“As I see it, only God can be all-powerful without danger, because his wisdom and justice are always equal to his power. Thus there is no authority on earth so inherently worthy of respect, or invested with a right so sacred, that I would want to let it act without oversight or rule without impediment.”
So said Alexis de Tocqueville in ‘Democracy in America’ (1831), a book I am overdue in reading for the first time, and which I hope to finish up this weekend.
Now consider this statement and its sentiment from nearly two centuries ago, and imagine if you can in any of all possible universes it being echoed by the big names in mainstream Evangelical Christianity in America listed in this excellent article by Megan Basham at The Daily Wire and its brief synopsis by Joel Abbott at Not The Bee.
An Impious Muzzling
In summary of the summary, the likes of Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore, Joe Carter, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, Rick Warren, and David French conspired with former NIH director Francis Collins to lecture American Christians early on in this pandemic about the responsibility before God which good Christians had to unquestioningly obey the settled science.
We all saw the effects, yet it is stunning to see the deliberateness and coordination between Collins and Big Eva notables to marginalize, stigmatize, and rebuke under the guise of Christian humility and obedience any efforts at accountability for those wielding authority in highly questionable ways, or making claims which have since turned out to be dubious at best.
The mainstream Evanjelly-cal talking point has been that Romans 13 requires that Christians submit to governing authority. Yet what is not talked about in any depth is whether all persons claiming authority have sufficient lawful authority to be mandating and requiring all that they attempt to.
Nor have I seen an in-depth treatment – except on the fringes of American Evangelical leadership – of whether in our system of government the checks and balances laid out in our Constitution depend on ‘we the People’ to be one of the layers of multi-factor authentication when it comes to the legitimacy of commands and penalties which issue from bureaucrats and officials, elected or no.
The reasons this is so may make for good political maneuvering and strategy, but not for good theology.
Jesus Hates Eisegesis
In short, Romans 13 tells us that governing authority ultimately comes from God and is a minister of God to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil.
Yet it is a shallow treatment of the passage to summarize it as nothing more than a blank check to whosoever would claim to be an authority, particularly when the selectivity of calls for submission and obedience seem conspicuously to always center on submitting to those who claim authority and belong to the Left in this country.
Thereby the mainstream establishment Evangelical leadership calls us to fulfill Romans 13 by disobeying it in our context. And this is true because the real rebels are those exceeding their authority and decrying any notion of accountability to our nation’s Constitution, Bill of Rights, separation of powers, and system of checks and balances which were put in place precisely to combat such abuses of power as we routinely see tried and succeeding today.
Therefore, the proper application of Romans 13 and the whole counsel of God found in Scripture is precisely the opposite of what the likes of Stetzer, Moore, Carter, Wright, Keller, Warren, and French insisted.
Not only can Christians have a good testimony when correcting or rebuking governing authorities in America who reward those who do evil and punish those who do good – it is hard to imagine how American Christians in particular could have a good testimony any other way except by providing that oversight and impediment which de Tocqueville wrote so eloquently about nearly two centuries ago.
Yet just as he says in Democracy in America, “Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”
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