Can We Celebrate Independence without Celebrating Armed Rebellion?

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)

In addition to these, Romans 13:1-7 represents “the governing authorities” (exousias huperechousais) as “from God” and “appointed by God,” and asserts that resisting them is resisting “the ordinance of God.”

It’s hard to imagine how prohibiting the overthrow of governments could be put in stronger terms.

Celebrating independence

Believers must be anti-revolution, just as they are anti-disobedience. But must we be anti-independence? Is there a way Americans can be opposed to revolution yet rejoice in American independence? I believe at least two ways to do this exist.

1. Deny the revolution.

The idea that what occurred in the late 1700s here was not really a revolution has been around for a while. A professor of mine at BJU (back in the 80s) was adamant that no revolution occurred. He had written a book on the subject. (Copies appear to be available still at Amazon).

Though parts of his argument were unclear to me at the time, the gist seemed to be that a British document (perhaps one of the “Intolerable Acts”?) had already effectively ousted the colonies from the empire and that the 1776 Declaration was little more than an acknowledgment of that fact. In this version of events, the war that followed was one of defense, not of revolution—and, though various acts of rebellion did occur, our independence is not the result of a war of rebellion.

More recently, I’ve encountered a different revolution-denial argument (though it is, perhaps, compatible with the previous one). This view reasons that no revolution occurred because the “governing authorities” (to use Paul’s Romans 13 term) were not actually King George and Parliament, but law itself—and the laws of England in particular.

Thomas Paine wrote that “in America the law is king” (Common Sense). Certainly this way of thinking was strong in the “revolutionary” era and echoes some of the thought of Samuel Rutherford (1644: Lex, Rex) and, later, John Locke and Charles (etc.) Montesquieu. (Some trace the idea of “rule of law” or “law as king” back to the Roman Republic, then further to Aristotle. The case could be made that the spirit of it dates to the days of Moses.)

Accordingly, some have argued that Britain violated the terms of its own agreements with the colonies, and some of its own laws in the process, and that, therefore, the contractual relationship between the crown and the colonies was nullified.

In this version of events, no revolution occurred. The colonists who fought in resistance of Britain were fighting in support of law—and the law was the real king. The wording of the Declaration of Independence would seem to support the idea that, right or wrong, the colonists were thinking in these terms.

Perhaps we’ve done them all a disservice by naming the war “revolutionary,” though it seems probable that the likes of Patrick Henry wouldn’t object to the term. (Perhaps the writings of the patriots of that era are full of calls to “revolution.” If I ever knew that, I’ve forgotten. I’m sure a historian will straighten me out.)

2. Separate the result from the process.

If you have no stomach for revolution-denial, you can still rejoice in American independence. Sometimes people do the wrong thing and God graciously overrules their conduct to produce a wonderful result (to Him be praise!). Perhaps we American Christians can proudly sing our “revolutionary” national anthem and salute our flag through teary eyes on the conviction that “God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20), even though we’re uncertain that armed resistance was the right thing to do—or even if we strongly believe both the Declaration and the War were unchristian acts.

One thing is certain. Our duty and opportunity as believers is to give thanks for everything (1 Thess. 5:18, Eph. 5:20). Regardless of our view of revolution in general, or the “American Revolution” in particular, God has greatly blessed us, and the independence we now enjoy is a major part of that blessing.

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Aaron,

 

There is a third possibility based on the seminal passage on government in Genesis 9. It states that the people are the ones empowered by God for purposes of governing. They choose officials to whom they delegate authority. The citizens are responsible to follow government, up to a point, and responsible to keep government in check if it strays. In this view, you can see the relationship of people to the government much the way a Baptist church views the relationship between the pastor and congregation. This seems to be the view taken by the "revolutionaries" themselves as it appears prominently in the Declaration of Independence.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

jimcarwest's picture

The purpose of government is stated clearly in Rom. 13:4: "For he is God's minister to you for good, but if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil."

Divinely appointed government is ordained by God to do "good, " not evil.  When it does evil, it fails to be divinely appointed purpose.  It's purpose is to avenge or execute wrath on him who practices evil.  When it does the opposite, i.e. executes wrath on those who do good, it negates its authority.  It becomes a tyrrany. 

