Romans 13 and the contradiction of the Christian statist


Every so often, I bring up the topic of religion.  This is because I like to target Christians with some of my messages because the ideas should appeal to beliefs that they already have.  I should know—I’m a practicing Catholic.  To continue with this goal, I’d like to share a nice piece I recently came across by Letter of Liberty describing how anarcho-capitalism is perfectly compatible with Christianity.

The article defends the peace and liberty movement against some commonly held objections, specifically ones that appear to run counter to Christian teachings.  These objections are made by Christian statists and even some libertarians who engage in a strange, almost fratricidal criticism of Christian libertarians.

There is one part in particular that I’d like to add an addendum to—the last portion of the article provides a lengthy and detailed rebuttal to the Romans 13 critique.  Romans 13:1-7 reads:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Authorities are appointed by God according to Paul.  Many people immediately interpret this as the government.  Does it make sense that Paul (or Jesus) would tell us to follow whatever directives are set forth by the government?  Does authority from God rest on a government that holds that slavery is legal or commits genocides against certain ethnic groups?  Or for a more relevant example, does a government that takes money from me to pay for abortions act in accordance with God?  Does God authorize a government to sponsor abortion programs?

The answer to all of those questions is of course no.  Most Christians rightfully believe that they have a duty to disobey any government laws that interfere with their ability to practice the laws of God.  In other words, civil disobedience is sometimes a worthwhile action to engage in.

This creates a contradiction for the Christian statist.  If the government has God-given authority, then why do some of the laws of government not need to be followed?

Unless there is some government that I’m unaware of that acts perfectly in step with the teachings of God, it cannot be that government itself has any authority, but that certain rules that a given government happens to enforce hold the proper authority.  I would argue that if you take this idea to its logical conclusion, you would arrive at libertarianism.

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Anand Venigalla

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