Sunday, July 12, 2009

Frazer, Romans 13, and the Divine Right of Kings

This is my first post as a contributor on American Creation and I would like to thank everyone for the invitation. I figured I would begin by finishing what I started in a dialogue in the comments section with Dr. Frazer. I understand that he has some pressing personal issues and is beginning to think that this discussion is a waste of time for him. Nonetheless, he did give me the nod to finish answering the 7 questions if I thought others might benefit from it and I decide to do it.
This is for two reasons. The first is that I think they were good questions and pointed out some weaknesses in some of my arguments. I love when this happens because it allows me to see where I am wrong so I can either drop or strengthen my arguments. It is the way I learn best. I wrote a whole book on Church History based on one simple question a friend asked me. The second reason is that I abhor the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings" and am proud to live in a country that's first founding document spends the first few paragraphs debunking its claims. History was changed at American Creation.

So with that said, here is the first response to his questions that I posted on my blog a few weeks ago:

About three weeks ago I wrote a long post on the subject of Romans 13 as a response to Dr. Greg Frazer's comments that he left on the blog "American Creation" titled "Response to Gregg Frazer on Romans 13". It was linked to a post on that site and a good dialogue ensued between him, Tom Van Dyke, Jon Rowe, and I. I think it has generated three posts and over 200 comments up to date. For anyone who would be interested, the title of the first post is "Frazer Responds to King of Ireland Again" and the second is "Frazer KOI Dialogue Continues". One is from May 2009 and the other is from June, 2009. The original post where Frazer responded to my comments is from May 2009 as well. The address is

With all that stated, my next posts will be dedicated to answering some very good questions that Dr. Frazer has asked me to address to support my contention that a reasoned interpretation of Romans 13 leaves room for the right of "revolution" under certain circumstances. More specifically, I contend that the American "Revolution" was not in conflict with my interpretation of the Bible. Though I do object to the term revolution and prefer to look at it as a "liberation". But I digress.

To summarize briefly, I replied to Jon Rowe's use of Dr. Frazer's interpretation of Romans 13 with the example of Moses liberating Israel from the control of Egypt. He responded with several comments and questions that I replied to in my last post. This spurred a back and forth that resulted in the two posts on "American Creation" cited above. In that exchange, many ideas were addressed and bantered about.

Unfortunately, I think we all lost track of what we were talking about and became overwhelmed with sheer volume of complex issues associated with these debates.
After realizing that Dr. Frazer was accurate in his assessment that we were beginning to just talk past each other, I agreed to have him ask me 7 questions and I would respond. Hopefully this will create a good frame for enlightened discussion about Romans 13 and the role of its interpretation in the American Revolution.

My response will be constructed in many separate posts. This will allow me to address each question thoroughly and separately. After these various responses I will post on some ideas that will hopefully crystallize the argument I started from Romans 12 about overcoming evil with good in the last post. Nonetheless, out of sincere respect for the amount of time that Dr. Frazer has dedicated to responding to my thoughts I want to use these posts to respond in kind before I continue outlining my own thoughts. I hope these posts answer his questions even if we disagree.

My response to his first question will be separated into two posts. One will be philosophical and the other biblical. The following is part 1 of my response to the first question he asked me:

Dr. Frazer stated:

"You are upset that my view of Romans 13 seems to favor those with the "bigger guns" and you question the legitimacy of regimes founded or maintained thusly. The United States and the current governments of Japan and Germany were established as a result of wars--established by those with "bigger guns." The U.S. expanded itself by wiping out Indian tribes and taking over the land on which they lived. Do you question the legitimacy of these governments? If not, why is my position unreasonable in this regard?"

My response is:

First of all I am not upset about anything. I am simply, not convinced by your interpretation and the manner in which you use it to support your overall thesis. This is in large degree based on the lack of application with your theory. I asked you several hypothetical questions in an attempt to allow you to mesh the two and you responded to a few. I am still not convinced. I guess I can best answer this by restating the original question and then giving my take.

I went back and looked at the dialogue from Jon's post labeled "Frazer Responds to King of Ireland Again" and it seems my original question was: What is "legitimate authority." You responded that all authority is legitimate. This was in the context whether a tribal leader who was conquered by Montezuma and his people should submit to him and fight against the invaders or submit to Montezuma and go against his own people. You called the tribal leader a "lower magistrate". I call him someone who got conquered against his will by some bully with bigger guns. Both parties are authorities. Which one should be submitted to was my question?

I would say it is impossible to submit to both in that the orders conflict. So by definition "all" authority is not legitimate. This same verse was quoted to me by a missions leader that wanted to sit home in comfort while I did all the hard work. We had a new "elder" at the church who was a jerk and he was telling me that I had to submit to him because all authority is from God and in His sovereign will God brought me to that church. He threatened to bring me home because I questioned the sanity of this man and eventually did when I refused to endorse this idiot.

I asked him what kept me from calling myself the authority and telling them that I was part of the "all" which meant that they had to obey me based on the fact that I was DOING what they liked to talk about. I am not sure he ever got the point. It all comes down to who we can believe is really a legitimate authority. The "elder" turned out to be such a moron that most of the church left over him being placed in a position of authority. Was he a legitimate authority just because some "apostle" who turned out to be a cult leader told all of us we had to recognize him as such? What does "all" mean in regards to authority?

As far as the verses from Romans 13 in question, I think the "all" is qualified by the phrase "ordained by God". Can we just change the words "legitimate authority" to "ordained authority" for the sake of this discussion? If so, ordained seems to mean appointed in the original Greek. The "appointed authority" would be a simpler way of putting it.

