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Misinterpreting Sin as God-Ordained   Leave a comment

How do we apply Romans 13 to the current situation in American Christianity? It’s difficult to deny that the United States government has grown oppressive and tyrannical far in excess to its own charter documents (the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution), which enshrines self-government (government by the citizens themselves with officials answerable to us) as the foundation of the nation.

The question is … does God permit Christians to exercise our judgment in determining which laws we will obey or disobey? May we withhold taxes, customs, fear, and honor from the federal government when it oversteps its limitations and seats itself upon God’s throne?

I know Christians who will answer that question firmly in the negative based on Romans 13. They will accept all sorts of laws, no matter what the implications to their faith might be, because they hold Romans 13 as a cornerstone of Christian faith.

Perhaps they should consider the Protestant churches of Nazi Germany as instructive.

In the 1930s, the “German Christians’ Faith Movement  sought to move Germany away from Christianity toward a religion based on psychology (Carl Jung approved), the replacement of Christian ceremonies with pagan equivalents, the rejection of Christian ethics, and the cult of Hitler’s personality. The movement ardently supported the Nazi principles of race and wanted them applied to a Reich Church that would bring all Protestants under a unified ecclesiastic  structure.

Opposed to the “German Christians” was a minority group called “the Confessional Church”, which opposed the Nazification of the churches, rejected Nazi racial theory and denounced attempts to use Hindu and pagan literature as a substitution for the Bible.

Neither of these groups was the majority of German Protestants. The vast majority of Protestants were too timid to join either of these groups. They sat on the fence and eventually, mostly, landed in Hitler’s camp by default, accepting his authority to intervene in church affairs and obeying his commands without open protest.

Hitler used Romans 13 to foster a sense of docile submission from the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Germany, writing in 1940:

The Protestants haven’t the faintest conception of a church. You can do anything you like with them– they will submit. These pastors are used to cares and worries… they learnt them from their squires…. They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither a religion that they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.

There were some courageous rebels like Deitrich Bonhoeffer who refused to submit, but for the most part, the churches allowed the Nazis to carry out their “Final Solution” without protest. Church leaders even criticized laity for disobeying their “governing authorities” by hiding Jewish refugees in their homes. In Holland, the ten Boom family may well have been “outed” for their activity by their pastor.

Misinterpreting sin as God-ordained does not make it any less a sin. There are times when we do need to stand up because if we do not, the blood of millions of people may cry out to God for judgment against the Christian churches in our own nation.


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