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
Forgive me, The Elements of Style; I erred in Grammar.
As you have followed my "Romans 13 Libertarianism" arguments on Free Republic, you probably know that I have several times had to face the counter-argument that "Paul says we should submit to Tyrants like Nero!!" as a contrived justification for Obedience to the State. (I have heard this argument primarily from Roman Catholics and Arminians, grumbles the Calvinist OP, admitting my religious partisanship).
I've finally gotten a little bit nauseated by that argument, and I don't intend to let it slide in the future. Paul wrote Romans 13 about Seneca. Seneca reduced Taxes and streamlined Regulation. And I am 100% in agreement with Apostle Paul and I will gladly cast my Christian Vote for a politician like that, even if he is Pagan. But I am sick and tired of hearing so-called "christians" appeal to Nero -- a thrice-damned Christian-killing Reprobate whom Preterist Eschatologists believe was literally the Beast of Revelation -- as "justification" for Obedience to the God-State. Paul was not writing about Nero. It is an affront to Fundamentalist Literalism to pretend that he was, when he wasn't.
Render unto Caesar only that which is truly his... not a Penny or a Freedom more. John Calvin said that if Caesar stepped one inch over that line, it was grounds for Resistance... or even Regicide. And may God Bless 'im for that watershed in Political History!!
By the way... let me exposit this a little bit further, since I know that my friend GWB is a "big fan" of the KJV. Personally, I like my beloved New American Standard, and I think it the very best of the Modern Translations -- although I do agree that the NIV is usually worthless, most of the time.
Let's examine the "Lines of Authority" here:
The Modern Translations, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities", only respect the Temporal Authorities. The Eternal Commands are lost!! The King might as well be a God unto Himself, for all the "guidance" that the Modern Translations provide. What dross is this!! Cast them on the fire.
The Old Textus Receptus Reformation Bibles (Geneva, King James, Old Lutheran) are better: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers". The Citizen is accountable and the King is accountable. Nothing of Paul's Meaning is Lost. Both the Temporal Command and the Eternal Command are perfectly preserved in one simple phrase: "Let every single soul be subject unto the higher powers".
There is no "Divine Right of Government" to be found herein -- only the Divine Right of God's Law.
"Let every single soul be subject unto the higher powers". The KJV is the ONLY Common English Translation which does the Apostle Paul justice here... period. I do admit that I like the easy readability of the other translations in their place... but they are worthless here.
On News/Activism Jul 4 3:49 AM #26 of 28
Me:"Thank God for Luther! He persisted and now Christians have the Bible to read."
You:"LOL Yes, he wrote every single word of it don't ya know. However, give King James the real credit. He had it translated into the King's English that Jesus spoke."
Me: Now why am I not surprised that a "catholicguy" would be so hateful towards Luther who only helped to translate the Bible into English so people could read it as instructed by God?
Me: The Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew. Even your Latin was a translation of the original writing. No, Jesus didn't speak Latin either. You need to get acquainted with unrewritten history that that satisfies an alterior agenda that is not psiritually healthy.
-- "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers";
I do disagree that George Bush puts into action what he claims to believe. He's more interested in trying to appease all with his zig-zag approach of left to right to sensitive issues like embryonic stem cell research. He caved into to allowing that to happen. I dare say tha Jesus would approve of using this, little human beings, for bettering ourselves in any way. The funny thing about it is that there has been NO success using embryonic stem cells but MUCH success in using ADULT stem cells.
It was rare exceptions when God authorized rebellion against civil authorities, but it did happen (Jehu for example). I have always thought that when the people are corrupt, Christians should continue to submit to even a bad government- because you cannot impose righteous government on an unrighteous people- they don't want it. When corrupt leaders are over a people who are more righteous than they, God is more likely to authorize a Jehu-type to clean house.
Wrong. This passage has nothing to do with secular government but with church government.
To believe otherwise ignores the context of the chapter and requires one to believe that God endorsed Hitler, Stalin, etc. as His ministers.
Dear Friends, I die a Presbyterian Protestant; I own the Word of God as the rule of faith and manners; I own the Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Sum of Saving Knowledge, Directory for Public and Family Worship, Covenants, National and Solemn League, Acts of General Assemblies, and all the faithful contendings that have been for the Covenanted Reformation. I leave my testimony approving the preaching in the field, and defending the same by arms. I adjoin my testimony against Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism, against all profanity, and everything contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness; particularly against all usurpation and encroachments made upon Christ's right, the Prince of the kings of this earth, who alone must bear the glory of ruling his own kingdom the Church; and in particular against the absolute power affected by his usurper, that belongs to no mortal, but is the incommunicable prerogative of Jehovah, and against his Toleration flowing from his absolute power (John Howie, The Scots Worthies, 1781, p. 547).Now there was a real old-time Presbyterian Scotsman! And we had a great many Presbyterian Scots just like him among our early colonists.
When I was first saved almost ten years ago and delivered from king budweiser I was going to church and bible studies almost daily. I could not learn enough. I ran into a lot of false teachings that my spirit told me were wrong.
Then I ran into a old buddy who use to be in prison. He took me to a independant baptist church. I was grounded with IMO the truth about Gods Word. I got a 1828 Daniel Webster and I love seeing how the liberal media has perverted the english language. I pull it out all the time to get the real meaning of words. This is a great thread.