What Should Christians Think of July 4th?

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Independence Day is tomorrow in the United States, and it's good timing for some thoughts I've been having lately. As my congregation has worked through the beginning of I Samuel and the founding of the Israelite monarchy in our sermons, I've had the occasion to reflect on the nature of government. I think there are two principles, which you might think of as being in tension (but not contradiction) with each other, that have a bearing on how we should think about our government today and how we should think about the 4th of July.

Posts at Jollyblogger and Beyond the Rim... also express in different ways the tension I'll develop here and how we need balanced between both principles without allowing either to remove the other.

First, all government is given by God and is thus good. Romans 13:1-7 is the locus classicus for this strain in biblical thought on government. Throughout the prophets (e.g. Daniel 2:21, 37-38; Jeremiah 27:6) we see the antecedents of this in God's ordering of things, with human rulers subject to him and to his will, even when they do wrong. See Isaiah 10 for a clear example, harkening back to Pharaoh in Exodus. See also I Timothy 2:1-16; Titus 3:1ff.; I Peter 2:13-17.

Second, no government is perfect (except the direct rule of God), and therefore all government is bad. Isaiah 10 also gives a clear sense that despite God's hand in what the king of Assyria was doing to enact God's judgment on Israel, this was an evil king doing an evil thing for his own evil reasons. John 19:11 brings both of these points together at once. What Pilate is doing is clearly wrong, but God has given him the authority to do it, and it's even fulfilling God's plan.

Babylon in the book of Revelation almost certainly refers to Rome in its immediate reference to its initial readers struggling with whether they would persevere in the fact of severe persecution. Yet I Peter tells people admidst the same kind of persecution to honor the king, and Paul in Romans 13 says that all authority comes from God and is appointed by God. Whoever resists the divinely appointed government resists the authority of God. The government is God's servant for doing good, even if they don't always carry out that purpose wisely, and the taxes we pay are therefore to God.

When Jesus said "Render to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what's God's" (Mark 12:13-17;Matthew 22:15-22;Luke 20:20-26), people usually take it to be citing these two as owning different things, but Paul makes quite clear that giving to Caesar is giving to God. Therefore, it's possible that Jesus may have been saying that giving to Caesar is one way to give to God. The responsibilities to the state are clearly separate in one sense from the responsibilities directly to God, since they can conflict, and in that case God takes priority. That seems to be the main point of much of the book of Revelation and of Acts 4:19 and 5:29. Yet the obligations to the state really derive from obligations to God. I'll quote from Leon Morris' commentary on Luke (p.315):

"... the reply confounded the critics. It left no room for an accusation of disloyalty to Caesar, but also stressed loyalty to God. Jesus is saying that we are citizens of heaven and earth at the same time.This does not mean dividing life into compartments, as though God was not supreme in all of life or the duties of either aspect of our citizenship could be discharged without reference to those of the other. It means that we can neglect neither loyalty. The state must be respected and its directions complied with in the sphere that God allots it. It follows that the state rightly collects taxes to carry out its functions."

Jesus is saying that we should give to the state what belongs to it, what it given to it by God. That's part of giving to God what is God's. Yet he wouldn't need to mention giving to God what is God's if there didn't need to be some distinction between serving the state and serving God. Not every way of serving the state is really service to God, since the claims the state may make on us can conflict with God's claims on us. Yet that's not the normal way of things as Richard France, in his commentary on Mark (p.466), points out (referring also to Rom 13:1-7 and I Pet 2:13-17):

"None of these passages envisages a conflict of loyalties, and therefore they offer no guidance for those situations, with which the church soon found itself only too familiar, where God and Caesar appear to be pulling in opposite directions. But it is an importan starting point for debating such conflicts to recognize that for Jesus, as well as for Paul and Peter, the normal situation is one of compatible loyalties rather than, as the Zealots would have insisted, one of conflict between Caesar and God."

So what do we think about the 4th of July in light of this?

