Many Christians tend to either naively think that compassion is always sugary sweet and never condemnatory or cynically believe that no one is a worthy candidate of it. However, authentic biblical compassion is neither naive nor cynical. Instead, it is the glue that holds Christianity together, allowing it to be gentle and tender without deteriorating into trite sentimentality and unpretentiously sacrificial without being melodramatic.
In the pre-Christian world, Christians were, for the most part, citizens of the nation in which they resided. Required by the Lord to be not just good citizens, but exemplary ones as well, the Bible does not teach that one’s citizenship obligations should ever interfere with the Christian’s duty to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Truth is, there are times when a Christian must refuse to serve his country, and if he didn’t, he would be involving himself in sin. The State does not possess ultimate authority. Whatever authority it possesses is the delegated kind (John 19:11), and any government that doesn’t recognize this truth is idolatrous. Consequently, whatever patriotism is, it cannot—indeed, it must not—automatically exempt itself from the charge that “in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Psalm 36:2, NIV). Whatever patriotism is, it should not suppose that by invoking the name of God in slogans it will tether the Most High God to its cause any more successfully than rebellious Israel did when Eli’s sons took the Ark of the Covenant out of mothballs and propped it like a talisman before the armies marching against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4).
True patriotism does not permit itself to be manipulated by media slogans into a pumped-up frenzy that drowns out all other voices, particularly the voice of Jesus, who said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17, et al.). To the State, then, obedient servants present their bodies and wills for the national defense only so long as such a defense is consistent with the truths taught in God’s Word; to God, of course, such must always present a “contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). As a result, there need be no contradiction, no conflict of interest, between Church and State unless, and until, the State commands the Christian to do something God has prohibited, or else forbids something God has commanded. So, like Daniel, who knew how to “seek the peace of the city” to which God had carried him into exile (Jeremiah 29:7a), but who, along with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, would not bow to its “image of gold” (Daniel 3), the New Testament Christian needs to reflect the godly patriotism the Lord enjoins for His priesthood of spiritual pilgrims who, in every age, sojourn in Babylon while “longing for a better country” (Hebrews 11:16, NIV). “Pray,” He says in Jeremiah 29:7b, “to the Lord for [your country]; for in its peace you will have peace.”
Therefore, I do not believe the only choice of action for the thinking Christian is found in the Tweedledee of mindless maddening hawkishness or the Tweedledum of half-baked limpish pacifism. Instead, there ought to be a loyalty to one’s country based on truth, not lies—a manly, unflinching patriotism based on reality rather than popular fiction. The causes of Justice and Righteousness today, like always, call for civil servants (especially soldiers and policemen) who are prudent, courageous, self-controlled, and just. These need to possess the virtues that will enable them to know not just why and when to go to war, but how to properly fight it as well as when to stop it. Particularly, We need soldiers who are distinguished by the kind of character that empowers them to pursue every honorable avenue for victory against the enemy, but who are, in the end, resolved to suffer death before dishonor. Where better to find this character and these virtues than in the Christian? The Christian fights for Justice because God is like this, in that He uses force to check evil and bring Justice. So, the Christian uses force to restrain evil because this is what God is like, and because God is like this, the Christian does not sin when he uses legitimate force, and this remains true even when this force is deadly force.
What’s more, as God’s use of force is a product of His love for His creatures, and as it is clear that God even loves those whom He kills, the Christian, just like God, must love his enemies even when called upon to kill them. (Instead of Christians smirking at such an idea, they should give themselves to a study of it.) This means that any acts that do not appear to be God-like will be morally suspect for the Christian soldier. The acts of a soldier can never be ones of personal vengeance, as Matthew 5:38-41 point out. Therefore, a just war is something Christians participate in out of loving obedience to God and in conformity to His ways. In his personal relationships, the Christian acts in love toward others as God has always required His followers to do. But when he chooses to participate in government as a soldier or law enforcement officer, he acts in accord with the God-ordained mandate given to the State.
There is no contradiction here, as the Christian is free to participate in any legitimate function of government, even war, without violating the restrictions God places on him in his personal affairs. On the other hand, those who think the Christian, simply by virtue of his Christianity, gets to opt out of doing Justice are sorely mistaken. They fail, in their elitism, to comprehend what being a faithful subject of God is all about (cf. Micah 8:8 and Matthew 23:23). As such, they delegate what they believe to be the “dirty hands” duty of doing Justice to unredeemed sinners. In doing so, they fail to fully understand the nature of God (a nature that demands Justice) and demean the very character of those people God has appointed over the administration of Justice—people the apostle Paul called “ministers to you for good.”
