Regarding your January 1 editorial, “Whither the P.R.C.?” I want to show my appreciation for the thoughts expressed, especially in a paragraph which I quote in part:
“The P.R.C. must not be blind to the internal threat of division and strife born of pride, fanned by wicked tongues, and justified by a zeal that ignores Christian liberty in the area of adiaphora, the demand of the gospel that strong and weaker brethren live together in peace, and the Apostle’s tribute to charity.”
A clearer and more concise commentary on Psalm 15 I have never read. Keep up the good work, Mr. Editor; may The Standard Bearer ever hoist such warning flags!
Grand Rapids, Michigan
With respect to the December 1, 1988 issue of theStandard Bearer, which throughout forbade Christians to resist governments, I have some questions based on history.
1. In 1944 during the Nazi occupation in Holland, the queen, Wilhelmina, being in England ordered all the railroad personnel to strike, with the idea of preventing Jews from being transported from Holland to the gas chambers in Germany. The Nazis forbade it. What action was a Christian railroader to take?
2. Were our Dutch forefathers correct in fighting King Philip II in the Dutch religious war, 1568-1648?
3. Was William III of Orange correct in liberating England from King James and thereby humanly speaking saving Protestantism?
4. Also, the Bible gives examples of resisting government:
a. the Judges against their oppressor-kings.
b. king Hezekiah against Assyria (II Kings 18:7), and with the blessing of the Lord.
The point I like to raise is: Are there not limits to this submission to government? It seems to me that the Lord has blessed the above-mentioned revolts: For sure, history would be quite different if people would meekly have submitted to such tyrants. Hopefully you can explain this to me.
Chilliwack, British Columbia
It is the clear teaching of the New Testament that the Christian is called to serve the Lord Jesus by an unconditional submission to the civil government. Rebellion, or resistance, is never permitted the believer, although there are certainly times when he may not obey specific laws.
Historical events must be judged in light of the Word of God; and not the other way around. If Romans 13:1-7condemns our Dutch forefathers’ struggle for liberty against tyrannical Spain and the persecuting Roman Catholic Church, which historian Motley has called the most glorious struggle for religious and political liberty in history, so be it. The same holds for the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Reformed Christian has his own view of history. Here as everywhere, the principle applies, “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Before these struggles are judged as rebellion, however, it would have to be established, first, that the tyrants were the legitimate authorities and, second, that the “resistance” was not in fact the lawful effort of “the lesser magistrates” to bring to heel, or depose, rulers who had overstepped their bounds. This makes interesting historical study.
As regards your reference to the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation during the second world war (a very volatile subject among the older Dutch Reformed people in the past), I have never understood the debate as centering on the question, whether believing citizens of a country may revolt against their legitimate rulers. Rather, the question was whether the Nazis were the legitimate government of Holland. If they were, Reformed Christians were wrong to resist, on the basis of Romans 13:1-7. In my judgment, there is good reason to believe that the German occupying force was nothing but an invader and a usurper, similar to a home-invader who might temporarily take over in a home by force, but whom the Reformed husband would overcome, or even kill, if need be, at the first opportunity. In this case, there was nothing wrong with resistance in compliance with the directives of Queen Wilhelmina.
Your references to Scripture underscore the point that there is distinction between a legitimate government (which may not be resisted) and a foreign power that temporarily subjects a weaker nation to itself (whose tyranny may be broken at the first opportunity). The nations that enslaved Israel during the time of the judges did not by that fact become Israel’s rightful lords. Nor was Assyria the “higher power” over Judah at the beginning of the reign of Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, had wickedly made Judah dependent upon, and subject to, the world-power of Assyria, trusting in that great nation for help rather than in the Lord (cf. II Kings 16:5ff.). Hezekiah’s “rebellion,” therefore, was a good, godly repudiation of the illicit might of Assyria. Besides, of course, Israel was the people of God, over whom no nation had any right to dominate, much less a right to oppress, so that, when God had finished chastising His people by means of the nations, it was right that the Lord raised up deliverers for Israel.
One thing more—even if men and nations sinfully resisted lawful authorities, God could, and did, bring wonderful benefits out of this for His church. God is able to bring about in history what He has planned for the blessing of His church through deeds of men that are contrary to His commands. But from the beneficial result of this or that uprising in a nation, no conclusion can be drawn as to the godliness of the uprising itself. The selling of Joseph into Egypt had wonderful results—the salvation of the Old Testament church; but the deed was a wicked one on the part of the brothers.