The Mind of a Free Man

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Villainy is not honest. I mean, c’mon.

This means that when rulers are ungodly, we should expect them to be like their father, the devil, who is the father of liars (John 8:44). When they lie, they speak their native language. Bitterness and cursing are under their tongue, but of course never at the press conference.

False teachers do not knock on your door with a brief case full of literature, and say, “Hello, I am here from the devil, and I have come to lead you into eternal torments.” That kind of stuff never makes it into the brochures.

False kings have confidence in the American people. They simper, flatter, and coo. They do what they do “for the children,” meaning of course the ones they haven’t chopped up — but all very constitutionally.

Now this is not just a character assessment. It has ramifications. And the ramifications directly affect, at the end of the day, our compliance. Or, I should say, if we are following the ramifications, our lack of compliance.

Think of it this way. We know that when they say same sex mirage is marriage, they are wrong. It isn’t. When they say that an unborn child, that rejected son or daughter, is just a lump of tissue, they are wrong. He or she isn’t. When they say that we can borrow trillions backed by nothing but the whistling wind, and grow wealthy thereby, they are wrong. We can’t.

All this is obvious to us, and it is why we are having the political conflicts we are having. But take it a step further.

These same people, these people to whom the truth is as rigid as their tongues, which is to say, not very, say things about their authority to impose their legal grotesqueries, and call it constitutional. But this is just as much a lie as the other stuff. Their cargo is two ton pallets of lies, but so is their flat bed truck. And they are just blowing down the road.

They say that what they are doing is constitutional. But it is not. They say that what they are doing is legal. But it is not. They say that what they are doing is lawful. They lie. They say that they have the authority to do these things. They do not. They say that we have to honor their decisions. We do not. God “frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;” (Is.

The legal reasoning is probably over your head. Don't worry about it.
The legal reasoning is probably over your head. Don’t worry about it.

44:25).

In short form — and I know I will need to develop this further — Romans 13 does not apply. We do not have to dutifully honor illegal laws. We are not under the authority of the lie.

Before I develop it in weeks to come, conduct a thought experiment for yourself. Suppose the president appoints a czar, a czar of a task force that is called the We Don’t Care About the Constitution Task Force. They issue decrees and regulations, and, of course, promulgate stuff. They tell you that you and your family must comply with these Ridiculous Measures, and of course, you must do so because of the Crisis. Are you bound, or not?

I am talking about your conscience, and not about judgments of prudence. I might give a mugger my wallet without conceding his right to it, and I have no obligation to tell him about the five hundred dollars in my boot. I might hand over something to the government for the same reasons that I would hand over stuff to the pirates who had captured my ship.

Get the principle down first. They are lawless, and they lie about it.

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jigawatt
jigawatt
10 years ago

Pastor, I’ve seen you say a few times that Rom 13 doesn’t apply to this or that (and I assume this would also include others like 1 Pet 2:13ff). Can you tell us where they *do* apply? I’d really like to hear a positive exposition of these passages including how their historical context fits in. I’m sure you’ve done this somewhere or another, so a reference to a book, article, or sermon would work.

Michael
10 years ago

Uncanny: I was just reading through Romans last night, chapter 13, ran across verse 5 (one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath, but for the sake of conscience), and I kid you not that I said to myself, “I wonder how Doug Wilson would handle that in light of the current administration?”

And now we shall see. Look forward to it!

katecho
katecho
10 years ago

Since we don’t live under a straightforward dictatorship, the lies from office need help. So we also have a media organ that lends aid to repeat the lies to us. This entity is very skilled at co-opting anything that raises itself up against the approved message. It’s very easy for them to portray any focused resistance as if it were a complete polar opposition by isolated crackpot revolutionaries. It’s also easy for us to resemble that portrait by villainizing every aspect of elected government because of a particular gross failing. One way to avoid being dismissed as a blanket revolutionary… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
10 years ago

We have to be honest with ourselves about what we are resisting. Are we resisting something inherently wicked, or something burdensome or “unfair”? I think about this a lot when it comes to homeschooling. I live in a state where the laws are pretty intrusive. They are clearly unjust with respect to a godly exercise of authority by the state, and they are a pain in the neck to follow, but they don’t inflict real wickedness on people or require them to sin. While I heartily support the occasional efforts that crop up to relax them, I can’t get on… Read more »

Dan Glover
10 years ago

Good thoughts, katecho and Jane. When it comes to resisting a corrupt state, where is the line between a state that inconveniences you, even grievously, but still allows you freedom not to personally disobey God? What does resistance look like when the state legislates disobedience to God and requires it of all citizens? What is the Christian’s responsibility when the state is officially sinning vs. allowing/enabling citizens to sin vs. legislating all people to sin? What does resistance look like in each of these scenarios? If resistance is graded, how far do we go at what stage of corrupt/sinful state… Read more »

Edward Amsden
10 years ago

Please do develop your thoughts on Romans 13 further. I’ve been wondering about this for quite a while.

