Bonhoeffer and his guilt

Yesterday a discussion broke out in the comments about whether or not the murderer of abortionist George Tiller is equivalent to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who conspired to kill Hitler. It so happens that I had just seen the movie “Valkyrie” about a different plot to kill Hitler and had been searching the web for information about exactly what Bonhoeffer did. According to this account, Bonhoeffer was actively involved in the broader resistance movement, though his involvement with the conspiracy to kill Hitler was very indirect. Still, I was struck by this:

He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote “when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.” [26]. (In this connection, it is worthwhile to recall his 1932 sermon, in which he said: “the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”

One difference between Bonhoeffer and violent culture warriors today is that he didn’t justify what he did. He didn’t insist that he was doing the right thing, that what he did was really good and carried out in a spirit of self-righteousness. He did it in guilt and in the need for grace.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Carl Vehse

    Veith: “He did it in guilt and in the need for grace.”

    There is nothing in the brief (and uncontexted) quote from Bonhoeffer, part of which was well before his involvement in the assassination conspiracy, that specifically addresses his part in the plot to kill Hitler. The quote, taken as a whole, simply points out that we, as humans are sinners in all our thoughts words, and deeds, and can only hope in God’s grace.

    Furthermore, the excerpted quote, ““Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace”, could be claimed as just as fitting an epitaph for another Lutheran, George Tiller.

    Finally, splitting hairs about the nuanced philosophical rationalizations that led either man to do what he did is a red herring to dealing with the conduct of the act itself, as Siemon-Netto did in his article.

  • Carl Vehse

    Veith: “He did it in guilt and in the need for grace.”

    There is nothing in the brief (and uncontexted) quote from Bonhoeffer, part of which was well before his involvement in the assassination conspiracy, that specifically addresses his part in the plot to kill Hitler. The quote, taken as a whole, simply points out that we, as humans are sinners in all our thoughts words, and deeds, and can only hope in God’s grace.

    Furthermore, the excerpted quote, ““Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace”, could be claimed as just as fitting an epitaph for another Lutheran, George Tiller.

    Finally, splitting hairs about the nuanced philosophical rationalizations that led either man to do what he did is a red herring to dealing with the conduct of the act itself, as Siemon-Netto did in his article.

  • WebMonk

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but essentially you’re saying that the big difference was that Bonhoeffer wasn’t a hypocrite, knew he was doing wrong, did it anyway, and trusted in God’s mercy to cover the sin.

    That paints only a shade of difference between him and the guy who killed Tiller.

  • WebMonk

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but essentially you’re saying that the big difference was that Bonhoeffer wasn’t a hypocrite, knew he was doing wrong, did it anyway, and trusted in God’s mercy to cover the sin.

    That paints only a shade of difference between him and the guy who killed Tiller.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Carl, yesterday you were comparing Bonhoeffer to the murderer. Now you compare him to Tiller. First of all, using that quotation to justify Tiller would be justifying him! The whole point of the quotations is to rule out any self-justification or human-justification. But, Carl, let me ask you: Do you think what Bonhoeffer did was right? (Yesterday you seemed to be implying that it was, so that Tiller’s killer was also justified in what he did. Today you seem critical of Bonhoeffer, like tODD and others.)

    WebMonk, I am trying to discuss the difference between Bonhoeffer, the guy who killed Tiller, and, now that Carl has brought it up, Tiller himself. The biggest difference in all of these is that Bonhoeffer was a repentant sinner. From what little we know of the alleged killer, Scott Roeder, he was motivated by self-righteousness. And we know Tiller was an unrepentant sinner because he was determined to be so when he was excommunicated from his church.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Carl, yesterday you were comparing Bonhoeffer to the murderer. Now you compare him to Tiller. First of all, using that quotation to justify Tiller would be justifying him! The whole point of the quotations is to rule out any self-justification or human-justification. But, Carl, let me ask you: Do you think what Bonhoeffer did was right? (Yesterday you seemed to be implying that it was, so that Tiller’s killer was also justified in what he did. Today you seem critical of Bonhoeffer, like tODD and others.)

    WebMonk, I am trying to discuss the difference between Bonhoeffer, the guy who killed Tiller, and, now that Carl has brought it up, Tiller himself. The biggest difference in all of these is that Bonhoeffer was a repentant sinner. From what little we know of the alleged killer, Scott Roeder, he was motivated by self-righteousness. And we know Tiller was an unrepentant sinner because he was determined to be so when he was excommunicated from his church.

  • richard

    I can’t believe that we have some serious Christians who jerk Bonhoeffer’s actions out of their historical context in Nazi Germany to compare him with Scott Roeder. Unglaublich. It is NOT splitting hairs to point out the vast societal and cultural differences both individuals faced and to dismiss the differences as nuanced. Jeepers.

  • richard

    I can’t believe that we have some serious Christians who jerk Bonhoeffer’s actions out of their historical context in Nazi Germany to compare him with Scott Roeder. Unglaublich. It is NOT splitting hairs to point out the vast societal and cultural differences both individuals faced and to dismiss the differences as nuanced. Jeepers.

  • WebMonk

    Ah, Ok. I thought you were trying to draw differences between what Bonhoeffer did and what Roeder did. Not a fundamental difference.

    As far as how they each justified themselves, or didn’t as the case may be, then yeah, they’re different. That sort of difference doesn’t go very far in looking at their actions under consideration here, but it certainly does reflect on the rest of their lives.

    Personally, I have complicated/mixed views of people who know something is wrong and do it anyway, compared to people who do something wrong and try to justify it.

    I don’t like either way. The fact that I do both myself helps me exercise grace towards others, but it doesn’t change the fact that I despise both approaches.

  • WebMonk

    Ah, Ok. I thought you were trying to draw differences between what Bonhoeffer did and what Roeder did. Not a fundamental difference.

    As far as how they each justified themselves, or didn’t as the case may be, then yeah, they’re different. That sort of difference doesn’t go very far in looking at their actions under consideration here, but it certainly does reflect on the rest of their lives.

    Personally, I have complicated/mixed views of people who know something is wrong and do it anyway, compared to people who do something wrong and try to justify it.

    I don’t like either way. The fact that I do both myself helps me exercise grace towards others, but it doesn’t change the fact that I despise both approaches.

  • WebMonk

    richard, Bonhoeffer felt he had to kill (or at least assist in the plot to kill) Hitler partly because Hitler was going around killing millions of people, through war and death camps.

    Roeder has the same style of reasoning – Tiller was killing thousands of people and Roeder felt he had to kill Tiller to stop it.

    There is a distinct similarity in their motives.

    I realize there are all sorts of differences, very large ones, but the underlying motivation was quite similar.

    What sort of differences do you see that fundamentally change the way we should view the actions, richard? Certainly there are incredibly huge differences in the scale and impact (past and future) of what Bonhoeffer and Roeder were looking at, but differences of scale aren’t fundamental changes in the underlying motivations.

  • WebMonk

    richard, Bonhoeffer felt he had to kill (or at least assist in the plot to kill) Hitler partly because Hitler was going around killing millions of people, through war and death camps.

    Roeder has the same style of reasoning – Tiller was killing thousands of people and Roeder felt he had to kill Tiller to stop it.

    There is a distinct similarity in their motives.

    I realize there are all sorts of differences, very large ones, but the underlying motivation was quite similar.

    What sort of differences do you see that fundamentally change the way we should view the actions, richard? Certainly there are incredibly huge differences in the scale and impact (past and future) of what Bonhoeffer and Roeder were looking at, but differences of scale aren’t fundamental changes in the underlying motivations.

  • richard

    WebMonk, well, I disagree with your last sentence. There were incredibly huge differences in what Bonhoeffer and Roder were looking at–and the societies in which they lived; and this I think would have made their motives/justifications for their actions radically different. I don’t think it makes any sense to compare what a Christian faced in Nazi Germany with all the moral conflicts and issues to what Roeder was faced with in 21st century Kansas.

  • richard

    WebMonk, well, I disagree with your last sentence. There were incredibly huge differences in what Bonhoeffer and Roder were looking at–and the societies in which they lived; and this I think would have made their motives/justifications for their actions radically different. I don’t think it makes any sense to compare what a Christian faced in Nazi Germany with all the moral conflicts and issues to what Roeder was faced with in 21st century Kansas.

  • forty-two

    I would agree there is no fundamental difference between Bonhoeffer’s actions, Roeper’s actions, or even Tiller’s actions. All three men performed actions that they would probably agree would, at the very least, be considered wrong in other contexts (even Tiller probably would have acknowledged that killing a late-term unborn baby against the mother’s wishes would be wrong, even if he still refused to call it murder). They all presumably considered the good accomplished – saving people from Hitler, saving babies from Tiller, saving women from pregnancy – to be greater than the wrong done. But whatever good may have come their actions, the actions were still wrong, period.

    My understanding is that Lutheran theology acknowledges that, as we live in a fallen world, sometimes there are no right choices, and the best we can do is pick the least wrong, and, as Bonhoeffer said, hope for grace in front of God. But that doesn’t change the fact that least wrong is still wrong. Still, whether a person attempts to justify their actions makes a difference, and what they judge to be the lesser and greater evil says a lot about them.

  • forty-two

    I would agree there is no fundamental difference between Bonhoeffer’s actions, Roeper’s actions, or even Tiller’s actions. All three men performed actions that they would probably agree would, at the very least, be considered wrong in other contexts (even Tiller probably would have acknowledged that killing a late-term unborn baby against the mother’s wishes would be wrong, even if he still refused to call it murder). They all presumably considered the good accomplished – saving people from Hitler, saving babies from Tiller, saving women from pregnancy – to be greater than the wrong done. But whatever good may have come their actions, the actions were still wrong, period.

    My understanding is that Lutheran theology acknowledges that, as we live in a fallen world, sometimes there are no right choices, and the best we can do is pick the least wrong, and, as Bonhoeffer said, hope for grace in front of God. But that doesn’t change the fact that least wrong is still wrong. Still, whether a person attempts to justify their actions makes a difference, and what they judge to be the lesser and greater evil says a lot about them.

  • http://www.utah-luthern.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Richard,
    Well said. #7.
    This comparison of Bonhoeffer to any of these others is really nothing but slander. (And this coming from a many who doesn’t care for Bonhoeffer much at all on a theological level. But I respect what he did as a citizen of this world.)
    Sure you might be able to abstract comparisons, but you ought not to. These events didn’t happen in the abstract, they happened in the concrete, and the situations were vastly different.

  • http://www.utah-luthern.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Richard,
    Well said. #7.
    This comparison of Bonhoeffer to any of these others is really nothing but slander. (And this coming from a many who doesn’t care for Bonhoeffer much at all on a theological level. But I respect what he did as a citizen of this world.)
    Sure you might be able to abstract comparisons, but you ought not to. These events didn’t happen in the abstract, they happened in the concrete, and the situations were vastly different.

  • WebMonk

    richard, could you elucidate what you thing the difference is in what they did? Absolutely they have differences, but what is it about Bonhoeffer’s actions that make them so distinct from Roeder’s?

    (aside from the fact that Bonhoeffer was only helping a plan, and Roeder actually shot)

    Is it the number of people Hitler was killing vs the number of people Tiller had killed? Is it the difference between killing with genocide and killing with abortion?

    What do you see that is such a distinct difference?

  • WebMonk

    richard, could you elucidate what you thing the difference is in what they did? Absolutely they have differences, but what is it about Bonhoeffer’s actions that make them so distinct from Roeder’s?

    (aside from the fact that Bonhoeffer was only helping a plan, and Roeder actually shot)

    Is it the number of people Hitler was killing vs the number of people Tiller had killed? Is it the difference between killing with genocide and killing with abortion?

    What do you see that is such a distinct difference?

  • WebMonk

    Frankly I have a lot of sympathy for Bonhoeffer, and there are ways I do see his actions as distinct from Roeder’s. I don’t know that they are fundamental differences.

