29 Jan 2012

The First (of Several?) Posts on Romans 13

Religious, Rothbard 108 Comments

Atheist libertarians love to quote Romans 13: 1-7 at me. I have been delaying addressing it for a long time, not because I have nothing to say, but because it’s such an important passage and requires a long answer. However, after at least 6 months of doing this, it’s clear that I’m never going to have time to “do it justice.” So I’ll fire off some of my thoughts on this post, probably argue with a bunch of you, and then presumably do follow up post(s) in the future.

OK so here’s the text:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Okay so here are my quick thoughts:

(1) On the surface, this is an admittedly odd passage. I understand why people are so bothered by it, because he makes very sweeping statements. So when I try to “explain it away”–as it will seem I’m doing to a lot of skeptics–let me at least admit to you, that I understand why this is so troubling.

(2) The thing is, we don’t even have to ask, “How could a decent libertarian support such statements?” No, the harder question is, “How could Paul himself believe such statements, if taken at face value?” Paul, remember, wrote four of his epistles (though not Romans) from prison. And moreover, it wasn’t like he slipped up and let his drinking get the better of him. No, he was in prison serving the Lord. So clearly Paul knew that it was possible for an earthly ruler to use his power to do evil.

(3) This isn’t really something foreign to the Bible. King Herod tried to have the baby Jesus killed, and an angel commanded Joseph to take Mary and his young Son to Egypt. Do we think it’s possible that Paul believed Joseph was doing the wrong thing by evading the ruler God had installed to implement His divine justice? Of course not.

(4) So now we have to ask ourselves: Does Paul really mean what a straightforward interpretation of Romans 13 suggests? If he does, then he apparently doesn’t understand his own life or any of the Bible. There are three main possibilities that I see:

(P#1) Paul is insane/illogical or the Bible is a bunch of nonsense stories and we shouldn’t be surprised at its blatant internal contradictions.

(P#2) Paul is speaking very broadly, in the sense that everything happening on Earth is a manifestation of God’s will. God is omnipotent, so everything that happens, occurs because God wants it to. For example: Why didn’t Pharaoh listen to Moses and let the Israelites go? The Bible doesn’t say, “Because Pharaoh had free will and was a bad guy, and God said, ‘Aww shucks now I guess I have to unleash some plagues.'” No, the Bible actually says “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.”

(P#3) Paul is conscious of the Romans trying to persecute Christians, and so he’s trying to be very subtle. When he says, for example, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor,” he’s being as coy as Jesus when He was asked if the Jews should pay the tax to Caesar. Jesus famously asked them to pull out a coin and say whose face was on it. They said Caesar, and Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” So on the one hand, that sounds like He’s saying, “Pay your taxes,” but actually that’s not what He said. If you don’t think Caesar has any right to the coins you earned in commerce (say) then Jesus isn’t actually commanding you to pay. Paul might be doing something similar.

(5) If a typical American Christian tries to use Romans 13 against my libertarian/pacifist views, it’s shooting fish in a barrel. (I mean, it’s using nonviolent means to persuade the fish to stop swimming around the barrel.) I can ask him (of course it would be a guy arguing with me) if he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, he would answer of course he did, and then I would ask why we had the audacity to send troops to remove the political ruler God had installed to punish Iraqi rapists and murderers. Oops.

(6) Another interesting point (HT2 Norman Horn) is to look at the preceding chapter. Right before Paul says the stuff that horrifies a modern Rothbardian who is an atheist, look at what Paul writes:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Now are the atheist libertarians really so sure that if more and more people did that from Chapter 12, but then also (because of Chapter 13) paid their taxes and didn’t try to violently overthrow the government, that the power of government would grow? Hardly. If the majority of people molded their hearts to conform to his outline in Romans 12, the politicians wouldn’t get anywhere, promising to lock up bad guys or blow up threats to national security. And in fact, in that respect the two chapters are very compatible: Even if you think the government is practicing evil, don’t you stoop to the same level in trying to overcome it.

(7) Last point for tonight: Sometimes I think today’s Christian anarcho-capitalists (yes there are some of us) try to go for the gold and make it look like the people writing in the New Testament were describing a Rothbardian paradise, with very efficient capital markets and 95 different Private Defense Associations in the phone book. Of course they weren’t thinking like that. So in this post, I’m not saying Paul would have endorsed For a New Liberty if you showed it to him. I’m guessing he would have said something like, “Well of course it would be a better world if nobody used weapons to implement political institutions or to fund armies. But why stop there? It would be a better world if nobody hated his neighbor, and this fellow Rothbard talks nothing about removing the hate from our hearts.”

Look, Paul couldn’t possibly have been thinking about political institutions, law enforcement, the most efficient way to distribute food to the hungry, etc. in the way that a Rothbard or other modern Austro-libertarian does, because Paul didn’t have the benefit of all the advances in economics and political analysis that have been made since he wrote his epistles. By the same token, a “regular” American evangelical Christian nowadays believes strongly in democracy/republican government in the vision of the Founding Fathers, even though that notion might have shocked Paul. (At first I was going to say, “Today’s evangelicals think women should be able to vote, though this would have seemed inconceivable to Paul”…except I wonder how many of today’s evangelicals think women should be able to vote?)

I realize this will sound like a huge cop-out to the atheist libertarians who wanted to really “get me” with Romans 13, but so be it: The way I am picturing how a just society would deal with criminals, I think Paul would say, “That’s the government in your world.” And if Paul and I were locked up together for 6 months, maybe I could even get him to see why my vision was more compatible with the way Paul assumed government “had to” operate.

* * *

So in conclusion, I admit the beginning of Romans 13 is problematic. But it’s problematic not simply for the extreme libertarian, it’s problematic for anybody who thinks Hitler was a bad ruler. And once you figure out how (if you think it can be done) Paul’s words can deal with that particular ruler, then you can use the same technique on every other political ruler, if you so happen to believe that all political rulers commit injustice by their very position.

108 Responses to “The First (of Several?) Posts on Romans 13”

  1. Matt Flipago says:

    The First (of Several?) comments on Romans 13
    Awesome, you finally did the post. Mostly Agree. But do you think this means Christians must follow all laws, or just the ones we ought to follow?

    • Matt Flipago says:

      And by all laws I don’t just mean the Nazi Germany ones, I mean the speed limits, online piracy, and helping illegal immigrants.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Matt Flipago wrote: But do you think this means Christians must follow all laws, or just the ones we ought to follow?

      I think Christians ought to follow all the laws we ought to follow.

      • zee says:

        “I think Christians ought to follow all the laws we ought to follow.”

        LOL. We will have to rename you Dr. Jesus Murphy.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        But surely you must admit, Bob, that Jesus and probably Paul clearly believed that there existed government-created laws that Christians ought to follow.

        • zee says:

          @Keshav:

          Right, but they would probably say that you should follow those laws whether the government created those laws or not. That’s very different from saying you should follow some particular law X because the government said you should.

          • Mike says:

            I would say that it is not “Christians ought to follow all the laws we ought to follow,” but rather “Christians ought to follow all the laws except those we ought not to follow”

            There’s a very important difference.

    • Penney Wise says:

      “Human law is law on in virtue of it’s accordance with right reason;
      and thus it is manifest that is flows from the eternal law.
      And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called unjust law;
      in such case it is not law at all, but rather a species of violence”

      St. Thomas of Aquinas.

    • Penney Wise says:

      HUMAN LAW

      “Human law is law only in virtue of it’s accordance with right reason;
      and thus it is manifest that is flows from the eternal law.
      And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called unjust law;
      in such case it is not law at all, but rather a species of violence”

      St. Thomas of Aquinas.

