Comment Policy

You are welcome to weigh in on any of my posts with either positive or negative feedback and engage others in conversation. However. I do ask you to adhere to the following.

1) Please attempt to understand what I or other posters have written.

2) If you believe something was unclear, ask a clarifying questions.

3) If you simply disagree please engage in civil conversation which means (a) maintain a respectful tone, (b) no name calling/insults/character assassination, etc.

4) No cursing, crude jokes, or otherwise purposefully offensive language.

5) Try to stay on topic. The comments should deal with the content of the post you are commenting on.

Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “Comment Policy

  1. Gary Vail

    Hello. I recently read your interesting discussion of Romans 12 & 13. One issue that troubles me is how to see Paul’s instruction lived out in the modern world. He seems to say that all rulers / authority are established by God. To me, this suggests that the conquests of the Roman Empire were God’s will. Much of what the Romans ruled was a vast area of other cultures and peoples often with severe oppression. This text seems to imply that whoever has power (by whatever means) at the present moment has been given this power by God. It also seems to imply that Christians should submit to whatever “government” they find themselves under. It’s hard to believe that authority/government only brings terror to evil doers. I’m sure you don’t approve of the use of Romans 13 by much of the state sponsored Lutheran church under Nazi rule. Many of the church leaders appealed to this text to say that Christians should not resist or rebel against the Nazis. Complicated, I know. but the text begs for a deeper explication if it is to be considered applicable to Christians over all historical time.

    Reply
    1. stevenkopp Post author

      Gary,
      Thanks for the comment. The way I resolve this tension is by viewing Romans 13 as a picture of an “ideal” government, civil authorities functioning as they should, not necessarily as they do. So, the government does have authority given by God, but it is not unmitigated authority, only authority to do justice (rewards and punishments in the sphere of civil affairs). To the extend that the government is acting with justice, Christians should submit to the governing authorities. To the extend that the government is doing evil, Christians should resist that evil since the authority of God (which demands we resist evil) always supersedes any authority which God grants (temporarily/conditionally) to man. This allows citizens to submit to the government in most cases (assuming they live in a relatively just society) and only resist when it is necessary to follow God.
      -Steve

      Reply
  2. Gary Vail

    Thanks Steve for your comments.

    “Those [authorities] that exist have been instituted by God”. The problem for me is that Paul’s injunction to submit to the authorities (or higher powers) (in Romans 13) was in the context of the power of the Roman Empire, the rulers of the day. Certainly not an ideal government by any stretch don’t you think? Besides, I can’t imagine any present day government that would entirely fulfill the “ideal”.

    Paul seems to echo Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5:38-48 especially “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” and “Do not resist the one who is evil”. I take Jesus’ words to include the real-life enemy of the Jewish people of the time, the occupying armies of the Roman Empire in Palestine. As we know, there was a resistance movement at the time, the Zealots, who felt justified to rebel against and to fight the occupying Romans. Some of them and even many of his disciples expected Jesus to use his power to overthrow the Romans and to set up his kingdom. Jesus categorically rejected this option. What are your thoughts on this?

    Reply
    1. stevenkopp Post author

      I should probably rephrase what I mean by “ideal government.” I mean, “a government acting ideally.” No earthly government is an ideal government but even the Romans, occasionally, acted for the cause of justice. I think Paul intended the words “for rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong” and “for the one in authority is God’s servant for your good” to be read in reference to the Roman government. I don’t know who else he could have meant. But, I don’t think he meant “the Roman government always acts like this” but “the Roman government ought to, and often does, act like this.” That Paul says these words about the government that was at least complicit in the persecution of Christians is quite startling.
      With that in mind, then, Paul draws out a few implications, such as submitting to the authorities and paying taxes. I agree with regard to the resistance movements of the time. Jesus was not one of the zealots and, in fact, opposed their actions. The same is true for Paul. The injunction to “love your neighbor” bears weight in regard to the civil authorities as well, especially when they became more active in the persecution of Christians.
      To go back to my original post, I think it is true that the civil government can act on behalf of justice. But, when it does not, Christians should continue to act with love toward enemies.

      Reply
  3. Gary Vail

    Thanks Steve. That sounds about right. One could speculate that Paul is addressing a possible sentiment among some of the “believers in Rome” that they had justification to disregard the authority of the civil government since they now lived in the “freedom of Christ”. Paul is aware that his teaching of “justification by faith” apart from the Law, could be construed as not only a liberation from the “letter of the law”, but also a licence to behave in any manner. Thus he goes to great pains to dispel this misconception and Romans 12 – 13 stresses what kind of life “freedom in Christ” frees one to live.

    Reply

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