So let's ask the question again in these terms: Who is the "appointed authority" in the case of the poor Aztec that would want to obey God and submit to God's "appointed authority"? Is it Montezuma the conqueror or the poor tribal leader? One tells him to submit to the great King and the other tells him to resist and be loyal to his tribe. Who does he submit to? Who is the "appointed authority"?

Personally, I would take your advice(in one comment) about what to do when there are two kings who claim authority. I would pray, meditate on the Bible, and try to reason an understanding of what God wanted me to do.(Your words) But if I was the Aztec I would have to apply "right" reason based on nature and conscience(Romans 2)since I would not have a Bible and if I did I would not be able to read it.

What would nature and conscience tell him about authority? I think Locke has it right and he should only consent if it secures him the greatest amount of liberty. Since this never happened under Montezuma he would be best served to fight off the invader and fight along with his tribe to be free from oppression. Just because Montezuma claims authority does not mean this is "appointed authority". Or does it?

Accordingly, I think we both can see that not all who claim authority are appointed by God. I would hope you would concede this point. I would also add that part of "right" reason, in my mind, would include giving legitimacy to "claimed" authority that actually had the consent of the governed as I alluded to above.

Despite what you say, these are not rare and isolated incidents. Many nations of people claim their own sovereignty but are not recognized because they do not have enough power to make it happen. Many of these peoples are Christians(Karen people of Thailand among others). Who gets to say which borders on a map should be recognized? Is it always so crystal clear as you make it seem according to your interpretation of Romans 13?

Anyway, my advice to the Navajo would stand unless I became convinced that somehow the conquering tribe had been sent by God and was appointed to conquer as part of judgement against that people. This would be His way of purging evil and in alignment with Romans 13 and consistent with the rest of scripture.

My issue with you is that it seems to me that you assume judgement due to the some perceived evil of the conquered people. Thus, my contention that your theory seems to imply that whoever wins a battle over sovereignty(bigger guns) is by default the "appointed authority". I think this is what you are talking about when you allude to these governments being "established."

Taken to its logical conclusion it would seem to equally state: The loser of the battle for sovereignty(war) is assumed to have offended God and should be deemed evil and worthy of the "judgement" of being conquered. You even seem to admit this, to at least some degree, when you state(in a comment) that this is usually the norm in the Establishment of governments.

This brings us to a natural bridge to the meat of your question about the sovereignty of the United States, Japan, Germany, and Native Americans and the fact that "bigger guns" decided who was able to enforce their view of sovereignty. Since I would like to keep this post as short as possible and still respond to your questions in a thorough manner I will just respond in regards to the Native Americans.

This will also tie in well with my whole Aztec, Cortes, and human rights scenario that we went back and forth on in the comments section at American Creation that I have briefly mentioned here. To sway away from theory and drift toward ideas in practice I would like narrow it down further to the Navajos because I have actually worked among them.

Actually, I do question the legitimacy of the United States government to rule over a group that never has consented to that rule. They were a sovereign nation of people invaded by another sovereign nation. To this day a real Navajo only grudgingly gives an ascent to what our government tells them to do. They have a Tibetan type of autonomy but what does that really mean? It is certainly not sovereignty in their own affairs. Their story is a story that has been repeated throughout history: A people of a different language, culture, and traditions invades a sovereign people and uses the persistent threat of force to maintain control.

Unless, we assume that it is God's judgement that the United States of America conquered and ruled over the Navajo simply because we had "bigger guns" I would like have their consent before I would tell them to submit to the "appointed authority" of the United States government. Some might say that the treaties they were beaten into signing provide this consent but I would counter that treaties signed at gun point are dubious at best.

Nonetheless, I turn the question back to you. You assert that the fact that these AUTHORITIES EMERGED PROVES THEIR LEGITIMACY; that they are "appointed authority." Based on what? Why would you assume it is God's will for the United States to use "bigger guns" to rape a people of their culture and amputate their spirit? If so why would God do that? Was it judgement? How would you know? If it is not judgement then how is this legitimate?

I think it gets down to your disdain for the "pagan" Navajo that has no interest in God and thus is deserving of judgement based on Romans 3 right? This is a huge leap in my view. Thinking like this led to the mass murder of millions of Native Americans. It is the spirit of Cortes at it's worst. But back to that discussion at a later date.....

So who does the Navajo submit to: the tribal leader or the President of the conquerors? Why? You stated the the Aztecs were not under the authority of Cortes right? Then why would the Navajos be under the authority of the United States government upon invasion then let alone hundreds of years later now? Does consent play any part in these decisions?

I would say yes and question whether the United States government is the "appointed authority" sent by God to rule over the Navajos. Though I do think that God has used this injustice for some good the same way he used Joseph's brothers, I do not think it makes it right nor His will. Just because something happens does not mean God intended it to be that way. I would probably agree with Mayhew and call it a work of the devil.

Well that is the first part of my response to your first question. I had to split this up into two posts because it was getting far to long. The second post will deal with the same question from a biblical point of view ending with something interesting I found in 1 Peter 3 that you quoted to me.

So there it is. Does one have to believe in the "Divine Right of Kings" to be a Christian 200 years ago? Were our Founders a bunch of rebels according to the Bible or is there evidence that a case for natural rights(or human rights) can be found in the Bible? Or are these concepts exclusive intellectual domain of secular humanist Enlightenment thinkers that were borrowed by the "Rational" Christians who misused the Bible in an attempt the Christianize their cause?Please chime in.

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