My reading of history is that England was oppressive to the colonies, violated the agreements the colonies had with England and the King, refused all pleas of the colonists to arbitrate their differences, and finally attacked the colonists with brutal and lethal force.  England therefore acted in defiance of God's ordained purpose of government.  The King even violated the spirit of the Magna Carta which had taken from the monarchy the supreme right of kings.  The peaceful colonies were turned into a police state with Red Coats stationed throughout the colonies. 

No one of us is required by God to tolerate evil against our families because the divinely-given right of self-defense is clearly taught and illustrated in Scripture.  A man who will not lay down his life to protect his family is not much of a man, nor a Christian for that matter.

Perhaps Aaron might be happier with another description of the conflict by calling it the "War of Resistance" against the evil practiced by England.  Our Founding Fathers, after long and patient attempts to settle differences with the King, finally could bear the oppression no more, and thus they drew up the articles that explained their resistance in what is now known as the Declaration of Independence. 

 

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

This is why our found fathers took up arms to fight King George.  I am so glad they did. 

From Patrick Henry:

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Source: Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry . (Philadelphia) 1836, as reproduced in The World's Great Speeches, Lewis Copeland and Lawrence W. Lamm, eds., (New York) 1973.
 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The problem with reasoning from purpose is that there is a gap. What I mean is that in Rom. 13 (and there is a Petrine passage as well that I can't recall at the moment) the purpose of gov. is indeed quite clear. The problem is that Rome was arguably already far short of achieving that purpose than Brittain was in 1776.

But the "gap" is basically this: where are we taught that a gov. that is not accomplish it's purpose well enough may be overthrown in armed rebellion? 

On Genesis 9: where does it say that government pwer is given to "the people"?  We use "the people" today to refer to "those who are under government authority." It may be that there is a social contract concept (government by consent of the governed) in Gen. 9, but I'm not aware of where that is expressed.

So my thesis is that the Bible is opposed to armed revolution, and the result is that Christians have to work through their thinking on these situations in the nations they live in. (Given the trends, it may not be an abstract question here in the US either in a generation or two)

Personally, I lean toward the idea that in the particular case of the American colonies, the relationship was established on certain terms and conditions, some express, some implied. And the law-is-king concept was, on the whole, an accepted principle. Consequently, there was not really a "revolution," per se, but a breach of contract followed eventually by violent insistence on the consequences.

But imagine living in Egypt right now - who's side to be on can be very difficult to discern. So the application of Scripture's high view of respect for government can be complex and difficult.

JobK's picture

When the Roman empire was in power. Also when the Jewish monarchy was considered a legitimate political sub-entity within the Roman empire. Both were far worse than anything King George and Britain could be accused of, and  both persecuted the church. The Jewish monarchy persecuted the church on a continual basis from day one, and the Roman empire not only allowed this persecution to take place, but themselves persecuted the church at times even as the New Testament was being written. So the idea that being subject to rulers is conditional based on having a sort of government that Christians support and like is not only absent from the Bible, but is in complete contradiction to the time and place that the Bible was written. The early church would have been much more justified to foment rebellion against Rome and the Jewish political/religious leaders starting with the fact that both collaborated to kill Jesus Christ and cover up His resurrection but they did not. 

Also, if your standard is that Christians have the right to overthrow governments because they are evil, why not apply that to our own government right now? Our government legalizes the mass murder of children, will not act to restrain pornography or media that incites violence, perversion and criminality (which basically every secular movie, TV show and music album does even many aimed at children), uses tax dollars to hire Wiccan and representatives of other evil false religions as chaplains for the military and prisons while preventing our own chaplains from practicing a fundamental foundation of our faith in evangelizing, is on the verge of legalizing gay marriage and ever since World War II has entered into several highly questionable wars and other deployments of our military in violation of our own constitution that requires a formal declaration by act of Congress to wage war (and no, the "authorization of military force" and "war on terror authorization" bills passed by Congress for Iraq and Afghanistan are not formal declarations of war and as a result were themselves illegal). And if you want to take it further, one could have made a very good case for sedition against our government in the 1700s and 1800s when we were engaged in both large scale, systematic slaughter of Native Americans and theft of their lands as well as manstealing from Africa for the purposes of placing a huge population in an unbiblical form of slavery from which there was no hope of manumission. And yes, southern partisans are largely correct in stating that the Civil War was an unjust and illegal military campaign against a people whom our own constitution gave both the right to secede and to own slaves. So how would America fare if judged against the same standards that were used to justify rebellion against England? Not well I am afraid. 

