I have an internal policy that I try to never speak of politics in church. Especially during bible study or the like. If I’m specifically asked what I think about an issue during small talk, I’ll go ahead and answer. But, as a general rule, I use this blog as my outlet for my thoughts on those issues so that I can leave that kind of talk out of the church. The last thing I want to do during a bible study is say, “well, I’m an anarchist, so I believe so and so about that issue.” That would sideline the study of God’s word into something very unproductive.
In a similar vein, I tend not to discuss purely theological issues on this blog. You won’t see me expositing scripture very often. Even though I have very strong theological convictions, I know there are a million other people better qualified than I when it comes to theological studies. Thus, I generally just keep my mouth shut and let those with more skill do the heavy lifting. But, there are instances where I feel it’s justified to address a scriptural issue. One of those instances is when people use scripture to give open ended justification to the State.
I saw this done recently in the comments section on one of the Stand to Reason blog entries. Here’s the comment:
According to Romans 13:3, God’s authority flows through secular powers through channels apart from his Church. The secular powers, of whatever faith–or lack of faith–[t]hey have, answer to God directly.
Johnnie says that Romans 13:3 declares that “God’s authority flows through secular powers.” Well, first let’s read what Romans 13:3 actually says:
 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
I can only assume that when he says “God’s authority” he means some type of moral imperative. Otherwise what he says doesn’t make any sense. But, we know that governments don’t always do what Paul describes here. Governments often punish good, praise evil, imprison the innocent and celebrate iniquity. Therefore, Paul is either completely ignorant, which he’s not, or he doesn’t mean it that way. Obviously, I think it’s the latter. What Paul is doing here is describing what proper government is and what our relationship to it should be. He’s talking about government in it’s definitional sense. The problem is that pure government rarely exists. We’ve only seen it a few times in human history. Most of what we get isn’t government at all. It’s various gangs of thugs holding people hostage with guns.
There are further problems with the standard interpretation of Romans 13. Firstly, if we are “to be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1) without qualification, then why do we constantly break that rule when it comes to governments that are not our own. For instance, there are hundreds of missionaries in China that are there under work visas. This is a violation of Chinese law, as is smuggling in Bibles, which is also constantly done. Where in Romans 13 does Paul exclude Asian governments from his dictate?
And, for those Christians who have supported all of the recent foreign wars the U.S. has been waging, why is it ok for us to advocate the overthrow of a foreign government? Are they not also “established by God?” (Rom 13:1) What part of Romans 13 excludes Saddam Hussein as having gotten his “authority” “from God?” (Rom 13:1) If Iran wants a nuke, which part of Romans 13 would indicate that it’s ok to oppose them in that endeavor?
See what I mean? If you take the man-on-the-street interpretation of Romans 13, it creates not only logical problems, but practical problems for the modern church’s behavior. It would seem to make those things which we know are right(like getting Bibles into China) into sin. And, perhaps worse, it would seem to excuse the very tyranny that creates a government which bans bibles in the first place. Romans 13 is not governmental carte blanche and we must stop using it that way.