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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Calvinism's historical inconsistency with Romans 13:1-2

Calvinism’s inconsistency with Romans 13:1-2

In modern times, it is not uncommon to hear a Calvinist bring up Romans 13:1-2 when it comes to the issue of “civil disobedience”. They seem to support government oppression over the rights of the poor and downtrotten. Normally they will say that “civil disobedience” is only in regards to personal evangelism. But lets look at their history to see if this was always true.

Romans 13:1-2
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

In the book Christianity’s dangerous idea, Dr. Mcgrath mentions one of the threats to King James the 1st’s Kingdom.

“”Jame’s Scotish experience had created something of an aversion on his part to
the more austere forms of Presbyterian church culture and convinced him that,
just as Geneva was a republic, so Calvin’s followers were covert
His views on this matter were shaped to no small extent by some
unpleasant experiences with Scottish prespyteries, Particularly under Andrew
Melville, a Scotish Presbyterian who had taught at the Calvin’s protégé Theodore

At a heated encounter between the King and senior churchmen at
Falkland Palace in October 1596, Melville had physically taken hold of James and
accused him of being “God’s silly vassal.”
Melville pointedly declared that
while he and his colleagues would support James as King in public, in private
they all knew perfectly well that Christ was the true King in Scotland, and his
Kingdom was the Kirk-a Kingdom in which James was a mere member, not a Lord or
head. James was shaken by this physical and verbal assault, not least because it
suggested that Melville and his allies posed a significant threat to the
Scottish throne.
Apologists for the Anglican establishment were to spot their
opportunity. Richard Bancroft and others set out to persuade James that his
monarchy was dependant upon the episcopacy for its future. The ultimate goal of
Puritanism, they argued, was to overthrow the monarchy altogether.
Without the
bishops of the Church of England, there was no future for the monarchy in
England. The King’s real enemies, the “Papists” and the “Puritans,” had a vested
interest in destroying his authority. Only a close working alliance with the
bishops would preserve the status quo and allow James to exercise his (as he saw
it) divinely ordained kingly role in state and church. It was a telling
argument, and it hit home.

In the end, James I developed his own policy
that managed to contain Puritanism’s agendas without leading to any major
alterations to the practices or beliefs of the established church.

Puritans were offered scraps of consolation and promises of future change that
either never materialized or amounted to surprising little. James promised a new
English translation of the Bible, which some Puritans may unwisely have hoped
would strengthen their position; when the famous “King James Version” was
published in 1611, it turned out to use the traditional language favored by
Anglicans rather than the more radical terms preferred by Puritans.””[1]

Pages 124 & 125 by Alister Mcgrath from the book “Christianity’s Dangerous idea: The Protestant revolution-a history from the sixteenth Century to the twenty-first”. Copyright 2007, Published by HarperOne. [1], [2], and [3]

Later in the book he talks about the root of the problem. He points the finger at John Calvin himself when he says on page 134-135

“The theory of the divine right of kingd neatly locked church and king together
in the robust circle of mutual support and reinforcement, in effect making the
established church impervious to significant parliamentary criticism. Yet the
most significant criticism of James’s doctrine was theological. The theological
foundation for the doctrine of “monarchomachy”- the idea that severe
restrictions were to be placed upon the rights of Kings, so that the people had
both a right and a duty to resist tyrannical monarchs-was laid in France in
response to the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. Some years earlier,
John Calvin-perhaps beginning to recognize the practical and political
importance of the question –had conceded that rulers might exceed the bounds of
their authority by setting themselves against God; when they did so, he
suggested, they abrogated their own power.
These ideas were developed and
extended by abrogated their own power. These ideas were developed and extended
by his French followers in the aftermath of the events of 1572. Francois Hotman,
Theodore Beza, and Philippe Duplessissisted. The Primary Christian duty to obey
God is to be placed above any secondary obligation to obey a human ruler.
Puritan writers thus deconstructed the notion of the divine right of Kings with
theological ease and personal glee, pointing out its lack of biblical warrant.
For them, the King’s excesses highlighted the virtues of the republicanism of
Calvin’s Geneva.
These virtues were emphasized by one of the most important
English translations of the Bible-the so-called Geneva Bible, produced by
English exiles at Geneva during the reign of Mary Tudor and published in 1560.
It was probably the finest translation of its age. Yet its growing popularity in
the reign of James I rested largely on an additional feature of this
translation-its marginal notes.”[2]

The Next King of England would be killed by the Puritans. Calvinists were able to formulate a new theological doctrine that allowed them to kill governmental leaders. As seen by Mcgrath on page 140 of his book.

“The answer was suggested by a new doctrine that had arisen within Reformed
Protestantism after the death of Calvin. Though he had advocated lawful
resistance to tyrants
, Calvin had not endorsed the justifiable regicide-that is,
the killing of oppressive monarchs. Calvin’s death in 1564 removed the last
remaining obstacle to this new doctrine, which became increasingly significant
in the late 1560’s. In his short treatise of Politike power(1556), John Ponet
(1514-56) asserted that the people had the right to revolt against their
oppressors-including “Kings, Princes and other gouvernors”-and to destroy them
before they destroyed the people.
Christopher Goodman (1520-1603) took a similar
line in his How superior powers ought to be obeyed(1558). Just as a surgeon might
amputate a limb to save the whole body, so society ought to be able to eliminate
oppressors through the death sentence.
On January I, 1649, Charles I was charged
by Parliament with being a “tyrant, traitor, and murderer.” The use of these
three words in the charge ensured that both a legal and theological foundation
were laid for the anticipated death sentence.”[3]

We can also see this trend with the American Revolution when we revolted against King George. And about a hundred and so years later we see it a third time with the Puritan missionaries in Hawaii. Hawaii at one time had its own monarchy and the puritans destroyed the Hawaiian Kingdom.

So the next time you are defending the rights of the poor and downtrotten and a Calvinist quotes Romans 13:1-2 to stop you……just tell them about their own history and inconsistency. No, they only quote that verse when it comes to “governments” they started. They want you to obey their system of government…..dispite its abuses.



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