  2. David K. says:

    (P#3) is very interesting. I think I read the following explanation in a blog post or comment by Roderick Long:

    The Stoics thought all “rulers” should be obeyed, but they defined “ruler” to mean “just ruler.” Since Paul was influenced by the Stoics, Romans 13 might be interpreted as a list of criteria for distinguishing between “governing authorities” and criminals, i.e., “governing authorities” who “hold […] terror for those who do right,” not “for those who do wrong,” are actually common criminals, not true authorities.

  3. Tom says:

    I am happy that you are a believer in Christ and constantly strive to be the best person you can be, but have you ever seriously considered that Paul was just wrong? You wrote, “Paul is insane/illogical or the Bible is a bunch of nonsense stories and we shouldn’t be surprised at its blatant internal contradictions.” Why not, “Paul’s teachings in Romans 13 are misguided but he was a great follower of Christ and like all mortal men, Paul wasn’t perfect.”

    Isn’t the bible 72 books written by many authors? We know the universe wasn’t created in 7 days, right? Yet, we don’t throw away all of Jesus’ teachings. So why not give serious consideration to the idea that Paul was wrong and retain the rest of your faith?

    To me, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities….” is very clear. If Paul wanted to say something else, why didn’t he choose better words? Wasn’t this man a great thinker who assisted in changing the world for the better? Are we to believe that he was incapable of making clear points? Seriously?

    How on earth can I read the bible and understand its teachings when Romans 13 doesn’t mean what it says? What other parts of the bible don’t mean what they say? (Or at least what other parts of Romans, Corinthians, Philemon……)

    To be honest, this discussion reminds me of people who claim the constitution doesn’t mean what it says. You know the whole, “The 2nd amendment really gives the government the power to have guns and there are implied powers granted to the government.”

    I could be wrong, but I feel like you are trying really hard to turn Paul’s pro government words into your own when it would be easier to just disagree with them. Would you have come to the same conclusion had you read the exact words of Romans 13 but it was written by a 15th century French Philosopher?

    PS I’m happy that you finally wrote something about this. thanks

    • Strat says:

      You cant say Paul is wrong and retain your faith.

      The bible has said atleast a dozen plus times it is the written word of god. That it is breathed by god. That god spoke and said “XXX”.

      When it comes to the bible, you have to be 100% or 0%.

      If its true that god meant something else by his words but didn’t have the language skills to convey it to all, then how can he be divine.

      • Tom says:

        I can’t imagine that most Christians believe that. I remember in (Catholic) school, we read passages from the Bible that described how rain worked. Basically, the bible says that there is a giant half dome (because the earth is flat) with sections that open up to make it rain.

        Granted, its been more than 15 years since I read those passages, but I remember that they clearly didn’t describe reality. So I don’t think most Christians really believe in every part of the bible because we know there isn’t a dome over the earth.

        I just hope that Romans 13 will be another part of the bible that Bob doesn’t believe in (I’m assuming he doesn’t think the universe was made in 7 days).

        • Strat says:

          From Wikipedia:

          The Christian Bible contains paragraphs indicating that “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God”. (2 Timothy 3:16-3:17) [31] Almost all Christians believe that the Bible consists of the inspired Word of God, where God intervened and influenced the words of the Bible. For many Christians the Bible is also infallible, in that it is incapable of error within matters of faith and practice. For example, that the bible is free from error in spiritual but not scientific matters. A related, but distinguishable belief is that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, without error in any aspect. spoken by God and written down in its perfect form by humans. Within these broad beliefs there are many schools of hermeneutics. “Bible scholars claim that discussions about the Bible must be put into its context within church history and then into the context of contemporary culture.”[28] Fundamentalist Christians are associated with the doctrine of Biblical literalism, where the Bible is not only inerrant, but the meaning of the text is clear to the average reader.

          via bible.org:

          In hundreds of passages, the Bible declares or takes the position explicitly or implicitly that it is nothing less than the very Word of God.

          Some thirty-eight hundred times the Bible declares, “God said,” or “Thus says the Lord” (e.g. Ex. 14:1; 20:1; Lev. 4:1; Num. 4:1; Deut. 4:2; 32:48; Isa. 1:10, 24; Jer. 1:11; Ezek. 1:3; etc.). Paul also recognized that the things he was writing were the Lord’s commandments (1 Cor. 14:37), and they were acknowledged as such by the believers (1 Thess. 2:13). Peter proclaimed the certainty of the Scriptures and the necessity of heeding the unalterable and certain Word of God (2 Pet. 1:16-21). John too recognized that his teaching was from God; to reject his teaching was to reject God (1 John 4:6).17

          For other passages which either declare or assume the Bible as God’s Word see Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 17-18; Joshua 1:8-9; 8:32-35; 2 Samuel 22:31; Ps. 1:2; 12:6; 19:7-11; 93:5; 119:9, 11, 18, 89-93, 130; Prov. 30:5-6; Matthew 5:17-19; 22:29; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; John 2:22; 5:24; 10:35; Acts 17:11; Romans 10:17; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:23-25; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Revelation 1:2; 22:18.

        • Nathaniel says:

          The Hebrew for “day” in Genesis is the same word used for “era”; based on that many Christians believe in an “old earth,” one just as old as what mainstream science says.

          I’d be interested in knowing what passage you are referring to regarding rain. It’s true that Genesis 7:11 is talking about rain when it says “the windows of the heavens were opened.” But the Bible is not a science textbook, and like any decent piece of writing, it uses imagery. You wouldn’t call me a liar if in the middle of a rainstorm I said it was “raining cats and dogs.”

          • Tom says:

            Forget the rain passages…how about the passages that say its OK to beat your slaves?

            “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”

            And there’s many, many more pro-slavery passages than this one.

            How in the world can the above passage be considered, “The word of God.” If that is “God’s word, ” then God is a very very evil being.

            • Michael says:

              The entire chapter you are referring to deals with disputes that arise. The beginning of Exodus 21 shows that slavery was a choice on the part of the slave and master. Capitalism is a recent phenomenon and the slave system was the norm for that era. Also, in verse 26-27 of that same chapter it reads that if the slave is beaten and even a tooth falls out of his mouth, then that slave is to be set free. Furthermore, it only refers to the fact that if the slave is not killed, then the master will not be put to death. However, the previous verse states that if any person who is struck is not killed but still requires medical attention, then it is the duty of the aggressor to pay for any medical problems which arise. This verse only deals with a single issue is that if the slave dies a few days after the beating, then the slave owner will not be killed. However, he is still liable for the beating as stated under the law. It is also important to remember that when these and other laws were made they were the fairest laws possible in that time period. When asked about divorce, Jesus said that it was permitted due to the hardness of men’s hearts (Matt. 19:8). The problem is most opponents of the Bible don’t factor in two primary components. One is that the book needs to be read with in the historical context of the times. Secondly, in the context of doctrine and moral teachings, the Bible should be read as a whole, not in parts. For example the quote you placed from Exodus 21 seems awful until you run into the verse I mentioned later and when it is read within the whole context of the times and the rest of the chapter.

      • Anonymous says:

        “You can’t say Paul is wrong and retain your faith.”

        That neatly sums up why Christians fell a very strong obligation to defending the Bible, even stuff as crazy as people living inside giant fishes, and turning water instantly into wine.

        Once they start to think like a scientist and question the claims made in the Bible, their faith in those claims starts melting away. But faith is a requirement for calling oneself a Christian, and so like a guilt ridden abuse victim, they reluctantly chastise themselves for almost going down that path, to the Devil’s evil grasp, and instead they go down the tortured and embarrassing defence/interpretations of the Bible path, to God’s loving embrace.

        • Ben Kennedy says:

          That neatly sums up why Christians fell a very strong obligation to defending the Bible, even stuff as crazy as people living inside giant fishes, and turning water instantly into wine.