First, I think a very good case can be made that the American Revolution was an unjust war. The kinds of oppression these people were claiming was not worthy of a rebellion. The colonists who were claiming that the British had no right to rule in the New World were just as guilty of asserting their own authority in a land that already had its own ways, ways that didn't involve European control. Current fads in intellectual analysis of colonial history are right in at least that. Besides, if anyone had a right to claim oppression, it was the slave population imported from Africa, people torn from home and family and not allowed to have permanent bonds due to the slaveowners' absolute obligation to buy and sell whomever they wanted. I don't think Christians slaves had a right to rebel either, but they had a better case than the colonists.

I could probably muster a halfway decent argument that the Revolution satisfies right intention given that it's a just cause to begin with, and I think I could even get legitimate authority. Proportionality of good envisioned vs. bad caused by the war may even be possible. I don't think just cause is there to begin with, though, and last resort is at least suspect. See here for explanation of these terms if you're not familiar with traditional just war theory.

Second, God had particular purposes for the American Revolution, from immediate effects on those at the time to the events of today. The government that came into power as a result of this war was instituted by God in the same way that every government is (besides ancient Israel, of course) and in no other way. There's nothing Christian about the United States, and there never was, because such a thing is impossible. Christianity cuts across national and cultural boundaries and defies adoption by a government. Those governments that have claimed to be Christian have done nothing but smear the name of Christ simply because the church is not tied to any political entity. Our true citizenship is in heaven. That's our real identity, and seeing our identity as centrally anything other than Christian is to lose a crucial element of the gospel. Trying to find Christian identity in a national government is little short of idolatry.

Still, God instituted the American government just as he did every other government, including the British empire, the Roman empire, Japan's current leadership, Cyrus' overthrow of Babylon, the Saddam Hussein Iraq, the new Iraq government, and the reunited Germany.

Some of God's purposes for particular regimes are clear in scripture, and others seem obvious from history. Assyria and Babylon both served as judgment on God's people. Jeroboam's regime in Israel was also both a judgment and the grounds for further judgment. Cyrus' reign of Persia served as a way to bring Judah back to their land from exile. Rome served as the agent of crucifixion of the Messiah, the Son of God. Rome also served as the gateway for the gospel to go to the nations. It doesn't take much speculation to see the ways certain nations have been agents of God's judgment on wicked regimes and others have been God's grace toward the people of a nation.

Third, our government today and our system of government are the ones God has in place for particular purposes. It takes some degree of speculation than to say what role people and events may have in God's ultimate plan, particularly when we don't know how things will turn out. For instance, it's a little beyond what we know for sure to say that 9/11 was God's judgment on the evil of the United States, but we can (and I will shortly) list some things we deserve God's judgment for. 9/11 may well have been a wake-up call to some and a warning to others. It's way beyond what we can now say to be sure that George W. Bush was God's instrument in liberating Iraq from a brutal dictator, simply because we don't know for sure if the liberation will remain so for long. What if Iran invades and takes over? What if the new government becomes corrupt or oppressive in a way worse than Saddam was? I don't expect those things to happen, but only time will tell, and it's a bit short-sighted to say we know for sure what God's plan is. Still, we can see what kinds of things he does throughout history, and good leaders will seek to do what is just so as to further those purposes in as morally righteous a way as possible.

Fourth, the United States as a nation (I'm talking culture here and not just government, though it includes that) is good in a number of ways but is also deserving of God's judgment and will receive it if nationwide repentance doesn't at some point come. I think the U.S. Constitution is largely one of the best ways of humanly governing that the world has yet seen. There are some statements in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that I think are morally dangerous. Rights, for instance, are not a biblical way to think about moral or legal obligations. Still, I haven't seen a better way except righteously governed monarchy, and that has the danger of what actually happened in Israel, even with prophets of God at the center of the king's court. Godly leaders still did evil things, and the next generation was never guaranteed to be a good, never mind godly, ruler

Some of what the United States does today is morally unconscionable. I can't see how abortion could be seen as an absolute right. It's cruel treatment of a human being, developed to a greater extent than most of the animals the average American would be horrified to see having their brains sucked out of their skull. There's severe mistreatment of people at the lower rungs of society. I don't think it's the government's responsibility to even out all of society economically, but it's a sign of moral problems with those at the top if there's a serious disparity. We put our elderly in nursing homes in order to be rid of them. The government funds this in many cases. Maybe sometimes it should, but this is a real problem of injustice and mistreatment.