Living the Christian life is difficult and complex. The vagaries are many. Decisions involving the when, where and how of the Christian’s participation with or in society and government are difficult. Brethren don’t always draw the line between Church and State in the same place, and all attempts to do so are, by their very nature, arduous. The “yoke is easy” and the “burden is light” only when compared to the glorious reward that awaits us in heaven (cf. Matthew 11:29-30; 16:24-27). The line between Church and State cannot be correctly drawn apart from rightly dividing God’s word. It is unfortunate that many of God’s people, past and present—and this because they have failed to rightly divide God’s word, as 2 Timothy 2:15 requires—have majored in the theology of calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Can a Christian participate in war? Yes, when the doing of Justice demands it. Can a Christian participate in just any war? No. If the war is not morally justified, and by this I mean consistent with the precepts and principles taught in the Bible, a Christian would not remain “unspotted” by participating in it. What’s more, a Christian could not participate even in a just war if the means being used to fight it are not just. Consequently, the Christian must always sit in judgment upon the activities of his government, supporting it when it is right, but refusing to do so when it is wrong. This, I believe, is part of what being a true Christian is all about. Anyone interested in plumbing the depths of this issue more thoroughly should see my book The Christian & War. It may be downloaded for free in PDF format at http://allanturner.com/ChristianAndWar.pdf.
American churches claiming to be “of Christ” are being absorbed by their surrounding culture. Instead of being the penetrating leaven that leavens the culture around us, as Matthew 13:33 says, we are being eaten alive by the world’s influences. Instead of walking circumspectly, as Ephesians 5:15 requires, we are, much like the deer caught in the headlights, first blinded, then mesmerized, by the “isms” of our day. Instead of being the totally unique people 1 Peter 2:9 calls us to be, we are a denuded bunch of spiritual and intellectual miscreants. It is time to regroup, strictly patterning ourselves according to the truths contained in God’s word. For it is only then that we’ll be the iconoclasts the Lord called us to be. This will not be an easy task, but if we are determined to make the effort, then God will enable us to do exactly what He created us in Christ Jesus to do.
I believe the Modern Church, in too many instances, has become nothing much more than a sanctified country club of like-minded individuals who have a deeply held desire to be religious and in communion with God while wanting, at the same time, to feel free to exercise themselves as completely autonomous individuals. Such things encompass a multitude of sins.
So let’s just think about all this for a moment. What does the kind of person mentioned above think the church of Christ stands for? Does he think it’s just some accouterment that exists to validate his individual autonomy and freedoms while giving him the opportunity to feel good about himself? If this is the case, then such a church would no longer have the right to call itself “of Christ.” Actually, “of Belial” would be a much more appropriate description. Truth is, true New Testament Christianity can be true to itself only if it’s willing to be iconoclastic. By this I mean that if the church belonging to Christ has any hope of doing what it has been called by the Lord to do, it must be willing to be actively engaged in breaking to pieces the world’s idols, and this would, for certain, include demystifying the State by rejecting any form of Statism/Babelism.
In other words, one clear function of the church belonging to Christ in any age is to unmask the idols and expose them for what they really are—i.e., nothing but sham gods. There is no other basis for doing so than the truths contained in God’s Word. With this in mind, notice that the apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 3:15, exclaimed the “House of God, which is the church of the living God,” is nothing less than “the pillar and ground of the truth.” This means, among other things, that the pathologies that were present in the pre-Christian world (viz., the economic, social, familial, sexual, and legal aspects of life) are very much alive in our post-Christian world. (By “pre-Christian world,” I mean a world that is predominantly pagan in its outlook. By “post-Christian world” I mean a society that has been almost totally secularized, as ours was during the last third of the previous century.) Consequently, the truths taught in the Bible, particularly those found in the New Testament, are especially meaningful to our post-Christian culture, not just because they are God’s truths, but because they were written in the midst of a pre-Christian society. Thus, we are today in a position to read the truths of the Bible within basically the same context in which they were written. (Although our present culture is not pagan per se, it is nevertheless neo-pagan in its outlook.)