          The craziest think is that anything exists at all

          The second craziest thing is that self-conscious, self-aware people can arise spontaneously from non-sentient matter

          After that, turning water into wine is quite mundane

          • Anonymous says:

            “The craziest think is that anything exists at all”

            Crazy from what viewpoint? Non-existence?

            “The second craziest thing is that self-conscious, self-aware people can arise spontaneously from non-sentient matter

            Crazy from what viewpoint? The attributes of physical matter?

            “After that, turning water into wine is quite mundane”

            If your viewpoints are from that of non-existence, or the attributes of physical matter, then sure, everything about humans is crazy. But then that just means you haven’t yet come to terms with what you are, and, by the same token, what I am, and what other humans are.

            Things only seem crazy when you can’t fully explain them.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              Anonymous wrote:

              Things only seem crazy when you can’t fully explain them.

              So you can fully explain the origin of the universe and human consciousness? Email Stephen Hawking–he’s dying to know.

          • Mark says:

            I love that – and its so true. I’ll be quoting you on thos one for sure 🙂

      • Brent says:

        You can disagree and retain your faith. Do not make the mistake of attributing those verses to a work that had not been written yet. Hear me and understand, the verses were written and some time after that the separate books combined into one book you now call the bible.Think of these letters as weekly letters from the pastor. Paul himself declares this to be true when he say a few time “I Paul say this not the Lord”. This is evidence that Paul is giving his opinion.Evidence that other statements by Paul might also be opinion.

        • Mark says:

          No he doesnt say it a “few times”. He says it once, and that was 1 Cor 7:40. Furthermore, he says that it is his Judgement BUT “I have the Spirit of the Lord”.

          In other words, he is saying that his judgement is led by the Spirit of the Lord.

  4. Anonymouse says:

    “… once you figure out how (if you think it can be done) Paul’s words can deal with that particular ruler, then you can use the same technique on every other political ruler, if you so happen to believe that all political rulers commit injustice by their very position.”

    Your challenge to fellow Christians is to find ways of interpreting texts so that their implied meaning contradicts their literal meaning.

    So, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities” means “Let some people be subject to some governing authorities.”

    “Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” means “It’s OK to rebel against authority.”

    “Rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” means “Some rulers hold terror for those who do right, but not for those who do wrong.”

    “It is necessary to submit to the authorities” means “It is not necessary to submit to the authorities”.

    With all due respect to your excellent writings on economics, it’s amazing how muddled the reasoning and extreme the mental contortions become in a futile attempt to square these circles. Using the same “techniques”, as you’ve called them, we could make Keynes out to be a Rothbardian or Rothbard a Keynesian.

    The problem, of course, is that you’ve already assumed the conclusion (that the NT is compatible with libertarianism), and are willing to accept horribly tortured arguments simply because they affirm a strongly held belief. If a non-Christian had written the passage you quoted, you would likely come to a completely different conclusion about its meaning, because your faith would not get in the way of a rational interpretation.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Anonymouse wrote:

      The problem, of course, is that you’ve already assumed the conclusion (that the NT is compatible with libertarianism), and are willing to accept horribly tortured arguments simply because they affirm a strongly held belief.

      No, Anonymouse, that’s not the pattern at all. What is happening is that you “knew” exactly how my post would go, and saw what you were hoping to see.

      This has nothing to do with libertarianism. This isn’t a problem that affects Rothbardian Christians. This is a problem that affects any Christian who thinks Hitler was a bad ruler, or who thinks Pontius Pilate committed a sin when he ordered that Jesus be crucified.

      Anonymouse, do you think Paul is saying, “Jesus Christ got what He deserved, He must have done something bad and deserved that punishment that the just Romans gave to Him”?

      No, clearly that’s not what Paul was thinking. So what the heck could Paul have in mind? Well I’ve offered a few theories:

      (A) Paul was nuts/drunk when he wrote this part of his epistle, or someone else forged it. (I didn’t think of the latter possibility when I wrote the blog post.)

      (B) Paul would say, “Jesus didn’t ‘deserve’ His death in a worldly sense, but of course God wanted Jesus to die like that. That was the whole plan from the beginning of the universe, in order to save humanity from its sin. So yes yes yes a thousand times yes, it was fabulous that Pontius ordered Jesus to be killed.”

      (C) Paul would say, “Pontius wasn’t someone deserving of honor and obedience. Yes I was being a bit coy and flying under the radar of the Romans with my superficial language. It didn’t occur to me that idiots would actually think I meant Christians were supposed to do whatever the rulers said, even if it contradicted the orders of God. I’ve been a well-educated man for 30 frickin’ years, cut me some frickin’ slack. You’re forgetting…I’m in a prison, surrounded by liquid hot magma chains.” (That’s a Dr. Evil impression in case you don’t get the reference.)

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        But I think Paul would say that there are many instances in which you should substitute the moral judgment of authority figures for your own.

      • Anonymouse says:

        “(A) Paul was nuts/drunk when he wrote this part of his epistle, or someone else forged it. (I didn’t think of the latter possibility when I wrote the blog post.)”

        Precisely. But if you’re willing to consider whether or not the passage in question was forged, why not also consider whether all of the Pauline material was “forged”?

        Why not be open to the possibility that Paul is a fictional character? That should be choice #4 in your original post.

        If the NT and associated texts are religious/political propaganda, then the inconsistencies and contradictions are much easier to explain.

    • Mark says:

      It only calls “higher powers” the “Governing authorities” in modern copyrighted Bibles. Not so in the earlier and more ubiquitous manuscripts.

  5. Nathaniel says:

    Excellent post; thank you for this.

    It seems like Ephesians 6:5 (“Slaves, obey your masters”) can be interpreted similarly. Paul is surely not saying that Moses was wrong to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Nathaniel, great point. I was going to bring up the “slaves” stuff but didn’t get around to it.

      • Steve Maughan says:

        I’ve always interpreted this passage in a similar light to Ephesians 6v5-9. To this end, Paul is not writing about an ideal form of government. He is writing to people who are under the rule of a (bad) government (i.e. akin to slavery). He is encouraging them to focus on other things (which are far more important).

        Looking at it from a slightly different angle, you could ask the question, “could you justify taxation based on this passage”. I don’t think you can. As you rightly point out, it’s a “give to Caesar” verse where what you should give is not defined. To me this underlines the focus of the passage. It’s council give to people who are subject to bad ruler (if they weren’t bad there would be no need for the passage).

        Good topic!

        Steve

    • Mark says:

      “It seems like Ephesians 6:5 (“Slaves, obey your masters”) can be interpreted similarly. Paul is surely not saying that Moses was wrong to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.”

      I dunno – can this be interpreted to be a direct command of God – Since it was – and also, something else- The reason was initially to let the Israelites “keep the Sabbath”. In other words, it was to let them worship, which Pharoah refused to allow.

  6. Tod says:

    (8) The Bible puts priority on religion above politics. As vile and corrupt as a governing authority may be, priority #1 is overcoming sin. As ambassador for Christ, my ability to carry out my Christian duty would be hampered if I put politics first and landed in prison.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Tod wrote: As ambassador for Christ, my ability to carry out my Christian duty would be hampered if I put politics first and landed in prison.

      Well it depends, right? If you go to prison for armed robbery, sure. But if you go because you refuse to say Nebuchadnezzer (sp) is a god, then it might be exactly what Christ wants you to do to spread the gospel.

    • Mark says:

      Great answer Tod – I think this way. I shouldnt let politics get in the way of keeping the commandments. I.e., showing Christian respect and even love to some government official that is trying to enforce a law that doesnt apply. The kingdom is first. That doesnt mean I wont use “their” own laws against them. I just wont make a crusade out of it.

      • Mark says:

        “That doesnt mean I wont use “their” own laws against them. I just wont make a crusade out of it.”

