Tuesday, July 04, 2017

God and country

Every year, around Independence Day, you have Christian pundits who bemoan Freedom Sunday services. This raises some genuine issues. 

On the one hand, Christians are supposed to be a thankful people. So why not give thanks for our country, as well as those who defend our life and liberty? In addition, churches should be supportive of military families. 

On the other hand, ostentatious displays of patriotism in a church service can be a cheap substitute for military service. Years ago, Joe Carter did a piece about churchgoers who love the military but hate military recruiters. Waving flags and belting out valorous anthems is easy and self-gratifying–compared to the harrowing hazard of battle. Heroic virtue-signaling has all the advantages of courage without the sacrifice. 

I think the best we can do is to strike a balance. Express gratitude for what we have, and honor the men who voluntarily risk life and limb to protect us. But avoid pretentious and self-flattering displays of patriotism–especially in the case of civilians who have nothing to lose. 


  1. Did the Revolutionary War violate Romans 13?

    1. If I recall correctly, Lutheran apologist and lawyer John Warwick Montgomery does believe it was unbiblical and violated Romans 13.

    2. "A number of scholars have casually mentioned this phenomenon in passing. Kevin Phillips, in his 1998 study of the American Revolution, twice noted: “King George III and other highly placed Britons called the colonists’ rebellion a ‘Presbyterian War.’”[11] Historians of yesteryear were a bit more attentive to this feature. According to William H. Nelson, the belief that most of the American revolutionaries were “congregational or presbyterian republicans,” or at least of Calvinistic temperament “was held by almost all the Tories whose opinions survive.”[12] According to the celebrated British historian of the American Revolution, George Trevelyan, in the early days of the revolution, loyalists alleged that “political agitation against the Royal Government had been deliberately planned by Presbyterians… it was fostered and abetted by Presbyterians in every colony.”[13] John C. Miller observed, “To the end, the Churchmen believed that the Revolution was a Presbyterian-Congregationalist plot.”[14] These references notwithstanding, historians no longer give much attention to this “Presbyterian plot” interpretation of the revolution. In light of the abundance of evidence, such is an irresponsible oversight."

      I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Presbyterian Plot theory. If true, it's amazing that they could justify in their minds the use of violence to separate from their king.

      In God's providence (and as an American citizen myself) I think it was for the eventual best that the Revolutionary War happened, but I'm not so sure it was just for the Colonies to initiate. Or justified in so doing.

      The Revolution: Christian In Spite of Itself
      from Christians in the Public Square
      by John Warwick Montgomery

      In the above article JWM seems to straddle the fence on the issue. In one sense he seems to be saying it was wrong, yet in another sense right.

    3. JWM addresses Rom. 13 and the Revolutionary War @ 20 min. here:


    4. TheSire wrote:
      Did the Revolutionary War violate Romans 13?

      That's a good question. I've answered it both "yes" and "no" before, at various times, so I don't think there's a simplistic answer. On the one hand, Romans 13 was written about the Roman Empire, which was objectively far worse than the British Empire was. On the other hand, the British Empire was (supposed to be) governed by laws that they were violating (laws passed by Parliament), which was the justification the Founding Fathers used to declare independence. In that regard, an argument can certainly be made that the declaration had a legal justification.

      That second argument is one that I am very sympathetic to, given that we hold to the idea of "Lex Rex" (the law is king) in America. Thus, we would typically argue that we are to obey the Constitution and not any specific government agent. Romans 13 says "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities" (verse 1), and if we interpret that "governing authority" to be the Constitution then that would support our ability to reject our own government today if it doesn't follow our laws, and likewise we could extend that back to the abuse of the law the English were doing in the 1770s.

      However, verse 3 shows us that this is referring to the *people* in charge: "Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval..." Now, it could very well be because the governments of the time really were just run by people, and no one had a concept of the rule of law being over and above people. (To the extent that Rome had *begun* that way, General Sulla put that away when he marched on Rome over a century before Paul wrote his letter, and the Emperors *were* the law by that point.)

      So again, one could argue either way on it. I therefore conclude we should not make simplistic judgments about it. It's not a simple topic. I lean toward it not being a violation of Romans 13 right now, given Lex Rex, but would certainly not begrudge someone who disagreed.

    5. Interesting question. I assume Paul was pulling his punches in Rom 13. He believed what he said, but he probably said less than he believed. He had to be careful what he said in a letter to Christians residing in the capital of the Roman Empire.

      Would Paul be opposed to the Maccabean revolt? Seems unlikely.

      There's the question of what claim one country has over another country. Even if it started out as a colony, does the colonial power have a perpetual claim on the allegiance of the colony? After a while, the two nations inevitably begin to grow apart. The colony develops its own history, culture, local gov't, socioeconomic system, &c.

      On the other hand, there's the question of whether political independence justifies bloodshed. The bar should be very high for killing people.

  2. Good post Steve

  3. Fair enough, Steve. One 4th I was away and the congregation of the church I attended sang a medley of branch services songs. Imagine singing Anchors Aweigh, The Wild Blue Yonder and a few less popular ones in a worship service. Not sure you had something like that in mind in the spirit of balance. :)