Is a Christian ever obligated to disobey the state? And what is the nature of this “holy disobedience” and its consequences?
Despite the injunction in Romans 13 for every person “to be subject unto the higher powers,” there is a long and honorable history of Christians in trouble with the “powers that be.” Throughout Western history, there has been a biblically-oriented segment of the Christian community which has been at odds with established governments.
CASE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN SUBVERSION OF TYRANNY
These essays make clear that radically biblical Christians who take the commands of Christ with utmost seriousness often have become subversive in the eyes of the state for one main reason: a Christian’s highest loyalty is always to God rather than to a mere secular order and he lives by values often at odds with those of the state.
In many ways, the crux of the evangelical political dilemma today is the unwillingness of many professing Christians to live up to the full claims of the Gospel and all that this implies. Professor Moltmann nailed it when he compared contemporary Western Christianity with the failure of the Christian churches under Hitler’s Reich: “We also have no right to speak of God and with God if we do not do it in the midst of the conflicts of our political world.”
If this is true, then the greatest task before the evangelical community today is that of developing a responsible political ethic. Such an ethic would consider seriously the obligation of Christians to bring to bear on the crisis confronting the social and political institutions of the present age the truth of God as revealed to mankind in Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.
Dr. Robert D. Linder recently retired from his position as the Distinguished Professor of History at Kansas State University, after five decades of service.
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