        And let me tell ya, thats pretty easy to do!

  7. Brian Shelley says:

    Bob,

    One of your better expositions.

  8. John Black says:

    Great post but no cigar. You are forgetting that Paul was all about faith in God. That was his central message.

    Paul was very intelligent and lived under despotic rule – probably the worst that the world has ever seen. Yet he made no qualification to his statements about obeying the governing authority. The Book of Romans is arguably the best exposition on how to be a Christian. It is a well written book and well thought out. So one must conclude that he meant exactly what he said. Any other conclusion requires one to stretch their imagination.

    Paul himself did exactly what he preached. He submitted to ruler and was beaten and sent to prison. He did not fight the governing authority. I am certain that he paid his taxes. Paul is telling Christians that we must do the same thing. It is the “turn the other cheek” principle. Matthew 5:38-42 http://tinyurl.com/47y5wjg.

    The point is that eventually, that government must fall – just like the Roman empire did. God will not allow his children to suffer forever. Paul knew this. But in the mean time, we will have to endure the hardship.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      John Black wrote: Paul himself did exactly what he preached. He submitted to ruler and was beaten and sent to prison. He did not fight the governing authority. I am certain that he paid his taxes.

      Right, John, I agree with you, and I think that is what Paul had in mind too. But you’re not dealing with some of my stronger points. Do you think Paul would have criticized Joseph for heeding the angel and fleeing to Egypt? I mean, Herod ordered all the young males to be killed, and Joseph was evading that order from a political ruler. Why didn’t Joseph submit and let the baby Jesus be killed?

      Also, if the king says, “Declare your allegiance to me and renounce this Jesus guy, or else I’ll whip you,” and then you keep your mouth silent and get whipped, are you saying that is obeying the king? No, it’s disobeying the king.

      • Timothy Willoughby says:

        Of course not, an angel gave Joseph and Mary special instructions. Proclaiming anyone king is breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Having no other gods before Him means NOT HAVING ANYTHING more important than God, His Word, or your walk.
        You never will understand a Christians view because your looking to disprove, muddy up, confuse, prove your point, etc. Take a little more.time and read the Bible completely. More will be revealed.

  9. Jon Steele says:

    I think you are spending too much time addressing atheist points, and not enough addressing the concerns of Christian libertarians. In particular you are drawing the line in the wrong place by making points about whether unjust leaders must be followed. I don’t think there are many Christians who would claim that if Dear Leader tells us to go jump off a cliff, that our response (as Christians) must be “But how far from the base of the cliff are we to land, sir?” But there are a lot of people who would say, roughly, “Look. Paul doesn’t preclude the opposition of unjust rulers. The American Revolution was okay. Getting rid of Hitler was okay. What’s not okay is opposition to the instution of government in general. You can be opposed to certain systems of government, and to the rule of certain individuals. But you cannot be an anarchist either.”

    The quote you should be addressing, IMO, is the one from Gary North where he essentially says “You can’t be a Rothbardian anarchist and claim to be a bible-believing Christian at the same time. They are incompatible.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Jon Steele wrote: In particular you are drawing the line in the wrong place by making points about whether unjust leaders must be followed.

      I don’t see that at all, Jon. Look, if we take Paul literally, then he is saying we shouldn’t oppose Hitler, and in fact that Hitler is carrying out God’s wishes. So if you think, “OK sure, Paul obviously doesn’t mean that,” then why is it so obvious that Paul endorses the Martin van Buren Administration? We rule out him endorsing the Third Reich, because it committed monstrous crimes. OK, well I think every single nation-state in human history has committed institutionalized crimes, primarily theft but often mass murder. So why do you think Paul is telling me to endorse all of those regimes, but not Hitler’s? I think you are the one who is picking and choosing here.

      • Jon Steele says:

        Thanks for the reply Bob.

        I think I was unclear. I agree with you that on a literal reading of just the first part of Romans 13, Paul doesn’t seem to be leaving any room for civil disobedience or revolt.

        But in his commentary on Romans, Gary North has a way of partially wriggling out of that. As I understand it, he says there are 4 governments (self, church, family, and civil) and Paul’s urge to heed civil government does not trump obedience to the other 3. So one may disobey an unlawful command of civil government, provided one accepts or even embraces the (presumably bad) consequences of doing so.

        But he goes on to say that “Christians cannot legitimately adopt the libertarian quest to estab- lish a world devoid of civil government . . . If Paul is correct, then anarcho-capitalism is incor- rect. There is no way around this.” So if I understand his argument, he’s basically saying “You must accept the existence of civil government. You can refuse to obey the commands of civil government, but you must accept the consequences of doing so.”

        It’s not that I’m trying to pick and choose what we take away from Paul here. I’m just interested to know how you would address Gary North’s argument.

        • Mark says:

          “But he goes on to say that “Christians cannot legitimately adopt the libertarian quest to estab- lish a world devoid of civil government . . ”

          Even if it were a peaceful endeavor?

    • Ben Kennedy says:

      The quote you should be addressing, IMO, is the one from Gary North where he essentially says “You can’t be a Rothbardian anarchist and claim to be a bible-believing Christian at the same time. They are incompatible.”

      I really don’t get Gary North – he publishes on LRC, but he is also cited as one of the bogeymen for hyper-statist Theonomy and Christian Reconstructionism, Anyone have insight into this?

    • John Black says:

      John,

      I think you are essentially correct, although I am not sure if Paul would have endorsed the American Revolution.

      Do you know where Gary made that statement? I think he is correct too.

      • Jon Steele says:

        In my first comment, I was paraphrasing rather than actually quoting Gary North. In my second comment, I quoted directly from his economic commentary on Romans. The PDF is available here: http://www.garynorth.com/public/469.cfm

        The paragraph I quoted is on page 160 of the book, which is actually page 166 in my PDF reader.

  10. Major_Freedom says:

    Now are the atheist libertarians really so sure that if more and more people did that from Chapter 12, but then also (because of Chapter 13) paid their taxes and didn’t try to violently overthrow the government, that the power of government would grow? Hardly.

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

    I dunno Murphy, if I were to feed and quench something that wants food and water, they tend to get bigger rather than smaller, no?

    If the state is hungry, feed it? What if the state keeps getting hungrier? Presumably that would mean we should keep feeding it more and more. If the state is so hungry that it wants 90% taxes, then feed it, and give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s.

    “Bless those who persecute you.”

    Sounds like a moral sanction of the state. With a moral sanction, we get a practical sanction.

    “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    If the government is established by God, then the government is good, and so those wanting to abolish the state must be going against God, and thus must be acting evil. Therefore the Christian should overcome anarchist evil with government goodness.

    Or are anarchists good? After all, they too must be acting in accordance with how God wanted them to act, right? OK, if those wanting government are acting good, and those who want private law are acting good, since everyone does what God wanted them to do, then that means there is no such thing as acting evil (since we can use the same logic for any and all actions), because everything that we do is what God wanted, and what God wants is always good. And around and around we go in the contradictory circular logic pit of crazy.

    The only people who act in accordance with the Bible, I think, are Antinomians, historical examples which include the 17th century Ranters, and their forerunners the 13th and 14th century Brethren of the Free Spirit, and their forerunners the 13th century Amalricians.

    Of course it took secular morality, not the Bible, to put a stop to these insane cults.

    When was the last time you saw a violence advocating statist claim to be acting in accordance with For a New Liberty or The Ethics of Liberty? Doesn’t it stand to reason that maybe, possibly, there are statements in the Bible which are in fact antithetical to libertarianism, and you just refuse to FULLY accept it, for fear of having to choose between dropping your libertarianism and dropping your faith?

