In Romans 13, the Bible instructs Christians to obey the government because God has placed it in power, but several experts and leaders, both historic and modern, have indicated that cannot be interpreted as an unqualified loyalty.

The issue arose after WND reported on a government program to train members of the clergy to be used to quell dissent in the case of a national emergency or disaster.

In the report, Durell Tuberville, chaplain of the Shreveport, La., Fire Department and the Caddo sheriff’s office, said the mission of such Clergy Response Teams would be to express the sentiment: “Let’s cooperate and get this thing over with and then we’ll settle the differences once the crisis is over.”

The Bible, he said, states “the government’s established by the Lord, you know. And, that’s what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what’s stated in the Scripture.”

Tony Perkins, chief of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said it’s certainly correct that Christians should obey the government, when the government is good.

But he said, “You have to realize the government has been undermining its very basis of support by trying to remove the Christian ethic, the Bible, the Ten Commandments from the public square.

“It is not unqualified obedience to the government,” he said.

Perkins told WND he’s familiar with emergency situations, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – he was there working with church organizations to provide help to victims while various government agencies still were wondering what happened.

“I was there during Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “People are going to obey the government to the degree that the government is there to help.”

“But you’re going to see, as I saw, people disobeying the government when they were told they could not go into the city to help rescue people,” he said.

An earlier report by reporter Jeff Ferrell of KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La., said the Clergy Response Teams already were operating then.

The station’s video is available on a link on its website, and also available on YouTube. It speculated whether martial law ever could become reality in the United States, following a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

“KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us,” the report said.

Sandy Davis, director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness said members of the “clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they’re helping to diffuse that situation.”

So government orders to abandon homes, turn over guns, leave livestock behind, or whatever would come to the minds of various officials during an “emergency,” would be easier for people to accept, the report indicated.

While the report said clergy could cite Romans 13 in encouragement for Christians to obey the government, civil rights advocates raised questions about the idea of using clergy in such a fashion, noting the balance clergy would have to maintain when asked to do what the government wants under color of their status as a religious leader.

A blogger for the Christian education site, Chalcedon noted that the training has been going on in secret for over a year already.

“The clergy are being advised to use Romans 13 to encourage parishioners to submit to the sudden and massive expansion of government control that takes place during martial law,” the writer said.

WND already has documented a series of executive orders by the president, that so far give the government broad new powers to address private property if it’s related to any one of several issues, all of which are foreign so far.

Perkins’ perspective, however, is supported by leaders from America’s history.

A sermon by Jonathan Mayhew, from more than 250 years ago, sets out the same perspective.

His sermon has the unwieldy title: “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers.” The work by the Harvard graduate and lifelong Congregationalist minister first was published in Boston in 1750.

The Scripture, he said, “urges the duty of obedience from this topic of argument, that civil rulers, as they are supposed to fulfill the pleasure of God, are the ordinance of God. But how is this an argument for obedience to such rulers as do not perform the pleasure of God, by doing good; but the pleasure of the devil, by doing evil; and such as are not, therefore, God’s ministers, but the devil’s!”

“Is resisting those who resist God’s will, the same thing with resisting God?” he asks.

“‘Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.’ Here the apostle argues the duty of a cheerful and conscientious submission to civil government, from the nature and end of magistracy as he had before laid it down, i.e. as the design of it was to punish evildoers, and to support and encourage such as do well; and as it must, if so exercised, be agreeable to the will of God. But how does what he here says, prove the duty of a cheerful and conscientious subjection to those who forfeit the character of rulers?” he wrote.

“Thus, upon a careful review of the apostle’s reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e., such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not [e]ntitled to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of any thing here laid down by the inspired apostle,” he wrote.

“All civil rulers, as such, are the ordinance and ministers of God; and they are all, by the nature of their office, and in their respective spheres and stations, bound to consult the public welfare,” he said.

He even went further.

