Skip to comments.Africa grapples with Romans 13
Posted on 07/03/2002 7:53:56 PM PDT by gcruse
Faith: Africa grapples with Romans 13
By Uwe Siemon-Netto
UPI Religion Correspondent
Life & Mind
Published 7/3/2002 6:25 PM
WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- As evangelical Christianity is becoming the dominant force in sub-Saharan Africa, the key New Testament passage dealing with the relationship between church and state has taken on paramount importance.
At last weekend's international conference titled, "The Bible and the Ballot Box: Evangelical Faith and Third-World Democracy," no other Biblical text came up more frequently than Romans 13:1-7, which reads in part:
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God ... Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed."
It's a troubling text because, depending on how you interpret these words, they might lead to the assumption that a Christian must not resist injustice.
At the conference in Potomac, Md., one presenter after another told the audience from five continents that in Africa this admonition by the apostle Paul had caused missionaries and old-style Evangelicals to take a quietist stance.
But this is changing, these scholars argued. They said that an African holism, which in the words of Oxford professor Terence O. Ranger "inseparably unites the 'secular' and the 'religious,'" always prevails in the long run.
"The question is... not whether Evangelical Christianity (in Africa) has been, is, and will be intensely 'political,' but how."
The issue here is by no means an exclusively African. The ugly ghosts of Christian quietism on the one hand and activist Christian enthusiasm on the other has haunted Europe especially in its darkest hours, the Nazi and Communist periods.
The operative term then was the same as in Africa now -- "two kingdoms," meaning a grotesque distortion of a Lutheran doctrine by that name. Its ghost, too, preoccupied the Potomac conference.
In reality, this doctrine describes God's two-fold reign in this world, where the Christian holds, in a sense, two passports. He is a citizen of the finite secular realm, where God acts in a hidden way.
Here natural reason is "the empress," according to Luther, and the governing authorities, though appointed by God, do not rule by the Gospel but by "the sword," the symbol of worldly power.
They need not be Christian as long as they act intelligently. It is better to have a "wise Turk than a foolish Christian" on the throne, Luther said.
But then there is also the infinite realm of the God revealed in Christ, of the Gospel, the Church, forgiveness, grace, faith and love. These two realms are not antagonistic to one another, as the doctrine's detractors would have you believe.
They serve each other. The secular realm assures good order so that the Gospel may be preached. And the spiritual realm admonishes and teaches secular rulers.
Far from preaching quietism, Luther called quietist preachers unfaithful pigs. "These are worthless, lazy preachers who do not tell the princes and lords their sins," he railed. "In some cases they do not notice these sins. They lie down and snore like swine, they take up the room where good preachers should stand."
Isabel Mukonyora, a Zimbabwean theologian, argued in an interview with United Press International that the pace of Evangelical growth on her continent has been too rapid for this kind of dialectical reflection to prevail in contemporary African theology.
She finds this troubling and fears that without theological depth the spread of evangelical -- and especially Pentecostal -- Christianity might in the end prove to be a straw fire.
History teaches us that while the bone-headed quietist misinterpretation of Romans 13, against which Luther thundered, proved disastrous, so did the utopian attempt of activist clerics to blur the distinction between the two realms.
Where this occurs, the devil is at work, said Luther. For Satan never ceases to "cook and brew the two realms together." In other words, the Church should speak up where secular rulers act contrary to Scripture. It should be a prophetic voice but not presume the duties of the state.
In Luther's rich language, a preacher "must grab into the princes' snouts but not interfere with their craft."
As the Potomac conference showed, Africa is far from immune from such interference by evangelical and other churchmen rightly rejoicing in their triumph. But Vinay Samuel, a Church of England canon who headed the Bible and Ballot Box project that was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, offered good news Wednesday.
"The problem has been recognized," he told UPI, "this is why we are churning out competent African theologians at an accelerated pace. We have already produced 15 African Ph.D.s." By "we," Indian-born Samuel meant the Oxford Center of Missionary Studies, an evangelical institution linked to the Universities of Leeds and Wales.
As a result, it is hoped that sophisticated Reformation and other doctrines on Romans 13 will give structure to the currently sometimes feral ferment of Christian growth south of the Sahara.