    When I see this passage:

    “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”

    That is exactly the diametric opposite to libertarianism. If it ONLY said “because of possible punishment”, then I might say hey, the writer’s heart and mind is libertarian. But it also said “but also as a matter of conscience.” That is a deal breaker. As a matter of conscience, libertarianism is an ethic of individual liberty and breaking free from state authority, not submitting to it. Submitting to state authority is STATISM, not libertarianism. I mean how much more obvious can this be?

    Should there have been an additional “And I am also talking to you, all you libertarians and anarchists! You must submit yourselves to the state as a matter of conscience, not just to avoid jail!” before you say OK, fine, the Bible contains anti-libertarian passages? Of course, if the Bible did say that, then you wouldn’t be here as a libertarian Christian. You’d be either a libertarian or a Christian, but not both. Well, assuming you aren’t so apologetic that you would attempt to explain away that clear passage too. Would you?

    I don’t buy this “coy” interpretation of Romans 13. I think there should be a (P#4) added that says:

    “The Bible contains passages that are pro-statist, anti-libertarian moral advocacies.”

    Bible lesson #1: The Bible is not logically consistent. It is vain to attempt to reconcile all passages into one logically consistent whole. The Bible is a collection of disparate books written by disparate people in disparate locations with disparate cultures and disparate moralities. To believe that there is a single logically consistent overall moral message in the Bible is like believing there is a single logically consistent overall moral message in a book called “The complete writings of 20th century political and ethical philosophers.”

    Bible lesson #2: Pacifist anarchists and violence advocating statists can both claim to be the Bible’s “true” representatives, because there are passages that are pro-statist/anti-libertarian, and there are passages that are anti-statist/pro-libertarian. Contradictory declarations cannot be reconciled cognitively. Ergo, they are often attempted to be settled physically, like a religious parent beating up a child who refuses to accept contradictions, or if there are enough religious people, through war.

    Western countries are predominantly Judeo-Christian and middle eastern countries are predominantly Muslim. Too many people can’t settle their differences cognitively, so they are settling their differences physically through engaging in war and in supporting war. Religious beliefs are therefore responsible, intellectually, for the killings.

    If you think reconciling the individual passages in the Bible is tortuous enough, try reconciling the Bible with the Koran. I don’t see scientists across the world fighting a war with each other. They are settling their differences cognitively because they all have the same epistemology. Now if we can only get economists to agree to the same epistemology…but that would require the abolition of irrationalism, which is something that is very difficult to do cognitively if one is adhering to an irrationalist epistemology.

  11. Ben Kennedy says:

    Bob, thanks for bringing this up – as a Christian anarchist, I think about this passage a lot.

    The proscription on taking vengeance in chapter 12 is interesting in light of Paul’s declaration that the governing authorities are agents of wrath. This leads to the position taken by both the Quakers and William Lloyd Garrison that Christians should not in any way participate in government. Garrison, know primarily for his role in the abolition movement, was also a pacifist. Tolstoy quotes him extensively in Chapter 1 of “The Kingdom of God is Within You”, and his statements in defense of Christian pacifism are great.

    http://www.kingdomnow.org/withinyou.html

    Romans 13 is definitely not for the typical American. I think Paul is writing to people who view themselves as citizens in God’s kingdom, and view the civil government as the civil power that just happens to be in charge where you are. Missionaries definitely get it, as they spend lots of time working within the local laws to plant churches in foreign countries. Yet they feel no personal allegiance to foreign governments in the same way Americans feel about the US government. That is the doctrine of Romans 13 applied successfully.

  12. Joseph R. Stromberg says:

    Bob, I think Eric Voegelin’s “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13,” in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 31: Hitler and the Germans (University of Missouri Press, 1999), 178-183 , is very useful here. He builds on the Stoic background that someone has already mentioned.

    If there isn’t some room for reading the section as a great deal less than a ringing endorsement of everyone who is called an authority, whatever that person or entity does, then St. Augustine himself was a terrible heretic, given his sometimes less than admiring assessment of Roman history.

    (On the other hand, if you feed the enemy or quench his thirst, Uncle will get you for material support, unless you can conclusively prove that this was your personal enemy only and not someone Uncle has designated as your enemy.)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thanks. Hey are you “the” Joseph Stromberg, formerly in Auburn?

      • Joseph R. Stromberg says:

        Yes. That would be me.

        I know one Evangelical who posed the question to his associates: if in a given society, law was enforced through institutions that didn’t amount to a state, would those institutions be the “powers” to which Paul refers? I don’t think he got much of an answer.

        The historical question involves some rather complex debates about what Paul’s “exousiais” can be taken to mean in NT Greek (the Vulgate has “potestatibus” [both are dative]). The Greek seems to say that there is no power “if not under God”; the Latin “unless from God.” This might be a statement of worldly fact and not the statement that God licenses and approves everything these powers do. We can see why kings preferred a reading that made them God’s right-hand men.

        As J. M. Cameron once said, a lot of Christian thinkers have been woefully non-empirical about states. They issue a normative statement that the purpose of the state is to do X, Y, and Z, and never pause to notice if states do those things, or do them very well. In this respect, Christian thinkers [of this kind] are no more helpful than liberal, conservative, or radical
        thinkers who offer such definitions. (Old LP Platform: “states, where they exist,” should do, or not do, X, Y, and Z. At least that one had an escape clause.)

        Best

  13. marris says:

    I’ve never read this passage before. Paul was a funny guy:

    Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath…

  14. Giovanni P says:

    When Jesus asks “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”, he’s clearly talking about a quasi-fiat money, the denarius, and claiming that is not real money, because state-sponsored money is fruit of inflation and has no moral value.

    • Gregory says:

      The coin had his picture on it because it was his coin. He owned the metal that made it. It was loaned into circulation and could be used to pay harbor and road fees along with other legal taxes paid to Roman enterprises.
      Members of Judean government officials had invited Romans in during a civil war to settle who was the rightful king. They stayed and built roads, harbors and other commercial interests including aqueducts.
      Judea had also started a social welfare system that began after shifts in government that began with the Hasmonians in 160 and then again in 78 BC but really got going when Herod started a corban system based on membership and required payments into a social insurance system like modern Social Security. When you joined your government ministers baptized you and registered you. You had to pay in but the government would care for you.
      John the Baptist offered a system based on charity which Christ promoted in his government.
      Eventually everyone who got the baptism of Christ opted out of the social welfare system of Herod and the Pharisees and paid their taxes to a new government based on the “perfect law of liberty”.
      Paul did not make a mistake. Paul was right. We just do not understand what he was saying.
      Silver was not removed from coins in circulation until Nero and he only took about about 40% out but soon the coins were only iron and a sack of wheat went from 6 denarii at the time of Christ to 120,000 denarii by Diocletians rain.
      Christians had their own system that did well and now you know why they were persecuted. The problem is that modern Christians have more in common with Romans and Pharisees than the early Christians or what Christ preached.
      The Corban of the Pharisees
      It made the word of God to none effect.
      Is our Corban making the word of God to none effect today?
      http://www.hisholychurch.org/sermon/corban.php
      So much to learn, so little time.
      Peace on your house!

  15. Dallas says:

    If I may, an expansion on (P#3). We know Paul was under some form of house arrest; it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that his correspondence was being monitored. If so, it seems unlikely that Paul could have written a libertarian exhortation to defy government tyranny – such a letter probably wouldn’t have survived to come down to us today, either being destroyed or redacted by the Romans.

    My thoughts are that Paul was more concerned for the safety and survival of the fledgling Christian community, and that he wanted them to focus on building their community, rather than getting involved in hopeless subversive activities. After all, look at how well standing up for themselves and trying to throw off the Romans worked for the Jews just a few years after Paul wrote.

    • Mark says:

      Especially since his letter was to the Romans!