“We may very safely assert these two things in general, without undermining government: One is, That no civil rulers are to be obeyed when they enjoin things that are inconsistent with the commands of God: All such disobedience is lawful and glorious; particularly, if persons refuse to comply with any legal establishment of religion, because it is a gross perversion and corruption (as to doctrine, worship and discipline) of a pure and divine religion, brought from heaven to earth by the Son of God, (the only King and Head of the Christian church) and propagated through the world by his inspired apostles,” he said.

“All commands running counter to the declared will of the supreme legislator of heaven and earth, are null and void: And therefore disobedience to them is a duty, not a crime,” he said.

Mayhew’s comments were directed not at the U.S. government, which hadn’t yet been formed, but the tyranny of King Charles of England, who had been beheaded after what Mayhew described as “illegal and despotic measures.”

Columnist Chuck Baldwin wrote unbelievingly that, “in order to convince American citizens to surrender their firearms to the government during a time of martial law, DHS is enlisting the assistance of America’s pastors. According to the DHS, my job as a church pastor, is to tell my congregation that, according to Romans 13, they must surrender their firearms when the government asks them to do so.”

“Let me address the issue bluntly: According to Romans 13, every citizen is only bound to obey his or her governing official to the degree that the governing official does not violate the duty of the citizen to obey the ‘higher powers’ which, for Americans, are God and the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

“Properly understood, Romans 13 teaches that each and every government official (including the President of the United States and all those under him) must submit to the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

“Don’t tell me that the Bible teaches pacifism, because it doesn’t. I am a Christian, and I am a pastor. And I agree with Charlton Heston who said that they could have his guns ‘over my cold, dead hands.'”

Pastor David R. Wills, of Miamisburg, Ohio, was concise in his assessment of the text for WND.

“God commands our obedience not to ungodly, despotic rulers, whose ‘authority’, according to God’s Word, is illegitimate and unlawful by virtue of such persons’ rebellion against GOD’s Authority – from which all lawful authority must derive and be answerable to,” he said.

“Mayhew’s eloquent sermon brings out these very same points and issues. In fact, his sermon was singularly enlightening to my mind, in my early Christian life, regarding the questions herein addressed,” Wills continued.

“Mayhew demonstrates that God ordained not this or that particular ruler (as many would have it), but God ordained the institution of civil government, for the stated purposes. God vested his authority not in this or that man (Stalin, Hitler, Ghengis Khan, Pol Pot, etc.) to rule over those for whom Christ died. Rather, God vested his authority, through his Word, in the principle, the ideal of civil government. Notwithstanding it has sometimes been the case that God has used wicked rulers to inflict punishments upon a rebellious people; nevertheless, even in such cases, the Word of God does not impose upon the godly (those who know and obey the Word of God) the duty to submit to and obey evil persons and/or their institutions of government, whatsoever they may be,” he said.

Perkins noted the U.S. Congress and the government courts repeatedly have worked to eliminate the Bible, the Ten Commandments and prayer from any part of the formal proceedings of the government.

Further removing the government from the “good” side, he said, is the support from Congress for “hate crimes” legislation, which many Christian pastors fear eventually could be used to silence their exhortation of biblical condemnation of behaviors such as homosexuality.

“The government increasingly is pushing legislation such as ‘hate crimes’ which pastors see as targeting them. They’re (the government) weakening that base of support among Christians.”

“Romans 13 addresses a government as an authority of good, not evil,” he said. “I saw this when I was coordinating relief efforts among churches, when the federal government came in and confiscated truckloads of supplies we had coming in.”

“Romans chapter 13 by no means instructs – much less does it command – Christians to render unqualified submission to the dictates of secular government,” a pastor wrote to WND. “I do perceive a real danger not only in the case at hand but, in a much wider sense, in the fact that contemporary societies, including the majority of churchgoers (I’m quite sure), are practically ignorant concerning the Bible’s teaching regarding both the duties and the limitations imposed upon individuals, by God’s Word, with respect to obedience – or resistance, as the case may be, to secular government.”

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