Consequently, American Christians, like African and Asian Christians in the last few generations, are duty bound to see themselves as subversives in an alien culture. That this has proved to be most difficult for Christians living in America is an understatement. Why? Because, our society, although a cut-flower generation, is still sustained by the Christian and biblical nutrients that were originally derived from its founding roots. It is, therefore, most unpalatable for an American who is a Christian to think of his or her country as the alien neo-pagan nation it really is. Even so, the invitation addressed to those who made up the pre-Christian culture of the first century was, “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Living, as we are, in a post-Christian world, we are called upon to do the very same thing.
Thus, it behooves us to pay closer attention to the book of John and related portions of the New Testament. There “the world” is described as the system of political, cultural, and religious leadership that stood against God and refused to listen to the preaching and teaching that exposed its injustices and unrighteousness. It is this kind of world that Jesus said “hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). The writers of the New Testament realized that the followers of Jesus Christ were no different in this respect from their Lord: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Thus, Paul’s description of a sinful lifestyle was living “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).
Of course, even when the lines are not drawn so clearly between the gospel of Christ and an adulterous environment, as they now are in our post-Christian society, an inevitable strain will always exist between Biblical faith and culture. (By saying this I don’t mean to imply that I think these lines are clear in the minds of those deluded by secularism. They are not. Nevertheless, those not unduly influenced by secularism should be able to see this quite easily.) As long as the Biblical world view is not identical to any other religious, cultural, or political systems (and this will always be the case), any effort to relax the tension between them, accommodating pure New Testament Christianity to the “best” of the surrounding society, surrenders the gospel to the very thing that debases it. Therefore, the preachers of “Peace, peace! When there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14), spout theologies of harmony designed to avoid conflict at any cost. This produces a dumbed-down church that is tamed and ineffective and doesn’t have a clue regarding its own idolatries. (I’m speaking here of the seeker-friendly, market oriented “church as you want it” that has become so prevalent in our culture.) If one stretches this template over the American Church, then he is able to see more clearly, at least in part, the problem that plagues us today.
Every person, whether he realizes it or not, has a worldview. For example, the modernist sees (we’re talking worldview here) humans as purely physical machines. Blinded to the spiritual dimension of God’s creation, he believes nothing exists beyond what he can perceive with the five senses. On the other hand, the Christian sees (again, we’re talking worldview here) humans as the only beings on earth who are made in God’s image. Like the modernist, he is aware of man’s physical nature; but unlike the modernist, he is not blinded to man’s spiritual dimension.
It is true, then, that “ideas have consequences.” The Bible says, “[As a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). This means that worldviews exercise significant influence on behavior. Because the modernist believes this physical world is all there is, he is convinced there is no life beyond the grave. Consequently, eating, drinking, and making merry is the central meaning of his life. If he can’t see, hear, touch, taste, or smell it, then it’s just not important, he’s convinced. Believing “you only go around once,” and convinced that he must do just what the infamous beer commercial commanded, he uses all his energy to get “all the gusto” he can out of life. According to the modernist, that so-called “pie in the sky by and by” that preachers talk about is nothing but a bunch of religious nonsense. Reflecting the hedonism inherent in his worldview, the modernist wants, even demands, his dessert right now with chocolate fudge and a cherry on top. Putting others before himself makes absolutely no sense. Therefore, he aggressively goes through life looking out for “Numero uno.”
In contrast to this, the Christian, who knows who and what he is, knows the meaning of life (i.e., “the whole duty of man”) is to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). He knows that life on this physical plane is not all there is to living. By faith and in connection with Christ, he understands there is life beyond the grave (1 John 5:11). His “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) is based on his heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Hence, he views himself as a stranger or Pilgrim while here on this earth (Hebrews 11:3; 1 Peter 2:11). Instead of storing up his treasures “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20), the Christian is laying up treasures for himself in heaven. As he develops the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5), he learns to humbly put others before himself (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6) and gladly bears their burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Americans Have Changed Their Worldview
As recently as 70 years ago, the majority of Americans never really questioned biblical ethics or morality. Back then, most people looked upon divorce as disgraceful. They thought pregnancy outside of marriage was a disaster; that chastity was a good thing; that an honest day’s work was the responsibility of any respectable and dependable man; that honesty was the best policy. But not today. Things have changed.