Seth B.
Seth B.
10 years ago

If anyone would like books on the topic, read just about anything by Greg Bahnsen, R J Rushdoony, or Gary DeMar. Mr Wilson got most of his views on it from them.

J. Clark
J. Clark
10 years ago

Remember, our government is set up to receive checks from the people. We become “more American” when we put in input by exercising our constitutional rights and asking our representatives to do the same. This is fulfilling the foundation of our government unlike the Romans who liked to crucified the “checks” and fed the “balances” to the wild animals.

timothy
timothy
10 years ago

I think a spirit of thankfulness that we are, in the final analysis, allowed to _____ as we see fit after jumping through the appropriate hoops, is more appropriate than a grumbling resistance. Let’s fill in the blank. Drink big-gulps. Educate our children. Eat what we want. .. .. Defend ourselves. .. .. Not be fed to the lions .. .. The problem is not where we are on that scale (top to bottom) of what we are permitted to do. The problem is the idea that our Constitution was designed to limit us instead of limit Government and that… Read more »

Allen
Allen
10 years ago

I’ve thought a lot about this over the past few years and I would love to hear Pastor Wilson’s further exposition of Romans 13. One thing that’s been on my mind lately is what a postmil view of government impels us to do. If one believes (as I do) that the Holy Spirit is at work through God’s people, remaking the world (including government), and that this process will not be completed for rather a long time, then both revolutionary idealism and cynical pragmatism or despair are off the table. The fact of the resurrection means that we can hope… Read more »

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

If you want to get rid of government corruption, government must become voluntary. How can you expect a government to stay small as long as it has a monopoly on force?

I’ve asked this question on here before and no one has ever even tried to answer: How does the Bible explicitly prohibit a purely voluntary system of government? Why must the governing authorities be there by coercion in order to be legitimate and godly?

Jerry m
Jerry m
10 years ago

Romans 13 does focus on good and evil and never seems to relinquish the right and authority to have the scripture be the ultimate in defining both. In other words, the state is not given the right to redefine good and evil via its own terms. This seems to me to take the debate away from blind mushy obedience.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
10 years ago

timothy, I’m fairly sure I made it quite clear that my attitude was not that we should approve of that situation as long as we were able to put up with it. It’s that as we oppose the injustice of it, we should nonetheless approach life with a thankful spirit, not one of rebellious discontent. So, yes, it’s hateful that New Yorkers can’t buy the size of soda that they would like to, and that I have to document how I spend my days to the satisfaction of some bored bureaucrat “for the children.” However, what we’re supposed to do… Read more »

Robert
Robert
10 years ago

How does this apply to illegal immigration

Allen
Allen
10 years ago

Ben, the Bible doesn’t prohibit pigs flying or water running uphill either. Chaotic violence is a natural state of society, and it takes a lot of work to have something different from that. Historically this has meant having an organization both powerful enough to defeat any violent opposition to its rule and motivated enough to sustain peace and order. When either of these are lacking you get Detroit, Afghanistan, the Congo, and so forth. Medieval Iceland is a favorite counterexample, but most societies aren’t composed of frontiersmen on a remote island. The current American system is both lawless itself and… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
10 years ago

Allen, whilst we’re waiting for Doug to expound, perhaps you would care to do so? I mean in reference to “The current American system is both lawless itself and fosters lawlessness in its subjects.” You certainly are correct when you note “Chaotic violence is a natural state of society, and it takes a lot of work to have something different from that. Historically this has meant having an organization both powerful enough to defeat any violent opposition to its rule and motivated enough to sustain peace and order. ” That the American governmental system is lawless in not being motivated… Read more »

J
J
10 years ago

I was reading this morning in Lamentations and was struck by verse 1:22 (Lam. 1:22). As I pondered it I found myself reading Calvin’s thoughts on the matter and though it is not a direct parallel to what Doug is dealing with I believe we would do well to keep this frame of mind as we contemplate what we should do as Christians about our nation. Calvin’s Commentary on Lamentations 1:22 “Here, no doubt, the faithful regarded as a part of their comfort the judgment which God would at length execute on the ungodly; and there is no doubt but… Read more »

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

Allen, if you don’t want to answer my question that’s your prerogative, but I want to point out your contradiction: you say that voluntarism is impossible yet you point out an historical example of it, in the same paragraph!

Chaotic violence is not the natural state of society. What if the government just shut down for a week due to a lack of funds, and didn’t prosecute crime? How many people would actually go around committing violent crime? I know I wouldn’t. Would you? Are you especially morally upright compared to the average person?