    Bonhoeffer was indeed head and shoulders above Roeder in almost every way, but the specific actions of the two in this instance are quite similar.

    I can only see one way that the actions could be seen as fundamentally different, but I’m not sure I buy it.

  • WebMonk

    Frankly I have a lot of sympathy for Bonhoeffer, and there are ways I do see his actions as distinct from Roeder’s. I don’t know that they are fundamental differences.

    Bonhoeffer was indeed head and shoulders above Roeder in almost every way, but the specific actions of the two in this instance are quite similar.

    I can only see one way that the actions could be seen as fundamentally different, but I’m not sure I buy it.

  • DonS

    This is a fascinating discussion. Since there seem to be a number of people, whose opinions I respect, who are willing to equivocate the actions of Bonhoefer and others who attempted to overthrow the Third Reich in Germany, in order to end the mass atrocities being committed by that government, and the actions of Roeder, who killed Dr. Tiller in order to end his abortion atrocities, let’s extend this out a little bit. First, is there a difference between the resistance movement in Germany during World War II and the resistance movement in the occupied countries. In the minds of those who condemn Bonhoefer and others in the German resistance movement, does the same condemnation extend to the French resistance, for example? Second, what about the American revolution? Were our founding fathers wrong in their violent acts of rebellion against Britain in the 1770′s? They weren’t even necessarily preventing atrocities, but rather merely engaged in the ultimate “tea party” against unjust taxation.

  • DonS

    This is a fascinating discussion. Since there seem to be a number of people, whose opinions I respect, who are willing to equivocate the actions of Bonhoefer and others who attempted to overthrow the Third Reich in Germany, in order to end the mass atrocities being committed by that government, and the actions of Roeder, who killed Dr. Tiller in order to end his abortion atrocities, let’s extend this out a little bit. First, is there a difference between the resistance movement in Germany during World War II and the resistance movement in the occupied countries. In the minds of those who condemn Bonhoefer and others in the German resistance movement, does the same condemnation extend to the French resistance, for example? Second, what about the American revolution? Were our founding fathers wrong in their violent acts of rebellion against Britain in the 1770′s? They weren’t even necessarily preventing atrocities, but rather merely engaged in the ultimate “tea party” against unjust taxation.

  • richard

    Webmonk, for starters on differences, how about the fact that Roder lives in a democracy/republic where we have courts and representatives to take action against people such as Tiller, however fallible our systems are; Bonhoeffer had nothing–a government and judiciary permeated with evil which systematically suppressed any dissent and any Christians with a conscience. You can’t lift these guys out of their historical contexts and use them as examples when their motivations and thought were linked to the times and cultures in which they lived.

  • richard

    Webmonk, for starters on differences, how about the fact that Roder lives in a democracy/republic where we have courts and representatives to take action against people such as Tiller, however fallible our systems are; Bonhoeffer had nothing–a government and judiciary permeated with evil which systematically suppressed any dissent and any Christians with a conscience. You can’t lift these guys out of their historical contexts and use them as examples when their motivations and thought were linked to the times and cultures in which they lived.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    One bothersome thing about all this though, Richard, is that the governmental authorities over Tiller refused to excercise any justice against his crimes against children. He was able to continue to thumb his nose at the law because the system itself around us today sure seems arbitrary and lawless.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    One bothersome thing about all this though, Richard, is that the governmental authorities over Tiller refused to excercise any justice against his crimes against children. He was able to continue to thumb his nose at the law because the system itself around us today sure seems arbitrary and lawless.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    As I am thinking about this there is a difference that does keep coming to mind.
    Bonhoeffer was dealing with a government, and trying to overthrow that tyrannical government above which there was no longer any oversight, that was actively murdering thousands upon thousands. In this situation the only hope was overthrow and replacement, if not by the allies then by the resistance.
    No one thinks America was wrong to go to war against Nazi Germany. So to point the finger at Bonhoeffer for carrying out his job as a double agent is quite hypocritical. Unless you actually believe that America was wrong for going to war.
    However, the United States is not actively murdering anyone, and Roeder was not taking aim at a government official who was. The American government allows the murder of the unborn, but does not mandate that it be done. To be sure this is heinous in itself. The government is shirking its duties to protect the innocent. It is reprehensible and needs to be changed. However, there are avenues for that to be changed. In the meantime you do not take the law into your own hands and think that by murdering one abortionist or even twenty you are doing anything for the unborn. We do not live under a tyrannical government. The fact that we so openly discuss this over the computer screens is fair proof of that! Roeder would have proved a better pro-life advocate donating the money he spent on the gun and ammo to a pregnancy resource center. Or spending it on a pro life billboard advertisement. Or perhaps just donating it to a pro-life politician.
    We can change America’s popular opinion. The last polls taken on that said Pro-lifers were now in the majority for the first time in decades. We were winning the battle. I don’t know that that is true anymore. Now us pro-life advocates are going to be looked on as right wing vigilantes that speak about the sanctity of life with a forked tongue. It will take time to get past that again, as we had to in the 90s. This is a setback, not in anyway a step forward.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    As I am thinking about this there is a difference that does keep coming to mind.
    Bonhoeffer was dealing with a government, and trying to overthrow that tyrannical government above which there was no longer any oversight, that was actively murdering thousands upon thousands. In this situation the only hope was overthrow and replacement, if not by the allies then by the resistance.
    No one thinks America was wrong to go to war against Nazi Germany. So to point the finger at Bonhoeffer for carrying out his job as a double agent is quite hypocritical. Unless you actually believe that America was wrong for going to war.
    However, the United States is not actively murdering anyone, and Roeder was not taking aim at a government official who was. The American government allows the murder of the unborn, but does not mandate that it be done. To be sure this is heinous in itself. The government is shirking its duties to protect the innocent. It is reprehensible and needs to be changed. However, there are avenues for that to be changed. In the meantime you do not take the law into your own hands and think that by murdering one abortionist or even twenty you are doing anything for the unborn. We do not live under a tyrannical government. The fact that we so openly discuss this over the computer screens is fair proof of that! Roeder would have proved a better pro-life advocate donating the money he spent on the gun and ammo to a pregnancy resource center. Or spending it on a pro life billboard advertisement. Or perhaps just donating it to a pro-life politician.
    We can change America’s popular opinion. The last polls taken on that said Pro-lifers were now in the majority for the first time in decades. We were winning the battle. I don’t know that that is true anymore. Now us pro-life advocates are going to be looked on as right wing vigilantes that speak about the sanctity of life with a forked tongue. It will take time to get past that again, as we had to in the 90s. This is a setback, not in anyway a step forward.

  • L. H. Kevil

    Here’s another thought to throw into the gladiator ring: If only a tiny mustard seed’s worth of faith can save, would we not expect Tiller to have had at least that amount of faith?

  • L. H. Kevil

    Here’s another thought to throw into the gladiator ring: If only a tiny mustard seed’s worth of faith can save, would we not expect Tiller to have had at least that amount of faith?

  • Booklover

    I can think of another difference. A Jewish person in the time of Hitler had a possibility of escape, be it however slight (those helped by Corri Ten Boom, et al.) and be it of even a temporary time. (Anne Frank, e.g.) An unborn child has no way whatsoever of escape.

    Again, I think time colors our perception. We look back and think how horrible the holocaust and slavery were. Someday we will look back in horror at how we let the atrocity of abortion peacefully coexist with us. May our descendents forgive us.

  • Booklover

    I can think of another difference. A Jewish person in the time of Hitler had a possibility of escape, be it however slight (those helped by Corri Ten Boom, et al.) and be it of even a temporary time. (Anne Frank, e.g.) An unborn child has no way whatsoever of escape.

    Again, I think time colors our perception. We look back and think how horrible the holocaust and slavery were. Someday we will look back in horror at how we let the atrocity of abortion peacefully coexist with us. May our descendents forgive us.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Booklover,
    It was very fortunate Jews that had a chance to escape. The vast majority of them had no chance.
    I don’t think we will ever look back on this as being in line with Christian, or pro-life convictions. If time colors our perception any differently then it will only be a distortion.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Booklover,
    It was very fortunate Jews that had a chance to escape. The vast majority of them had no chance.
    I don’t think we will ever look back on this as being in line with Christian, or pro-life convictions. If time colors our perception any differently then it will only be a distortion.

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene,

    Yesterday I compared Siemon-Netto’s descriptive phrases about the murder of George Tiller by Scott Roeder with his description of the unsuccessful murder attempt of Hitler by a number of Germans including Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These conpletely opposite descriptions for committing (or attempt to commit) the same action against a murderer who we all agree deserved death were, in my view, hypocritical.

    The sinfulness of each act is not justified regardless of whether the motivation of Bonhoeffer or Roeder was noble, repentant, vengeful, or psychotic.

    Do you think what Bonhoeffer did was right? No. Yesterday my implication was that either action, whether successful or not, would qualify as murderous and sinful, not “citizen resisting tyranny,” “worldly martyr,” or “deeply rooted in his Lutheran faith.”

    Today, I am saying that the Bonhoeffer quote could just as well be used by the Lutheran Tiller to justify his murder-by-abortion activities… and just as wrong.

    When Bonhoeffer returned to Germany he returned as a German under the German (Nazi) government. There was no “government-in-exile” like there was in France, in which a Frenchman could claim allegience in order to attack (or kill) members of the Vichy regime.

  • Carl Vehse

    Gene,

    Yesterday I compared Siemon-Netto’s descriptive phrases about the murder of George Tiller by Scott Roeder with his description of the unsuccessful murder attempt of Hitler by a number of Germans including Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These conpletely opposite descriptions for committing (or attempt to commit) the same action against a murderer who we all agree deserved death were, in my view, hypocritical.

    The sinfulness of each act is not justified regardless of whether the motivation of Bonhoeffer or Roeder was noble, repentant, vengeful, or psychotic.

    Do you think what Bonhoeffer did was right? No. Yesterday my implication was that either action, whether successful or not, would qualify as murderous and sinful, not “citizen resisting tyranny,” “worldly martyr,” or “deeply rooted in his Lutheran faith.”

    Today, I am saying that the Bonhoeffer quote could just as well be used by the Lutheran Tiller to justify his murder-by-abortion activities… and just as wrong.

    When Bonhoeffer returned to Germany he returned as a German under the German (Nazi) government. There was no “government-in-exile” like there was in France, in which a Frenchman could claim allegience in order to attack (or kill) members of the Vichy regime.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Carl,
    Really?!!!
    The depth of your shallow thought is astonishing for its lack of logic.
    he could have been justified if he had claimed allegiance to a different government in exile? but since there was none he is just a murderer?
    quite slandering the name of Carl Vehse, and go home.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Carl,
    Really?!!!
    The depth of your shallow thought is astonishing for its lack of logic.
    he could have been justified if he had claimed allegiance to a different government in exile? but since there was none he is just a murderer?
    quite slandering the name of Carl Vehse, and go home.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith (@3), I have to disagree with your characterization of Bonhoeffer as “a repentant sinner,” at least as taken from these quotes. Repentant sinners do not acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong and yet go ahead and do it anyway “in guilt”. That’s not repentance in any meaningful sense. It’s just acknowledging one’s own guilt, and wallowing in it. Did Bonhoeffer repent later? We can assume so, but not from that quote.

    Anyhow, I’m saddened to suddenly see such relativism here — how we want to defend some men’s actions based on the social and cultural context! Why, you’d almost think I’d stumbled across a forum of namby-pamby liberals, with such arguments about how cultural contexts determine morality!

    Forty-two (@8), you seem to perpetuate the popular notion that Bonhoeffer had only two choices: help assassinate Hitler or do nothing. Of course, those weren’t his only two choices. It was entirely possible for him to resist his government’s evil without joining himself to evil. Can nobody really see how this is possible? Because if not, we American Christians — whose government certainly has its share of evil on its hands — are in a sorry, morally relative state, and the world cannot look to us for truth anymore.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith (@3), I have to disagree with your characterization of Bonhoeffer as “a repentant sinner,” at least as taken from these quotes. Repentant sinners do not acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong and yet go ahead and do it anyway “in guilt”. That’s not repentance in any meaningful sense. It’s just acknowledging one’s own guilt, and wallowing in it. Did Bonhoeffer repent later? We can assume so, but not from that quote.