Americans no longer view themselves and their world through the truths taught in the Bible. As a result, they teach their children that evolutionary theory is to be believed unquestionably. They teach them that there remains no objective standard for judging what is right or wrong. Spawned by the modernistic worldview, these ideas have produced the current decline of moral standards being evidenced in America. As our countrymen have learned to think in their hearts, so they have become (cf. Proverbs 23:7).
And So Has The Modern Church
This change in worldviews has profoundly affected the modern church. As a result, the modern church has become an intellectual and spiritual disaster area. It no longer knows how to out-think, out-live, and out-die the unbelievers, and its members are certainly not the alien residents the Lord has called His people to be (cf. 1 Peter 2:8-11; Philippians 3:20). Instead of being different, modern church members blend in nicely with the materialistic world. They yearn for and fret over the same things the modernists do.
In order to “make ends meet,” members of the modern church have abandoned their small children to strangers while they (both father and mother) go off to the workplace. They believe that “wanting what’s best for their children” equates to the accumulation of as much of this world’s goods as possible. The children of these members are forced to fend for themselves without the help and guidance of a parent in those long hours after school before their parents return from work. This ever-growing number of children has even been given its own special name. Consequently, the “latchkey” children of these modern church members learn to fend for themselves at an early age. It should be no surprise that when these abandoned children—and that’s what they are—get older, they can hardly wait to reject true religion, wrongly thinking it to be that hypocritical mumbo-jumbo their parents practice.
In addition, modern church members are always ready to assert their “right” to personal happiness, as if this were a spiritual birthright from the Lord. Bent on building their own personal kingdom, rather than enhancing the Lord’s Kingdom, modern church members are primarily interested in newer cars, larger homes, and nicer clothes. In their minds, the once-honored biblical virtues of sacrifice and conservation have been replaced with the hedonistic idea that “he who has the most toys when he dies, wins.” On such, the warnings of Colossians 2:8 fall unheeded. Instead, they are viewed as the shrill voice of one who has simply gotten “too fanatical” about his religion.
Because the modern church has abandoned its biblical worldview, “preaching as entertainment” is the only kind of preaching acceptable to its members. Like those spoken of in Ezekiel 33:31-32, members of the modern church are enchanted with spectator-worship. “Make me laugh, make me cry, make me happy, and make me want to sing,” they say, “but don’t you ever try to make me think, and don’t you ever ask me to change!” Such twist and mold the Bible to fit the “felt needs” of their “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). To the modern church member, discerning God’s will only means learning about the things God has approved that they have already decided they want to do. Without a biblical worldview, the idea that one should submit his or her will to the Sovereign of the universe falls on deaf ears. Self-abasement and putting others before oneself have given way to pure selfishness. Without the proper focus, the modern church member looks inward rather than upward. Instead of being in an intimate relationship with the Lord, he thinks himself to be in a “limited partnership” with Jesus. This enables him to call himself a Christian while being totally absorbed with the pursuit of “Self.” Unless he can be “massaged” with “preaching as entertainment,” then he is unhappy, uncomfortable, and will soon be involved in some effort to get the preacher to move. Or else, he himself will be moving to a church that will meet his “felt needs.” In the modern church, the spiritual pygmies have become the giants and, accordingly, they always win.
Despite what may be observed in the modern church, and in the personal lives of many who claim to be New Testament Christians, the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly a dynamic force that lives in the hearts of all true believers. Its effect is so totally radical, and the transformation it makes so revolutionary, that the Christian is actually called a “new creature” who, from a spiritual standpoint, has been “born again” (1 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23). It is this life-changing gospel that provides the only life-giving remedy for that which ails the modern church.
The Bible makes it clear that the one who has been truly converted—i.e., the one who has been renewed and transformed in his mind (Romans 12:1-2)—will have no trouble understanding the seriousness of his spiritual and intellectual quest. Accordingly, the true disciple of Christ will be willing to “gird up the loins of [his] mind” (1 Peter 1:13). As he diligently pursues his study of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15), he will learn to consistently and effectively apply to his life the Bible’s eternal truths. In doing so, he will be both “salt” and “light” to a lost and dying world (Matthew 5:13-16). Apart from this, nothing else matters. This, the Bible says, “is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Consequently, this alone is of ultimate importance when it comes to developing a biblical worldview.