  16. Tom says:

    All mortal men make mistakes.
    Paul was a mortal man.
    Therefore, Paul made mistakes.

    You certainly don’t think Paul was infallible, right? Otherwise, Paul would be your savior, would he not? So why can’t Romans 13 just be one of Paul’s mistakes?

    Bob, you know that Rothbard made some mistakes, right? Yet, we cherish his economic wisdom. So why not think Paul made some mistakes, yet we still cherish his supernatural wisdom?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      “yet we still cherish his supernatural wisdom?”

      Supernatural wisdom. That’s an abomination.

      • Tom says:

        Jesus wisdom? I don’t know.

        I’m not a Christian and didn’t know how to say that Paul knows a lot about…….magic stuff…or whatever you want to call it.

        Again, I’m not trying to be rude, I just didn’t know what to call it when some historical figure knows a lot about magic/supernatural/Jesus/heaven/whatever. I know Rothbard knows a lot about economics and history. Paul is revered for knowing a lot about Jesus’ religion.

        Call it whatever you want.

        • Mark says:

          Tom,

          The problem with your statement is that Christians DO believe that people or even prophets are fallible – but Gods Word is not because the Bible says that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”

          In other words, as the Bible itself was being written, it was written by inspiration.

  17. Tom says:

    Hey Bob how to you respond to these Bible passages?

    “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”

    “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. ”

    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”

    Seriously, you cannot believe that those passages were taken out of context, right? Or are we to believe, like Romans 13, that the author obviously wasn’t condoning slavery? In fact, those passages are anti-slavery because, again, they don’t mean what they say.

    • Anonymouse says:

      Bob’s unenviable quest as a Christian is to painstakingly analyze and interpret (misinterpret?) every objectionable passage of the bible, one by one. He hasn’t gotten to the one about killing slaves yet, but it’s on his list, right after the one about stoning adulterers.

      If the writings of Austrian economists were so terrible that it would take the entire lifetimes of thousands of scholars to reinterpret them to make them sound reasonable, well… I wouldn’t be an Austrian.

  18. Ken says:

    Tom, I’d say that those are out of a different book. I don’t think that true Christianity can at all support slavery, as each person is a child of God and equally beloved by Him. How can one human own another, given that?

    Now, I’m a non-theist, so I come at this question as seeing Jesus as a teacher like Lao Tzu or the Buddha. We find joy in the present by loving unconditionally. With that in mind, what Bob says about Paul actually makes sense. I agree with Thomas Jefferson, among others, who found that Christians would do well to rewrite the Bible to suit the message of peace, love, forgiveness and non-violent means of fighting evil, and disposing of the rest as the “Word of God.”

    Some Christians already do this.

    • Tom says:

      I understand your points, but I disagree with Bob about what Paul meant when he wrote those very pro-statist verses.

      My point about the slavery passages is that Bob doesn’t believe in slavery, yet he is still a christian. So perhaps he should consider disagreeing with Paul and retain his faith in Christ.

      Jesus, according to Christians, was the only infallible person in history. So why not admit that Paul was wrong when he wrote Romans 13? I seriously doubt Bob would claim that Paul was perfect, that he never said or wrote anything that was incorrect. So why can’t we just say, “We know Paul made mistakes because only Jesus was perfect. If libertarianism is correct, then Paul was wrong when he wrote Romans 13.”

      Simple, easy, logical.

  19. Gregory says:

    The If the common modern interpretation of Romans 13 was what the early Christians believed they would have been award winning citizens but instead they were often persecuted as non participants.
    Something does not match up.
    problem with Romans thirteen is that you are not reading it in the Greek. The word exousia which is translated “power” or “governing authority” actually means “liberty” or the “power to choose”. The original power to choose is called a right. All rights come from God to man.
    The word is even translated liberty and right in the same bible.
    If your government has the right to choose for you then you must have given it that power.
    If you did give it that power then obey the government but if you did not then you are still free to choose or at liberty.
    Men foolishly give rights [or power] to government, I.e. they give government the power to choose for them. The Bible says that when men do that they are rejecting God. This was true in the days of Esau, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Samuel and Saul.
    If you read 1 Samuel 8 which was heavily quoted in “Common Sense” you will see that the present state of governments in the world today is the result of rejecting God.
    Romans 13 and the Higher Liberty [From the book The Higher Liberty]
    What was Paul trying to tell us when he wrote Romans 13?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/study/bklt/romans1307.pdf

  20. MamMoTh says:

    What a relief Krugman didn’t write Romans 13.
    Is there a Romans 14 with George Clooney?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Are you kidding MamMoTh? Krugman lavishes praise on rulers every day, at least Democratic ones.

  21. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Regarding the Jesus quote: I think it’s abundantly clear that “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” means that the coins belong to Caesar because they have his picture on it. How can you argue with that?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Does that mean Jesus would be against taxes if the pictures on the currency denominations are of dead Presidents?

    • Tom says:

      The only thing “abundantly clear” about that quote is that it isn’t clear at all.

      In all honesty, if that passage read, “Pay all of your taxes always because the government is your master,” many Christians would still say, “Jesus meant not to pay your taxes because the Greek word for tax also means bunny and Jesus was talking about feeding rabbits.”

      It doesn’t matter what the bible says. It doesn’t matter at all. People will pretend it says whatever they want it to say.

      Example? Here’s one.
      “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.”

      Where are all of the Christians claiming that its OK to beat slaves? Oh, yeah, I’ve been told that quote is from the old testament and God “was different” back then. Now, God is against slavery. Apparently, He wised up and realized His supporting slavery was wrong.

      Remember, it doesn’t matter what the bible says. It doesn’t matter at all.

      And that OK. I don’t agree with all of the passages of the bible as well.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        In all honesty, if that passage read, “Pay all of your taxes always because the government is your master,” many Christians would still say, “Jesus meant not to pay your taxes because the Greek word for tax also means bunny and Jesus was talking about feeding rabbits.”

        That’s pretty good, Tom! You should go into ministry.

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          You’re still allowed to get laid in ministry….

          • Joseph Fetz says:

            Which is a plus…

        • Tom says:

          It was rude to write what I did. I apologize.

          • Joseph Fetz says:

            Considering that Bob gets a great deal more of rude and insensitive comments on his Sunday posts, I would say that you’re more “in the pocket” than most.

            Considering that I am an agnostic atheist, I tend to stay out of the whole thing (the RPM Sunday ministry). However, I certainly don’t think that you’re even close to offending Bob as compared to the usual riff-raff. In fact, I would say that you were very respectful in comparison. Many people just hurl insults, you actually think. I like that.

            • Jack the Ripper says:

              Yeah compared to David S. that was downright elegant and kind-hearted…

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Actually Tom that didn’t strike me as rude at all. I understand where you’re coming from.

  22. Gregory says:

    If you owe the tax pay the tax. The question is why do you owe the tax?
    Israel existed for 400 years without a central government, forced taxes or a standing army. Nor did it have property tax, nor income tax , which was forbidden in Deuteronomy.
    If the Bible says Proverbs 12:24 The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.
    If you owe income tax or property tax then you must have been slothful in something.
    If you have become a human resource for your government, treated like nothing more than merchandise then you must have been covetous in your daily prayers for benefits from that government and you should be under tribute.
    As far as Romans thirteen it is simple to understand once you get past the strong delusion.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SEMYx6affo
    Moses, Abraham and Jesus were social reformers that taught a system of self government that could set diligent, virtuous, hard working people free. Modern religion keeps you blind to what they were really doing.
    Americans are back in the bondage of Egypt again.
    Chapter 4. of the book The Covenants of the gods
    Employ vs Enslave
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/study/gods/cog4eve.php
    To Enslave a Nation
    How do you enslave a whole nation, even the whole world?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/sermon/enslave.php
    Appeared first on NewsWithViews 8-29-09
    or for those who want to see a video
    Employ vs Enslave, SS Video Series 7-10 7:28
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuz-hFKM_Ts
    If they want to be free they need to take a long look at what they have been doing and repent, turn around, and seek a more righteous system of government, the kingdom and the righteousness of God.
    Right now you are not ready for freedom. You have to much work to do.