A large majority of our leaders don't think the government should model good behavior. The left hates this because they don't think you can legislate moralty, forgetting that most laws legislate morality and ignoring the fact that encouraging morality doesn't require it. It only requires it if a certain benefit is to be gained. The right hates it because they think it's big government. George Will takes so much flack for his big government conservatism that inspired the current administration's compassionate conservatism. I can't see this indifference toward laws that encourage morality as anything but a dark stain on our government. Different people will disagree about what they find problematic, of course. My point will still stand, because no one can get away with arguing that our government is perfect, just as no one (i.e. Michael Moore) can get away with arguing that our government is perfectly evil.

Fifth, the normal and healthy attitude of a Christian to a government that isn't perfect is submission, appreciation, and tolerance of what's not good, speaking out against real evil but allowing imperfect leaders to be imperfect. I Sam 10-11 give an example of how Samuel responded to those who criticized Saul. After chapter 8, it's not hard to see how people would be opposed to Saul's kingship. Samuel makes it quite clear that the people asking for a king were sinning in a way that amounted to idolatry. See my comments on the relation of this passage to idolatry. So it's not surprising that twice, at the end of chapter 10 and at the end of chapter 11, people grumble and oppose Saul. In the first case, Saul doesn't respond. There's a textual issue here, so I won't rest my argument on that. What's more important anyway is how Saul and Samuel respond at the end of ch.11. Saul himself refused to put to death the people who opposed him, even though his people were insisting on it. Samuel is clearly there, and we see nothing of the illegitimacy of Saul's kingship. He's God's anointed.

The truth of the matter is that God's working on such a large scale sometimes takes a very long time from our perspective. Our normal attitude is to oppose injustice, at least in procaliming that it's unjust, but it's beyond the authority given to most of us to do much more than trying to help those in need to the best of our ability, perhaps to defend just and righteous policies and politicians if we're skilled at doing so, even to run for such offices if we would do a good job, and most of all (in a democratic land, anyway) to vote for those who will best fulfill the purposes of good government, to carry out justice as the representative of God in civil matters. Resisting someone placed there by God even if the person is downright evil is just not the biblical method. We need to pick our battles, and the spiritual battles always take priority. That's why Peter and Paul both tell us to honor even those who persecute Christians and therefore blaspheme the name of Christ.

See the above-mentioned posts by Jollyblogger and Beyond the Rim... for more on this timescale issue, though they're talking about different contexts to some extent. Change for the good takes time in the normal order of things as God has arranged them.

Finally, we can use this holiday to reflect on these principles, to be thankful for the good, and to repent nationally for the evil. Simply celebrating independence from the British empire when we're our own empire with its own injustices is not just indequate. It's morally blind. Yet simply focusing on the evils of our society is no better than speaking ill of what God has done, since that's in effect what it is. Let's honor the powers that be for what they are, God's ordained authorities. Let's recognize the gifts given to us in living in this kind of society. Let's also speak out against injustice, repent of the ways we've contributed toward it, and pray for those in authority that they may govern justly in the sphere given them by God.

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As I read this post by Jeremy I found myself in agreement him, in particular his assessment that the American... Read More

Parableman (Jeremy) pondered the place of state authority and the stance and attitude of Christians toward it in his post, "What Should Christians Think of July 4th?". There are some areas, perhaps semantical misunderstandings or sloppy thinking in som... Read More


A very good post! We have much to be thankful for and much to repent of (you forgot to mention the native population in this context, but we can't say everything at once).