Some believe that in order for God to be actively at work in His creation today He would have to be performing miracles. This appears to ignore that most of God’s activities in both the Old and New Testaments were non-miraculous. The story of Joseph is but one of many examples. Although men, with all their lusts, jealousies and deceptions, were exercising their free wills in the matter of Joseph, he could say, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20; 45:5-8). The Bible attributes David’s success against the lion, bear, and Goliath to the help of God (l Samuel 17:37, 45-47). Are we to label these “miraculous”? The Lord was able to work a great victory through Shammah’s willingness to stand in a field of lentils and defend it against the Philistines (2 Samuel 23:11-12). When we, by faith, stand in our own bean fields today, can’t God work great victories through us without performing miracles? When He does, is it correct for His followers to claim He is working only in and through the Word?
The Bible says God can deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and open doors of opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:7; Colossians 4:2-3; Revelation 3:8). Can He? Does He? By faith, we can say, “Most assuredly!” Does God need to perform a miracle to do so? No, He does not! Surely, those who believe and trust in the Lord can confidently sing, “Lord I believe, yes, I believe, I cannot doubt or be deceived; the eye that sees each sparrow fall, His unseen hand is in it all.”
In contemplating the majesty of Jehovah, Jack Cottrell, in his excellent book What The Bible Says About God The Ruler, wrote:
Who is this God who holds the entire universe in the palm of his hand, and preserves it from oblivion by the mere force of his wi11? Who is this One whose power and presence penetrate and envelope every particle of the cosmos? What kind of God holds the reins of nature so that clouds turn, snow falls, thunder roars, and stars explode at his command? What kind of God knows every star and sparrow by name, and cares about them? What kind of God is this who can endow the crown of his creation with free will and still maintain constant control over the events and flow of history? How shall we describe the God who turns kings’ hearts wherever he wills; who metes out life and death, blessing and calamity….
How thankful we ought to be that this one true God is our God. We must never think, say, or do anything that would take away from His glory and majesty. Limiting Him to working only in and through the written Word does just that and is, I am convinced, a serious mistake.
Every Ordinance Of Man
I have known Christians who thought 1 Peter 2:13 obligated them always to obey the government. What such brethren failed to understand is that such a commandment is qualified (i.e., we are not required to obey every ordinance of man no matter what, but only those things man-made governments have been delegated by God to exercise). (For those who are interested, see my article on The Principle Of Qualification.) Anything else puts us in the position of obeying man rather than God scenario, an idea refuted by Acts 4:19 and 5:29. The contrast made in Scripture between obeying God rather than man demonstrates that governments, although ordained by God, are man-made (i.e., formed by men), and because they are, they, like individuals, can conduct themselves contrary to what God has said. When they do, they lose their authority in those matters. In other words, there are things that must be rendered to Caesar as well as to God, but when Caesar attempts to command or legislate contrary to what God has commanded, Caesar or the State has no actual authority in such areas. Consequently, any disobedience of such commands is not rebellion. It is, instead, holy disobedience.
The Greek word translated “ordinance” in the phrase mentioned above is ktisis and is, according to Strong’s, “from ktizo; original formation (properly the act; by implication the thing, literally or figuratively):—building, creation, creature, ordinance.” Thus, the very idea of such ordinances being a creation of man is built right into the words being used by the Holy Spirit. Every ordinance of man means every government/institution created by man. Particular governments, then, even particular forms of government, are instituted by men through their common consent, and not by direct divine decree. When this is understood, a whole different concept about the nature of human government is appreciated. It is this insight that motivated those subject to despotic government to realize that such institutions could be rightly resisted.
But How About God’s Anointing Of Kings?
This is a good question that begs to be answered. Surprisingly, the Bible teaches that a man lawfully assumes the right to be King only after being selected to do so by his fellow men. Again, I say “surprisingly,” not because such information ought to be a surprise for the serious student of God’s word—only that it usually is a surprise for those who have not spent much time thinking this subject through. However, when this principle is fully understood, it sheds its rays on the other areas of delegated authority of which the Christian should be familiar. One of these areas, of course, is the Home. And although the principle doesn’t hold true for children (and I’m fairly certain this is because children aren’t yet capable of rigorous rational thought and have no choice as to who their parents are), the wife chooses the man to whose authority she will be submitting. The same is true of the Church which collectively selects/ordains those who will rule over them. Why, then, should we think it would be any different for the State?