Also, despite what is frequently claimed, America was not founded to establish a Christian nation or a nation better suited to Christian ideals. Britain was already a literal Christian nation: one with a state church and a monarch who at the time was a pious practitioner of and believer in Anglicanism and frequently heeded the advice of Christian ministers. Also, Britain provided toleration for Christians who were outside the state church in both its nation and its colonies. If anything, getting away from the Christian nature of Britain was a major driver of the war.   The leaders of the revolutionary movement and ideology were deists (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin), Unitarians (John Adams) and freemasons (George Washington). Jefferson's church and state line in the declaration of independence was a direct rejection of both the British state church AND the requirement that the British monarch be Christian (to this day the monarch carries the title "defender of the faith" and has a position in the church of England). Our rejection of Christian rule of our nation in favor of Enlightenment thinking and other philosophies that men are spoiled by were why France backed us in the war (please do not forget France's overtly anti-Christian and anti-Catholic revolution where adherents to both were slaughtered wholesale and France declared itself officially atheistic) and gave us an idol based on the Roman goddess Libertas and their own goddess of the cult of reason (we call that idol the Statue of Liberty) to honor it. It is rather incongruent to claim that America was ever intended to be a Christian nation or founded on Christian principles when the 1st amendment of our Constitution protected A) the right to be a witch or a Muslim and Cool the right to blaspheme God. Not only that, the 2nd amendment basically advocated the right to engage in the same kind of sedition that Barabbas was correctly sentenced to die for (but was freed by the unjust actions of the Jewish and Roman states and innocent Christ executed in his place). Honestly, the 1st amendment stands in defiance against and rejection of the first 6 of the 10 commandments by offering legal protection to those who would do otherwise. And as stated earlier, several of the other commandments and points of the Mosiac law were violated by the constitutionally protected slave trade as well as our campaign against the Native Americans. Now I am not being politically correct, multicultural or anything like that but instead am simply weighing our laws and actions against the Bible. Our nation was not Christian in any sense by virtue of its leadership, founding, laws or institutions but became Christianized in its population as a result of the First and Second Great Awakenings. (And even those revivals had practically no effect on our national laws or political leadership other than the failed attempt at prohibition, and when considering that even that exception was actually in defiance of the Bible's explicit command to drink wine in 1 Timothy 5:23, that should tell you something ... the one constitutional amendment enacted due to the influence of Christians was in direct conflict with what the Bible actually said). 

Claiming that the sedition against our legitimate rulers was justifiable according to scripture - or at least any more justifiable than a similar sedition against our nation at any point in its history would have been - requires taking on deliberate blind spots to what our laws actually are, who our leaders have actually been and what the Bible says. At the very least it requires conceding the sphere outside the church walls to secularism. However secularism is a concept entirely anathema to Biblical commands and worldview in both testaments. When Paul addressed the pagans at Mars Hill, there were certainly representatives of the secular worldview advocated by Aurelius and Epicurus (in fact the Epicurean sect was mentioned by name) and Paul condemned their false ideas as ungodly right along with everyone else's. 

The truth is that America took on the Christian character and influence that it has (and again, I should point out that our government and leading institutions have almost never reflected this character) in spite of the revolution against Britain and its (at the time) far more institutionalized Christianity, not because of it. And it may not have even been necessary to split from Britain to take on that character. The first great awakening, for example, began before the revolution and moreover was heavily influenced by British clergymen like Charles Whitefield and John Wesley. Would England be the bastion of atheism that it is today had its far more observant colonies not decided to break off and pursue rationalist and humanist Enlightenment philosophical doctrines being made the basis for law and society? It is a good question to ask. It is also fair to point out that the British Empire would have acted to restrain the most brutal of our abuses against Native Americans and slaves. The British Army would have prevented the massacres and land thefts of the former, and slavery would have ended here decades earlier and without the catastrophic Civil War necessary to accomplish it just as it did in the other colonies. And of course no Civil War would have meant no Jim Crow, which not a few churches and denominations sullied themselves by vigorously supporting. So add it all up and the notion that the Revolutionary War achieved positive short term or long term results for Christianity in either America or Britain is a very tough one to make, especially since the first great awakening did not require political independence from England. 