You said: "Besides, if anyone had a right to claim oppression, it was the slave population imported from Africa, people torn from home and family and not allowed to have permanent bonds due to the slaveowners' absolute obligation to buy and sell whomever they wanted. I don't think Christians slaves had a right to rebel either, but they had a better case than the colonists."

There's a wonderful book called _The Long Fuse_ (I forget the author off the top of my head), a picture of the revolution from the Brittsh side of things, which points out that the Dec of Independance was really meant for the French to read. It was published in England in a mag called Gentlemen's Quarterly where it received little attention. The one letter it did print in response in the next issue asked how the americans could speak of freedom and liberty for all while they owned slaves.

I know I have already recommended him, but again the works of Stan Hauerwas are extremely helpful on issues of being a Christian in America. Get the books (rather than short web articles).

Jeremy - first of all, let me compliment you on an oustanding post. One of the most biblically balanced and thoroughly thought out writings I have seen on the subject. Secondly, let me see if I can drag you into a little friendly debate I have gotten myself into with someone.
I hold your position on the idea of a "Christian" nation. I have said it a little different, but I agree with what you have said here. I think there is a "Christian" nation in the world today, it's the church, the "holy nation." I don't think a modern day geo-political entity can claim the moniker "Christian" for itself. My friendly opponents says "why can't a nation call itself 'Christian'"? Suppose the reigning monarch, president, etc., becomes a Christian, declares his country to be Christian and, and this is the key point, institutes biblical law in the country. That "biblical law" is embraced wholeheartedly by whatever legislative body exists, and the people, by and large support it. The people aren't all Christian, but they all agree to base their laws and society on biblical priorities. Sure, they fail to keep those laws, but so do I and so does my "Christian" family in which all of my children may not be Christians. His point is "why can't this nation call itself a 'Christian' nation"?
I think he has a point here. Certainly, don't we as Christians all argue for a more biblical form of government where our ideas of right and wrong are biblically based? If a governing body self-consciously embraces such things, why couldn't it claim to be "Christian"?
Even keeping the Kuyperian notion of a separation of spheres in mind where we understand that the government has a civil responsibility and the church has a redemptive responsibility, can the government not embrace "Christian" principles in the fulfillment of it's "civil" responsibilities?
Even if you accept the premises I have just outlined from my friend's argument, I don't think we could call America a Christian nation. When you compare our constitution to something like the Solemn League and Covenant with its explicit adherence to "Christian" Principles you have to conclude that our constitution has quite the downgrade in reference to Christianity. Now, we all might argue that the Solemn League and Covenant was out of order, and that's a different argument. But I am of the opinion that our founders intentions were not as explicitly Christian as they are frequently portrayed.
Either way, I would appreciate your take on the notion that there is some sense in which a nation could be called a "Christian" nation and I apologize for taking up so much of your space in this comment.

Good post with much food for thoughtful consideration. I do have one quibble.

>Simply celebrating independence from the British empire when we're our own empire...

I am not sure we are an empire in any context, except possibly in a cultural one. We definately are not an empire in the equivalent sense of the former British Empire. While we do try to influence, isn't that more an effort to protect ourselves than expand our territorial ownership?

As I said, it is small quibble with an otherwise good post.

Two quick points.

Jeremy -

I wonder how you read 1 Samuel 8? I've always thought that God's original desire was that man not live with a secular government. Their asking for a king was a rejection of God, and Samuel pointed out that having a king wasn't going to be a good thing. I'll send more on this later but I just wanted to get it in here while I was still awake.

William -

We are indeed an empire despite the fact that we like to reject the title. You might consider checking out Niall Ferguson's Empire and Colossus. We occupy more territory that the British empire at its height, in the last two years we've toppled two sovereign states and we currently have 750 military installations in two thirds of the world's countries.