    Anyhow, I’m saddened to suddenly see such relativism here — how we want to defend some men’s actions based on the social and cultural context! Why, you’d almost think I’d stumbled across a forum of namby-pamby liberals, with such arguments about how cultural contexts determine morality!

    Forty-two (@8), you seem to perpetuate the popular notion that Bonhoeffer had only two choices: help assassinate Hitler or do nothing. Of course, those weren’t his only two choices. It was entirely possible for him to resist his government’s evil without joining himself to evil. Can nobody really see how this is possible? Because if not, we American Christians — whose government certainly has its share of evil on its hands — are in a sorry, morally relative state, and the world cannot look to us for truth anymore.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@12), the question — one seemingly ignored here over and over — remains very simple, at heart: is the person’s desire to submit to the authorities? In a, let’s say, transitional situation where there is legitimate confusion as to who is in authority, Christians may disagree whether to submit to, say, the powerful occupier or the erstwhile government-in-exile. But at least they are attempting to apply the Biblical principle of submission to authority. I can’t say the same for Bonhoeffer or (most of) the American revolutionaries.

    Richard (@13), you excuse Bonhoeffer’s actions because he “had nothing -– a government and judiciary permeated with evil which systematically suppressed any dissent and any Christians with a conscience.” Then how do you explain Paul’s instructions in Romans 13, to people living under just such a government. They, too, had “nothing”. Oh, except God and his power. Many here seem to think that just won’t do, though. They need the might of men to right things that God hasn’t seen fit to fix.

    Cf. Bror’s (@15) statement that in Bonhoeffer’s situation “the only hope was overthrow and replacement”. I doubt you meant it quite like that, and yet look at what you’ve said: his only hope was in the might and violence of men, rebelling against what God had instituted. Sigh.

    And Bror, I’m perfectly at ease thinking that governments can rightly go to war with other governments — they both wield the sword — while maintaining that it is not given to citizens to rebel against their own government.

    Sorry, but I have to agree with Carl (@19) on this one — and yes, I’m as shocked as everyone else.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@12), the question — one seemingly ignored here over and over — remains very simple, at heart: is the person’s desire to submit to the authorities? In a, let’s say, transitional situation where there is legitimate confusion as to who is in authority, Christians may disagree whether to submit to, say, the powerful occupier or the erstwhile government-in-exile. But at least they are attempting to apply the Biblical principle of submission to authority. I can’t say the same for Bonhoeffer or (most of) the American revolutionaries.

    Richard (@13), you excuse Bonhoeffer’s actions because he “had nothing -– a government and judiciary permeated with evil which systematically suppressed any dissent and any Christians with a conscience.” Then how do you explain Paul’s instructions in Romans 13, to people living under just such a government. They, too, had “nothing”. Oh, except God and his power. Many here seem to think that just won’t do, though. They need the might of men to right things that God hasn’t seen fit to fix.

    Cf. Bror’s (@15) statement that in Bonhoeffer’s situation “the only hope was overthrow and replacement”. I doubt you meant it quite like that, and yet look at what you’ve said: his only hope was in the might and violence of men, rebelling against what God had instituted. Sigh.

    And Bror, I’m perfectly at ease thinking that governments can rightly go to war with other governments — they both wield the sword — while maintaining that it is not given to citizens to rebel against their own government.

    Sorry, but I have to agree with Carl (@19) on this one — and yes, I’m as shocked as everyone else.

  • Carl Vehse

    I have to agree with Carl (@19) on this one — and yes, I’m as shocked as everyone else.

    And likewise I agree with tODD @22: “Why, you’d almost think I’d stumbled across a forum of namby-pamby liberals, with such arguments about how cultural contexts determine morality!”

    I guess there’s nothing left now but for the eschaton to occur momentarily. ;-)

  • Carl Vehse

    I have to agree with Carl (@19) on this one — and yes, I’m as shocked as everyone else.

    And likewise I agree with tODD @22: “Why, you’d almost think I’d stumbled across a forum of namby-pamby liberals, with such arguments about how cultural contexts determine morality!”

    I guess there’s nothing left now but for the eschaton to occur momentarily. ;-)

  • richard

    tODD contra mundum! I wasn’t “excusing” Bonhoeffer’s actions at all; I was saying it is illegitimate to draw precise comparisons between his actions and that of Tiller’s murderer. And what would you have done, tODD in a compromised system permeated by evil? I think it is easy to speak take the moral high ground here–such talk is cheap unless you have been through it.

  • richard

    tODD contra mundum! I wasn’t “excusing” Bonhoeffer’s actions at all; I was saying it is illegitimate to draw precise comparisons between his actions and that of Tiller’s murderer. And what would you have done, tODD in a compromised system permeated by evil? I think it is easy to speak take the moral high ground here–such talk is cheap unless you have been through it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@24), “talk is cheap unless you have been through it.” Well, then, let’s all shut up unless we’ve lived in Nazi Germany, and never again discuss any moral issues other than that which we’ve personally lived through! So, who here’s had an abortion?

    No, I hate the notion that opinions are worth more due to one’s experience — it’s actually another relativist argument! The fact that my beliefs may be difficult to uphold (and that I may even falter in upholding them) does not itself make my beliefs wrong. If that were so, most of Christianity would be discredited.

    So what would I have done “in a compromised system permeated by evil”? What did Paul do in just such a situation? He urged people to submit to the government! And he did so himself.

    But, ask yourself, is that all he did? No, Paul somehow found another option besides “doing nothing” and “murdering Caesar/Festus/etc.”! He spoke the truth, no matter what it cost him. And he worked within the legal system available to him to spread the truth.

    God willing, I would do the same. If you want to give me a more specific situation, I can give you a more specific answer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@24), “talk is cheap unless you have been through it.” Well, then, let’s all shut up unless we’ve lived in Nazi Germany, and never again discuss any moral issues other than that which we’ve personally lived through! So, who here’s had an abortion?

    No, I hate the notion that opinions are worth more due to one’s experience — it’s actually another relativist argument! The fact that my beliefs may be difficult to uphold (and that I may even falter in upholding them) does not itself make my beliefs wrong. If that were so, most of Christianity would be discredited.

    So what would I have done “in a compromised system permeated by evil”? What did Paul do in just such a situation? He urged people to submit to the government! And he did so himself.

    But, ask yourself, is that all he did? No, Paul somehow found another option besides “doing nothing” and “murdering Caesar/Festus/etc.”! He spoke the truth, no matter what it cost him. And he worked within the legal system available to him to spread the truth.

    God willing, I would do the same. If you want to give me a more specific situation, I can give you a more specific answer.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 22: I appreciate your point. We agree, it would appear, that the resistance movement in occupied countries, at least, were probably not sinning in resisting the Nazis, because a state of war continued and the Nazi’s had themselves illegitimately deposed the rightful governments of those occupied countries. There is also no question of Roeder’s guilt, in my view. His act was simply that of murder of a fellow citizen, who was not even a government official, because of his private acts, legal (as repugnant and immoral as they were) under the laws of the U.S. and Kansas. There is not even a legitimate issue of civil disobedience, since his action was not against the government at all.

    As for Bonhoefer and the American revolutionaries, I have encountered this issue before, but not given it much thought. I guess you can call me a relativist (aren’t we all, at times, when we attempt to apply Biblical truths and principles to the facts and circumstances we are faced with), but the issue cuts both ways when you consider other scripture such as Acts 5:29.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 22: I appreciate your point. We agree, it would appear, that the resistance movement in occupied countries, at least, were probably not sinning in resisting the Nazis, because a state of war continued and the Nazi’s had themselves illegitimately deposed the rightful governments of those occupied countries. There is also no question of Roeder’s guilt, in my view. His act was simply that of murder of a fellow citizen, who was not even a government official, because of his private acts, legal (as repugnant and immoral as they were) under the laws of the U.S. and Kansas. There is not even a legitimate issue of civil disobedience, since his action was not against the government at all.

    As for Bonhoefer and the American revolutionaries, I have encountered this issue before, but not given it much thought. I guess you can call me a relativist (aren’t we all, at times, when we attempt to apply Biblical truths and principles to the facts and circumstances we are faced with), but the issue cuts both ways when you consider other scripture such as Acts 5:29.

  • James

    Dr. Veith,

    It seems like that Bonhoeffer is expressing a perspective on ethics that is, at its roots, Lutheran. Compromising Absolutism. From my understanding, Luther’s view on moral conflicts was that being in the world, it is inevitable that a person would come into conflict with two moral absolutes and have to sin against one of them. Only, the difference between Luther’s Compromising Absolutism and other’s Graded Absolutism (Hierarchalism), is that the GA position says that choosing to obey the weighter absolute over the lesser isn’t sinful, where Luther would still call it sin.

    Nevertheless, a strong hope in the sola fide and Christ’s work was Luther’s offering to console the conscience. “Sin boldly.” One will commit evil in this life. It is an evil world. Yet take hope. Because of Christ we find grace before God’s judgment and not condemnation. Sounds almost exactly like the position Bonhoeffer articulates.

    (I read about this position from Norman Geisler’s book, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues.)

  • James

    Dr. Veith,

    It seems like that Bonhoeffer is expressing a perspective on ethics that is, at its roots, Lutheran. Compromising Absolutism. From my understanding, Luther’s view on moral conflicts was that being in the world, it is inevitable that a person would come into conflict with two moral absolutes and have to sin against one of them. Only, the difference between Luther’s Compromising Absolutism and other’s Graded Absolutism (Hierarchalism), is that the GA position says that choosing to obey the weighter absolute over the lesser isn’t sinful, where Luther would still call it sin.

    Nevertheless, a strong hope in the sola fide and Christ’s work was Luther’s offering to console the conscience. “Sin boldly.” One will commit evil in this life. It is an evil world. Yet take hope. Because of Christ we find grace before God’s judgment and not condemnation. Sounds almost exactly like the position Bonhoeffer articulates.

    (I read about this position from Norman Geisler’s book, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues.)

  • James

    Forgive me. It is *Conflicting Absolutism*, not “Compromising”.

  • James

    Forgive me. It is *Conflicting Absolutism*, not “Compromising”.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Todd,
    Paul did not write a blank check to submit to authorities in Romans 13! To submit in things where the governments is not in contradiction to the law of God yes. But Paul himself was hardly known for submitting to the government officials!
    And no he didn’t try to assassinate the emperor either. But to say that Roman’s 13 means submission no matter what, would be naive at best.
    People have always recognized that there are times for regime change. History has normally exonerated these people. I can find fault with Bonhoeffer for many things, not however his assassination plot.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Todd,
    Paul did not write a blank check to submit to authorities in Romans 13! To submit in things where the governments is not in contradiction to the law of God yes. But Paul himself was hardly known for submitting to the government officials!
    And no he didn’t try to assassinate the emperor either. But to say that Roman’s 13 means submission no matter what, would be naive at best.
    People have always recognized that there are times for regime change. History has normally exonerated these people. I can find fault with Bonhoeffer for many things, not however his assassination plot.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@26), I’ve already said I agreed with Carl, so I’m worried that agreeing with you that we agree would mean my ultimate disbarment from the Liberal Clubhouse. Still, I’d urge you to give the issue more thought, rather than merely staying content with being a “relativist”.

    As to Acts 5:29, I simply do not see the conflict. We must obey God rather than men. Indeed! And what does God — whom we must obey — ask of us? To submit to authorities! How is it, then, that so many who would rally behind Acts 5:29 (not necessarily including you), would so gladly disobey God by rebelling against the authorities he instituted!

    The only case in which Acts 5:29 is in conflict with Romans 13 is that in which the government demands that you do something against what God commands, in which case, yes, we obey God and not the government. Note that this does not include areas where the government is merely reprehensible in some fashion, for such qualities do not require us to disobey God.

