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Posts Tagged ‘Schriftprinzip’

Pharaoh decrees the drowning of every new male offspring among the Israelites by Michiel van der Borch, 1332.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.

  • Hebrews 11:23

We Christians in the West have been singularly blessed in that we have rarely been faced with the option of either obeying God or our governors.  For the most part, the laws of the state have not required us to violate our consciences.

But that period of relative peace seems to be drawing to a close. 

In the next few years, it is very likely Christians in America and elsewhere in the formerly free West will be faced with a choice either of obeying the civil authorities or God. 

This will come as a new and strange experience for most of us.  In my own life, I’ve not found myself in such a position.  Ideally, this should be the case.  Civil magistrates, if they are properly doing their jobs, will seek to pass laws that are in accord with the law of God.  The Bible tells us that one of the two legitimate functions of civil government is to “praise the good,” by which is meant pass laws that are in accord with God’s law.  If men violate these laws, they are to be punished.  This leads to the other legitimate function of civil government, punishing those who practice evil by breaking those laws.

Perhaps in part because Christians in the West have, for the most part, not had to face the choice of either obeying the civil magistrate or God, many Western Christians are uncomfortable with talk of civil disobedience.  “That’s the stuff of Marxists and radicals,” they may say.  “After all, it says right there in Romans 13, ‘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.’ That settles the matter.” 

This argument carries a lot of weight with Christians.  It certainly seems convincing, at least if we take this passage in isolation.  Christians, it appears, must without question always obey the government in all things everywhere no matter what.  And if Christians do not obey all governmental edicts to the letter, they get what they have coming to them when they are punished by the civil authorities. 

I have no doubt but that most ordinary Christians who hold this position are sincere in what they say.  They want to be law abiding citizens.  But if we follow out this form of thinking to its ultimate conclusion, we find that the practical effect of their stance – Christians must always obey the government in whatever it says – is some form of tyranny, where right an wrong are determined by the will of the leader.  Put another way, Christians who hold this position are unknowingly endorsing the fuhererprinzip, the leadership principle, where whatever the leader says goes. 

But the fuhererprinzip is not Christian. Christians are not called to blindly follow government edicts, but to compare what their civil magistrates are saying with the Scriptures.  The Christian idea of judging the statements of civil magistrates, and all others for that matter, by the Scriptures is known, not as the fuhererprinzip, but the Schriftprinzip, or the writing principle.

In his essay “Christ and Civilization,” John Robbins provides several quotes from Martin Luther on the Schriftprinzip.    

  • We intend to glory in nothing but Holy Scripture, and we are certain that the Holy Spirit cannot oppose and contradict himself.
  • I have learned to hold only the Holy Scripture inerrant. All other writings I so read that, however learned or holy they may be, I do not hold what they teach to be true unless they prove by Scripture or reason that it must be so.
  • Putting aside all human writings, we should spend all the more and all the more persistent labor on Holy Scriptures alone…. Or tell me, if you can, who is the final judge when statements of the fathers contradict themselves? In this event the judgment of Scripture must decide the issue, which cannot be done if we do not give Scripture the first place…so that it [the Bible] is in itself the most certain, most easily understood, most plain, is its own interpreter, approving, judging, and illuminating all the statements of all men…. Therefore nothing except the divine words are to be the first principles for Christians; all human words are conclusions drawn from them and must be brought back to them and approved by them.
  • Scripture itself…alone is the fount of all wisdom.
  • And even in the writings of the fathers we should accept nothing that does not agree with Scripture. Scripture alone must remain the judge and master of all books.

Now if what Luther said is true, and it is, then this implies that Christians have, not only the right, but the duty before God, to compare what their civil magistrate is saying with the Scriptures.  And if it is found that the laws of the state require what Scripture forbids, or forbid what Scripture requires, then they are bound to obey God rather than men. 

But not only is civil disobedience an implication of the Scriptures, there are many examples in Scripture of believers resisting tyrannical edicts of civil magistrates.  And these individuals, far from being censured by the Word of God, are praised for the stances they took. 

With this in mind, let’s look at some of these examples of resistance to tyranny in the Bible.

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The Death of Athaliah, 1870, by Gustave Dore

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.

  • 2 Kings 11:1

As of this writing in early September 2020, Americans find themselves faced with another presidential election in just two short months.  As is the American custom, much ink has been spilled over the past year concerning the November election.  In reality, the spilling of ink began much earlier.  With so much election commentary out there, surely, it would seem, there’s nothing more this author could add to the mix that hasn’t already been discussed thousands of times and by people much better qualified.

But this would be a mistake.

There is one topic, and a significant one to be sure, that, on the one hand, is a prominent feature of the 2020 presidential election but, on the other hand, has received hardly any commentary at all.  

Joe Biden’s March 15th promise, and the fulfillment of that promise, to choose a woman running mate. 

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Soleimani_Car Remains

Credit…Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via Associated Press

“[B]ecause of our foreign policy of interventionism developed in the twentieth century, and because of our more recent policy of pre-emptive war, the United States has become the primary target of militant Muslims worldwide.”

 

U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces,” ran the New York Times headline.  Why did the US take this drastic action?  The article’s subheadline explaines, “Suleimani was planning attacks on Americans across the region, leading to an airstrike in Baghdad, the Pentagon statement said.”

This explanation is not something made up by the New York Times.  Rather, it is the same explanation given by official Washington for the deadly January 3 drone strike in Baghdad.

In his remarks from Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump, after asserting that his highest and most solemn duty was the defense of our nation, claimed that, “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him…We took action last night to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war.”

PBS reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving similar justification in an interview he did with CNN.  According to PBS, Pompeo said that Gen. Qassem Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk.  We know it was imminent.   This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process.”

Reuters reported Pompeo’s remarks from January 3 thus, “last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack  that he was working actively was disrupted.”

Finally, the National Review quoted Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, saying, “The President’s first responsibility is the safety of the American people.  Qasem Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks in the region against Americans in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that could have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.”

One common thread that links all four quotes above is the word “imminent.”  We are told by all three gentlemen that General Soleimani was not merely plotting to harm Americans, but that his attack or attacks were “imminent.” Therefore, they argue, the President’s decision to drone Soleimani – in his January 3 statement quoted above, President Trump said “Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike” thus taking responsibility for the decision – ought not be viewed as an act of aggression, but rather as one of self-defense.

The term “imminent” is key to understanding the reasoning behind the killing of Soleimani as well as determining whether the President’s decision was a moral one.  The reason “imminent” is such a key term relative to Soleimani’s death is that it’s the tip-off, the big tell, that this attack was carried out using the doctrine of preemptive war as the theoretical framework to justify the decision by the President to kill the Iranian general.

So what is the doctrine of preemptive war?  Let’s take a look.

(more…)

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