Tag Archives: leadership

What Is Law?: A Case for Christian Civil Disobedience

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

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)

A Conflict of Liberty?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

There is a divide in the church today. Unfortunately, this statement could likely be made at any time in history past, present, or future, until the Lord returns.

I just read an article about a local megachurch, in which they had taken a survey of their members. According to the pastor, there was about an equal split between members who believe they should meet in person immediately, those who think they should wait the situation out a little longer, and those who believe they should wait till there’s a cure or vaccine for COVID-19. Right after reading that, I read a post from a Christian leader who believes it’s cowardly for pastors not to immediately open, especially given that the President said he supports churches opening right away, even though some governors have kept them closed or placed lots of restrictions on them; she was discouraged that many pastors elected to remain closed.

Our small church did open today, allowing for following CDC recommendations, while not demanding churchgoers follow these protocols. We had some folks in attendance, as well as some watching online.

Christian seems to rise against Christian, some claiming we need to stand up for our rights, while others say that doing so violates Biblical principles. While I agree that the Bible trumps the Constitution, I also would posit that the Constitutional framers did so with Biblical principles in mind. Initially I asserted the view that we should lay down our First Amendment rights for the greater good of protecting our brother from harm; however, I’ve appreciated some contrary perspectives, and, while I don’t claim to have a perfect answer, I want to propose consideration of these thoughts:

  1. If someone slaps me on the right cheek, I can offer him the left; however, if someone slaps all of us on the right cheek, or if slapping me on the right cheek could lead to abuse of others, I should strongly consider standing up for our collective rights.
  2. I should examine my motives; if I’m driven by fear, greed, unrighteous anger, or any other sinful attitude, I should reconsider my position. Once my motives are pure, then I need to establish the best plan of action and follow it.
  3. What precedents are we setting by allowing our Constitutional rights to be infringed upon? How will our response impact future generations? We need to be wary of giving up rights that our God-fearing forefathers and generations of military members secured for us, many of them giving their lives, and all of them being willing to do so. More importantly, we need to prayerfully consider what is worth giving up the freedoms for which Christ set us free. We have been commanded not to be subject again to a yoke of slavery. The enemy of our souls can make a very convincing argument, and we need to be vigilant and discerning, lest we be led astray.
  4. What effect do our actions and inactions have on those who witness them? What will most glorify God to the watching world? There is a prevailing thought that Christians need to be compliant, docile, and unassuming at all times. Jesus called us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. Some people believe that, since Jesus was described as meek, we are not to assert ourselves. However, meekness isn’t weakness. Meekness is power under control, not a lack of power. Jesus stood up against oppression and injustice. He spoke out against the Pharisees, who placed unbearable yokes on others, and against the moneychangers, who took advantage of others. He did not gloss over sin, but lovingly confronted transgressors. Should we not follow in His steps?
  5. How has our culture shaped our view of what it means to be loving? Is being nice the same thing as being kind? In this era of political correctness, we have been brainwashed into trying to please everyone and to avoiding actions that may offend others. To love another means to want his or her best. I would never condone shaming someone who doesn’t feel comfortable returning to church, to work, or to society because they are in a high-risk group; we are called to prudence. However, if we give the impression that the only way to be loving is to watch church at home, to keep our businesses closed, to wear a mask everywhere, and to support the governing authorities’ every decision, we may not be giving the full picture. Isn’t it also loving to visit the sick (provided we are healthy and not caregivers for others in a high-risk group), to contribute to our neighbors’ livelihoods by utilizing their businesses, to contribute to society with meaningful work, to uphold truth, to confront error, and to preserve our countrymen’s God-given rights?
  6. Do our actions show favoritism to any person or group? It seems that we are listening to the counsel of some medical professionals but not others. There are plenty of solid medical personnel, some of whom use conventional medicine and others who use alternative methods, who say that the recommended measures are inaccurate and even counterproductive. Even though many are using recent data or reliable research to verify their stance, not only are they being discounted, many are effectively being silenced, because their recommendations don’t fit the prevailing narrative put forth by many in government and the mainstream media. We also seem to be showing favoritism to those vulnerable from a health standpoint, to the exclusion of those vulnerable from an economic or spiritual standpoint.
  7. What is the highest authority in our country or state? It is not the president or governor, and it definitely isn’t any worldwide organization or philanthropist. The Constitution guides our government, and the government is “by the people, of the people, and for the people.” Who are the people? The citizens of this country. When governors, presidents, legislators, or judges violate the Constitution, we need to question whether obedience is necessary. If we follow the Constitution, we are not breaking the law, even if we are told that we are.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, a masterpiece of logic, morality, and theological exposition, as applied to the issue of segregation is the source of the famous words, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Do you know the audience of this letter? Dr. King addressed this apologetic for “civil disobedience” to white pastors who thought he had gone too far by encouraging his followers to break the law. He echoed Augustine, saying that an “unjust law is no law at all.” He said that a just law is in harmony with moral law, that any law that degrades human personality is unjust. We must ask ourselves if quarantining the healthy is in harmony with moral law. We must consider whether destroying people’s livelihoods, keeping them from attending church, and imposing social isolation, especially in the midst of compelling evidence that this virus isn’t a serious threat to otherwise healthy people, is the correct coarse of action.

Pastors and other Christian leaders are called to be countercultural. We are to obey the authority placed over us, but in this country our highest authority is the Constitution, which was primarily written from a Biblical worldview. The Apostle Paul appealed to Caesar in the face of injustice; in America, the equivalent would be to appeal to the Constitution. Our Constitution says that nobody should prohibit the free exercise of religion, of speech, the press, or the right to peaceably assemble (Amendment I). Furthermore, “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Amendment XIV).

Some of you live in open states, and may wonder what all the fuss is about. Churches in Washington State and Minnesota have unjustly been kept from operating, and many still fear government reprisal. This morning, the Chicago mayor was reported to have sent police to shut down a church gathering in her city. Churches, daycares, and small businesses in Kentucky have far too many restrictions to practically operate. Everywhere the mainstream media mafia perpetuates fear and censors informed citizens in an attempt to control the narrative.

Christians, we must not be silent. Pastors, part of your calling is to admonish the flock according to Scripture and to equip us for participation in all spheres of life, including the media and the government. Please challenge us to speak into the culture, rather than to assimilate. Please give us permission not to be nice, but rather to be holy and effective at fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Please activate us in the spiritual war that has the whole world in its grip. Please don’t sit down and shut your doors. Please don’t bow to those who rule unjustly, no matter how “well-intentioned” they may seem. Please bow only to God, and refuse to allow His commands to be twisted into irrelevance.

In the words of Dr. King, “it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends … it is just as wrong, or even more, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.” Let us be neither complacent, nor arrogant. Let us not use our liberty as an excuse for sin, but also let us not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. We were bought with a price. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Let us walk in that freedom, for the good of our country and our fellow countryman.