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The Bible is a practical book. It deals with the real world. It’s not a book of magic or wishful thinking. It’s a rubber-meets-the-road reality check. This is why Jesus told His disciples to count the cost before embarking on a task: “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? (Luke 14:28). When a king considers war, his first thought is to pursue peace because he knows the long-term costs of battle (14:31–32).

When considering resistance to the “authorities” mentioned in Romans 13, at least six principles must be kept in mind. First, there is individual resistance to edicts by ecclesiastical and civil tyrants. Must individual Christians always obey those in authority no matter what they command based on Romans 13:1–4 and 1 Peter 2:13–17? There are ample biblical examples that can answer this question — from the midwives refusing to obey the command of Pharaoh and Peter’s refusal to stop preaching the gospel when commanded to do so.

Second, there is corporate resistance to tyrants. Is it proper for the people to rise up and act against tyrannical edicts by the State via unlawful acts if these unlawful acts are not compelling anyone to sin?

Third, is it legitimate for a lesser civil authority to oppose a breach of constitutional obligations and limitations of the greater magistrate, the principle of the lesser magistrate?

Fourth, even among those who laid out a theological and rational basis for Christian resistance, “anarchy was more feared than the rule of an aristocracy” as 16th century Protestant Reformer Theodore Beza noted, “‘a thousand tyrants would arise on the pretext of suppressing one.’”[1] John Calvin said something similar: “some kind of government, however deformed and corrupt it may be, is still better and more beneficial than anarchy.”[2]

Fifth, there is not a worked out systematic one-two-three plan of resistance outlined in the Bible. It takes wisdom, patience, faith, and a firm reliance on the sovereign will of God to develop a biblical position on the subject. Here’s the problem as Dr. Gary North explains it:

Because we are under God, we are also under God’s revelation of Himself in His law. Thus, the Bible says, we are citizens of heaven. Paul wrote: “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20a). Yet we are also citizens of this world, and therefore under lawful authorities (plural) here. This position of dual citizenship becomes even more complicated when we face the fact that we are citizens of nations, counties, and cities. We are citizens of multiple commonwealths.

*****

When Christians face multiple sovereignties on earth, they find themselves in a perplexing position. Whose sovereignty at any point in time should take precedence? Whose requirements are closest to the ethical demands placed on us by the Bible at any point in history? Furthermore, there are multiple principles of ethical action in the Bible. For example, we are to be truthful, but not at all times (Rahab’s example). It is the ethical task which we all face to apply the relevant biblical principle to the decisions we make daily. Thus, there is no simple handbook of Christian action, no computerized program that allows us to punch in the data and that will then print out a God-approved plan of action.[3]

Sixth, you can’t beat something with nothing. Resistance and ultimate victory over a tyrant or a tyrannical law are not enough. When the battle is won, what then? “Resistance movements that are strictly negative are at a disadvantage to those that are dominion oriented. The anti-Nazi resistance movements of World War II were filled with ideological opponents who agreed only that the Nazi menace had to be destroyed. The Communists used their power base in the anti-Nazi resistance as part of their continuing, post-War program of world conquest.”[4]

Too often people who want to tear down the system don’t have a plan to replace the old order or a large enough population of self-governors under God’s government to see the period of reconstruction through. Think about what’s happening in Afghanistan. Once the forces of restraint were removed, all hell broke loose. The 13 American colonies were already established governments with constitutions and governors. The population was living of Christian capital even though most of the people might not have been professing Christians.

They were not rebuilding from scratch. It took centuries of study, mistakes, trial and error, and a reliance on Divine Providence and an understanding of God’s revealed and natural law to create a stable governing system. Even those who did not profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior were steeped in biblical principles of limited government and the sinful nature of man. Those principles go back millennia, and they have often been ignored as Israel’s sad history reveals. Thomas Jefferson understood the perils of unbridled power even though he disdained his Calvinist forbears:

What the government is, if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on our President, and the President of our choice has assented to, & accepted over the friendly strangers, to whom the mild spirit of our country, & its laws had pledged hospitality & protection: that the men of our choice have more respected the bare suspicions of the President, than the solid rights of innocence, the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, & the forms and substance of law & justice: in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.

Do Christian revolutionaries believe a better system will arise from the ashes of a successful revolution? Don’t count on it. Keep in mind that many Christians voted for Joe Biden. Many revolutionary hotheads believe a shooting war with today’s political tyrants is the way to go. This is pure insanity in addition to being immoral. Communists, libertines, and groups like Antifa also want the system destroyed. Christians would have to contend with them after a successful dismantling of what we consider the height of tyrannical rule.

We all want to find allies wherever we can, but we must recognize deep-seated flaws in strategies and tactics recommended in the name of Christ by people who, in this particular area, do not adhere to a consistent theology of Christian resistance. If we refuse to face the theological and tactical differences that divide us, “before the shooting starts,” we may not have time to think through what needs to be thought through when the crises escalate.[5]

With the difficult task of finding a biblical way of resistance and then reconstruction, we should not give in or give up. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who knew something about the daunting undertaking that was set before him, said, “I understand, I sense that you’re tired. But you have not yet really suffered the terrible trials of the 20th century which have rained down on the old continent… You’re tired, but the Communists who want to destroy your system are not; they’re not tired at all.”

The road to reconstruction is a long one that does not begin by tearing down the existing power structure. They are too deeply entrenched. “Might makes right” is on their side. Pres. Biden was right when he said that our military has F-15s. “By what standard should these movements be examined? The Christian should not hesitate to answer, ‘The Bible.’ But understanding the Bible takes time and effort. It is not an overnight educational process. Certain biblical truths must be so firmly planted in the mind that the emotions of the moment are not allowed to carry the potential victim into the pit.”[6]

Restoring the Foundation of Civilization

Restoring the Foundation of Civilization

There are many Christians who will not participate in civilization-building efforts that include economics, journalism, politics, education, and science because they believe (or have been taught to believe) these areas of thought are outside the realm of what constitutes a Christian worldview. Nothing could be further from the truth.

BUY NOW

By This Standard

By This Standard

Millions of Christians have not recognized the continuing authority of God’s law or its many applications to modern society. They have thereby reaped the whirlwind of cultural and intellectual impotence. They implicitly denied the power of the death and resurrection of Christ. They have served as footstools for the enemies of God. But humanism’s free ride is coming to an end. This book serves as an introduction to this woefully neglected topic.

BUY NOW

Author: Gary DeMar

Gary—who served as President of American Vision for thirty-five years—is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. Author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, he has been featured by nearly every major news media outlet. Gary also has hosted The Gary DeMar Show, History Unwrapped, and the Gary DeMar’s Vantage Point Webshow and is a regular contributor to AmericanVision.org. Gary has lived in the Atlanta area since 1979 with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and are enjoying being grandparents. Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).