Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Choose Your Weapons

I mentioned in my last post that Paul reminded the Corinthians that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal" (II Cor. 10:3-5). In other words, when fighting a spiritual battle, spiritual weapons must be used in order to ensure success (cf. Eph. 6:10ff).

But what about the flipside? What if the issue is not that of fighting spiritual battles with earthly weapons, but fighting earthly battles with spiritual weapons?

For example, what are we to make of the invoking of "Christian liberty" on the part of our Founding Fathers to justify their rebellion against England's unfair taxation? This gets especially tricky in the light of statements such as
"They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God" (WCF XX.4).
What is rarely pointed out in these discussions is what the divines do not say here. They do not forbid all opposition to the civil magistrate's power, but only that done "upon pretence of Christian liberty" (the latter being spiritual, and not civil, in nature, WCF XX.1). This means that our opposition to England, or to any civil injustice, cannot be legitimately justified by citing Jesus' promise that "if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed" (no disrespect, Dr. King).

Could this, however, leave the door open for the fighting of civil battles using civil weapons?

Did not Paul protest the illegitimate use of Rome's power, not on the basis of his heavenly citizenship, but on the basis of his being a citizen of the earthly empire (Acts 22:25)? Though we are commanded to "obey [the civil magistrate's] lawful commands" (WCF XXIII.4), what about when that power is used unlawfully, even by its own earthly standards?