There's quite a bit here to think about and I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the matter. I want to explore only one statement out of the many issues you presented, and that is: You said, "Resisting someone placed there by God even if the person is downright evil is just not the biblical method."

I believe Bonhoeffer might disagree with some of the things I think you "may be" implying. Please correct me if I misunderstand you.

If God is the only one that has the ethical authority to resist the "downright evil" leader he himself put in authority, who is he going to use to depose that evil leader? If not a private individual, then would it be soldiers under arms, or another leader himself? Will they be of the leader's own people, or that of another? All the leaders of Israel who were evil were deposed by God, yes, but were killed by the hand of another. Do we still live in the days where a King is only of sufficient rank to kill another evil King?

Of course, I have to bring up Bonhoeffer. After all his conflictedness, he seems to have decided in favor of killing one man, and some say, he may have even volunteered for it (which apparently his compatriots laughed at). Hauerwas likes to say about Bonhoeffer "we don't know for sure", and in every book and interview I've read by or about Hauerwas, he does not answer this question directly. I've always thought he punts this question too quickly.

I think it's an important question to consider in the absolute, regardless of whether or not we know for sure Bonhoeffer "wanted" to kill Hitler. Personally I think Hauerwas is beholden just a little to a notion of ethical perfectionism. If a war is not "perfectly" a just war (meaning a war that meets all the criteria of Augustine's "just war" without any unjust violations of its own), then it's not a just at all, ergo, Christians are compelled to be pacifists. But, that's a side issue.

Now, Bonhoeffer's Abwehr group wasn't successful. Does this mean that Bonhoeffer, by his participation, was disobeying the will of God? Had B. not done what he did, he no doubt be alive today. What then, is the implication of this? If he were alive, would this be evidence of his obedience or disobedience to God? Was his execution God's punishment for striking at divinely appointed leader, or is it just the natural outcome of his actions?

Anyway, I appreciate what you're going for, and I don't think in this country we would have to face that ethical connundrum any time soon. We have the luxury of demurring to less violent ways because of our system, whether it was formed through "unjust revolution" or not. We can always vote for someone better or do what we need to do to promote legislation that highlights moral behavior, while still being subject to the leaders whom God has appointed. And you are right, all laws are a legislation of morality, and it's ridiculous to think otherwise. As James Madison said "If men were virtuous, we would be no need of government at all." Hence, laws are there to enforce good behavior.


The problematical contention that you are leaving out is the difference between 'good' and 'bad' government, even though you include the paradox of government being both God-given and man-impaired.

And "When Jesus said "Render to Caesar what's Caesar's and to God what's God's" it didn't give all of government's activities an imprimatur, but stated the hierarchy of authority that is God-given and supported. Looking at it this way, rather than saying that all government is directly instituted by God in all cases, allows for the fact that power is usurped and not always upheld, although used in God's plan, by God.

This places the duty of man back in the proper place of finding the path which is clearly obeying God, rather than the conflicting claims of governments.

Submission to all authority is simply response to God and His revealed Will. Sometimes response to that revealed Will results in what can only be termed rebellion by the ruling government. Witness the examples of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, and later on..... Peter.
Acts 4:19
But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.

Correct url in case you want to comment, or email, on my thoughts on your post. Sorry for the typo.

added detail:

I don't know that you are entirely wrong in your view of the American revolution, but you aren't fully covering the factors, either. England had developed certain governmental philosophies of Common Law and rights, Colonists were demanding their rights in that stream while continuing their protest rooted in that which was instigated by the beginning emigration to the Americas.

'Divine Right of Kings' had long since taken on too much water to float.

Great comments all around. I don't have the time to say much now, but I want to address all of what's been said when I have the opportunity, I hope tomorrow.

