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grudem on law, politics, & gov't, part 3 - a great question

I am currently taking a course with Dr. Wayne Grudem called "Biblical Theology of Law, Politics & Government." This is a series of posts with reactions and lessons from that class.

One of the most interesting questions in this class so far has come from reading Romans 13 and the Declaration of Independence. Read the following passages, check out the question, and then go ahead and post your response.

Romans 13:1-2
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
The Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The question, then, is this: Is the founding of our "Christian" nation actually built on disobedience to God's word? Why or why not?

Before I tell you what Dr. Grudem said, I'd love for you to weigh in.



  1. Blogger luke simmons | 1/30/2008 8:27 AM |  

    This is in response to Jason's comments found at

    I won't yet divulge Dr. Grudem's answer, but I will respond to your post. You definitely raise some good, and classic, examples of bad governments and reasons not to submit to government. However, the difference I see with Nazi Germany, Daniel, and Peter and John is that those governments were asking individuals to sin against God. In these cases, it seems that the principle of Acts 4:19 comes in ('Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge."')

    In the case of America, the colonists were not being asked to sin against God. Rather, they were upset because of the tyranny and unjust behavior of Britain in general and the King in particular.

    I would also agree that governments learn how to behave from Romans 13. However, the point of the passage is not "Submit to government only when they follow God's ideals," but "Submit to government, EVEN THOUGH THEY DON'T follow God's ideals." That's the point of 1 Peter 2:13-14 as well.


  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 1/30/2008 2:55 PM |  

    Luke... my apologies for crashing your in on your blog. I'm an old friend of Jason Addink, and he invited me to comment.

    It is relevant that the document you reference as an example of not submitting to a authority... the Declaration of Independence… is regarded as one of the key formative documents of a new political order, a new authority. To be sure... that was its stated intention.

    Jefferson's words are not those of the barbarian seeking only to befog and destroy, but a humble respect of the structure of authority while undermining a particular instantiation of authority. In other words… the Declaration is an example of the mandate to rule and govern the earth (a strengthening of authority), not a rejection of the mandate to submit to authority.

    Todd Ruiter

  3. Blogger luke simmons | 1/30/2008 3:02 PM |  

    hey todd, thanks for joining in! i'd agree that the Declaration is humble and has tremendous principles regarding how a government should be just and good and not break its own laws. but the question that i have been asking is, is this Declaration nonetheless a rebellion (even if a humble one) against the authority that God had previously established?

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 1/30/2008 5:48 PM |  

    Luke, my point was that your implied premise is, to an important degree, false. Jefferson was not just rebelling against an authority (he certainly was), but creating one at great expense and personal risk to himself and his countrymen. And that makes all the difference with respect to Romans 13.


  5. Blogger Jason and Paige Addink | 1/30/2008 8:35 PM |  

    Hey Ruiter. Nice to "see" you here. Just play nice. :)

    Luke, 2 points, in somewhat different directions.

    1) I agree there is a difference between a gov't telling someone to do something contrary to God's other commands, and a gov't that is tyrannical and unjust in general. But a strictly literal reading on your quoted verses from Romans doesn't appear to allow room for any exceptions. Nowhere in the Romans passage does it say you don't have to submit if the gov't tells you to sin. But that can't be right, because then the apostles were sinning when they defied the gov't and prayed for boldness in preaching. So a totally literal reading of Romans 13 can't be correct, because there are some exceptions when you don't have to submit to gov't.

    The question then becomes, what are the exceptions to Romans 13? One appears to be if the gov't tells you to sin. I think you can also make an argument, given the context of Romans 13, that gov'ts that fail to act justly in general do not deserve submission.

    2) I think this is more along the lines of Todd's point. If my memory serves me, the colonies for many years were largely self ruling. They elected their own gov'ts in some colonies. The English had a fairly well developed theory of gov't that said that the power of gov't ultimately resided in the people, not the king. The founders expanded this and tied it explicitly to a Biblical foundation... that gov't is instituted by God to secure the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (or to be the avenger of God's wrath on the wrongdoer, in Romans terms.)

    In this circumstance, the founders believed that THEY were the authority instituted by God. England was the one attempting to destroy their legitimate authority, and they were resisting that attempt. From the perspective of a common American, the King George III wasn't the ONLY authority. The colonists had been electing their own gov'ts for years, free from significant interference by England. So which authority do you submit to? King George, who claims the colonies are essentially the property of England? Or your fellow colonists, who claim that the power of the gov't resides in the people? After all, God establishes all authority, even the authority of the elected Continental Congress, which wrote the Declaration. And you can't exactly submit to both.

    If Hillary is elected president in November, and upon inauguration promptly issues an executive order suspending freedom of of the press, speech, the right to bear arms, and trial by jury (hey, it could happen :)... should we resist? There is no command in there to do anything contrary to God's word. If Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas decide to rebel and form our own country, do I submit to Hillary or Arizona?

    Considering that "the authority" of Romans in our context is not the President, but the Constitution (or the people), I wouldn't side with Hillary (duh!) In similar fashion, the colonists thought that the authority of gov't was in their hands, not the King's.

    I hope that is somewhat coherent when I go back and read it in the morning... :)

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