  23. Jon Steele says:

    Others have offered some good links, but here’s the one that made the most persuasive case to me: http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Law_Government/romans_13.htm

    I would like to read some other sources to verify the linguistic claims, but if that all checks out, this seems to be a strong case for a system of jurisprudence that will be familiar (in a good way) to a lot of the people reading here.

  24. Gregory says:

    Jon one of the problems with the article is that he assumes that the Greek exousia means “governing authority”. It does mean the right to choose or liberty of choice. that choice was given to men by God and they were not to given it to others.
    In truth, God and Jesus Christ were and are anarchists depending on which definition of anarchist you want to use.
    One definition is “a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society. ”
    That was early Christianity which is why Edward Gibbons says Christianity formed a viable republic in the heart of the Roman Empire, an ever increasing state. Of course such a voluntary government, existing and maintaining itself with free will offerings where everyman is returned to his possessions and everyman to his family will be rare but that is what Christ was preaching and what the early Christians were doing.
    Of course they could not apply/pray for benefits from “men who called themselves benefactors but exercised authority one over the other”.
    When People had needs they use to go to church. Now they go to government and you wonder why you have tyrants? We made them tyrants by rejecting the ways of God and coveting our neighbor’s goods through the agency of governments we created.
    Pure Religion
    What is it and who does it?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/news/articles/religion.php
    Voice of the People
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/news/articles/voice.php
    Christ was a king and many people chose his form of government and prospered during the decline and fall of Rome. It was “a government of the people, for the people and by the people” . This was quoted from Wycliffe who was describing what the bible was for.
    The early Christians were persecuted out of jealousy because their government worked while the socialism of Rome was failing. Their government was not of the world or Rome.
    Not of the World?
    What did Jesus really say, to whom, and why about his kingdom?
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/news/articles/world.php

  25. Chad says:

    I wrote something recently addressing the same topic, although I kept it a bit shorter than you are going to. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

    http://chadlossing.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/romans-13-a-more-accurate-interpretation/

  26. Gregory says:

    I have written a whole book on Romans 13 and sent to scholars and theologians and not one of them can come back with any argument. The correct translation of the text should read more like.
    “Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth (opposes) the liberty, resisteth (opposes) the ordinance of God: and they that resist (sets one’s self against) shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13:1-3

    You can leave the word power there as long as you know what sense. But you should not think King James or any other ruler would let you translated as it should be translated.
    The book is on the net.
    Romans 13
    From the book The Higher Liberty, Sec. 1
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/media/books/THL/Romans13.php

    Free governments depend on voluntary tax systems where you tax yourself with free will offerings.
    That wont work in the modern society you constructed for yourselves but it has worked in the past for many nations. Anything less than voluntary contributions is less than free government of the people, by the people and for the people. And it is doomed to fail as the modern governments of the world are doing as we discuss this issue.
    The only thing you can do is change the direction you are going.
    The road to hell is paved with socialism and socialism did not began with healthcare but at least with public school.
    All roads lead to Rome and the decline and fall of the empire but they also lead to the kingdom of God… The difference is found in the direction you are going.
    The Liberty to Tax
    A Patrimonial Right of the Father
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/news/articles/libertytax.php

    Nimrod, The Hunter
    Hunters and Predators
    http://www.hisholychurch.org/news/articles/hunter.php

  27. John G. says:

    Thank you for clearly stating that I should take Paul’s words as I take Jesus’ words on Caesar. I understand the latter, so I now understand the former. I do not remember hearing a clear, concise answer on this before.

  28. Edwin Herdman says:

    Dr. Murphy makes an interesting argument on the coin – revealing in this passage that Jesus does not argue here for mere compliance, but to be a agent for good above all. I do not see enough evidence from that passage, but Bob’s interpretation certainly holds water. I think the evidence is shown from the totality of the passages. Elsewhere the thread of permissible disobedience, its nature and boundaries, is spun out clearly (if thinly) enough to hint that a proponent of a good need not put their life into unnecessary danger. Seeing the mirage of principle shimmers across the embers and shards of a landscape is not enough, when the proponent can instead opt to water the hardy, resistant bush of their belief to push a carpet deeper than blood alone across the wasted expanse.

    It goes without saying that many Christians reading this early passage were very concerned about the question of being faithful while living in the world, as we are today, and I strongly believe this message of tactics is relevant to people of other or even without religious faith. In the area of faith, the Catholic philosopher Edward Feser has written about the need to think (in different words) in what I would call a tactical sense.

    Those looking for easy if-then-else programs for doing good and living well are going to be disappointed not just by Feser and the Catholics, but by Paul, and indeed by reality. Whatever one’s thoughts about the possibility of human purpose may be, the fact remains that parsing good and bad requires a developed moral sense. The only problem with Paul’s passage is that it is being advanced to people without sufficient understanding as being a simple directive, when in fact it is an invitation to exercise one’s own judgment to those who already have a moral sense.

    It is an interesting feature of these New Testament passages that they err on the side of compliance, but all it takes is one pointed question about the proper relationship of one’s duty to the state (for example) and one’s duty to do good to restore the perspective Paul has by necessity made somewhat opaque.

    Modern philosophers discussing the problem of lying love to cite the problem of a Nazi at the door inquiring to the location of a religious refugee. Yet I believe that for early Christians (and indeed for the problem of the Nazi at the door) it is at least as important to consider the case of the lion’s den, and too little type is spent on this point. Do you deny your beliefs merely because it is expedient? How do you survive in the world while promoting your cause?

    Paul gives us one possible answer (interestingly, but not shockingly, the same one I had come to through my own thought): There is a balance between being absolute forthrightness in the quest to seek a better order for the world, and in the need for tactics to ensure that righteous people are not wiped out in times when their numbers are low. You have to build any organization for it to succeed. Today we hold great respect for the brave counterculture personalities who strive for truth in the face of great odds – scientists or businesspeople dealing with professional bigotry, struggles for civil rights – but today, even in the more extreme cases we find in the United States, the government does not attempt to extinguish an idea, or to massacre its proponents, and freedoms of thought and expression are more closely guarded than in Paul’s time. Today a person who is right only needs be persistent.

    The misreadings of Paul’s letter, in short, result from some people failing to see the subtext and trying to use a seeming contradiction as a bludgeon without really making an effort to understand its use.

    We can look at history for an example of an attempt to be righteous despite all odds. In early united Japan, Christian converts and many of their missionaries were killed in droves because they decided to take a stand. While even the Japanese were impressed with the ability to resist suffering of the people, the result of this open disobedience was that the faith was forced underground where some followers still remain essentially detached from the worldwide Christian faith. I do not know what they could have done differently, but it shows that sometimes even hardy shrubs need some shade.

  29. Joshua says:

    If you’re interested in the Catholic interpretation: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c2a2.htm

    Notably, “1903 Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience.”

  30. John G. says:

    Thanks, Joshua, for pointing to the appropriate section of the Catechism. Very helpful!

  31. Anonymouse says:

    No offense intended, but I think Bob is the Daniel Kuehn of Christianity.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Heh, not bad Anonymouse. I think St. Paul is worthier of contortions than Dr. Paul.

      • Anonymouse says:

        In Kuehn’s defense, though, at least we’re reasonably sure that Krugman actually exists.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Yes, because we can see his works.

          • MamMoTh says:

            His work are part of God’s works.

            Shouldn’t God have a blog with the NYT?