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
On Genesis 9: where does it say that government pwer is given to "the people"?  We use "the people" today to refer to "those who are under government authority." It may be that there is a social contract concept (government by consent of the governed) in Gen. 9, but I'm not aware of where that is expressed.

Genesis 9:4-6 "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (ESV - emphasis added) This commandment was presumably immediately effective, even though there were only 8 people on the face of the earth and no formal form of government. If one of Noah's sons had killed his wife the next day in a family argument, the other six were given the authority and the responsibility to take his life in justice. The formal form of government would develop over time as the population grew and the delegation of authority to a specialized group became necessary. However, authority still flowed from God, through the citizens, to the established government, much the way Baptist church authority flows within the congregation. I would argue Rom 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 should be understood within this seminal context, otherwise you have to build the hermeneutic case to justify those NT passages (as well as numerous OT examples) replacing Genesis 9.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Preaching and Revival shaped the thinking that led to the Declaration of Independence and Revolution

• Dr. Adrian Rogers said, Many have forgotten that this nation was born in the fires of a revival. Even secular historians say that “a great awakening,” led by greats like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, sweeping across the land from 1740 until 1770, was the precursor to the American Revolution. The evangelical movement played a key role in the development of democratic concepts. In fact, our Constitution was born in the heat of a revival. The brave men who formed this country were rooted in a belief that it was God Himself Who made man and gave him rights.”
(http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love-worth-finding/read/articles/our-...

 

 

BJU has a documentary on the Great Awakening and in this video they show how preachers influenced the thinking that led to the revolution - http://greatawakeningdocumentary.com/

 

 

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

The late D. Jame Kennedy said this,

The documentary evidence of the Christian origin of this country is voluminous; it would take hours even to quote it. It was thoroughly studied by the Supreme Court of the United States, and in 1892 they gave us what is known as the Trinity Decision. In that, the Supreme Court of the United States declared: “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” That is where this nation began; that is the place from which we came. 
John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, said: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was….” What? It secured our independence from England? It got rid of the Stamp Tax? the Tea Tax? It dissolved our bonds with Parliament and the king? No! What was the highest glory of the American Revolution? Listen well. Said President John Quincy Adams: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” 
“One indissoluble bond”—government and Christianity! Today, there are those who have come with their solvents of unbelief, skepticism, atheism, Marxism, humanism, and secularism and are doing everything in their power to totally dissolve that indissoluble bond. 
We need to give ourselves to the task that that bond not be dissolved, or the principles of Christianity will be replaced by the secular principles of humanism
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and atheism and life will lose its significance and meaning; it will become cheap, as it is now, as humanistic principles prevail in more and more spheres of our nation. 

From a sermon entitled "America: A Christian Nation"
 

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Now, what about Romans 13 as it pertains to the American Revolutionary War? Was the war justified? First, it is important to understand that many of those who supported the Revolutionary War were deeply religious men who felt that they were biblically justified in rebelling against England. Here are some of the reasons for their perspective:

1) The colonists saw themselves not as anti-government but as anti-tyranny. That is, they were not promoting anarchy or the casting off of all restraint. They believed Romans 13 taught honor for the institution of government, but not necessarily for the individuals who ruled government. Therefore, since they supported God’s institution of government, the colonists believed that their actions against a specific oppressive regime were not a violation of the general principle of Romans 13.

2) The colonists pointed out that it was the king of England himself who was in violation of Scripture. No king who behaved so wickedly, they said, could be considered “God’s servant.” Therefore, it was a Christian’s duty to resist him. As Mayhew said in 1750, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

3) The colonists saw the war as a defensive action, not as an offensive war. And it is true that, in 1775 and 1776, the Americans had presented the king with formal appeals for reconciliation. These peaceful pleas were met with armed military force and several violations of British Common Law and the English Bill of Rights. In 1770, the British fired upon unarmed citizens in the Boston Massacre. At Lexington, the command was “Don’t fire unless fired upon.” The colonists, therefore, saw themselves as defending themselves after the conflict had been initiated by the British.

4) The colonists read 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority . . .,” and saw the phrase “for the Lord’s sake” as a condition for obedience. The reasoning ran thus: if the authority was unrighteous and passed unrighteous laws, then following them could not be a righteous thing. In other words, one cannot obey a wicked law “for the Lord’s sake.”

5) The colonists saw Hebrews 11 as justification for resisting tyrants. Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah are all listed as “heroes of faith,” and they were all involved in overthrowing oppressive governments.