David, I think I've already said why I don't think that argument will work. A Christian nation is a contradiction. What it is to be Christian is impossible to reconcile with calling a geo-political entity Christian. If someone sets up such an entity and calls it Christian, as Constantine, Calvin, and the Puritans all did, they have failed to produce a Christian government. They may have a highly Christian-influenced government, but it can't be Christian, because once it's become a civil and governmental entity it's ceased being Christian.

William, I never said what kind of empire we are. I think Matthew has adequately explained why I think we do count as an empire.

Matthew, the whole unit of I Samuel 1-12 has two strains of attitude toward the kingship. That was what I had originally set out to argue, but I think things took a different course as I was writing. There's a clear condemnation of the people's attitude toward needing a king instead of seeing God as their king. There's also a sense that God has backed this monarchy, partly to give his people their way and allow the kingship to be a judgment on them for their sinful rejection of him, partly in his grace to do good to his people even though they've rebelled against him. I don't know how to read the whole business of the kingship in the light of David, of the promises of David's greater son, and of the New Testament record of Jesus as the true king without seeing the kingship as a divinely instituted type of Christ.

Neil, you raise some important questions. I don't see how Paul could endorse resisting arrest, preventing yourself from being penalized for worshiping Christ, etc. It may be a different matter to protect someone else from the state. I don't see how there should be a problem with protecting my kids from a burglar. Why would I not then be able to protect them from a cop who wants to kill them?

Whatever else I meant, I didn't mean that it's wrong to resist the state's attempt to get me to deny Christ. Some things are just wrong not to resist. I was talking about illegal actions that don't have to do with denying Christianity. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., killers of abortion doctors, those who fought against the British for independence, and many others have explained their actions as civil disobedience and tried to justify it on the basis that the laws they're breaking are unjust. That in itself isn't a good enough reason for a Christian.

The question of who will depose dictators is actually irrelevant. Isaiah 10 makes it clear that the evil king of Assyria, in doing an evil action, was God's tool for judgment on Israel. Cyrus had his own selfish reasons for reinstituting temple worship in Judah, but that doesn't mean he wasn't God's servant in doing so. Jehu acted on command from God, though I'm not sure everything he did was divinely sanctioned. He's one of the few to have divine command to sanction it to begin with, though. Jeroboam sort of did, but that doesn't mean everything he did in his rebellion against Rehoboam was righteous. Those are both cases when the people have been told that they were deposing a regime that God had already de-anointed.

Ilona, I'm not sure how I'm leaving out what I thought was one of my main points. There are good and bad governments, and the people involved are responsible for what they do. That doesn't mean God didn't place them there as his ordained agents of maintaining justice. Some do it well, and some seemed more interested in promoting injustice. I never endorsed the divine right of kings, which was a mistaken interpretation of the passages I referred to. You can't conclude from God's ordination of government that everything they do is right any more than you can infer from their wrong actions that they're not divinely ordained. I think you've set up a false dilemma. It's not either divine ordination or being called to accountability. It's both/and, just as church leadership involves divine appointment but also means being held to a higher standard.

This is a real pet peeve of mine in American politics. Some on the left get scared when President Bush states the biblical truth that he's been ordained by God to pursue justice. They seem to think he's claiming divine right for anything he does and that he believes God has revealed to him that every policy he's endorsed and instituted is divinely back. Those who know him laugh when they hear such silliness. All it really means is that he's obligated before God to seek the just and righteous path in governing, that he prays he will make the right decisions, and that when he's making any given decision he thinks at the time that it's the right thing to do.

As for the Revolution, it's one thing to argue that the government is being inconsistent. It's quite another to take up arms against them and oppose the people God has told us are to be honored and respected. Merely not giving the niceties promised in a prior agreement doesn't seem to be reason enough. Paul told slaves (in the New Testament context, which I'll admit wasn't anything like American slavery) not to rebel against their masters, even if he also encouraged those masters to free their slaves. I can't think life for the colonists under British rule was more of a hardship than first-century slavery.