The Consent Of The Governed
In Deuteronomy 17:5 and 2 Samuel 3:21, we learn that a man lawfully becomes ruler only after being accepted by his fellow countrymen. His authority becomes effective when he enters into covenant with the people according to 2 Samuel 5:1-3 and 1 Chronicles 11:3. God does not make one king directly. Although he had anointed David years before he ever became king, he was actually made king by the consent of the people (cf. 2 Sam. 3:21; 5:1-3, and 1 Chron. 11:3).
What’s more, civil rulers do not have an absolute right to rule. In 1 Samuel 13:13-14, through His spokesman Samuel, God made this point crystal clear to Saul. Because he acted foolishly and had not kept the commandments of God, he would be removed from power and replaced by another. From the New Testament, in places like 1 Peter 2:14 and Romans 13:4, we learn that civil rulers are commanded by God to honor those who do good and punish those who do evil. Their function is to uphold Justice and Righteousness in the nation for everyone, not to enrich themselves by preying on the very subjects they are commanded to serve and protect, as passages like Deuteronomy 17:18-19, Proverbs 31:5, 8-9, Psalm 72:12-14, and Jeremiah 22:3-4 point out. In other words, such govern “for the people,” and not to heap to themselves even more power and wealth. Furthermore, if they neglect the first while engaging in the latter, then they lose their position as rulers according to Proverbs 16:12 and 25:5.
The Case Of Athaliah: A Blueprint For Lawful Revolution
The Old Testament story of Athaliah is a prime example of the usurpation of a tyrant and how the rule of such a one can be remedied by lawful revolution. Israel’s covenant with God was something the nation had entered into willingly. In other words, they were not forced to leave Egypt, enter Sinai, and there enter into a covenant relationship with God against their wills. They did so because they wanted to. This is borne out by the fact that in the throes of revolt some of the people argued that it would have been better for them to have remained in Egypt and died than to be where they were. Some were even planning on returning (cf. Deut. 14:1-4 for one of these instances).
In Exodus 19:1-8, the people agree to enter into covenant, saying in verse 8, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” They affirmed this again in Exodus 24:3, where it says, “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do.’” Even after the trouble in the wilderness, a new generation renewed the covenant at Moab (cf. Deut. 29:1-21). Then, after Moses’ death, the people consented to Joshua’s leadership (cf. Joshua 1:1-18). Finally and very importantly, when it comes to considering the reign of Queen Athaliah, the covenant provided for male rulership only (cf. Deut. 17:14-20).
All these facts are critical to interpreting the events surrounding the rise to power of Queen Athaliah and her subsequent overthrow. Summarizing these, Gary T. Amos wrote:
In this example, the form of government had been established by a covenant or compact. The person in the office violated the conditions of the covenant through acts of despotism and tyranny. She had no right to rule. The lower rulers and representatives of the people covenanted together to institute new government. Their revolution was forceful, but lawful. Joash was made king by the people when he entered into covenant with them (Gary T. Amos, Defending The Declaration: How the Bible and Christianity Influenced the Writing of the Declaration of Independence, 1989, p. 131).
Thus, the saga of Athaliah, a rebellious, murderous woman born of rebellious, murderous parents (viz., Ahab and Jezebel), serves as a blueprint for the godly revolution the Founding Fathers seemed to have followed meticulously. The procedure outlined above is easily discernable in the Declaration of Independence. If you have never read all of it, then I strongly urge you to do so, for when you do so, you can see for yourself just how scrupulously the Founding Fathers followed the aforementioned blueprint for revolution. None of this is to say that all that the Founding Fathers had in mind matched exactly the account mentioned above, only that they were following a long list of thinkers and writers who had thought deeply about the scriptural significance of such an account and how it applied to the circumstances of their day. I’m talking about men like Samuel Rutherford, who wrote Lex Rex or The Law and the Prince (1644) during the early stages of the English Civil War and John Locke, whose Second Treatise of Government (1688) so influenced the political thought of the Colonies and the Declaration of Independence, all of which were critical of the alleged Divine Right of Kings. These men had, by various means, arrived at a way of thinking about government that would, when fully embraced, cause the face of government to change dramatically in 1776 when our well-read Founding Fathers presented us with a form of government unparalleled in the history of mankind, a form to which man had actually been well-suited from the very beginning. Indeed, man does have certain “unalienable rights” that are granted to him by his Creator. Therefore, government, which is ordained by God but formed by man, must not attempt to interfere with such rights. Instead, it is duty-bound to protect them. When it doesn’t, engaging instead in tyranny, despotism and arbitrary rule, it loses its right to govern.
