The dissent of the populace: When does Romans 13 not hold?

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For 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, for  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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay 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

Douglas Wilson, over at Blog and Mablog, is about to do a series of posts looking at Romans 13. It is hard to sit by and watch the way our government is working in ways that is highly objectionable. Indeed, in ways that seem criminal. Yet, as Christians, we are to look to God’s word as our guide. We are Christians first and then citizens. Wilson takes up the issue in part:

(Evangelicals) have come to believe that “not allowed” is the necessary meaning of — all together now! — Romans 13. When you get back to the Shire, whatever the sallow-faced thug leaning against the gate says you have to do, you have to do. He is leaning against the gate, isn’t he? I know there is nothing in the Constitution about that, but the Supreme Court said there was. And they are leaning against the gate too.

The doctrine is a convenient one, and it comports well with those who would make cravenness into a theological virtue. A great deal can be said about Romans 13 (which I hope to do, Lord permitting, in the weeks to come), but in the meantime, let this suffice.

Although the populations of different nations and cultures have different threshholds for what they will put up with, the consent of the governed is still a bedrock principle. At a certain point, it becomes obvious that the “consent of the governed” is not an ideal for democracies to strive for, but is rather an unalterable reality under every form of government.

Read the rest of Wilson’s post. I look forward to what he has to say. In the meantime, we will see which way our government proceeds with our business.

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