To this Luther aficionado, however, it is particularly gratifying that the Wittenberg reformer's often-maligned but immensely topical thoughts on matters of church and state will get a new hearing on what seems to evolve into the most Christian of continents -- Africa.
Copyright © 2002 United Press International
I didn't know anyone else besides me took any interest in this subject (African Christianity). But it's true... "...evangelical Christianity is becoming the dominant force in sub-Saharan Africa".
And Calvinist Christians ARE moving... as fast as we can.
What Peter and his colleagues did not realize was that they were sharing their prison cells with the next government of Zambia! During the following weeks of Bible study, prayer and vigorous discussions in the prison, they were able to teach Biblical principles of government to the very men God would raise up after He deposed the Marxists; the future vice-president of Zambia - General Godfrey Miyanda - and a few cells away, Frederick Chiluba, the future Christian President of Zambia. After prayer and worldwide pressure set Peter and his colleagues free, Frontline was one of the few ministries alerting people to the plight of the suffering Christians in Zambia. Ultimately socialism wrecked its inevitable havoc and without support from the collapsing Soviet Empire, the nation teetered on economic and social anarchy. Mass protests and nationwide prayer vigils finally forced the Zambian government to its knees. The first multi-party elections were held on October 31, 1991. The result was a crushing 5 to 1 defeat for Kaunda. The first freely elected President, Frederick Chiluba, promptly testified to the saving power of Christ and called for a day of prayer.
The Zambian government next outlawed abortion. Abortion clinics were closed down and illegal clinics were raided by the police. Abortionists were beaten and imprisoned and their equipment was smashed. The vice-president - General Miyanda - courageously made a strong stand for the right to life of the unborn at the Cairo Conference. He totally rejected the UN and WHO promotion of abortion.
Unfortunately, Satan's Wolves (I am not ashamed to call false prophets by that name) are moving every bit as fast as are we...
Who will triumph in Africa? Christianity, or The Gospel of Candied Lies? Only God knows...
Thanks again for the ping.
He did, however, enjoy the virtue of being Right.
"If you have not a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
Jesus was a adical of the period. He turned over the tables at the temple. 60 solders were sent to arrest him when it was time for him to fullfill prophacy. One prophet cut off a soldiers ear!
If Jesus was as timid as they say, why send 60 soldiers to get him?
Jesus was kind to his followers and taught his followers to be kind to one another and strangers, but Jesus was a threat to the powers that be because he preached worship of the father rather than the Priests and Pharoes. That made him a desenter. His priorities were heavenly, and publically spoke out against the rulers of the day.
"If your rightousness does not exceed that of the pharoes......"
The "obey the Government" passage applies to a good Government... one which "punishes Evil" (Murder, Adultery, Theft, Fraud, Coercion -- Romans 13: 8-10), and respects Virtue.
Christians should obey that sort of Government... the Government which prevailed under the Equitable and Virtuous Seneca of Rome, who was the "Prime Minister" under Nero's early Government when Paul wrote that Passage.
Seneca was famously Constitutional and Just.
It is often pointed out, by "Submissive" christians, that the Government of Nero which followed Nero's coercive-murder of Seneca was indeed Tyrannical; and they seek to justify Christian Surrender on that basis. But there is absolutely no reason to apply Paul's words to that sort of Government. That was not the sort of Government which Paul was writing about at the time.
Paul was writing about Seneca. Besides Ron Paul, have you seen any hint of Seneca from your Government lately?
He did not advocate throwing over the government, but the changing of hearts. The leaders lose their credibility and power when the people no longer respect them. It's like a peacefull rebellion, but following the law as you do it.
I believe he believed in self defence, though..."For there is no greater love than for one man to give his life for another."
But that may not be a valid assumption at all. If God still talks to man, the objective ought to be obtaining the mind of God today regarding the conditions that Christians in Africa find themselves in right now.
Ahhh -- a perfect example of why some of the Modern Translations are often crap. The "Governing Authorities" bit is NOT CORRECT.
The KJV is better -- "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers"; I.E., every soul is subject TO GOD. See #13.
No, Romans 13 is Universal.
But see #13 for exposition.
I believe he called the established clergy "pig farts". Such insight! Where is Luther today, when we really need him again?
My pleasure. ALWAYS nice to chew theology with an old friend. Do well.
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