cattle don’t mind. The hay is federally insured.

But there is another way to think. There is a long tradition found in Protestant resistance theology that somebody really ought to fetch down from the library in the North Tower. More and more it looks as though we have need of it—now that the orcs are tumbling over the first wall. If you haven’t got the time for that, being otherwise occupied with unexpected orcs, I would be more than happy to summarize it for you.

Here goes.

Baseline Submission

God is the one who has established all legitimate civic authority, and He has done so in order that we might submit ourselves to it. All civil authority is established by the hand of God and is what it is because it operates under God’s authority. Civil authorities, at every level, are therefore to be considered as God’s servants, as God’s deputies. Resistance to legitimate civil authority is therefore resistance to God’s ordinance, and is consequently a defiance of the authority of God Himself. Any citizen who resists those placed over him is thereby incurring God’s judgment.

Now the reason God established these civil authorities is for the good of civil society. He intends for the magistrate to reward the righteous and punish the wrongdoer. The magistrate is therefore required by God to be a terror to those who do evil, and to be a benevolent supporter of those who do good.

In doing this, God entrusts the safety and well-being of the populace to the magistrates, and requires them to be shepherds in the civic realm. And this means they must know the difference between civic sheep and civic wolves. The demonstrate that they have this understanding through their kindness to the sheep and their hostility to the wolves.

When the Rulers are Diseased

Like all servants, the civil magistrate is under orders. But also, like all servants in this fallen world, there is a temptation for the servants who were placed in charge to start to eat and drink, and beat their fellow servants. Now what?

If the magistrate decides on his own authority to act contrary to the public good, he is doing so without any authorization from God whatsoever. As deacons, deputies, and servants, they have no authority to countermand the charge given to them by God. Just as a waiter must serve the food that the owner of the restaurant places on the menu, so also must the civil magistrate punish wrongdoers, and honor the upright. This is what servants do. They do as they are told.

And we are not talking about complicated ethical situations where the citizens don’t have all the facts, and yet get to second guess every decision made based on their ignorance. No, rather, we are talking about plain and obvious ethical monstrosities—embraced and celebrated out in the public square by these erstwhile deputies of God, who somehow have come to believe that they no longer answer to Him—or to anyone else for that matter. We are talking about things like abortion, sodomite mirage, euthanasia, drag shows for kids, satanic entertainment, freak show appointments to high office, and all the rest of such rancid ravings. We are talking about the point where they are no longer even pretending. We are talking about now.

If a magistrate, in the grip of a strong delusion, decided to become a terror to good works, and to honor and praise wicked conduct, and is a magistrate who necessarily fails to serve and promote the public good, then certain infallible consequences follow. We live in a world where God has ordained that certain consequences will always follow certain behaviors. God is not mocked—a man reaps what he sows, and a magistrate is a man. Not a god, but a man. Not only has God ordained the position of the civil magistrates, He has also ordained the necessary consequences when His servants reject His authority over them in that position.

“But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.”

Luke 20:14–16a (KJV)

In the first place, when a rebellious magistrate sets up such a pattern of perverse behavior, he has decided to depose himself, abdicating his office. And if he does this while still trying to hang onto his badge, then he is simply adding theft to his long list of crimes. On account of this behavior, he is no longer a minister or deputy of God. He vacates his office. By his manifest behavior, he has ceased being a legitimate civil ruler, and has become a usurper and a tyrant.

As a direct consequence of this rebellion, he has forfeited any right he had to the submission and obedience of the citizenry. Put another way, the magistrates are owed our loyalty and submission and obedience only insofar as they are continuing to serve the basic ends for which God established their authority in the first place.

Again, the issue is not that the magistrate forfeits his legitimacy if he sins in some respect. We are all sinners. Asa did not forfeit his legitimacy because he failed to remove the high places. We are not talking about an instance when the magistrate fails to attain to the highest standard of righteousness that God sets for him. We all fail to do that in various ways.

Rather, we are talking about what happens when a magistrate declares war on righteousness itself. We are addressing the consequences when a magistrate pulls deep heaven down on his own head, and does so in a fashion that enables the whole world to see what he is doing. And I would invite any conscientious Christian to look at the behavior of our government over the last few decades and tell me whether or not they have declared war on righteousness itself. This is not a hard question.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

“Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?”

Psalm 94:20 (KJV)

Under such circumstances, not only is a citizen not obligated to submit to and obey such a tyrant, there comes a time when the evil is so flagrant and so manifest that it becomes the duty of every conscientious citizen to refuse such obedience. Put another way, open resistance to open tyranny becomes a Christian duty. There are still practical cost/benefit considerations involved, of course, and so, like Gideon, you might choose to thresh your grain in the wine vat—because the IRS men of Midian played a hard ball. You do this while waiting for God to send an angel to appoint and anoint a judge to deliver Israel, never dreaming he would send one to your wine vat.

The Facts on the Ground

There will be some Christians who dismiss the structure of the argument above. They don’t agree with it. They think it inflammatory, incendiary, fiery, combustible, and not at all in keeping with the wet rags under which they store their political theory.

But there will be other Christians who allow that if and when tyranny takes shape, it would be appropriate, quite possibly, for them to write a stern letter to the editor. But having acknowledged the structural soundness of the argument above, they believe that I overstate my case a bit when I say that our current rulers are rewarding the evil doers and punishing the righteous. Surely things are not that bad.