    And when we do obey God over and above men, we should still be prepared to submit to the authorities when it comes to the consequences of our actions — consider Daniel. He disobeyed the king, and was willing to submit his life to the government for having obeyed God. Should we do any different?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@26), I’ve already said I agreed with Carl, so I’m worried that agreeing with you that we agree would mean my ultimate disbarment from the Liberal Clubhouse. Still, I’d urge you to give the issue more thought, rather than merely staying content with being a “relativist”.

    As to Acts 5:29, I simply do not see the conflict. We must obey God rather than men. Indeed! And what does God — whom we must obey — ask of us? To submit to authorities! How is it, then, that so many who would rally behind Acts 5:29 (not necessarily including you), would so gladly disobey God by rebelling against the authorities he instituted!

    The only case in which Acts 5:29 is in conflict with Romans 13 is that in which the government demands that you do something against what God commands, in which case, yes, we obey God and not the government. Note that this does not include areas where the government is merely reprehensible in some fashion, for such qualities do not require us to disobey God.

    And when we do obey God over and above men, we should still be prepared to submit to the authorities when it comes to the consequences of our actions — consider Daniel. He disobeyed the king, and was willing to submit his life to the government for having obeyed God. Should we do any different?

  • Richard

    James, I think you nailed it. In a world where a Hitler rules, “Sin boldly’” would be a word of comfort there. I think Helmut Thielicke has some good writings on this as well. tODD, I did not mean to write your opinion off becuase you have not lived in a society such as Hitler built; but I think the normal Christian living in such times would have faced an enormous amount of moral quandaries which we Americans do not face today. I like to think that Bonhoeffer, with his background and upbringing and the type of honesty and Christian commitment which shines through his writings would have faced them with thought and real integrity, motivated by his admiration for Luther; I think it’s a mistake to just blow him off as someone who didn’t properly understand Romans 13.

  • Richard

    James, I think you nailed it. In a world where a Hitler rules, “Sin boldly’” would be a word of comfort there. I think Helmut Thielicke has some good writings on this as well. tODD, I did not mean to write your opinion off becuase you have not lived in a society such as Hitler built; but I think the normal Christian living in such times would have faced an enormous amount of moral quandaries which we Americans do not face today. I like to think that Bonhoeffer, with his background and upbringing and the type of honesty and Christian commitment which shines through his writings would have faced them with thought and real integrity, motivated by his admiration for Luther; I think it’s a mistake to just blow him off as someone who didn’t properly understand Romans 13.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@29), I feel I have been very clear that, when the government demands what God proscribes, then we should not submit to the government. What did the Nazis demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s Law, that supposedly necessitated his involvement in a murder plot? What did the British demand of the colonists that went against God’s Law, that supposedly necessitate their rebellion?

    “Paul himself was hardly known for submitting to the government officials!” I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to — he submitted himself to the Roman legal process.

    “People have always recognized that there are times for regime change.” Yes, but the question is: did they do so biblically, in keeping with God’s will? Or merely the will of sinful man?

    Honestly, man, cite me a Bible passage! All I keep hearing is “Romans 13 doesn’t really mean what it plainly says,” followed by appeals to “natural law”, or what “people have always done”, or anything other than Scripture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@29), I feel I have been very clear that, when the government demands what God proscribes, then we should not submit to the government. What did the Nazis demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s Law, that supposedly necessitated his involvement in a murder plot? What did the British demand of the colonists that went against God’s Law, that supposedly necessitate their rebellion?

    “Paul himself was hardly known for submitting to the government officials!” I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re referring to — he submitted himself to the Roman legal process.

    “People have always recognized that there are times for regime change.” Yes, but the question is: did they do so biblically, in keeping with God’s will? Or merely the will of sinful man?

    Honestly, man, cite me a Bible passage! All I keep hearing is “Romans 13 doesn’t really mean what it plainly says,” followed by appeals to “natural law”, or what “people have always done”, or anything other than Scripture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@31), “the normal Christian living in [Nazi] times would have faced an enormous amount of moral quandaries which we Americans do not face today.” Indeed! In some cases, they had to choose to die for their faith. But, again, the fact that it may be very difficult to choose to die for what one believes does not mean that it’s not an honorable thing to do.

    “I think it’s a mistake to just blow [Bonhoeffer] off as someone who didn’t properly understand Romans 13.” Look, it’s not a difficult passage to comprehend. Surely you’ve read it — do you find it difficult to parse? Does it read like it requires Bonhoeffer-level knowledge to understand? Or is this a case where child-like faith is required, but, as it so often is, is sorely lacking? You can assert that only a man of his learning can understand such passages, but then, frankly, we’re all doomed, since the Scriptures apparently don’t say what they seem to, and only the elite can understand God’s true will. (And then there’s the question of whether Bonhoeffer’s learning is all that; I’m not well read on the topic, but Bror, who apparently is, is clearly no fan of his theology, any more than I am of its application.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@31), “the normal Christian living in [Nazi] times would have faced an enormous amount of moral quandaries which we Americans do not face today.” Indeed! In some cases, they had to choose to die for their faith. But, again, the fact that it may be very difficult to choose to die for what one believes does not mean that it’s not an honorable thing to do.

    “I think it’s a mistake to just blow [Bonhoeffer] off as someone who didn’t properly understand Romans 13.” Look, it’s not a difficult passage to comprehend. Surely you’ve read it — do you find it difficult to parse? Does it read like it requires Bonhoeffer-level knowledge to understand? Or is this a case where child-like faith is required, but, as it so often is, is sorely lacking? You can assert that only a man of his learning can understand such passages, but then, frankly, we’re all doomed, since the Scriptures apparently don’t say what they seem to, and only the elite can understand God’s true will. (And then there’s the question of whether Bonhoeffer’s learning is all that; I’m not well read on the topic, but Bror, who apparently is, is clearly no fan of his theology, any more than I am of its application.)

  • Richard

    tODD–how about, they demanded his full allegiance to a state which systematically and ruthlessly purged any dissent, and murdered wholesale Jews? To a state which required that it scitizens take an oath of allegiance to Hitler? Man, read some history!

  • Richard

    tODD–how about, they demanded his full allegiance to a state which systematically and ruthlessly purged any dissent, and murdered wholesale Jews? To a state which required that it scitizens take an oath of allegiance to Hitler? Man, read some history!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@34), while I will not deny that I need to “read some history,” you can do better than that. I assume you’re answering my question (@32), “What did the Nazis demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s Law?” To which you answered: “They demanded his full allegiance.” Um, what?

    Look, I’m aware of the evils of the Nazi regime. The question was what the Nazis demanded of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s law. And all you offer me is the vague notion of “demanding allegiance”. What, did they daily stick a rifle in his ribs and grill him with questions like, “Do you give your full allegiance to the Fuhrer, the wholesale murder of the Jews, and any other evils committed by this government?” And if they did, why could he not merely answer, “No, I do not.” What in this supposed “demanding” of “full allegiance” required him to plot Hitler’s murder, rather than just failing to give his allegiance?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@34), while I will not deny that I need to “read some history,” you can do better than that. I assume you’re answering my question (@32), “What did the Nazis demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s Law?” To which you answered: “They demanded his full allegiance.” Um, what?

    Look, I’m aware of the evils of the Nazi regime. The question was what the Nazis demanded of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s law. And all you offer me is the vague notion of “demanding allegiance”. What, did they daily stick a rifle in his ribs and grill him with questions like, “Do you give your full allegiance to the Fuhrer, the wholesale murder of the Jews, and any other evils committed by this government?” And if they did, why could he not merely answer, “No, I do not.” What in this supposed “demanding” of “full allegiance” required him to plot Hitler’s murder, rather than just failing to give his allegiance?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Yes he did submit tot he Roman legal process. He also had his head lopped off for disobeying! Was beaten, stoned and left for dead, for disobeying.
    I don’t know what did the Nazi’s demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s commands. Perhaps it was that they shut his seminary down for preaching the word of God. Perhaps it was that they would not allow him to preach the word of God. Perhaps it was that the murderous bastards demanded that he not hide Jews in his home, or try to save them from the concentration camps. Perhaps it was that they demanded him to submit to a racist doctrine he as a Christian could not in good conscience do. Should I list anymore. So he sided with allies, and served as a double agent, and carried out the task of his vocation there.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Yes he did submit tot he Roman legal process. He also had his head lopped off for disobeying! Was beaten, stoned and left for dead, for disobeying.
    I don’t know what did the Nazi’s demand of Bonhoeffer that went against God’s commands. Perhaps it was that they shut his seminary down for preaching the word of God. Perhaps it was that they would not allow him to preach the word of God. Perhaps it was that the murderous bastards demanded that he not hide Jews in his home, or try to save them from the concentration camps. Perhaps it was that they demanded him to submit to a racist doctrine he as a Christian could not in good conscience do. Should I list anymore. So he sided with allies, and served as a double agent, and carried out the task of his vocation there.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Romans 13 is not an exhaustive passage on government. It was written during a time when the government was in fact quite tyrannical. And it does demand that Christians submit, at least in those things where they are not commanded to go against God’s law.
    However, as I stated before. Perhaps it is that these things need to be addressed by the doctrines not of the right hand kingdom, but those of the left. Presidents, and statesmen operate within the realm of the left. So was Bonhoeffer at the time of his assassination plot. God doesn’t tell the baker how much bread to bake. Neither does he parse out everything political leaders are to do, and when they are to do it. But if the sword is there to punish evil well then Bonhoeffer was right to do what he did.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Romans 13 is not an exhaustive passage on government. It was written during a time when the government was in fact quite tyrannical. And it does demand that Christians submit, at least in those things where they are not commanded to go against God’s law.
    However, as I stated before. Perhaps it is that these things need to be addressed by the doctrines not of the right hand kingdom, but those of the left. Presidents, and statesmen operate within the realm of the left. So was Bonhoeffer at the time of his assassination plot. God doesn’t tell the baker how much bread to bake. Neither does he parse out everything political leaders are to do, and when they are to do it. But if the sword is there to punish evil well then Bonhoeffer was right to do what he did.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@36), Paul “had his head lopped off for disobeying”? Well, we’ve left the Bible for church tradition here, but in what way do you say that he was killed for “disobeying”? Paul’s original arrest was on the flimsy context of “defiling” the temple and teaching “against” the Jews. But that wasn’t disobeying the government. Even so, he was arrested (or “beaten, stoned and left for dead”) for preaching the Gospel, and I have said over and over that, should that be illegal, we must obey God rather than men, yes. But I don’t even see from the examples you cite how this preaching was illegal.

    As to Bonhoeffer, you may notice a similar refrain in my responses to your objections …

    “Perhaps it was that they shut his seminary down for preaching the word of God.” Then he should have continued to preach the Word of God outside the seminary, or set up a new, illegal one.

    “Perhaps it was that they would not allow him to preach the word of God.” Then he should have done so, regardless.

    “Perhaps it was that the murderous bastards demanded that he not hide Jews in his home, or try to save them from the concentration camps.” He should have done so, anyhow, out of love for his neighbors.

    “Perhaps it was that they demanded him to submit to a racist doctrine he as a Christian could not in good conscience do.” Then he should have refused to submit to it, in whatever form that submission would have come.

    You see? No murder required. When the government demands we do evil, it is our simple duty to refuse, and when they demand that we not do good, it is our simple duty to do good, anyhow. Not to instead turn to evil. What value would that be?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@36), Paul “had his head lopped off for disobeying”? Well, we’ve left the Bible for church tradition here, but in what way do you say that he was killed for “disobeying”? Paul’s original arrest was on the flimsy context of “defiling” the temple and teaching “against” the Jews. But that wasn’t disobeying the government. Even so, he was arrested (or “beaten, stoned and left for dead”) for preaching the Gospel, and I have said over and over that, should that be illegal, we must obey God rather than men, yes. But I don’t even see from the examples you cite how this preaching was illegal.

