Government

Can We Celebrate Independence without Celebrating Armed Rebellion?

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First appeared at SI in July of 2011.

Something doesn’t add up. We refer to July 4 as Independence Day. We refer to the war that followed as the Revolutionary War. But if we viewed ourselves as independent of British rule on July 4, how could we have engaged in revolution after July 4? Revolution normally precedes independence. Either the day or the war is a misnomer.

For Christians the incongruity raises deeper questions. Given the response to government that Scripture requires, shouldn’t we oppose the whole idea of revolution, regardless of the circumstances? And if we’re opposed to revolution, can we rejoice in independence?

The Bible and revolution

Genesis 9 is understood by many to represent God’s re-founding of the institution of human government. The NT emphasizes submission to that institution as our Christian duty.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him. (Mark 12:16–17)

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work… (Titus 3:1)

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13–15)

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The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 3

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justiceRead parts 1 and 2.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels provide a helpful case study in the inherent limitations of government. Their landmark publication, The Communist Manifesto (hereafter, TCM), was first printed in 1848, and offered to some the hope they had been desperately seeking. Before asserting the solution, though, the TCM delineated with specificity what its authors believed to be the root problem. All of societal history is ongoing class struggle, with oppressor and oppressed standing against one another. This has taken place throughout four epochs of world history, all representing the struggle between oppressor and oppressed: (1) primitive and communal, (2) slave, (3) feudal, and (4) capitalist. TCM made the case for how a fifth era, a socialist and communist epoch, could right the wrongs of societal history. At the time of TCM’s writing, the world advanced deep into the fourth (capitalist) epoch, an era in which the ills dominating the previous ages were coming to a climax. It was the right time, thought Marx and Engels, for the working class of the world (the proletariat, the oppressed) to unite and cast of the shackles of the ruling class (the bourgeoisie, the oppressors). The goal was the “formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”1 Read more about The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 3

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The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 2: The "Menu" Problem in Handling Jesus’ Words

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quoteboxRead part 1.

In an earlier article (Considering the Words of Jesus for Social Justice and other Applications), I asserted that Jesus’ conversations during His earthly ministry fit into four general categories: (1) dialogues—usually intended to challenge particular people to repentance (right thinking about who God was and how one could be justified by Him); (2) pre-rejection public discourses about the kingdom—usually intended for broad audiences with a view to promulgating and clarifying the details of the kingdom so that the nation would understand clearly what was at stake; (3) post-rejection public discourse about the kingdom—usually in parable form, in fulfillment of prophecy, and for the purpose of hiding the truth from those who had already rejected; and (4) preparation of the disciples—often including private instruction so that those He had chosen would be prepared for the task of founding and leading the forthcoming church (assembly).

With these contextual keys in view, let’s examine some passages often invoked to advocate for social justice. The goal here is (1) to discover what Jesus was actually advocating, and (2) whether or not government mandated social justice was on His agenda.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 6:20 and Matt. 5:3 and John 18:36). Read more about The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 2: The "Menu" Problem in Handling Jesus’ Words

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The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 1

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justice

Earlier this year (February 2, 2012) at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama described his economic policies as being motivated (partly) by religious ideals. He identified three in particular: he cited his belief “in God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as yourself;’” he acknowledged that his policy “coincides with Jesus’ teaching that, ‘for unto whom much is given, much is required;’” and he noted, “I am my brother’s keeper.”1

The President’s commentary is emblematic of the ideas that (1) government is responsible for ensuring fairness for everyone, and that (2) Jesus’ words may be understood to support government’s function to that end. Besides the general difficulties in defining fairness and determining its scope, there are significant problems in understanding the biblical record as supportive of such a role for government.

Three of those problems include (1) the problem of legislating morality and the scope of government, (2) the “menu” problem in handling Jesus’ words, and (3) the unsolvable problem for government. This first article will discuss the problem of legislating morality and the scope of government, and will be followed by two articles handling the other two difficulties. The goal of these articles is to consider how biblical Christianity is related (or unrelated) to government in the task of social justice, and what is a biblical perspective on social justice and on individual and collective responsibilities to that end. Read more about The Bible, Government, and Social Justice, Part 1

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