What Is Law?: A Case for Christian Civil Disobedience

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By Heather Walton

We need to follow the law! We shouldn’t disobey the authorities! How can you call yourself a Christian, yet choose not to follow the law?

I don’t disagree with these statements, but I think that often they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the nature of law.

According to William Blackstone, who authored Commentaries on the Laws of England, an inspiration for American philosophy, explained the differences in Natural Law, Revealed Law, and Municipal Law: Natural Law is that which is apparent to everyone, everywhere, for all times, according to conscience. Revealed Law is uniquely available in the Scriptures. Municipal or civil law is man-made and enforced by government.

“Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator … it is necessary that he should, in all points, conform to his Maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature … This law of nature, dictated by God himself, is … superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.”

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of england: Book the first.

Simply put, if civil law contradicts natural or revealed law, it is not a valid law and we are not bound to follow it. Blackstone posited that there were three absolute rights: life, liberty, and property. Our founding fathers used this phrase, yet altered the last to be the “pursuit of happiness.”

Likewise, John Locke, believed civil laws were not to contradict God’s laws:

“Human laws are measures in respect of men whose actions they must direct, howbeit such measures they are as have also their higher rules to be measured by, which rules are two — the laws of God and the laws of Nature; so that laws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.”

John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government (An essay concerning the True Extent and End of Civil Government), XI: 136, FN2; quoting Richard Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, 1, iii, 9, cf. Locke, Second Treatise, II: 6: XI: 142.

We have laws today that go against God’s laws. For example, allowances for abortion and infanticide, as well as laws allowing for polygamy and same-sex marriage violate both natural and revealed law, and therefore are unjust laws. Christians are justified in not following these laws. If a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple or a minister declines to officiate their wedding, they are justified before God. If a medical professional goes against state law and performs heroic measures on a baby not considered fit to live, or if a bank refuses to open an account for an abortion clinic, they are justified. If a country mandates that families have only one baby, and a couple hides a subsequent pregnancy, they are justified. Many, though not all, Christians would see these as obvious conclusions; however, there are mandates, emergency orders, and laws that do not seem so clear to Christ-followers.

Consider the case of churches being told to shut down or to limit services or sacraments, or not to sing, in order to preserve the public health, even though these practices are mandated in Scripture. What about restaurants and other businesses that are told they must shut down or greatly limit capacity, yet Scripture tells us that if we are to provide for our families? What about the fact that Scripture tells us to avoid favoritism, yet rulers are favoring big businesses and certain industries while disfavoring small businesses and comparable industries? How about the requirements to wear a mask or, eventually, to take a vaccine, for the good of the populace? These issues have sharply divided the country, including the church.

If the German Christians would have discerned the path that Hitler was taking them down. I certainly hope they would have resisted, that they would have engaged in civil disobedience.

We may not be dealing with things that seem so serious as they did when Naziism gained power, but we need to examine whether seemingly innocuous measures could give way to tyranny, totalitarianism, and full-scale depravity. One thing Hitler did was to get control of the press in order to restrict information and direct the narrative. He also controlled education, which is imperative when trying to usher in totalitarianism. Today we are witnessing a complete takeover of mainstream media and public education, one which is intended to drive public thought and to shame divergent thinking into private corners of society. Even in the church, we are seeing an ideological takeover by Marxist proponents who advocate social justice over biblical justice.

Wholesale gaslighting is creating cowardice and shame, as those who stand for truth are painted as bigoted, uncaring, unintelligent, and combative. Whether one questions the narrative of social justice, coronavirus policies, governmental authority, gender identity, or socialism itself, he is assumed to have ill motives and to reject science. It’s enough to make one question his sanity at times! And what’s more, the progressive ideology by nature evolves, so that what was once acceptable no longer is.

“You can never be sure when those in power will come after you as a villain for having said or done something that was perfectly fine the day before. And the consequences for violating the new taboos are extreme, including losing your livelihood and having your reputation ruined forever.

People are becoming instant pariahs for having expressed a politically incorrect opinion, or in some other way provoking a progressive mob, which amplifies its scapegoating through social and conventional media. Under the guise of “diversity,” “inclusivity,” “equity,” and other egalitarian jargon, the Left creates powerful mechanisms for controlling thought and discourse and marginalizes dissenters as evil.”

Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies

We must remember that most people whom history regards as heroic were not esteemed by the majority at the time. Isn’t the essence of heroism the willingness to do that which the majority refuses? In a culture that praises mediocrity, in which “everyone gets a trophy,” we laud many as heroes who are simply doing what is expected; doing what’s right and noble and difficult is no longer the norm, but the exception, making ordinary people appear heroic. However, when we ponder those whom history holds as heroes, we must consider a higher standard:

HE’ROnoun [Latin heros; Gr. a demigod.]

1. A man of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms.

2. A great, illustrious or extraordinary person; as a hero in learning. [Little used.]

Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828

One needs to be distinguished or extraordinary in order to qualify as a hero. During the American Revolution, those who were civilly disobedient to King George were considered overly idealistic at best and sinful at worst, yet they believed that they were doing what was right in fighting tyranny. They did it for their fellow man. They did it for future generations. They did it for us. Are we willing to look back through the pages of history at those flawed but true heroes and say, “Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t want the liberty you bought us. We’d rather have safety, health, and prosperity.” I sure hope not!

Taking it a step further, are we willing to look back 2000 years and say to Jesus Christ, who bought us with His blood, “Thanks, but no thanks!”?

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1 ESV

The Apostle Paul was speaking out against legalism. He was telling them that they should not submit to rules that people said were required for salvation. Christ alone holds our salvation in His hands. Those who say that the social justice gospel will save us are heretics. Those who say that the humanist, socialist agenda will save us are apostate. Those who say we must obey a government when it mandates the giving up of fundamental freedoms misuse Scripture to validate their erroneous perspective.

There is clearly a dark agenda at play, one that has progressed for the past 200 years. The itinerary is planned by Satan himself. Let us not forget that he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). The plan is to get all to submit to Satan’s humanistic agenda, which is to get us to think we must be in control, that God doesn’t have the answers, and may in fact, not even exist. When men like Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietsche, Karl Marx, and John Dewey contributed their respective godless thoughts to the socialist equation, they did so in defiance of God, and they were pawns in Satan’s chess game. Today we are seeing the outcome of the devil’s false humanistic gospel — chaos, rampant sin, and the discarding of common sense and virtue.

As Christians, are we truly to sit by and watch this take place and even participate as it does? I think not! Aren’t we called to rescue the perishing, to light up the darkness, to warn of coming destruction? If, in doing so, we have to violate civil law, then so be it.

This world is passing away. We cannot save it. But we can, by the power of Jesus Christ, share His salvation with others. May we do so until we no longer have breath. May we consider hell so offensive that we would not will even one soul to go there without first having heard the Gospel preached and having seen it lived. We cannot entirely serve Caesar and God in this time, and may we never pick the former, or it’s proposed benefits, over the latter. May we say with Queen Esther,

“I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther 4:16b ESV (emphasis added)

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