    As to Bonhoeffer, you may notice a similar refrain in my responses to your objections …

    “Perhaps it was that they shut his seminary down for preaching the word of God.” Then he should have continued to preach the Word of God outside the seminary, or set up a new, illegal one.

    “Perhaps it was that they would not allow him to preach the word of God.” Then he should have done so, regardless.

    “Perhaps it was that the murderous bastards demanded that he not hide Jews in his home, or try to save them from the concentration camps.” He should have done so, anyhow, out of love for his neighbors.

    “Perhaps it was that they demanded him to submit to a racist doctrine he as a Christian could not in good conscience do.” Then he should have refused to submit to it, in whatever form that submission would have come.

    You see? No murder required. When the government demands we do evil, it is our simple duty to refuse, and when they demand that we not do good, it is our simple duty to do good, anyhow. Not to instead turn to evil. What value would that be?

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Sorry,

    I can’t in good conscience do it. A flat and absolute reading of Romans 13 without any other considerations is dangerous, and makes for dangerous and untrustworthy neighbors,willing to narc off to the government those unable to hide their sympathies and prejudices well.

    The UK just embarked on a campaign to turn in your neighbors if they sport too much “bling”(defined as anything you think your neighbor can’t afford but seems to own anyway) The campaign is replete with posters that say ‘Too much bling? Give us a ring.’ Followed by the phone number for the police. And this in the most surveilled society in history.

    God forgive me, but I will never cooperate with such a b@**&#!t edict.

    I may not have the exegetical tools at my command to refute tOdd and several others, but a blind obedience to any authority that presents itself as ‘legitimate’ results in things like the holocaust or ten thousand lesser evils. No thanks.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Sorry,

    I can’t in good conscience do it. A flat and absolute reading of Romans 13 without any other considerations is dangerous, and makes for dangerous and untrustworthy neighbors,willing to narc off to the government those unable to hide their sympathies and prejudices well.

    The UK just embarked on a campaign to turn in your neighbors if they sport too much “bling”(defined as anything you think your neighbor can’t afford but seems to own anyway) The campaign is replete with posters that say ‘Too much bling? Give us a ring.’ Followed by the phone number for the police. And this in the most surveilled society in history.

    God forgive me, but I will never cooperate with such a b@**&#!t edict.

    I may not have the exegetical tools at my command to refute tOdd and several others, but a blind obedience to any authority that presents itself as ‘legitimate’ results in things like the holocaust or ten thousand lesser evils. No thanks.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@36), Bonhoeffer “served as a double agent, and carried out the task of his vocation there”? I seem to remember you previously describing — and lamenting — his having abandoned his vocation, that of pastor. Changed your mind?

    We agree (@37) that Romans 13 “was written during a time when the government was in fact quite tyrannical. And it does demand that Christians submit, at least in those things where they are not commanded to go against God’s law.”

    “Presidents, and statesmen operate within the realm of the left. So was Bonhoeffer at the time of his assassination plot.” Yes, but that doesn’t explain why it was okay for him to murder the Fuhrer, who was, after all, still an authority over him and the Abwehr, within the context of the government itself. Does all notion of submission to authority break down at the government personnel level? Are city employees not required to obey the mayor’s orders, and federal employees free to rebel against their employer?

    Or is your argument that anyone in a country’s government is morally allowed to bear the sword against (read: murder) anyone else in the country’s government? So a rabid pro-life Republican Congressman would have your blessing to murder the President? You know, being within the realm of the left and all.

    “God doesn’t tell the baker how much bread to bake.” But he does tell him not to murder, all the same. And to obey his boss, the bakery owner.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@36), Bonhoeffer “served as a double agent, and carried out the task of his vocation there”? I seem to remember you previously describing — and lamenting — his having abandoned his vocation, that of pastor. Changed your mind?

    We agree (@37) that Romans 13 “was written during a time when the government was in fact quite tyrannical. And it does demand that Christians submit, at least in those things where they are not commanded to go against God’s law.”

    “Presidents, and statesmen operate within the realm of the left. So was Bonhoeffer at the time of his assassination plot.” Yes, but that doesn’t explain why it was okay for him to murder the Fuhrer, who was, after all, still an authority over him and the Abwehr, within the context of the government itself. Does all notion of submission to authority break down at the government personnel level? Are city employees not required to obey the mayor’s orders, and federal employees free to rebel against their employer?

    Or is your argument that anyone in a country’s government is morally allowed to bear the sword against (read: murder) anyone else in the country’s government? So a rabid pro-life Republican Congressman would have your blessing to murder the President? You know, being within the realm of the left and all.

    “God doesn’t tell the baker how much bread to bake.” But he does tell him not to murder, all the same. And to obey his boss, the bakery owner.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    I know that the minute I say this someone is going to try to say Scott Roeder was doing the same thing. He wasn’t.
    Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation. Love demanded that he try put an end to the senseless slaughter by killing Hitler, and killing Hitler would have accomplished just that.
    Scott Roeder did not have a vocation that put him anywhere close to being valid. I’m sure in a warped sort of way he thinks he was acting out of love for his neighbor. However, what he did was very ill thought out, and proved not to be loving at all, at least not for his neighbor.
    And by the way, Bonhoeffer did continue to preach, and did have an illegal seminary. He also refused to submit. And He went to work for a foreign government.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    I know that the minute I say this someone is going to try to say Scott Roeder was doing the same thing. He wasn’t.
    Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation. Love demanded that he try put an end to the senseless slaughter by killing Hitler, and killing Hitler would have accomplished just that.
    Scott Roeder did not have a vocation that put him anywhere close to being valid. I’m sure in a warped sort of way he thinks he was acting out of love for his neighbor. However, what he did was very ill thought out, and proved not to be loving at all, at least not for his neighbor.
    And by the way, Bonhoeffer did continue to preach, and did have an illegal seminary. He also refused to submit. And He went to work for a foreign government.

  • Carl Vehse

    DonS: “As for Bonhoefer and the American revolutionaries, I have encountered this issue before, but not given it much thought.”

    Here’s a chance to think about it. There is a major, MAJOR (!) difference between Bonhoeffer and the American revolutionaries.

    The American revolutionaries fought against the British government, not as individuals, but as minutemen, militia, and soldiers with allegiance to and under the direction of the government established by the Second Continental Congress of the United States of America.

    Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators were part of a un-united German resistance that had established no other form of government and had allegiance to no other German government other than the existing one, under which they conspired to assassinate Hitler and other top government officials, while pretending to be loyal Germans.

    That just does not cut it in the moral justification department for trying to commit murder.

    And if Uwe Siemon-Netto wants to heap roses and accolades of ethical, patriotic, and Christian martyrdom onto Bonhoeffer, he will need to do the same for Scott Roeber who, though he did not write as many books or preach as many sermons, did assassinate an evil leader of the genocidal abortion practice.

  • Carl Vehse

    DonS: “As for Bonhoefer and the American revolutionaries, I have encountered this issue before, but not given it much thought.”

    Here’s a chance to think about it. There is a major, MAJOR (!) difference between Bonhoeffer and the American revolutionaries.

    The American revolutionaries fought against the British government, not as individuals, but as minutemen, militia, and soldiers with allegiance to and under the direction of the government established by the Second Continental Congress of the United States of America.

    Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators were part of a un-united German resistance that had established no other form of government and had allegiance to no other German government other than the existing one, under which they conspired to assassinate Hitler and other top government officials, while pretending to be loyal Germans.

    That just does not cut it in the moral justification department for trying to commit murder.

    And if Uwe Siemon-Netto wants to heap roses and accolades of ethical, patriotic, and Christian martyrdom onto Bonhoeffer, he will need to do the same for Scott Roeber who, though he did not write as many books or preach as many sermons, did assassinate an evil leader of the genocidal abortion practice.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Vocation and circumstance.
    I have always and remain somewhat disturbed that he abandoned his vocation as pastor. That does not change the fact that he did, and he did adopt a new vocation.
    And I suppose that if my mayor was ordering the systematic slaughter of all Jews, or whatever in my city, someone would depose him, and if that failed would just take him out it would be the loving thing to do.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    Vocation and circumstance.
    I have always and remain somewhat disturbed that he abandoned his vocation as pastor. That does not change the fact that he did, and he did adopt a new vocation.
    And I suppose that if my mayor was ordering the systematic slaughter of all Jews, or whatever in my city, someone would depose him, and if that failed would just take him out it would be the loving thing to do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Patrick (@39), I’ll accept that you “can’t do it”, although I assure you a “good conscience” has little to do with it.

    You said, “a flat and absolute reading of Romans 13″ (otherwise known as a straightforward one) “makes for dangerous and untrustworthy neighbors, willing to narc off to the government those unable to hide their sympathies and prejudices well.” What are you on about? Is this about your “bling” anecdote? Really? Is that all you have?

    The “Too much bling” program wasn’t UK-wide, it was in Sussex, and it’s not about outing your neighbor for being a spendthrift. It’s about reporting people you think are drug dealers. Does that violate your conscience? Do you think God requires you to keep mum about criminal activity? Well, guess what? The “bling” program doesn’t obligate citizens to “narc” on their neighbors, anyhow! In short, if this is your best example of why Romans 13 should be twisted to read what it plainly doesn’t, then … phew! I’m really sorry. Nothing in that program requires you to disobey God, and it’s patently ridiculous for you to suggest as much.

    And — and I really do think you’re missing this here, because I keep saying it — if such a silly program, or any other initiative from the government, did require you to disobey God, then you would disobey the government.

    The consistent argument I hear from people like you is that there are only ever two options when a government does evil: do absolutely nothing, or rebel violently against the government and overthrow it, whenever you see fit. This is among the most ridiculous of false choices! Christians can and did work illegally to save their Jewish/Roma/etc. neighbors during the Holocaust, and their actions were far more effective for those saved than Bonhoeffer’s heroic, and ultimately fruitless, murder plot. All Bonhoeffer did was got himself killed — and rightly so, because he rebelled against authority!

    But no, let’s not read Romans 13 as it clearly reads, and instead submit ourselves to the wonderful qualities afforded by moral relativism, where every man does what’s right in his own eyes. That’s always been a winning proposition.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Patrick (@39), I’ll accept that you “can’t do it”, although I assure you a “good conscience” has little to do with it.

    You said, “a flat and absolute reading of Romans 13″ (otherwise known as a straightforward one) “makes for dangerous and untrustworthy neighbors, willing to narc off to the government those unable to hide their sympathies and prejudices well.” What are you on about? Is this about your “bling” anecdote? Really? Is that all you have?

    The “Too much bling” program wasn’t UK-wide, it was in Sussex, and it’s not about outing your neighbor for being a spendthrift. It’s about reporting people you think are drug dealers. Does that violate your conscience? Do you think God requires you to keep mum about criminal activity? Well, guess what? The “bling” program doesn’t obligate citizens to “narc” on their neighbors, anyhow! In short, if this is your best example of why Romans 13 should be twisted to read what it plainly doesn’t, then … phew! I’m really sorry. Nothing in that program requires you to disobey God, and it’s patently ridiculous for you to suggest as much.

    And — and I really do think you’re missing this here, because I keep saying it — if such a silly program, or any other initiative from the government, did require you to disobey God, then you would disobey the government.

    The consistent argument I hear from people like you is that there are only ever two options when a government does evil: do absolutely nothing, or rebel violently against the government and overthrow it, whenever you see fit. This is among the most ridiculous of false choices! Christians can and did work illegally to save their Jewish/Roma/etc. neighbors during the Holocaust, and their actions were far more effective for those saved than Bonhoeffer’s heroic, and ultimately fruitless, murder plot. All Bonhoeffer did was got himself killed — and rightly so, because he rebelled against authority!

    But no, let’s not read Romans 13 as it clearly reads, and instead submit ourselves to the wonderful qualities afforded by moral relativism, where every man does what’s right in his own eyes. That’s always been a winning proposition.