Oh, but they are. Ask yourself this basic question. How bad would it have to get for you to finally recognize that they—and by they, I mean all of them—have declared open war on Heaven? Hey, I don’t know. Act like Gideon standing beside his wine vat, trying to think of a real stretcher. I don’t know. Okay, if Satan is booked as the entertainment at the Grammy Awards, then we will know things are getting serious.

How Then Should We Resist?

Being part of “the resistance” sounds pretty noble, and so everybody wants a piece of the action. Even the woke revolutionaries have tried to seize the label, styling themselves as bravely manning the barricades. The problem for them is the fact that it is hard to be “the resistance” when your views line up fairly well with all the major corporations, the media, the Pentagon, the FBI, most branches of the government, and Hollywood. Sure, friends, resist away.

Everything always comes down to the practical issues. Yes, someone might say, I quite agree. Christians should resist. “But we don’t think that you mean resisting by means of blowing up the nearest federal building.” That is quite right, and so don’t do that.

But there is such a thing as real, genuine resistance, and there are some very practical steps that conservative Christians can take that would make them part of that resistance. I have five suggestions for starting, and here they are.

The first thing to realize is that worship really is warfare. This is one area where I am afraid that Stephen Wolfe swings and misses. He is correct that the church is not to be a lobbying organization. The church is all about Word and sacrament—the church has an assigned task in the world, and we are to pursue that task arduously. And I suspect he would also be right about those who might want to adopt the language of “worship as warfare,” but their behavior is more like war games combined with dress-ups. If you are doing nothing more than playing Risk in the basement while dressed like a cosplay Confederate general, then that would not be what we are talking about either. But the meaning of the “worship is warfare” declaration is far more important and far more potent than that. The worship is warfare theme is something that has been standard in the CREC for many years now, and when all the COVID nonsense came down, the CREC distinguished itself among the Reformed through not buckling. This is because covenant renewal worship self-consciously confesses that Jesus is Lord, week after week, and a necessary corollary of this is that Caesar is not Lord. Caesar is to be respected as Caesar, but not as Lord. Those who worship with a self-conscious understanding that this fundamental Christian confession is a truth that outranks all worlds . . . these are the ones who conquer Jericho by means of trumpets and faith. This is why Jehoshaphat treated his choir like they were a SEAL team.

The second thing would be a recovery of psalm-singing. The Christian church is currently surrounded by her enemies, and it is quite striking that the music we sing doesn’t have any references to enemies. The psalms, on the other hand, find enemies everywhere, along with imprecatory psalms to help us to understand how God would have us deal with them. Even traditional hymnody does not contain a lot of enemies—I can think of two, those being St. Patrick’s Breastplate, which is very psalm-like and A Mighty Fortress, which is based on a psalm. Because we are so unused to this kind of thing, we tend to assume that those who sing imprecations are trying to Christianize the practice of sticking pins in a voodoo doll, where we are exacting the wrong kind of payback on our personal enemies. Not a bit of it—these are God’s enemies, and we oppose them on that account. We are simply calling upon God to destroy His enemies. Our first preference is that He destroy them by transforming them into His friends, as He did with Saul of Tarsus. That is a most glorious mode of destruction. But if their hearts are hardened, we call upon God to take them out nonetheless. And the psalms will guide you in learning how to do this right, so that you don’t lose track of your motives, and veer into not knowing what spirit you are of (Luke 9:55).

The third thing is to become a ravenous Bible reader. If you are already reading the Word in a consistent and greedy fashion, well and good. But if you are not, then you need to jump on the Bible Reading Challenge. Do you see the challenges coming? Then you need to load up on carbohydrates before the big game. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). That’s no good. Get your Bible out, and steep yourself in it, Genesis to Revelation. When you finish, start over again because there is no such thing as finishing. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). Do you really think that Jesus went through His temptations sustained by Deuteronomy, but that you don’t need all that, you’re good?

The fourth thing is to read some books. We are not in uncharted territory. This kind of situation has happened many times before, and our fathers in the faith have worked through all of it. Here is a simple starter kit. If you are not familiar with Protestant resistance theology, I would start with three books. First would be Slaying Leviathan by Glenn Sunshine. The second would be The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World by Douglas Kelly. The third would be Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos by Junius Brutus. If you don’t figure out what’s going on, the downside of this is that you won’t know what’s going on. One of the surprises that you will encounter in this endeavor, if you have been a pietistic Banner-of-Truth type of Calvinist, is this—you will meet a bunch of your old friends. You will realize, for example, that the author of the Letters of Samuel Rutherford also wrote Lex Rex. For the very first time, you will know how Lois Lane feels every time she discovers that Clark Kent is Superman.

The fifth task before you is to do whatever it takes to get your kids out of the government school system. If your kids are already receiving a godly education, then you should be doing whatever it takes to help friends and relatives get their kids out of the government school system. The hard conversations you might need to have now will be nothing compared to the tragic conversations you would need to have when your favorite niece comes out as a non-binary space alien.

The post Resistance to Tyrants & Obedience to God appeared first on Blog & Mablog.






Leave a Reply

Generated by Feedzy
%d bloggers like this: