Wecome to Logia, the personal blog of Paul Hartwig. Reflections and resources to enhance understanding of what God has revealed of himself in Scripture.
In the next few posts the important topic of the Church's relationship to the State is picked up by Tim Cantrell. It is published to rouse Christians to serious thought and behaviour as we hold our Bible open at Romans 13 in one hand and the current Government Prohibitions on Churches in the other. May the Lord give us his wisdom as we seek to follow Him as good citizens in our country. Paul Hartwig
The Christian Duty of Disobedience &
The Right Use of Romans 13, Part 1
By Tim Cantrell
In July 1933, during Hitler’s first summer in power, a young German pastor named Joachim Hossenfelder preached a sermon in the towering Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin’s most important church. He used the words of Romans 13 to remind worshippers of the importance of obedience to those in authority. The church was all decked out with Nazi banners, its pews packed with the Nazi faithful and soldiers in uniform.
Earlier that same year, Friedrich Dibelius, a German bishop and one of the highest Protestant officials in the country, had also preached on Romans 13 to justify all the Nazi seizures of power and brutal policies, and misquoting Martin Luther himself about the supposed paramount powers of state authority. Three days after this sermon, the German parliament dissolved and Hitler took over. Within a few years, six million Jews had been slaughtered and the world devastated by World War Two.
Likewise, Romans 13 was a favourite text of presidents John Vorster and PW Botha here in South Africa to defend the evils of apartheid. Said Botha on Easter 1985 when addressing the Zion Christian Church masses of worshippers at their ‘Mt. Moriah’, quoting straight out of Romans 13:
The Bible … has a message for the governments and the governed of the world. Thus we read in Romans 13 that every person be subject to the governing authorities. There is no authority except from God. Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad conduct. Do what is good and you will receive the approval of the ruler. He is God’s servant for your good.
Recall that before the biblical clarity and bravery of our Protestant Reformers, for centuries the Dark Ages revolved around the great lie of the “divine right of kings” (i.e., ‘Rex Lex’, ‘The King is Law’). Most of Europe at the time believed that if you were from the royal dynasty, God must have put you on that throne, and everyone obeys you, always and unconditionally.
Because of this one deadly myth, the divine right of kings was used to justify the slaughter of countless innocent people and many of our Christian forefathers. Yes, God was sovereign. Yes, Christ was exalted through these faithful martyrs. But realise that many of these brutal kings and tyrannical monarchs eagerly quoted Romans 13 to justify a pagan and godless ideology.
One New Testament scholar writes that the misuse of Romans 13 has "caused more unhappiness and misery…than any other seven verses in the New Testament by the license they have given to tyrants…used to justify a host of horrendous abuses of individual human rights.”
But you say, ‘Hitler’s Holocaust and racist Apartheid have nothing to do with responding to a global pandemic!’ To which the verdict of history answers: Both the Jews in Germany and blacks in South Africa were viewed as a threat to public health (the “Swart Gevaar”, “Black Danger”), as a grave danger to the overall safety and protection of society. ‘Trust us,’ said govt (even with tears), ‘we truly have your best interests at heart. All we want to do is help, to keep you safe. Nothing more, we promise.’
Friends, do you realise? By legalising abortion, world governments kill more unborn babies in one year than all the lives Covid 19 would kill in 100 years at the current rate - always in the name of 'women's health' or 'reproductive health'! Already, by mid-January 2021, over two million babies have been murdered by these wonderful, loving governments that are so concerned about safety and protection for people! Not to mention countries like here in South Africa, where violent crime is still rampant and out of control; yet suddenly our authorities have a incredible zeal about protecting you and me?
William Pitt (famed Prime Minister of UK, close friend of William Wilberforce) once wrote, “Necessity (i.e., ‘public health, common good’, etc.) is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” Get people afraid, and they’ll do whatever you want. A fearful society becomes very compliant; panicking people will believe anything.
During the gruesome and bloody days of the French Revolution, when 40,000 innocent citizens lost their heads, simply because a neighbour snitched on them – who was it that operated the guillotine day and night? It was run by the Committee for Public Safety.
Theologian Owen Strachan recently wrote:
We need church. Embodied congregational worship of Christ is essential--in all seasons. Should we be wise, and thoughtful, and even careful? Yes we should.
Wisdom is not the enemy of divine commands, however. We modern Christians may have many "options" regarding whether we go to church or not, but outside of serious health concerns (and even possibly including them on a case-by-case basis), we do not have the "option" of skipping congregational worship.
Our society says this is so, but our society is subsuming an entire ideology under the banner of "public health," one of the least-explored and most-exploited concepts on planet earth today. When you hear that term "public health," your brain should switch on, and you should examine very critically what you hear from that point forward.
In this series of articles, I’d like for us to explore two biblical reasons for disobeying lesser authorities out of obedience to our highest authority, the Lord Jesus Christ. Once you are convinced of this biblical duty, it is not only an option but a mandate for civil disobedience. First, we’ll look at the three God-ordained spheres of authority. Second, we’ll dig into a right use of Romans 13. See you next time!