It is safe to say that the American patriots who fought against England were fully convinced that they had biblical precedent and scriptural justification for their rebellion. Although their view of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 is a faulty interpretation (there are no provisos concerning obedience in those passages), it was the popular preaching of the day. At the same time, the self-defense argument (number 3, above) is a convincing and substantial rationale for war.

Even if the American Revolution was a violation of Romans 13, we know that the patriots acted in good faith in the name of Christian freedom, and we know that, in the ensuing years, God has brought about much good from the freedom that was won as a result.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/American-Revolution-Romans-13.html#ixzz2Xzod...

Jay's picture

What does the Declaration say?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • ...He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • ...For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

I mean, it sounds to me like we had already been severed from the British Empire by the King's hand, so it really can't and shouldn't really be called a 'rebellion'.  It was a war between nations.

 

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

This was the king's reply to the Olive Branch Petition for reconciliation, which incited the writing of the Declaration:

Whereas many of our subjects in divers parts of our Colonies and Plantations in North America, misled by dangerous and ill designing men, and forgetting the allegiance which they owe to the power that has protected and supported them; after various disorderly acts committed in disturbance of the publick peace, to the obstruction of lawful commerce, and to the oppression of our loyal subjects carrying on the same; have at length proceeded to open and avowed rebellion, by arraying themselves in a hostile manner, to withstand the execution of the law, and traitorously preparing, ordering and levying war against us: And whereas, there is reason to apprehend that such rebellion hath been much promoted and encouraged by the traitorous correspondence, counsels and comfort of divers wicked and desperate persons within this realm: To the end therefore, that none of our subjects may neglect or violate their duty through ignorance thereof, or through any doubt of the protection which the law will afford to their loyalty and zeal, we have thought fit, by and with the advice of our Privy Council, to issue our Royal Proclamation, hereby declaring, that not only all our Officers, civil and military, are obliged to exert their utmost endeavors to suppress such rebellion, and to bring the traitors to justice, but that all our subjects of this Realm, and the dominions thereunto belonging, are bound by law to be aiding and assisting in the suppression of such rebellion, and to disclose and make known all traitorous conspiracies and attempts against us, our crown and dignity; and we do accordingly strictly charge and command all our Officers, as well civil as military, and all others our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavors to withstand and suppress such rebellion, and to disclose and make known all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which they shall know to be against us, our crown and dignity; and for that purpose, that they transmit to one of our principal Secretaries of State, or other proper officer, due and full information of all persons who shall be found carrying on correspondence with, or in any manner or degree aiding or abetting the persons now in open arms and rebellion against our Government, within any of our Colonies and Plantations in North America, in order to bring to condign punishment the authors, perpetrators, and abettors of such traitorous designs.

Given at our Court at St. James's the twenty-third day of August, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, in the fifteenth year of our reign.

God save the King.

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Matthew Eastland's picture

This entire subject is close to my heart.
I have seen far too many people with no real understanding of the history involved or the biblical concepts. My joy is especially great in finding myself not alone in my stance, as I frequently am on this topic.

Let me try to do this by going in order from the comments already made.

I personally have never heard the argumentation that we did not undertake a "revolution" in our fight to be free of Britain. I'd love to see the reasoning behind this, since it flies pretty well in the face of the information that I have been given in many history classes (history being a hobby of mine).

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Thomas Paine wrote that “in America the law is king” (Common Sense).

For as much as Paine is portrayed as a hero in the US, he is neither a wise choice for political stance and certainly not one to look at in accordance with scripture.
Paine, not content with the gentle and limited results of the American Revolution then went to be a supporter of the French Revolution and expressed that it was much more in accordance with the principles he supported (while the heads of people were being lopped off in the street at the charge of mob "justice"). He appears to maintain that stance despite barely being saved from Madam la Guillotine himself.
Then, he also was an outspoken opponent of Christianity. I've witnessed people using his work as a justification for the abolition of religion.
So, do we really want to use Paine's ideas on government as a guide to right and wrong?

