"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

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, - The Declaration of Independence

When I was in high school, I read Robert J Ringer's Restoring the American Dream. I was not yet old enough to vote, but I was interested in the political process (a child of Watergate, I guess - "Watergate does not bother me; does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth."). Ringer's ideas gripped me, and I became a Libertarian (not a libertine - which is a moral, not political, category). While I still have some sympathy for the party, I have some issues with it as well. Perhaps more significantly, I have less "faith" that the most significant problems of human existence can be solved by political means.

Libertarians view themselves, I think correctly, as true Jeffersonians. They reflect most clearly the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's greatest work. As a teenager, this is what made me a member of the party. Surely connecting back to the founding document of this country was a good thing, right? I was proudly American and saw the Revolution as one of the great events of history.

I don't think, even now, that we can dismiss the American Revolution as not being one of the most significant events in history. Besides founding this country it inspired other revolutions. But this "holy day" seems odd to me these days. I can no longer embrace Jefferson's basic premise in the Declaration. Primarily because I cannot reconcile it with these words:
1Let 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. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. - Romans 13:1-7 (ESV)

Realize that Paul writes this to believers in Rome, under the subject of the Roman Emperor. The same government that would put him to death a few years later.

I really don't want to spoil your holiday and if you can reconcile Paul and Jefferson, then consider me one of the confused. Whatever the case, I do hope you have a good time with friends and family today. I just want us to be Christians first and Americans somewhere else down the list.

PS - My view of God's sovereignty and providence are such that I have no doubt God ordained the American Revolution. I also have no doubt He is using it for His glory. I am also thankful for the freedom we enjoy, particularly our right to worship openly. I pray for the safety and success of our troops. But none of this means, in and of itself, that the American Revolution was a just war. As Joseph told his brothers, "You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good." Great is the mystery of how these two work together, but know that they do.

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Blogger Chris said...

This is something I have been struggling with for about a year now, and I'm glad to see there's someone else out there struggling with it as well. (Not that I'm happy to see people struggle, but...well, you understand.)

As you said, comparing the British Empire to the Romans is shaky, and we must remember that Paul urged us to obey, and he was clearly speaking of the Romans. All as you said.

I had some members of my church suggest that it was feasible to declare our independence from England for the cause of religious freedom. However, the argument can still be made that the Romans, at least, weren't even Christian, and Paul did not allow his audience to make a distinction like that.

What is done is done, of course. Another, perhaps interesting, argument is other areas where God's people were subject to a government that treated them poorly. The Jews in Egypt is one such incident. Could the Jews have just risen up and left Egypt, had they thought that was God's will? But they waited until Pharaoh let them go, though he came after them after the fact.

I'm sure I'm rambling, but it goes to show how much this has bothered me over the last year.

9:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

I've wrestled with it for a long time, but I can come to no other conclusion at the moment. The only way I see you could argue that it was a just war is to say that the British had turned sovereignty over to the States and were trying to take it back. But that doesn't seem to be the case historically, and I don't see any other way to support the action Biblically.

Glad you had a good trip to Scotland. I'm sure reading your reports was not the same as being there (particularly the excitement at the end), but it was interesting all the same.

9:38 PM EDT  

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