  • Richard

    Brilliant, tODD. So Bonhoeffer and those in Germany who worked to undermine Hitler’s murderous government such as Admiral Canaris were moral relativists. But, wait–you approvingly said Christians worked illegally to save their Jewish neighbors. This makes tODD–a moral relativist!!! So much for your reading of Romans 13. Maybe there isn’t that much of a difference between you and a Bonhoeffer after all.

  • Richard

    Brilliant, tODD. So Bonhoeffer and those in Germany who worked to undermine Hitler’s murderous government such as Admiral Canaris were moral relativists. But, wait–you approvingly said Christians worked illegally to save their Jewish neighbors. This makes tODD–a moral relativist!!! So much for your reading of Romans 13. Maybe there isn’t that much of a difference between you and a Bonhoeffer after all.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@41), I realize we’re on Veith’s blog here, but that doesn’t mean you can just whip out the word “vocation” and expect it to work magic. “Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation.” Really? I had no idea that the Abwehr’s vocation, which otherwise involved intelligence gathering, also included murdering its commander-in-chief, much less any sort of justice-meting. You see, he not only “abandoned his vocation as pastor”, he overstepped his vocation within the Abwehr, thinking that it fell upon him (and the rest of them) to do what was not theirs to do. And history shows us that this was not within his vocation, because the laws of the country went into effect when the murder plot was exposed, and he was not praised for acting in his vocation, as you well know.

    Unless, of course, you think it’s the vocation of anyone involved in government to murder any other person in that government, to act as a sort of, you know, check or balance.

    “Bonhoeffer did continue to preach, and did have an illegal seminary. He also refused to submit.” Good! Too bad he decided that it wasn’t enough to obey God, but chose to go beyond God’s commands and do what was within his power, that he thought was right.

    And I suppose that if my mayor was ordering the systematic slaughter of all Jews, or whatever in my city, someone would depose him, and if that failed would just take him out it would be the loving thing to do.

    What a fascinating precedent we have here. Just one question: could you define “whatever” for me? What, exactly, makes it morally defensible for one member of the government — whomever! — to murder another member of the government? Yes, I understand, genocide is clearly on your list. But what else? What other actions or policies make it okay for men to murder? And is this only within government, or in all chains of authority? Are there things bosses can do that would legitimize employees’ murdering them? What about pastors? For what action of yours would you be okay with a congregant murdering you?

    Oh, and, where can I find this in the Bible?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@41), I realize we’re on Veith’s blog here, but that doesn’t mean you can just whip out the word “vocation” and expect it to work magic. “Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation.” Really? I had no idea that the Abwehr’s vocation, which otherwise involved intelligence gathering, also included murdering its commander-in-chief, much less any sort of justice-meting. You see, he not only “abandoned his vocation as pastor”, he overstepped his vocation within the Abwehr, thinking that it fell upon him (and the rest of them) to do what was not theirs to do. And history shows us that this was not within his vocation, because the laws of the country went into effect when the murder plot was exposed, and he was not praised for acting in his vocation, as you well know.

    Unless, of course, you think it’s the vocation of anyone involved in government to murder any other person in that government, to act as a sort of, you know, check or balance.

    “Bonhoeffer did continue to preach, and did have an illegal seminary. He also refused to submit.” Good! Too bad he decided that it wasn’t enough to obey God, but chose to go beyond God’s commands and do what was within his power, that he thought was right.

    And I suppose that if my mayor was ordering the systematic slaughter of all Jews, or whatever in my city, someone would depose him, and if that failed would just take him out it would be the loving thing to do.

    What a fascinating precedent we have here. Just one question: could you define “whatever” for me? What, exactly, makes it morally defensible for one member of the government — whomever! — to murder another member of the government? Yes, I understand, genocide is clearly on your list. But what else? What other actions or policies make it okay for men to murder? And is this only within government, or in all chains of authority? Are there things bosses can do that would legitimize employees’ murdering them? What about pastors? For what action of yours would you be okay with a congregant murdering you?

    Oh, and, where can I find this in the Bible?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@45), I begin to worry about you. But maybe you’d forgotten: God commands us to love our neighbors. And tells us not to murder. Does that help you understand your would-be conundrum (@45)?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@45), I begin to worry about you. But maybe you’d forgotten: God commands us to love our neighbors. And tells us not to murder. Does that help you understand your would-be conundrum (@45)?

  • Carl Vehse

    “Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation. Love demanded that he try put an end to the senseless slaughter by killing Hitler, and killing Hitler would have accomplished just that.”

    Using love as a motivation to murder is an absolutely anti-Christian statement in the full sense of Mt. 15:9… and from a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of all places – a further sign of some of the radical ideas floating in the LCMS cesspool.

    Bonhoeffer had no such love requirement to murder Hitler in his vocation as a Christian, in his vocation as a pastor, in his vocation as a theological writer/teacher, in his vocation as a citizen of the Third Reich, the government of Germany.

    Bonheoffer could have had such a requirement if he were a soldier in the Allied Forces, or if he were directed to do so by some recognized “German government-in-exile” to which he had sworn allegiance after renouncing his allegiance to the existing government of Germany. But he had neither.

    As for those Christian Germans who worked illegally under Nazi German laws to save Jews who would be sent to their deaths in concentration camps, which of the commandments our Lord Jesus gave in Mt. 22:37-39 did these Christians break?!?

  • Carl Vehse

    “Bonhoeffer acted out of love for his neighbor within his vocation. Love demanded that he try put an end to the senseless slaughter by killing Hitler, and killing Hitler would have accomplished just that.”

    Using love as a motivation to murder is an absolutely anti-Christian statement in the full sense of Mt. 15:9… and from a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of all places – a further sign of some of the radical ideas floating in the LCMS cesspool.

    Bonhoeffer had no such love requirement to murder Hitler in his vocation as a Christian, in his vocation as a pastor, in his vocation as a theological writer/teacher, in his vocation as a citizen of the Third Reich, the government of Germany.

    Bonheoffer could have had such a requirement if he were a soldier in the Allied Forces, or if he were directed to do so by some recognized “German government-in-exile” to which he had sworn allegiance after renouncing his allegiance to the existing government of Germany. But he had neither.

    As for those Christian Germans who worked illegally under Nazi German laws to save Jews who would be sent to their deaths in concentration camps, which of the commandments our Lord Jesus gave in Mt. 22:37-39 did these Christians break?!?

  • Richard

    tODD, I’m always flattered that people worry about poor little old me. You have made my day. Now I guess we understand that Romans 13 is NOT an absolute in the life of tODD. I was beginning to worry about YOU.

  • Richard

    tODD, I’m always flattered that people worry about poor little old me. You have made my day. Now I guess we understand that Romans 13 is NOT an absolute in the life of tODD. I was beginning to worry about YOU.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    tODD,
    Come on dude, really…..?

    The UK bling program was just the latest and most egregious stupid- ass attempt by an out of control government to control their people under the guise of ‘Law and Order.’ I was using it as one EXAMPLE among many others that could be cited.

    You said “The consistent argument I hear from people like you is that there are only ever two options when a government does evil: do absolutely nothing, or rebel violently against the government and overthrow it, whenever you see fit.”

    Where have I (or anyone else on this blog)ever said that? That’s a total misrepresentation. A genuine straw man
    argument.
    There are plenty of options. Voting, letters to the editor,writing your congressmen, blog posts, debating with your neighbor, peacful protests( I participated in a Tea Party recently) civil disobedience, tax revolts, participating in political campaigns, running for political office, writing books, etc. I have participated in many of these acticvities.

    Armed revolt is only (and hopefully never needed) an extreme last resort that I would not personally participate in unless the government was going to inter whole classes of people en mass in prison camps, or embarked on a course of action that entailed killing large numbers of its citizens.

    Much more likely, and probably coming soon will be a wide spread tax revolt.

    You said’ I’ll accept that you “can’t do it”, although I assure you a “good conscience” has little to do with it.’

    Thanks for judging my conscience, seeing as you don’t even know me. You are proof that dyed in the wool liberalism is just the other side of the fundamentalist coin.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    tODD,
    Come on dude, really…..?

    The UK bling program was just the latest and most egregious stupid- ass attempt by an out of control government to control their people under the guise of ‘Law and Order.’ I was using it as one EXAMPLE among many others that could be cited.

    You said “The consistent argument I hear from people like you is that there are only ever two options when a government does evil: do absolutely nothing, or rebel violently against the government and overthrow it, whenever you see fit.”

    Where have I (or anyone else on this blog)ever said that? That’s a total misrepresentation. A genuine straw man
    argument.
    There are plenty of options. Voting, letters to the editor,writing your congressmen, blog posts, debating with your neighbor, peacful protests( I participated in a Tea Party recently) civil disobedience, tax revolts, participating in political campaigns, running for political office, writing books, etc. I have participated in many of these acticvities.

    Armed revolt is only (and hopefully never needed) an extreme last resort that I would not personally participate in unless the government was going to inter whole classes of people en mass in prison camps, or embarked on a course of action that entailed killing large numbers of its citizens.

    Much more likely, and probably coming soon will be a wide spread tax revolt.

    You said’ I’ll accept that you “can’t do it”, although I assure you a “good conscience” has little to do with it.’

    Thanks for judging my conscience, seeing as you don’t even know me. You are proof that dyed in the wool liberalism is just the other side of the fundamentalist coin.

  • Carl Vehse

    Patrick Kyle @50: “Armed revolt is only (and hopefully never needed) an extreme last resort that I would not personally participate in unless the government was going to inter whole classes of people en mass in prison camps, or embarked on a course of action that entailed killing large numbers of its citizens.”

    You may want to refer to this advice: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    I think it has been successfully tested.

  • Carl Vehse

    Patrick Kyle @50: “Armed revolt is only (and hopefully never needed) an extreme last resort that I would not personally participate in unless the government was going to inter whole classes of people en mass in prison camps, or embarked on a course of action that entailed killing large numbers of its citizens.”

    You may want to refer to this advice: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    I think it has been successfully tested.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@45), you called me a “a moral relativist” and said “So much for your reading of Romans 13.” Later, you said (@49), “Romans 13 is NOT an absolute in the life of tODD.” What, in what I’ve said here, are you referring to? I’m still not convinced that you understand what I’m saying.

    Patrick (@50), the “bling” thing was your example, and it was an exceedingly poor one that I’m not sure you understand fully — it is not, for example, an “edict”, as you call it, nor does it compel anyone to do anything. How it bolsters your argument is not apparent.

    Of the “options” you mention, of course, “tax revolts” (by which I assume you mean intentionally not paying taxes) would, of course, be proscribed by Romans 13 and Luke 20:25. Not sure why you slipped that in there — do you think it’s a legitimate and God-pleasing option? What Scripture would you cite to back you up on that?

    Armed revolt is certainly “extreme” but it is never “needed” — not by God. Even if the government were to “inter whole classes of people en masse in prison camps” or “killing large numbers of its citizens”, we could speak out and act to save our neighbors without having to resort to murder. But see how you assume that there is a time when violence is necessary, without seeing the alternatives in the middle?

    As to “judging your conscience”, I’m only telling you what the Bible clearly teaches — that one cannot, in good conscience, rebel against the authorities, which God has instituted. If you feel “judged” by this, then the Law is working its purpose, and I’d suggest you repent of your attitude.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@45), you called me a “a moral relativist” and said “So much for your reading of Romans 13.” Later, you said (@49), “Romans 13 is NOT an absolute in the life of tODD.” What, in what I’ve said here, are you referring to? I’m still not convinced that you understand what I’m saying.

    Patrick (@50), the “bling” thing was your example, and it was an exceedingly poor one that I’m not sure you understand fully — it is not, for example, an “edict”, as you call it, nor does it compel anyone to do anything. How it bolsters your argument is not apparent.

    Of the “options” you mention, of course, “tax revolts” (by which I assume you mean intentionally not paying taxes) would, of course, be proscribed by Romans 13 and Luke 20:25. Not sure why you slipped that in there — do you think it’s a legitimate and God-pleasing option? What Scripture would you cite to back you up on that?