          • Anonymouse says:

            Yea, the illustrious works of the Great Krugman, defended with brave heart by his faithful Krugminions – Kuehn the Circuitous being foremost among them.

  32. Anonymouse says:

    Joke #2

    Now I know why it’s called apologetics:

    “I’m so sorry… God didn’t really mean that. He’s actually a very nice guy.”

  33. RonMcK says:

    Good stuff Bob
    Part of the problem is that the KJV version, which shapes all modern English translations, was done by people dependent on King James for their living. They did a bad translation that favored their king. A lot of the confusion comes from their bad translation of Paul’s greek.

    More on this at http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Law_Government/romans_13.htm

    Here is what Paul really said. It is actually quite libertarian.

    Do not repay evil with evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God to deal with evil…

    Do not be overcome by evil, but conquer evil with good. Every person should submit to the more excellent judges, because there is no legitimate judicial authority except under God. The judges that have emerged in a free society are arranged by God. Anyone resisting the decision of a good judge is rebelling against what God has put in place and will receive a sentence from God.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Bob,
    Apologies if someone already mentioned this (I didn’t have time to read all the posts; but you should read Jonathan Mayhew’s ‘Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission . . . to the Higher Powers’. It’s a great 18th critique of divine right Tories invoking Romans 13 in defence of non-resistance.

  35. LKZ says:

    If Paul had strictly obeyed Romans 13, he would not have been in jail. What trumps Roman 13 is Acts 5:19.

    But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

    Here’s a good read by Chuck Baldwin

    ROMANS CHAPTER 13 : http://www.newswithviews.com/baldwin/baldwin389.htm

    “…there are limits to authority – Lordship and Sovereignty is the exclusive domain of Jesus Christ.”
    “…a civil magistrate has authority in civil matters, but his authority is limited and defined.”
    ” Notice that civil government must not be a “terror to good works.” It has no power or authority to terrorize good works or good people. God never gave it that authority. And any government that oversteps that divine boundary has no divine authority or protection.”
    ” Civil government is a “minister of God to thee for good.” It is a not a minister of God for evil.”
    “…in America the “higher powers” are not the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution. “

  36. Russ Davis says:

    Mr. Murphy-

    Thanks for this post. As a Christian anarcho-capitalist, sometimes I seriously consider the possibility that Romans 13 was added by some government official during the canonization. Having said this, I think you are correct in your analysis; you cannot read Romans 13 in a vacuum. Romans 12, and, more importantly, the example of CHRIST, must temper your interpretation of what Paul is trying to say here. Christ was the perfect example of one who submitted to the government, but never gave it his official sanction (or anything remotely approaching an official sanction).

    Thanks again, Mr. Murphy

  37. Christopher David Williams says:

    I enjoy people who think the first impression they get from reading an isolated passage, in another language, thousands of years after it was written, is obviously the right one and that anyone who disagrees with them is wilfully distorting the scriptures.

  38. me- says:

    If the government is established by God, then the government is good, and so those wanting to abolish the state must be going against God, and thus must be acting evil. Therefore the Christian should overcome anarchist evil with government goodness. -you people are missing the point, Hitler never followed God, Our country is starting to fall away from God, It has been for years. The farther it falls from the lords teachings the more unjust and corrupt the laws and leaders are going to be. ” if the government is established by God, then the government is good” We are losing that establishment.[ The laws that go against God are not to be followed. <– READ THAT 100 TIMES. ] As long as people keep losing faith in the lord the worse this nation will become. ( im not saying we should abandon all the laws of the land, only the unjust and immoral laws ) shit will hit the fan eventually. " I would rather beleive there is a God, because if I am right and I follow his word I will live for eternity in the graces of the lord. If the non believers are wrong then you will parish for eternity. If the non believers are right then I will just become a peice of coal. " -Me [ Some of this is my belief, so dont bitch at me, I havent bitched at you, I love all the comments ] My grammar is quite bad, my apologies.

  39. Michael Snow says:

    First, we ought to remember that Paul wrote a letter, not chapters (the numbers of which were added over a thousand years later).

    And then read the whole in context. http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/romans-13-in-context/

  40. Scott says:

    October 1, 2013 – For 300 years simply being a Christian or a follower of the Way…was rebelling against government. The key is to know what is just and un-just law, and just and un-just government. That being said I am obligated to obey some unjust laws, (paying exorbitant taxes, not preventing admission to abortion clinics) However, respecting these laws allows me the freedom to FIGHT tooth and nail to overturn these unjust laws and unjust governments.

    Open rebellion and war should be the last resort, therefore I am glad Paul does not openly condone war. War and rebellion always seem like great idea until YOU are in it. Paul was speaking shrewdly knowing that we cannot do God’s work when we are behind bars.

    But now in the good old US of A, we are approaching full tyranny of the Obama government. Reasonable request and petitions of the American people have been ignored. Innocent people have been arrested and spied upon by an ever growing police state. Our REPRESENTATIVES are more concerned with cocktail party invitations than REPRESENTING their constituents. In my humble opinion the time for revolution IS nearing.

    Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword..

  41. setnaffa says:

    Actually, you are confusing the role of the individual and the role of the State. Yes, it was “legal” for one or more countries to band together against rogue actors like Saddam Hussein. No, it would not have been okay for Christians in Iraq to start their own coup d’etat.

    Otherwise, pretty good.

    Remember Daniel 3 and never underestimate God.

  42. Gamble says:

    Paul who was Saul prior to his road to Damascus conversion was a tax collector. His conversion was about turning 180 degrees from his wicked ways(tax collector) and now in Romans 13 he has flipped again and tells us to obey every tax collector and all the evil tax collection funds?

    Oops.

    Ayn Rand says there are no contradictions, instead check your premises.

  43. Ned Netterville says:

    David Hilary of New Zealand offers a very believable explanation of Romans 13:1-7. It is Jewish irony, meaning exactly the opposite of what the words literally say, and it would have been readily understood that way by the Roman Jewish Christians to whom the epistle is addressed. Since Nero was emperor at the time, it is akin to a Rabbi writing to his flock from a Nazi concentration camp in 1939-40 telling them to do everything Hitler wants and especially to pay their taxes because Adolph is such a stalwart fellow.. lSee http://www.Jesus-verus-taxes.com

  44. Jason Williams says:

    I believe that Romans 13:1-7 was an interpolation. It was not written by Paul and was added in later to co-opt Christianity into the full grasp of the Roman Empire. Many theologians struggle with Romans 13:1-7 and will say that it does not seem to fit the Pauline style. James Kallas believes it was an interpolation as well. Many statist theologians will fight this theory for they believe that if you throw out one piece of the Bible then what else is in danger. But – How do we know what scriptures God had intended to be canonized? I believe that the statistical chance of evolution by chance to be impossible: so I believe that there is a God and for me the religion that best teaches the NAP is one that God would create. So for me it is Christ. But there are sections of the Bible that violate the NAP and those sections I take to be a good read for historicity sake but do not believe them to be inspired by God.

  45. Rich R. says:

    I have looked at this passage over and over…
    Here are my thoughts –
    When I look at the context and observe what is actually written I question the traditional answer based on this:
    Who are the “governing authorities”? Because they are appointed by God – a term we see elsewhere (1 Corinthians 12.28; Ephesians 4.11) and that God has appointed elders to be pastors (Titus 1.5) who “rule” = “preside” (1 Timothy 5.17) before the congregation, I believe that Romans 13 speaks of the pastors, leaders of the church not earthly government.
    Now I know in v.7 some have rendered the word phoros as taxes but I believe it is better rendered as tribute, something that is to be offered to those 1 Timothy 5.17.
    I truly believe this because, as pastors, we do not “bear the sword in vain” but to encourage people to do good and not evil.

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