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Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Bladestunner316, Oct 22, 2004.
How should a christian handle the removal of tyrants?
Should we remove them? I have been thinking about this and it depends on so many different things that the question needs to be a bit more detailed.
Thats what i want to know do christiands have the power in scripture to justly remove a tyrant whether within or without their own goverment.
Lets look at overthrowing a government from within. In the light of Romans 13 we shouldn´t really create a revolution or anything of the sort to overthrow a government. I would however say that if others were fighting the government in a widespread civil war type scenario and one had to choose between the 'government' or the populace then you could argue the rebels have then been given the authority to lead in an odd type of way and you can legitimately support them. I guess what I am saying is we should avoid any situation where the label "Christian Rebels" can be placed on us etc... that does not mean we should not stand up for what we believe in but all we must look at are the examples in history. Silent resistance seems to be used by Christians throughout history as a form of bringing change. Respect the authorities even if you disagree with them. Plus remember if you are rebelling over economic change... etc... no matter how much you agree with it it is still only a worldly opinion and hardly worthy of dieing a martyr for. (my worldly opinion so the two do rule themselves out ) I suppose a good example is you never see the apostles fighting for the overthrow of the tyrannical Roman Empire "“ they respected their leaders.
Now for tyrants that rule outside of your society"¦ a government is given the responsibility of looking after its people. What right does one nation have to go over to another nation and force its worldly style of government upon them? Are not the leaders of this other nation also legitimate in Gods eyes (Romans 13) "“ Again it is not nearly as simple as this. I would not have a problem with the invasion of such a country if it was in the state of civil war and a nation was merely going in to a) protect its interests, b) support like minded individuals who are being persecuted and who have appealed for help (although this excuse should be used sparingly)
I guess when it comes to one nation overthrowing another the excuse should not be "œwe believe tyranny is wrong so we are going to overthrow you even though you have God given authority" "“ the excuse should rather be "“ we are hear to protect our persecuted brothers etc"¦
In conclusion "“ I don´t know
I think Paul's behavior under Nero (a tyrant by any standard) is instructive. We could also look at the Fathers like Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Origen to see what they did under tyrants who killed Christians.
If you know a specific work fred that would be helpful.
so how would the christian view change from how God used Israel a nation to how God uses christians today? Should we be turning over idols and hanging evil men from tree's?
Then God would give clear guidance on what to do - and then that applies to governments not individuals. People like Gideon were not really revolutionaries in my view, more protestors as Gideon cut down the poll etc... but he didnt go around beating everyone up. He also fought the occupier which is a bit different from fighting tyrants. Last I heard being a non-democractic leader was no a sin.
I recommend reading Junius Brutus' "A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants."
Anyone who providentially wields power is not a "power" in the Pauline sense of the word. Notice Paul's definition in Romans 13:3-4 "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil...For he is the minister of God to thee for good." Tyrants are not a terror to evil but to good and are not a minister for good but evil therefore tyrants are not a power but a "licentious deviation of a power" (Rutherford). I have no problem resisting tyrants. Just look at the behavior of the Scots and Puritans under Charles I and the Covenanters under Charles II and James II.
Peter is correct. The best historical examples of lawful resistance to tyranny are to be found amongst the Scottish Covenanters and French Huguenots, among other groups, who laid down their lives for Biblical principles. Their writings reflect the most well-developed, Reformed understanding of the principle of interposition against tyrants by lesser civil magistrates (as opposed to Anabaptistic anarchy). I refer to the writings specifically of John Calvin, Junius Brutus, Theodore Beza, John Knox, Christopher Goodman, Andrew Melville, Samuel Rutherford, Alexander Shields, and others in that vein.
A tryant is an usurper, a wolf preying upon the people who has forfeited his lawful authority as a minister of God. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God."
While I would like to agree, I can't help but wonder why from Paul down through the Church Fathers (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc.) we don't have any examples of Christians resisting tyrants. And this in a state where even by the definitions of the pagan state (Rome) there were horrible tyrants - men who murdered the ruler to put themselves in power, started civil wars, conspired with enemies of the state to get into power etc.
If Christians did not resist Nero, Caligula, et al., and indeed used the apologetic that Christians were the best of citizens apart from worshipping Caesar's genius (read Justin Martyr on this), how can we say that resisting an economic tyrant is justified??
I'm not an expert on the early Church Fathers, but I believe the Reformed view of resistance to tyranny as articulated by Calvin in the Institutes and elsewhere was not a new thing, although the Reformers, Huguenots and Covenanters said it best.
For example, Augustine said this: "Consider these several grades of human powers. If the magistrate enjoin anything, must it not be done ? Yet if his order be in opposition to the proconsul, thou dost not surely despise the power, but choosest to obey a greater power. Again, if the proconsul himself enjoin anything, and the emperor another thing, is there any doubt, that disregarding the former, we ought to obey the latter? So then if the emperor enjoin one thing, and God another, what judge ye? Pay me tribute, submit thyself . . right, but not in an idol's temple. In an idol's temple He forbids it. Who forbids it? A greater power. Pardon me then: thou threateneth a prison, He threateneth hell." (Sermo 62, B.)
Augustine here expresses the same concept of interposition of lesser civil magistrates against greater tyrants that Calvin and others argue for in Reformation-era political resistance.
I think, like many other doctrines that were not fully articulated for centuries after the early Church era, this doctrine of resistance was best expressed in the Reformation. In the era of Paul and the early Christian martyrs, Roman Emperors had absolute power and lesser civil magistrates were not Christian. Since it is not lawful for invidual Christians to take up the sword against a tyrant, they did what they had to do -- they laid down their lives and, thusly, the blood of the marytrs became the seed of the Church. Many Scottish Covenanters and French Huguenots ended up doing the same thing, although if there was a lesser Christian civil magistrate to stand up for them, they had grounds to fight the tyrants who were persecuting them. The situation in the Roman Empire was different than the situation during and after the Reformation in Europe and the American colonies. I think we can take our best examples and writings on the subject from the Reformers and their conceptual heirs, but they were certainly building on Scriptural and Augustinian principles when they articulated and practiced lawful resistance to tyrants.
I second much of what Peter and Huguenot have said. The best I can do is summarize a historian/theologian that I have been listening to today. It is true that these doctrines were not in full bloom in the early days, but they are not antithetical to the Bible and are essential to a godly social order. We can say that they came into a fuller expression during the protestant Reformation.
Again, I second the removal of tyrants led by a lesser civil magistrate. However, this can only be done when the church repents of her "churchianity" and returns to a more robust faith. When that happens God will start bringing down the tyrants. It is then that we respond with all our hearts, sic, semper, tyrannus!