There is growing concern among the Christian community in America. The concern is that their Christian beliefs, which shall not be infringed, are under attack by the law givers. This has happened before during the rule of the pagan Roman Empire.
The question: Should Christians disobey the law givers?
I took the title of this column from an email I received from Dr. William Lane Craig, a noted Christian apologist. Dr. Craig in his email is responding to Nathan, an agnostic, who states, “Now, as of recent, with the legalization of gay marriage across the United States, someone pointed out to me that the Bible says that to resist the authorities would be directly against God’s wishes. To support this, he showed me Romans 13 verses 1-7. The verses seem to suggest that authority is placed by God, and we are to obey them because disobeying would be akin to disobeying God.”
Dr. Craig responds with:
Now as right-thinking people and as Christians, we cannot acquiesce in the Supreme Court’s attempt to re-define what marriage is. Five lawyers (as the dissenting justices called them) can no more change the essence of marriage than they can change the essence of a horse or a chair. So we now find ourselves in a society where there are legal marriages which are in actuality pseudo-marriages. These people are not really married, but they are legally married.
Now since, as you note, we Christians are to be submissive to the governing authorities of the society in which we find ourselves, we have to obey the laws unless they require us to do things which would be immoral, that is, contrary to God’s will or commands.
For example, when the Jerusalem authorities commanded the early apostles to quit preaching the name of Jesus, Peter and John boldly responded: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4.19-20). Similarly, when pagan Roman Emperors commanded Christians to burn incense to the pagan gods, Christians resolutely refused, undergoing unspeakable tortures and execution rather than violate their conscience.
Is it time for a new wave Christian civil disobedience as we saw with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, a Democrat, who emerged from a rural jail on Tuesday, September 8th, 2015, proclaiming praise for God and indicating that her fight against marriage licenses was worth the six days behind bars?
The Three forms of Civil Disobedience
There are three forms of civil disobedience, two of which are against God’s will.
- The anarchist view says that a person can choose to disobey the government whenever he likes and whenever he feels he is personally justified in doing so. Such a stance has no biblical support whatsoever, as evidenced in the writings of Paul in Romans 13.
- The extremist patriot says that a person should always follow and obey his country, no matter what the command. This view also does not have biblical support. Moreover, it is not supported in the history of nations. For example, during the Nuremberg trials, the attorneys for the Nazi war criminals attempted to use the defense that their clients were only following the direct orders of the government and therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. However, one of the judges dismissed their argument with the simple question: “But gentlemen, is there not a law above our laws?”
- The position the Scriptures uphold is one of biblical submission, with a Christian being allowed to act in civil disobedience to the government if it commands evil, such that it requires a Christian to act in a manner that is contrary to the clear teachings and requirements of God’s Word.
Peaceful Christian disobedience to evil commands is mandated by God. That is today’s lesson.