J
J
10 years ago

Hey Ben, I don’t mean to interrupt you and Allen but I have a quick question for you. You said “What if the government just shut down for a week due to a lack of funds, and didn’t prosecute crime? How many people would actually go around committing violent crime? I know I wouldn’t.” …my question is, Why wouldn’t you?

katecho
katecho
10 years ago

Ben wrote: “I’ve asked this question on here before and no one has ever even tried to answer: How does the Bible explicitly prohibit a purely voluntary system of government? Why must the governing authorities be there by coercion in order to be legitimate and godly?” I’ve asked for Ben to clarify what he means by “voluntary”. It seems that Ben is advocating an opt-in sort of voluntarism, but what about an individual’s ability to opt-out? Is Ben advocating this as well? Can a criminal opt-out from under the current government’s authority, or does voluntarism only work in one direction?… Read more »

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

J, I wouldn’t commit violent crime because it does not further my own interests. Would you? Would most people you know? Katecho, I would advocate for voluntarism in both directions. I have in fact made this clarification before, where I compared making contracts in a voluntary society to the way marriage contracts are handled. You could also compare it to a contract to provide labor services for a specified period of time. Just because it’s voluntary in both directions doesn’t mean either party can just walk away from it without suffering consequences. “Human nature is such that people will opt-in… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
10 years ago

Ben,
In the system you envision, who is able and willing to impose those consequences that motivate compliance with contracts? Let’s take paying back loans for example. As it is there are consequences like eviction and repossession, enforced if necessary by – that’s right – the government. Just because honest people pay their bills anyway doesn’t mean that doing so is really voluntary. Outside government channels loan sharks have a way, it’s true, but I don’t think we’d say there is anything voluntary about their approach either.

hjo
hjo
9 years ago

You are a breath of fresh air. Is it possible that the American “Church” is being just like the German Christians of Nazi Germany? Unwilling to be ‘involved’ and keeping away from the so-called political or controversial, while evil took over and thousands died? When those who see what’s going on they can’t help but ask themselves, ‘what are WE suppose to do?’ I look forward to your thoughts on this. And I would like to add: Are all the children crossing the border going to be the next Hitler Youth Movement? They seem to be following all the other… Read more »

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

JohnM, now we’re getting into speculation territory, since no one can really know exactly how dispute resolution would look on the free market. It’s kind of like when everyone gets scared at the idea of private roads because of hypothetical problems X, Y, and Z, while ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of people die on public roads every year due to mismanagement. One possibility is that insurance companies would exist to insure against the breaking of a contract. So if I decide to loan you money, I might pay an insurance company to cover the loan in case,… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
9 years ago

Ben, When you are obliged to start with “One possibility is…” that’s a sign you’re getting into speculation territory. :) However, I’d prefer to skip on any experiments in that direction because the rules and structure that exist aren’t based on hypothesis but rather experience.

timothy
timothy
9 years ago

One principle to note in these discussions is that God is changing things the way God usually changes things–in ways that confound the understanding of us mere men and women. It is surprising, delightful and evident after the fact–but not evident in a boring way, but evident in that we realize it it God’s character. He makes things better. Paul had a very rigorous philosophy/political system and moral creed when God changed the subject in ways that Paul did not expect. It is incumbent on us–having learned from Scripture–to at least not to be surprised should God be God and… Read more »

J
J
9 years ago

Ben, What if it just so happened that committing a violent crime would further your own interests? What then?

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

“Ben, What if it just so happened that committing a violent crime would further your own interests? What then?”

Well, then I suppose I’d commit crime. I’m not sure I understand why you’re asking. For the vast majority of people, committing violent acts would not be in their own best interests, regardless of any laws or absence thereof. That’s the only point I’m trying to make.

Jack
Jack
9 years ago

Ben, You should read Gilder’s latest work, “Knowledge and Power” and specifically go to the section dealing with what you are proposing: “Spontaneous Order” “Things that are growing and changing are by definition high in entropy. Moving from a settled past into an undetermined future, they are always defined by their information, their news, their surprises. Spontaneous order is self-contradictory. Spontaneity connotes the ebullition of surprises. It is highly entropic and disorderly. It is entrepreneurial and complex. Order connotes predictability and equilibrium. It is what is not spontaneous. It includes moral codes, constitutional restraints, personal disciplines, educational integrity, predictable laws,… Read more »

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

Jack, rather than repeat the same arguments I’ve made on here before, I’ll refer you to this video to explain why voluntarism is the best way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzmOzQRq0ak&list=UUFeK8ZdHbCqAq3gekWs8aEQ

J
J
9 years ago

Ben, I am mainly asking to figure out where you are at in your decision making process. Please indulge one more question. Why would committing violent crime not further your own interests currently?

Jack
Jack
9 years ago

Volunteerism is Utopian and doesn’t account for the Fall among other things.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

J, committing violent crime would never further my own interests, regardless of the law, because it would violate my conscience. There is nothing in the world that would make it worth it for me to have to live with the guilt of it. Jack, so if man’s fallenness precludes voluntarism (not “volunteerism”), then how can we still rely on fallen people to vote for fair and just policies through democracy? What are most people more likely to do, vote for policies that they believe will make the world better (regardless of how it effects them individually) or for things that… Read more »