Who’s not reading carefully now? I spent some time distinguishing between “obedience” and “subjection” and showing that Calvin made the same distinction. Now Mark suggests that I falsely insert “obey” in place of “subjection” into the biblical text. As Mark insists on changing the text, I would appreciate it if he would not accuse me of doing so.
It seems more likely that Mark and Seidel went to the same school because both of them insist on substituting the word “obey” for “subjection.” As applied to the American situation, Romans 13 says that English subjects – which the “patriots” claimed to be as late as after Bunker Hill – must be subject [hupotasso] to King George. In Titus 3:1, Paul instructs believers to be obedient [peitharcheo] as well as subject. Being in subjection is also a matter of conscience (Rom. 13:5) – is that not what the verse says? I do not agree with Seidel on much, but he apparently knows how to read and assumes that an author means what he says.
Mark’s position is not one of exegesis, but of eisegesis. His position reads 16th-century circumstances and preferences into the biblical text. Mark complains about how I read the text of his book if he doesn’t think I do so accurately. Doesn’t Paul deserve the same treatment – especially since Mark and I agree that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit? Why can Paul’s text rightly be massaged and manipulated and its meaning changed by events 1500 years after it was written? What about the many clear and direct passages from Calvin that Mark has not explained? Why should we take Mark’s words literally and seriously, but not afford the same to Paul’s and Calvin’s words?
Mark thinks I unfairly treated his text, but he ascribes talk of armed rebellion to Calvin, who never used that language. He ascribes exceptions for “lesser magistrates” to Calvin, who never used those terms. Mark says that I unfairly draw conclusions about his text because he states a counterclaim at one point. But when Calvin many times explicitly condemns resistance to rulers and commands subjection and (with one exception) obedience to them, Mark ignores those statements in favor of his preferred conclusion drawn from other peoples’ comments on Calvin or by inserting words into Calvin’s text or substituting words that Calvin did not use.
Mark says “almost every Reformed writer … disagreed” with Seidel’s adaptation of Romans 13. Since George did not require anyone to disobey God, Calvin did not disagree with Seidel’s statement. Neither did Martin Luther.
“Here is what the law says, ‘No one shall fight or make war against his overlord; for a man owes his overlord obedience, honor, and fear’ (Romans 13 [1-7]). … That is the law in a nutshell. God himself has instituted it and men have accepted it, for it is not possible both to obey and resist, to be subject and not put up with their lords.”
“subjects are to be obedient and are even to suffer wrong from their tyrants. … (I)f the subjects rise up and rebel … then it is right and proper to fight against them. That, too, is what a prince should do to his nobles and an emperor to his princes if they are rebellious and start a war.”
As for “lesser magistrates”: “Compared to his overlord the emperor, a prince is not a prince, but an individual who owes obedience to the emperor, as do all others, each for himself. ... So the emperor, too, when compared with God, is not an emperor, but an individual person like all others; compared with his subjects, however, he is as many times emperor as he has people under him. The same can be said of all other rulers. When compared to their overlord, they are not rulers at all and are stripped of all authority. When compared with their subjects, they are adorned with all authority.”
Luther emphasizes the biblical principle that God may remove a ruler, but that role is not given to us: “Thus, in the end, all authority comes from God, whose alone it is; for he is emperor, prince, count, noble, judge, and all else, and he assigns these offices to his subjects as he wills, and takes them back again for himself” [emphasis mine].