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Redeemed Sinner. Deep Roots. Southern Heart.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lawful Resistance To Tyranny

Here is a fantastic lecture we recently listened to on the subject of lawful resistance to tyranny. Pastor Morecraft speaks about the Biblical criteria for resisting tyranny and uses the historical example of John Knox.

When a civil government becomes tyrannical, it must be resisted.

Every time.

But not necessarily by taking up arms. There are basically two levels of tyranny. The first occurs when the tyrant begins to command you to do relatively minor things that are not in accordance with God's law. An example of this is certain taxes. Although property tax and inheritance tax are unbiblical and the magistrate is wrong to make you pay those taxes, you will not be in sin to obey those requirements, though you should strive to have them abolished. I think a good Biblical parallel would be in the book of Exodus when the Israelites become enslaved to the Egyptians. Notice that in the beginning (chapt. 1:10-11), when the Pharaoh originally enslaves them, even though he has no right to and is obviously a tyrant, the Israelites submit to him.

The second level of tyranny occurs when the leader begins to actively persecute the church, through killings and laws that prohibit worship. Think of the persecution of the early church or the persecution of the Reformers. As tyranny grows worse, more drastic measures are needed. Taking up arms should be the absolute last resort. If tyranny grows worse all peaceful means should be exhausted, through petitions to the magistrate and interposition. Moses is a good example of this, as he went to Pharoah multiple times with the petition, "let my people go". Moses also serves as the lesser civil magistrate who had authority over the people of Israel. The lesser civil magistrate plays a very important role in resistance to tyranny. Romans 13:1 says: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers: for there is no power but of God: and the powers that be are ordained of God.
We must always be under authority. It is obviously best if all the elected officials and the commander in chief are seeking to glorify God through their actions as they "take vengeance on him that doeth evil". But if the commander in chief falls into tyranny, we are to resist him under the control of the lesser civil magistrates.

Can we use armed resistance against tyranny without the authority of the lesser magistrates? No. I believe, because of the verse cited above, that any armed resistance not under the authority of the lesser magistrates leads to anarchy. A historical example of this is the French Revolution.

Now, we still have basic rights of self-defense (I Timothy 5:8) but we can not take up arms against a tyrant unless we have a lesser civil magistrate leading us.

That's why it's so important to elect Godly men to office.

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Blogger Son3 said...

I heartily agree.

I might add a third level of tyranny, when a tyrant bars you from excercising a lawful and God-given right.

Very good post!

October 9, 2008 at 5:57 PM  

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