By the way, Christians who fled from the society God had placed them in merely to avoid persecution may have been ok, depending on how bad the persecution was. If it was so bad that there was more chance of having a bigger impact for the gospel elsewhere, and they went to that elsewhere, then I have no problem with it. Otherwise, it's disobeying God. I have a lot of trouble thinking of the flight to the New World as pure in motivation. So if the Revolution continued that sort of rebellion, it was building one wrong act on another wrong act.

Jeremy- I don't think it was either a matter of you not being clear, nor of my setting up a false dilemma. It may have been a matter of me not being clear.

To be succinct, while I share your peeves and some of your thoughts, I do think it gets muddy when there is a joint definition of Christian and Christian-influenced ideas. The United States is not a Christian nation, but it certainly is Christian influenced. That needs to be recognized, I think. Otherwise you will lose a great deal in the understanding of what determines the good of our system and the how and why of the difficulty in transplanting that system to other societies.* (Which we witness enough in modern times).

I, too, have sometimes pondered the "righteousness" of the American Revolution, but I think your take on everything being God-ordained is somewhat facile. That God is Sovereign, yes, that He ordains every government is where I find the contention. If it were so, then every fight against every unjust government would be wrong. Because it would all be fighting "The Will of God". I can't accept this.
I think Samuel Rutherford, and then later, Francis Schaeffer in "Christian Manifesto" addressed this dilemma. So I think it is a true one.
For a Christian, it cannot be "It's both/and". We say a yay or nay on whether something is unjust. We have a formula to follow in appeal, resistance, and then defiance.
But here is where I find my own dilemma: is it right for a Christian to fight?

I believe it is right for the God ordained government authority to wield the sword, and have no problem seeing the place for Capital Punishment ( all related subjects, I think), but I do not think that God gives established authority to all governments.

I think such a view is potentially dangerous, frankly. Whether it is used for or against our own system.

You have other important points... and I am too verbose ( I need an expression diet!), so maybe I should work on a post in my own blog that looks at some of your ideas.
Thanks for the stimulus to thinking about this important topic. :)
*I did not mean to say that only "Christians" can have a democratic Republic... but that certain accepted ideas must be present in the society.

Ilona, I think I'm going to have to hold my ground on this one. The same distinction that appears in other discussions related to God's will has to arise here also. There's God's sovereign will, which we only know for sure when it actually happens, and there's God's revealed moral will, which we can tell just by knowing right and wrong. If Paul can tell people that there's no authority from God and that every government is thus under God's authority and administering God's authority, then we have to say both that the government is in effect representing God, and any attempt not to respect it is disrespect for God who placed those particular people in those positions. At the same time, as leaders they're morally obligated to make the right decisions, and if they don't then they're deserving of the judgment they're supposed to be handing out as God's representatives.

As for the argument that it would be fighting God's will, that's not clear. It may be that your fighting is God's method of removing the people from power. It's fighting against what has so far been God's will. Romans 13 thus doesn't settle whether rebellion is ever right. (Perhaps a rebellion against a strong presumption against rebelling. There should be a really strong reason to oppose the injustice of a government, and it shouldn't be because of their mistreatment of Christians, as the rest of the New Testament makes clear, because persecution is the normal experience of the church.

I replied to some of these things in my blog. I appreciate your graciousness with someone who does not "mind their betters" like me.

I consider this an important and interesting subject.

"The government that came into power as a result of this war was instituted by God in the same way that every government is (besides ancient Israel, of course) and in no other way. There's nothing Christian about the United States, and there never was, because such a thing is impossible. Christianity cuts across national and cultural boundaries and defies adoption by a government."

Oooohhhh, this is a good one. What some of our brothers and sisters seem to be missing is that forcing people to conform to some external moral standard does not make them "Christian".

In fact, if I here one more person pontificate about "restoring" America, I think I'll just scream! What are they going to restore it to, since it has always been a secular nation?

Good post! Thanks for letting me blow some steam.

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