    Armed revolt is certainly “extreme” but it is never “needed” — not by God. Even if the government were to “inter whole classes of people en masse in prison camps” or “killing large numbers of its citizens”, we could speak out and act to save our neighbors without having to resort to murder. But see how you assume that there is a time when violence is necessary, without seeing the alternatives in the middle?

    As to “judging your conscience”, I’m only telling you what the Bible clearly teaches — that one cannot, in good conscience, rebel against the authorities, which God has instituted. If you feel “judged” by this, then the Law is working its purpose, and I’d suggest you repent of your attitude.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Talk about drama and infotainment! Aint this blog great?!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Talk about drama and infotainment! Aint this blog great?!

  • http://49,551,703 Don S

    Wow, great discussion! Carl (@ 42), I do want to respond to your comments to me. I disagree that the American Revolutionaries were more justified than Bonhoefer, accepting, for sake of discussion, the premise that both were wrong, at least at some level. In the case of Bonhoefer, by 1944 it was quite clear to all that had eyes to see that a great evil was taking place in Germany, and that to effectively stop the madness Hitler would need to be removed. While one must take Romans 13 into very serious consideration when contemplating any act against the government in authority, you can also see how, weighing the scriptures in toto, as well as the immediate circumstances, a Christian could legitimately come to the conclusion that it was reasonable to take part in the rebellion against Hitler, in order to prevent a greater evil.

    On the other hand, with respect to the American revolutionaries, the very act of establishing the Continental Congress, in direct defiance of the governing British authorities, is the act of rebellion. The issue in Romans 13 isn’t really murder, it’s rebellion. Just because the Continental Congress then authorized an armed force doesn’t erase the fact that the Congress itself would have been regarded by the British as illegitimate. It’s a bootstrap argument you are making, the thought process being, well, we don’t want to MURDER, because that would be wrong. So, we’ll create a government which will authorize the murder, and that will be OK. I don’t think so.

    Now, I’m not necessarily condemning the American revolutionaries either. Scripture does need to be read in context. I mean, if we took everything Paul wrote in scripture absolutely literally, our wives would all always have their heads coveredin church, and be completely silent. The epistle to the Romans was a letter to a specific church in Rome. Paul was addressing specific problems and issues the Roman Christians were grappling with. The book was written in the mid 50′s, right about the time Nero first took power. Christians were not yet under serious persecution, and the civil authority (Roman government) at that time actually was viewed by Paul as affording protection from the Jewish leaders. Recall that Paul appealed to Rome, availing himself of his rights as a Roman citizen, when pressed by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. Romans 13:3 doesn’t make sense, frankly, if read literally in the context of the Third Reich, so we know it can’t be simply read in a vacuum.

    I am a fundamentalist, and a literalist. So I take each scriptural passage very seriously, and my first instinct is to take it at face value. But there is scripture, other than Romans 13, which seems to open the door to the idea that Romans 13 is not applicable to all civil governments in all circumstances, and that resistance to civil authority is sometimes an option or even required. We all seem to agree with that, as we have all acknowledged that we must obey God rather than men when men rule in a godless manner. So, then, the question becomes what are the constraints on our resistance, biblically. As in many other matters of theology, reasonable Christians can differ.

    For these reasons, I cannot condemn either Bonhoefer or the Christian American revolutionaries for their chosen course of action, at least not blanketly. On the other hand, there can be no legitimate justification, whatsoever, for Roeder’s lawless and evil act, for reasons I and others have fully set out above.

  • http://49,551,703 Don S

    Wow, great discussion! Carl (@ 42), I do want to respond to your comments to me. I disagree that the American Revolutionaries were more justified than Bonhoefer, accepting, for sake of discussion, the premise that both were wrong, at least at some level. In the case of Bonhoefer, by 1944 it was quite clear to all that had eyes to see that a great evil was taking place in Germany, and that to effectively stop the madness Hitler would need to be removed. While one must take Romans 13 into very serious consideration when contemplating any act against the government in authority, you can also see how, weighing the scriptures in toto, as well as the immediate circumstances, a Christian could legitimately come to the conclusion that it was reasonable to take part in the rebellion against Hitler, in order to prevent a greater evil.

    On the other hand, with respect to the American revolutionaries, the very act of establishing the Continental Congress, in direct defiance of the governing British authorities, is the act of rebellion. The issue in Romans 13 isn’t really murder, it’s rebellion. Just because the Continental Congress then authorized an armed force doesn’t erase the fact that the Congress itself would have been regarded by the British as illegitimate. It’s a bootstrap argument you are making, the thought process being, well, we don’t want to MURDER, because that would be wrong. So, we’ll create a government which will authorize the murder, and that will be OK. I don’t think so.

    Now, I’m not necessarily condemning the American revolutionaries either. Scripture does need to be read in context. I mean, if we took everything Paul wrote in scripture absolutely literally, our wives would all always have their heads coveredin church, and be completely silent. The epistle to the Romans was a letter to a specific church in Rome. Paul was addressing specific problems and issues the Roman Christians were grappling with. The book was written in the mid 50′s, right about the time Nero first took power. Christians were not yet under serious persecution, and the civil authority (Roman government) at that time actually was viewed by Paul as affording protection from the Jewish leaders. Recall that Paul appealed to Rome, availing himself of his rights as a Roman citizen, when pressed by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. Romans 13:3 doesn’t make sense, frankly, if read literally in the context of the Third Reich, so we know it can’t be simply read in a vacuum.

    I am a fundamentalist, and a literalist. So I take each scriptural passage very seriously, and my first instinct is to take it at face value. But there is scripture, other than Romans 13, which seems to open the door to the idea that Romans 13 is not applicable to all civil governments in all circumstances, and that resistance to civil authority is sometimes an option or even required. We all seem to agree with that, as we have all acknowledged that we must obey God rather than men when men rule in a godless manner. So, then, the question becomes what are the constraints on our resistance, biblically. As in many other matters of theology, reasonable Christians can differ.

    For these reasons, I cannot condemn either Bonhoefer or the Christian American revolutionaries for their chosen course of action, at least not blanketly. On the other hand, there can be no legitimate justification, whatsoever, for Roeder’s lawless and evil act, for reasons I and others have fully set out above.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl (@42), I suppose all parties have to end. You said:

    The American revolutionaries fought against the British government, not as individuals, but as minutemen, militia, and soldiers with allegiance to and under the direction of the government established by the Second Continental Congress of the United States of America.

    Best check your timing there. The Second Continental Congress began (soon) after the Revolutionary War had begun, and after much revolutionary activity had already occurred. It was a reaction to the rebellion that was occurring and had already occurred, and as such not something that one could point to as a legitimate government in causing those actions.

    That said, it’s possible that some in the American Revolution were trying to submit to authority in their actions, arguing that the King had wrongly claimed authority over the colonies he did not legally have. I’m not intimately aware of the legal situation at that time, so I don’t know.

    But it’s clear that many American revolutionaries had no interest whatsoever in the instructions of Romans 13, and this can be seen from a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which you Carl, confusingly, seem to refer to approvingly.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl (@42), I suppose all parties have to end. You said:

    The American revolutionaries fought against the British government, not as individuals, but as minutemen, militia, and soldiers with allegiance to and under the direction of the government established by the Second Continental Congress of the United States of America.

    Best check your timing there. The Second Continental Congress began (soon) after the Revolutionary War had begun, and after much revolutionary activity had already occurred. It was a reaction to the rebellion that was occurring and had already occurred, and as such not something that one could point to as a legitimate government in causing those actions.

    That said, it’s possible that some in the American Revolution were trying to submit to authority in their actions, arguing that the King had wrongly claimed authority over the colonies he did not legally have. I’m not intimately aware of the legal situation at that time, so I don’t know.

    But it’s clear that many American revolutionaries had no interest whatsoever in the instructions of Romans 13, and this can be seen from a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which you Carl, confusingly, seem to refer to approvingly.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    tODD said,

    ‘we could speak out and act to save our neighbors without having to resort to murder. But see how you assume that there is a time when violence is necessary, without seeing the alternatives in the middle?’

    Yeah, yeah, surely I meant armed rebellion only, without any thought of other means of saving people in danger from their government.

    As to my example of the bling posters. I understand it entirely too well. It was not a law or an ‘edict’ in that sense, but is an attempt by the authorities to sow suspicion among neighbors for the purpose of recruiting help at no financial cost to the police forces involved. The fact that a police agency would conceive of and implement such a program speaks volumes. It doesn’t ask people to help their neighbors when in dire need or to protect them from bodily harm, but to judge things that they can’t know for certain, and plays to a sense of envy or vengeance. Still think it’s a bad example? Try these.

    Officials at the Fed, fresh from Wall Street jobs, engineer hundreds of billions in bailouts for their cronies on Wall Street, using our tax dollars and mortgaging our futures, after their BS schemes bankrupted this country.(These are the same people who recently admitted that they are now unable to account for 9 Trillion in loans. Yes that’s trillion with a “T”)

    Bush and his cronies engineer the the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which allows them to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and hold them indefinitely without a trial.

    Under the Patriot Act public librarians were told to hand over library records to the FBI under threat of prosecution. The Catch? By law they couldn’t tell a soul or they would be charged with a Felony.

    Members of Parliament in the UK are under investigation (some have resigned) for using Parliamentary expense accounts for the purchase of porn, luxury items, and other things.

    Local and state governments in California, after spending like drunken sailors in a brothel, want to blame the tax payers for this whole mess because we refuse to cough up more money to continue the binge spending. Instead of making the real cuts they hold the taxpayers hostage with threats of closing schools and laying off police and fire fighters.

    And for all this I and people like me are expected to sacrifice by coughing up legal plunder in the form of ever increasng taxes,and comply with their exponentially exploding regulations ( that will result in more taxes, I mean fines, if I don’t comply in every area) while I struggle to keep a roof over my children’s head, food on the table,and a car on the road so I can continue to work and pay more taxes.

    These people are depriving us of our Constitutional rights and selling us into debt slavery. The laws and tax structures are making it harder and harder to create successful businesses unless you have friends in the government that can help you.

    Surely all of the above is God pleasing, because He ordained it, and I should gladly sacrifice the fruit of my labor,and my children’s future prosperity and give my blind obedience to such a work of God. NOT!

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    tODD said,

    ‘we could speak out and act to save our neighbors without having to resort to murder. But see how you assume that there is a time when violence is necessary, without seeing the alternatives in the middle?’

    Yeah, yeah, surely I meant armed rebellion only, without any thought of other means of saving people in danger from their government.

    As to my example of the bling posters. I understand it entirely too well. It was not a law or an ‘edict’ in that sense, but is an attempt by the authorities to sow suspicion among neighbors for the purpose of recruiting help at no financial cost to the police forces involved. The fact that a police agency would conceive of and implement such a program speaks volumes. It doesn’t ask people to help their neighbors when in dire need or to protect them from bodily harm, but to judge things that they can’t know for certain, and plays to a sense of envy or vengeance. Still think it’s a bad example? Try these.

    Officials at the Fed, fresh from Wall Street jobs, engineer hundreds of billions in bailouts for their cronies on Wall Street, using our tax dollars and mortgaging our futures, after their BS schemes bankrupted this country.(These are the same people who recently admitted that they are now unable to account for 9 Trillion in loans. Yes that’s trillion with a “T”)

    Bush and his cronies engineer the the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which allows them to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and hold them indefinitely without a trial.

    Under the Patriot Act public librarians were told to hand over library records to the FBI under threat of prosecution. The Catch? By law they couldn’t tell a soul or they would be charged with a Felony.

    Members of Parliament in the UK are under investigation (some have resigned) for using Parliamentary expense accounts for the purchase of porn, luxury items, and other things.

    Local and state governments in California, after spending like drunken sailors in a brothel, want to blame the tax payers for this whole mess because we refuse to cough up more money to continue the binge spending. Instead of making the real cuts they hold the taxpayers hostage with threats of closing schools and laying off police and fire fighters.