As for the foundation of the Revolution itself, it is easily seen.
The first events that led to the Revolution, and caused the other events that inspired revolt, were nothing more or less than refusing to pay taxes.
This is where knowledge of history really helps things.
The British government conducted its financial affairs in a way that would make any fiscal Conservative very happy. Their tax policy was to tax the bare minimum amount possible based on government expenses, which were also maintained at a minimum. The only time that the government would increase taxation would be when it had an extraordinary expense (like a war). They would keep taxes the same during the war while taking out loans to cover it, then when the war was done they would raise taxes until the debt was paid down.
The American colonies had always had a lower tax burden. This was due to the incentives toward the colonies and the fact that there had been no conflicts in the colonies to merit additional taxation. However, with the close of the Seven Years War (called the "French and Indian War" in the Americas), Britain had a massive debt to pay down. And, for the first time, the American colonies had taken a large part in the conflict, so the post-war taxes were levied on them as well.
What never is mentioned by anyone is that the taxes being paid by the colonists were the same or lower than those living in Britain itself. The entire argumentation of "taxation without representation" is a farce, since the colonists had accepted taxation for decades on the part of Parliament. The colonists were just upset because they were now no longer getting the preferential rates but the same as others.

Everything that followed, from the "Intollerable Acts" (not counting the Quebec Act that really had nothing to do with the British colonies, just the conquered French ones) to the eventual violence that happened between the colonists and British troops stems from the simple unwillingness to pay the same taxes as all of the rest of the British empire.
Plain and simple, the colonists were refusing to render to Caesar what was his due.

Even if you want to take the historically unjustified stance that the British were levying unjust taxation, the biblical reply would be Romans 13:6-7 which reference "tribute" which is money paid to a foreign power that has conquered your nation.
The idea of paying said tribute entirely invalidates the argument that Romans 13 is talking about the idea government or solely "good" governments, since it shows it should be applied to invading and possibly oppressive conquerors.
So, since "tribute" was appropriate to be paid by Paul's words, even the supposedly unjust taxation of the British government would have been appropriate to pay by a biblical view.

 

While I will neither redefine "revolution" or sugarcoat the facts, I am thankful that God used unjust acts (while maybe done with the best intentions) to give us the most blessed and protected nation in the history of the world.

I could say a lot more, and will, in answering the other parts of what people have said, but I have other things to do.

James K's picture

It is a rather naive view of history to say that England was the legitimate ruler over the colonies.  They were closer to an occupying force who taxed without representation.  The magna carta stripped the king of certain powers.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Matthew Eastland's picture

James K wrote:

It is a rather naive view of history to say that England was the legitimate ruler over the colonies.  They were closer to an occupying force who taxed without representation.  The magna carta stripped the king of certain powers.

Rather naive in the sense of what?
Most of the colonies had charters written by the consent of the king and owing the authority to establish colonies and rule in the name of the king.

The Magna Carta was written in 1215, and did very little to limit the king's authority. It merely established a common system of justice within England. It had nothing at all to do with colonies established in the 1600s.

As for the colonies, some may say that the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution did far more to limit the power of the King in the colonies. The fact of the matter is that the royal authority over the colonies was confirmed again after the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution while strengthening Parliament's role and authority in those colonies.

It's hard to call the government that owned the land the colonies were established on and gave consent for colonies to even happen, while exercising governmental authority (including appointing governors) that was followed by the colonists for around 100 years, and then fought a war to protect those colonies an "occupying force."

Matthew Eastland's picture

Sorry for the double post...

However, I forgot to mention that many of the men that eventually fought for the independence of the colonies first fought for that supposedly "occupying power" in the Seven Years War.
Hardly seems that such a characterization holds water in light of all of that.

ChristyM's picture

Those of us who were at FBBC (Ankeny) during the 1970s/80s would probably mostly agree with the first argument:  the War for Independence was a justifiable response to an unjust government taking unauthorized (by Scripture or reason) power.  However, the dear ladies who have elected me as their Chapter Regent this term  likely will not start calling themselves the Daughters of the Totally Justifiable War for Independence. 

Don Johnson's picture

I'll keep quiet about this thread except to say that at least one person in it is correct.

I am also the father of 5 Americans and married to one now for 30 years, so with that relationship in mind, I'd like to wish all my rebellious friends and relations a very happy 4th of July.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Rob Fall's picture

I believe many do not take into account the 151 year period between the accession of Charles I in 1625 and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  The English Civil Wars 1642-1651 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 set the precedents for the Founding Fathers.  If one is going to take the Loyalist position for the AmRev.  then that individual should be prepared to take the Royalist potion in the ECW and the Stuart's\Jacobite side in the GR.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Don Johnson's picture

They were all a bunch of thugs.

