Thursday, July 28, 2005

Submission to Gov't cont'd

Since the discussion I posted awhile back on "Submission to government or Independence" is still ongoing somewhat
here, I decided to start a new thread.
Rick Ritchie posted this comment:
Do you have a definition of revolution? Do we just go by the historical label?
The Continental Congress was called in part to respond to the king's actions, one of which was to restrict the activities of the Massachusetts legislature. So you have a legal question as to whether or not the king had the right to restrict such activities.
The term 'insurgent' itself begs the question.
While I would likely side with Bonhoeffer against Sasse, I don't see even Bonhoeffer's action in the same light as the American Revolution. You would have a better parallel if when Hitler dissolved the German parliament, it had continued to meet and it called for armed resistance.

So to offer some balance, perhaps, I offer a quote from Gene Veith's book that I just read, "God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in all of Life."
Revolutions can be lawful or unlawful. The French Revolutionaries guillotined their old rulers, abolished the law, and instituted a new legal system by force. The Communist revolution and the Nazi revolution installed regimes that were illegitimate, thus lacking any valid authority. The American Revolution, by contrast, tried to build a legal case, grounded on the necessity of parliamentary representation and other rights of citizens as found in English law. The American Revolution was not resolved until the Treaty of Paris, in which the King of England himself granted the colonies independence. (Christians who worry that the United States government is not legitimate because the Revolution violated Romans 13 need not worry. The ruler himself agreed to let us go and, in the treaty he signed, assigned legal authority to the American legistlatures.)
Then Veith goes on to describe when its permissible to disobey authorities: namely when they pass laws that violate the Law of God.

Now, this doesn't necessarily settle the issue, Rick, but its a slightly different perspective, closer to yours I'm guessing. Veith even seems to agree in some way with Sasse in that the legitimacy of the American government came AFTER the revolution, though for different reasons. Sasse argues that the legitimacy came from the new government fulfilling the God-ordained duties of government, while Veith seems to find the legitimacy coming from the sanction of the King of England. You asked me my definition of revolution? Well, I again freely confess that I'm not adequately informed about the precise historical sequence of events, including your reference to the Continental Congress. My definition of 'revolution' would simply be this: either open or secret rebellion against the government. As such, I don't believe anyone has that vocation or calling to be in rebellion against government (that's how I read Sasse, not Veith). Yet while both the government may be acting outside of its vocation (and therefore acting without divine authority) and also the revolutionary is acting outside of any God-given vocation--God still can perform His 'alien-work' of punishment and wrath through the revolutionary against the government.

In a similar vein, I don't see Bonhoeffer's actions in plotting an assassination as a legitimate vocation/calling from God. Yet had things gone successfully, God could have used Bonhoeffer and co. as God's instruments of wrath against Hitler. I guess the issue there is whether assassination is ever legitimate in the eyes of God. How would one determine when assassination is or isn't legitimate? Who would determine if a leader or government were sufficiently tyrannical? No, that is why I believe that such actions are not permissible, for the sake of an orderly society and government.


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Rick Ritchie said...

Yes, I think Veith is closer to my understanding. But I still think you're misreading. Veith speaks of a lawful versus an unlawful Revolution. But what makes the Revolution lawful? The Treaty? They could have had that without trying to build the legal case. No. I think at the very least, Veith is suggesting that the Americans were attempting a lawful revolution.

I think one question would be, if William and Mary were given the crown under the conditions listed in the 1689 Bill of Rights, then does it not follow that either the colonists had those rights, or the king was no longer their ruler?