Rutherford and Locke, both of whom were noted earlier, insisted that mere incompetence was not a reason for revolution. In other words, “[S]uch revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in public affairs” (Locke, Second Treatise, p. 126, sec. 225). The ruler must commit repeated acts of tyranny, that is, “a long train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices, all tending the same way” which “make the design visible to the people” that said ruler intends to destroy them and their land (ibid.). Again, a reading of the Declaration of Independence demonstrates that the Colonists’ rejection of King George’s rule was not a capricious, arbitrary act, but was undertaken only after a long list of abuses. Thus, the theory of revolution set forth in Lex Rex and the Second Treatise are the same and are based on scriptural examples, like the one found in the saga of Athaliah and the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Jephthah as a prince over the people in Judges 11:1-11, which Locke specifically referred to as an example of the people’s right to choose those who would, in turn, rule over them, which serves as an example of the compact theory of government— a theory that said the people and ruler enter into a compact before God that binds both the ruler and the people to certain obligations and responsibilities.
Thus, if the ruler fails in his part of the compact, then such failure is viewed as a material breach by which the ruler forfeits his right to rule. Tyranny, when it can be substantiated by repeated acts, is a material breach of the covenant or compact that exists between a ruler and those he rules. He can, then, be rightly deposed, not by riot and anarchy, but by the orderly exercise of duly constituted authorities who intercede on behalf of the people. That this is exactly what happened on July 4, 1776 is well established. Consequently, the American Revolution was not an act of rebellion against lawful authority, which would have been sinful, but resistance to, and the ultimate casting off of, a tyrant.
According to charges outlined in the Declaration of Independence, the king of England was a tyrant. This was established, it was claimed, by a series of tyrannical abuses: obstruction of justice; acts contrary to the public good; the suspension and impeding of legislatures; interfering with elections; corruption of the judiciary; wasting of the public and private wealth; the enforcement of martial law in time of peace; spying on the people; breaking charters; putting the government in the hands of those who had no right to rule; waging war against unarmed towns and cities, perpetrated repeated acts of theft, murder, and barbarity. In short, the king of England had denied the laws of nature, nature’s God, and of England, repudiating its charters. He could, then, be lawfully deposed as a tyrant who had materially and repeatedly broken his promises.
That such was formal and public is self-evident. That such a Declaration was written by “representatives” of the people who, as lower magistrates, had assembled for the express purpose of interposing themselves between the king and those he sought to destroy, cannot be denied. That in doing so, they appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world” is another thing that cannot be denied. Based upon the evidence, and the motives of those involved, I believe it cannot be successfully denied that the American Revolution was, in fact, right and honorable in the sight of God. In other words, it was not just legal, but it was biblical as well. The biblical roots are “historically evident, logically compelling, and easily researchable” (Amos, p. 150). Although the Bible was not the only influence for its conception, I believe it is correct to say that without the Bible the Declaration of Independence could have never been written.
That the United States of America is a nation that was built on certain eternal principles taught in God’s word has continued to be its resounding legacy. As I have studied the history of its founding, it would be most difficult for me to think it happened due to some random collocation of atoms at a particular time and place—i.e., blind chance. Instead, I must think, like others before me, and I hope like others who will come after me, that America is what it is by the providential hand of Almighty God. In thinking such thoughts, I am reminded of what was said of the U. S. Constitution, a document that was constructed on the firm foundation of the Declaration of Independence—a document that was adopted on September 17, 1787, but was not formally ratified by two-thirds of the Colonies until June 21, 1788. About this document, the great British Prime Minister William Gladstone said, a century later, it was “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man,” an idea that seems to jibe nicely with George Washington’s conclusion that “the event is the hand of God” (Gladstone’s and Washington’s quotes are from Hart, op. cit., p. 329).
In closing, I leave you with what Gary T. Amos said in the epilogue of his book, arguing that the American Revolution is not over as long as there are those who do not believe that “all men are created equal.” Writing of what he thinks to be today’s consensus, he said:
Now, however, the Declaration’s ideas are scoffed at by philosophers, misrepresented by historians, attacked by clergymen, ridiculed by law professors, held in contempt by power hungry politicians, and ignored by the people. As long as this continues, the American Revolution is not over (Amos, p. 170).