Recently read a history of Britain. What a crowd! I have often referred to the monarchy as the Mafia that won. Basically a protection racket where if you were the king's toady, you were rewarded, and if you paid your taxes you were protected from the king's henchmen.

Other than that, I'm a loyal monarchist!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. I have read many histories of the Revolutionary era and there is simply no way to Biblically sustain an argument for the revolution. The colonists objected to taxation. I have read numerous source documents from the period from both sides, and can clearly see the outrage the British felt at the American's stubbornness to accept their sovereignty. This leads to the issue of growing American nationalism in the period after the French and Indian War and the gradual "us vs them" mentality which followed. It is true that colonists were treated more shabbily than British citizens - they were colonists!

Again, I am not against the Revolutionary War. I am against a simplistic reading of history. There is far too often a sentimental, simplistic gloss in popular culture over these points. This becomes particularly dangerous when well-meaning preachers attempt to fashion some sort of divine Manifest Destiny from these events and essentially make America the new Israel! 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

James K's picture

Matthew Eastland wrote:

James K wrote:

It is a rather naive view of history to say that England was the legitimate ruler over the colonies.  They were closer to an occupying force who taxed without representation.  The magna carta stripped the king of certain powers.

Rather naive in the sense of what?
Most of the colonies had charters written by the consent of the king and owing the authority to establish colonies and rule in the name of the king.

The Magna Carta was written in 1215, and did very little to limit the king's authority. It merely established a common system of justice within England. It had nothing at all to do with colonies established in the 1600s.

As for the colonies, some may say that the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution did far more to limit the power of the King in the colonies. The fact of the matter is that the royal authority over the colonies was confirmed again after the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution while strengthening Parliament's role and authority in those colonies.

It's hard to call the government that owned the land the colonies were established on and gave consent for colonies to even happen, while exercising governmental authority (including appointing governors) that was followed by the colonists for around 100 years, and then fought a war to protect those colonies an "occupying force."

Wow, this is so misinformed I wonder where to begin.  Since Tyler agrees and finds no justification for the revolution, this is to you too.

The magna carta bound the king to the law.  It made the law king instead of the king being the law.  If the King (or any government) doesn't abide by the law of the land, what are people to do?  In other words, when the law, which binds all people, is disobeyed by the governmental authorities, are people bound to obey the disobedient governmental authorities or the law?  I know the answer.  Let us revisit what the magna carta did.  It bound the king to the law.

Why do you follow american law instead of english law?  If the revolution was evil, has time made it okay for you?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Btw Tyler, you couldn't biblically sustain the argument that Christians should fight in war now.  We are talking about fallen people struggling for power over other fallen people in a world system that will be destroyed by Christ's return.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with what Matthew said here - I hadn't looked at what you cited. I'm really not interested in being an apologist for the biblical warrant for the American Revolution. I do, however, agree broadly with what you said above:

We are talking about fallen people struggling for power over other fallen people in a world system that will be destroyed by Christ's return.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

For what it's worth at this point, the concept that the law is king did not originate with Thomas Paine. I cited him as an example of public rhetoric expressing the concept among the colonists. The idea is older. The term "lex rex" dates to Rutherford, 1644 or so. But the concept is older. Probably Roman.

It's relevance for the "revolution" has to do with governing terms accepted by the governing powers themselves. That is, if Britain had established the colonies from a standpoint of absolute monarchy, there would be no biblical reason to justify revolt. The authority would legitimately rest in the monarch. He would be Paul's "powers that be." But the colonies were established in an era where the governing powers themselves--king and parliament--claimed to operate under certain principles and set the colonies up with the rights of Englishmen under English law. The idea that law is king and the "king" is under it was already part of the mix of English political principles by then.

So if all of that is accurate, you have an illegal government scenario. The portions of the Declaration and king's response posted above bear this out.

What remains has to do with semantics. If you define "revolution" as overthrowing an established government, this doesn't appear to me to be what happened. If you define it as "any unwilling transfer of power," even then, one could argue, where was the power? In law? Then there was not really any transfer. So to get a really strong case for "revolution" you have to define it as "defending yourself from illegal government oppression" or "fighting off an invading army"--neither of these are widely used definitions of the term.

 

Gen. 9 and social contract. Personally I don't see it there. I think it's anachronistic to see it there. When we read "by man" we are being told that mankind has the responsibility to honor the life of mankind. What we're not told is how this responsibility ought to be structured and carried out... only that it belongs to human beings. It's pretty hard to read "government by consent of the governed" there.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Gen. 9 and social contract. Personally I don't see it there. I think it's anachronistic to see it there. When we read "by man" we are being told that mankind has the responsibility to honor the life of mankind. What we're not told is how this responsibility ought to be structured and carried out... only that it belongs to human beings. It's pretty hard to read "government by consent of the governed" there.

Just curious, how else would you see it implemented in the days immediately following the flood - probably for a century or more - until the population had rebounded to the point that a formal government structure could even be created?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

farmer Tom N's picture

Sirs,

I have been involved in discussions on this topic at SI before,

and for some reason, (usually it's an attack on my tone, or my attitude or my lack of sufficient vitae), I am ignored.

So I will remind you all again.

A quote from the above piece by Patrick Henry,

<i>  "We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament."</i>

Gentlemen, you need to reacquaint yourselves with the Doctrine of Interposition. 

Some Biblical examples of a lesser magistrate interposing themselves between the people and a higher magistrate,

The Priests against Queen Athaliah  in  II KIngs 11

King Uzziah and Azariah the priest II Chronicles 26

Paul's appeal to Festus in Acts 25

Here is a short article on the subject. I'm sure some of you will immediately reject it since it is from Vision Forum.

http://americanvision.org/733/tenth-amendment-interposition/

All civil authorities are God's minister's as indicated in Romans 13. When a higher magistrate does evil, it is the duty and responsibility of the lower magistrates to interpose themselves between the evil magistrate and the people. 

THIS  is really well done. I recommend it highly.

http://publisherscorner.nordskogpublishing.com/2008/01/eidsmoe-john-doctrine-of-interposition.html

I'll slink away into the ether again.

Maybe this time someone will actually read the links and learn something.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Gen. 9 and social contract. Personally I don't see it there. I think it's anachronistic to see it there. When we read "by man" we are being told that mankind has the responsibility to honor the life of mankind. What we're not told is how this responsibility ought to be structured and carried out... only that it belongs to human beings. It's pretty hard to read "government by consent of the governed" there.

Just curious, how else would you see it implemented in the days immediately following the flood - probably for a century or more - until the population had rebounded to the point that a formal government structure could even be created?

I guess it's fair to say the social contract idea has both a descriptive and prescriptive form. Though I'm not sure I understand Rousseau all that well, he seemed at times to argue that social contract is how governments in fact do form among men. But whether that's Rousseau's version of the concept or not, the following are two different things:

  • a record of government forming by consent of the governed
  • the idea/principle that all governments ought to exist only as long as the governed consent

The first is descriptive, the second prescriptive. I don't really know how the first government formed after the flood. I do know that Gen. 9 does not prescribe social contract as a principle of how governments ought to form or continue to hold power.

To Farmer Tom, yes there are some events in Scripture in which people overthrew governments, or nation A overthrew nation B, etc. And even a few where a Israelite monarch violated the mosaic covenant (thus becoming arguably an illegal government) and God raised up an individual or group to put an end to the reign.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Farmer... took a look at the links. There is some category confusion here. These are two different things:

  • participating in violent overthrow of a legal government
  • using legal means to halt illegal activities by government

The interposition idea deals mainly with the latter, though it looks like it's advocates sometimes do not distinguish between legal and illegal means of redress. To me, the distinction is pretty important (and I have to strongly object to the lawyer's idea that the atonement is an example of that kind of interposition. Jesus did not intervene to rescue us from the injustice of the Father. Rather, He participated with the Father in a means of upholding His own and the Father's justice while simultaneously pardoning sinners. This is very, very different from the governmental interposition idea)

Wayne Wilson's picture

I don't know if it's still in print, but Mark Knoll's Christians in the American Revolution is a good look at the different positions believers took at the time.  It functions almost like one of those Four Views books, encompassing 1) The Patriotic response, 2) The Reforming Response, 3) The Loyalist response and 4) the Pacifist response. 

There is also a great multi-volume set of books published in 1876 called The Pulpit of the American Revolution or The Political Sermons of the Period of 1776, which has many, many sermons preached in those tumultuous times.  Interesting stuff.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Thanks for the book suggestions.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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