    And for all this I and people like me are expected to sacrifice by coughing up legal plunder in the form of ever increasng taxes,and comply with their exponentially exploding regulations ( that will result in more taxes, I mean fines, if I don’t comply in every area) while I struggle to keep a roof over my children’s head, food on the table,and a car on the road so I can continue to work and pay more taxes.

    These people are depriving us of our Constitutional rights and selling us into debt slavery. The laws and tax structures are making it harder and harder to create successful businesses unless you have friends in the government that can help you.

    Surely all of the above is God pleasing, because He ordained it, and I should gladly sacrifice the fruit of my labor,and my children’s future prosperity and give my blind obedience to such a work of God. NOT!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@54), you said:

    Weighing the scriptures in toto, as well as the immediate circumstances, a Christian could legitimately come to the conclusion that it was reasonable to take part in the rebellion against Hitler, in order to prevent a greater evil.

    Okay, what Scriptures would cause us to believe Romans 13 does not mean what it clearly says in that scenario?

    But there is scripture, other than Romans 13, which seems to open the door to the idea that Romans 13 is not applicable to all civil governments in all circumstances, and that resistance to civil authority is sometimes an option or even required.

    Right, so what Scripture are you referring to? Is it clearer than Romans 13? And if we (that is, you) can argue that Romans 13 is really only specifically aimed at the particular context in which it is written, what other Christian doctrine can we also ignore for the sake of relativism?
    Perhaps Paul similarly didn’t really mean that wives should submit to their husbands? Perhaps husbands aren’t really the head of the family? That was then! I mean, what if the husband is really awful? Surely, then the wife doesn’t have to submit!

    Of course, a lot hinges on your word “resistance” there. It is one thing, as I have noted several times here, to refuse to do the evil a government commands, or to refuse to stop doing the good that a government proscribes — this is acting in keeping with obeying God above all. But if by “resistance”, you mean seeking to overthrow a government, then obeying God cannot be a motivation, since God commands us to submit, and yet does not command us to overthrow governments, even evil ones.

    Unless, that is, one of your unspecified scriptures shows that God does command such a thing?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@54), you said:

    Weighing the scriptures in toto, as well as the immediate circumstances, a Christian could legitimately come to the conclusion that it was reasonable to take part in the rebellion against Hitler, in order to prevent a greater evil.

    Okay, what Scriptures would cause us to believe Romans 13 does not mean what it clearly says in that scenario?

    But there is scripture, other than Romans 13, which seems to open the door to the idea that Romans 13 is not applicable to all civil governments in all circumstances, and that resistance to civil authority is sometimes an option or even required.

    Right, so what Scripture are you referring to? Is it clearer than Romans 13? And if we (that is, you) can argue that Romans 13 is really only specifically aimed at the particular context in which it is written, what other Christian doctrine can we also ignore for the sake of relativism?
    Perhaps Paul similarly didn’t really mean that wives should submit to their husbands? Perhaps husbands aren’t really the head of the family? That was then! I mean, what if the husband is really awful? Surely, then the wife doesn’t have to submit!

    Of course, a lot hinges on your word “resistance” there. It is one thing, as I have noted several times here, to refuse to do the evil a government commands, or to refuse to stop doing the good that a government proscribes — this is acting in keeping with obeying God above all. But if by “resistance”, you mean seeking to overthrow a government, then obeying God cannot be a motivation, since God commands us to submit, and yet does not command us to overthrow governments, even evil ones.

    Unless, that is, one of your unspecified scriptures shows that God does command such a thing?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Patrick (@56), whether or not you also meant to include (but did not mention) “other means of saving people in danger from their government”, my point remains the same about “armed rebellion”, and your belief that it is, sometimes, necessary.

    And then you list lots of examples of governments behaving badly, and conclude by mocking the idea that all of it is “God pleasing”. Well!

    The question here isn’t one of: are these government examples you cite (or the other ones under discussion) “God pleasing”. What is under discussion is whether our rebelling against God’s authorities is pleasing to him, and Scripture is clear on that: it is not. Even if the actions of our governments are reprehensible to God (and no doubt that of the 1st century Roman Empire was), we are to submit, regardless. God does not give us an “if-then” clause.

    I’m sorry that you’re having money problems, but whether they’re caused by repressive taxation or otherwise, the answer for Christians is always the same: trust in God to provide for you and your family. He has promised that he will provide for us, although he has not promised us we will be free of difficulty. You seem to question whether God is capable of providing for you and your family, due to the actions of the government. In which case I need to remind you that God instituted that government — yes, even the California legislature. And we know that because he tells us so, quite clearly.

    Even so, we are forgiven when we fear that God is not in control. When we fear that he will not provide for us. And he does more than forgive us — he provides what we need. In light of this, we can cheerfully give to Caesar what is his (you know, taxes), knowing that God will take care of us, no matter how awful the government.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Patrick (@56), whether or not you also meant to include (but did not mention) “other means of saving people in danger from their government”, my point remains the same about “armed rebellion”, and your belief that it is, sometimes, necessary.

    And then you list lots of examples of governments behaving badly, and conclude by mocking the idea that all of it is “God pleasing”. Well!

    The question here isn’t one of: are these government examples you cite (or the other ones under discussion) “God pleasing”. What is under discussion is whether our rebelling against God’s authorities is pleasing to him, and Scripture is clear on that: it is not. Even if the actions of our governments are reprehensible to God (and no doubt that of the 1st century Roman Empire was), we are to submit, regardless. God does not give us an “if-then” clause.

    I’m sorry that you’re having money problems, but whether they’re caused by repressive taxation or otherwise, the answer for Christians is always the same: trust in God to provide for you and your family. He has promised that he will provide for us, although he has not promised us we will be free of difficulty. You seem to question whether God is capable of providing for you and your family, due to the actions of the government. In which case I need to remind you that God instituted that government — yes, even the California legislature. And we know that because he tells us so, quite clearly.

    Even so, we are forgiven when we fear that God is not in control. When we fear that he will not provide for us. And he does more than forgive us — he provides what we need. In light of this, we can cheerfully give to Caesar what is his (you know, taxes), knowing that God will take care of us, no matter how awful the government.

  • http://49,551,703 Don S

    Again, tODD @ 57, I am not picking a fight with you on this issue. I am contending more with Carl, to the extent that he is attempting to lump the despicable and inexcusable act of Roeder with the at least understandable, if not reasonable, acts of Bonhoefer.

    However, I cannot view Romans 13 in so black and white a manner as you are. Again, if you are going to be so literal and universal with this passage, I will expect you to be the same with all of Paul’s other writings. Make sure your wife is on board with that, and that she has plenty of nice hats to wear to church services. Clearly, this passage is contextual. Jews had been expelled from Rome in AD 49 by Claudius. Nero had just come into power, and had restored them to the city. Although Nero was to later become a terror to Christians and Jews, at this time he was seemingly benign. As we have already noted, Paul respected the rights he had as a Roman citizen, and truly did believe there were positive aspects to Roman government. He didn’t want the fledgling Christian community fighting the Romans, at the expense of the Gospel.

    I already cited Acts 5:29. There is a limit to our requirement to respect civil government, and it is when it conflicts with the laws of God. You have already conceded this point. Now we are out of the black and white and into the gray. That’s OK. The purpose of Scripture is to provide guidance, which is illuminated by the Holy Spirit to assist us in applying that guidance to teh particular facts and circumstances of our lives. What are those limits, and what are the appropriate actions to take to honor the law of God when the limits are exceeded? How about Hosea 8:4: “They have set up kings, but not by Me; they have appointed princes, but I did not know it.” Clearly, not all civil governments are or have been established by God. How did the Third Reich fulfill Romans 13:3 — “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same”. Kind of tough to square with Hitler, don’t you think? Hitler turned this verse on its head. Hitler made Nero, even in his worse days, look like an angel.

    Now, again, I am not saying whether Bonhoefer or particular ones of the Christian American revolutionaries committed sin in taking the course of action they elected. That’s between them and their Maker. But, it is conceivable to me that they did not.

  • http://49,551,703 Don S

    Again, tODD @ 57, I am not picking a fight with you on this issue. I am contending more with Carl, to the extent that he is attempting to lump the despicable and inexcusable act of Roeder with the at least understandable, if not reasonable, acts of Bonhoefer.

    However, I cannot view Romans 13 in so black and white a manner as you are. Again, if you are going to be so literal and universal with this passage, I will expect you to be the same with all of Paul’s other writings. Make sure your wife is on board with that, and that she has plenty of nice hats to wear to church services. Clearly, this passage is contextual. Jews had been expelled from Rome in AD 49 by Claudius. Nero had just come into power, and had restored them to the city. Although Nero was to later become a terror to Christians and Jews, at this time he was seemingly benign. As we have already noted, Paul respected the rights he had as a Roman citizen, and truly did believe there were positive aspects to Roman government. He didn’t want the fledgling Christian community fighting the Romans, at the expense of the Gospel.

    I already cited Acts 5:29. There is a limit to our requirement to respect civil government, and it is when it conflicts with the laws of God. You have already conceded this point. Now we are out of the black and white and into the gray. That’s OK. The purpose of Scripture is to provide guidance, which is illuminated by the Holy Spirit to assist us in applying that guidance to teh particular facts and circumstances of our lives. What are those limits, and what are the appropriate actions to take to honor the law of God when the limits are exceeded? How about Hosea 8:4: “They have set up kings, but not by Me; they have appointed princes, but I did not know it.” Clearly, not all civil governments are or have been established by God. How did the Third Reich fulfill Romans 13:3 — “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same”. Kind of tough to square with Hitler, don’t you think? Hitler turned this verse on its head. Hitler made Nero, even in his worse days, look like an angel.

    Now, again, I am not saying whether Bonhoefer or particular ones of the Christian American revolutionaries committed sin in taking the course of action they elected. That’s between them and their Maker. But, it is conceivable to me that they did not.

  • BW

    I have a couple questions here in this debate, questions brought about by my own dumb curiosity.

    As far as Bonhoefer goes, he might have even realized he was sinning but perhaps tormented by the devil through grief and despair at the state of things he went through with helping the assasination plot anyway. Now I’m not trying to downplay or belittle sin, I am just saying we may all know we ought to trust and hold to our faith in Christ, but we do not always do so. Sort of like when we all sin even when we are at times conscious of doing wrong.

    But I am confused now and here are where my questions come. Carl Vehse and todd, correct me if I am wrong by all means, but do I understand you guys in saying that you believe that Bonhoeffer and the German resistance was wrong in trying to bear the sword without authorization from a legitimate government. What about situations where one government calls another government illegal, like in the case of the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) versus the Republic of China (Taiwan)? Who does a Chinese citizen obey and place himself or herself under the authority of, especially in the case of a war if one were to break out? Governments go into exile as other people take power, as can be seen in Africa.

    What about say, in the case of Stalinist Russia, where all opponents were crushed and murdered and you had no government in exile anymore because the other leaders were killed? Where you are unable to organize opposition without force because opposition will be met with death, like against Pol Pot who murdered a third of his people. I guess people are still sinning in bringing the sword to overthrow the tyrant ruling them, but my sinfully prone mind has a hard time in condmening them, which I guess is why we have the ultimate Judge ruling in heaven who can clearly rule on such matters.

    I’m not trying to dispute with anyone, I’d just like your viewpoints and ideas on the matter.

  • BW

    I have a couple questions here in this debate, questions brought about by my own dumb curiosity.

    As far as Bonhoefer goes, he might have even realized he was sinning but perhaps tormented by the devil through grief and despair at the state of things he went through with helping the assasination plot anyway. Now I’m not trying to downplay or belittle sin, I am just saying we may all know we ought to trust and hold to our faith in Christ, but we do not always do so. Sort of like when we all sin even when we are at times conscious of doing wrong.

    But I am confused now and here are where my questions come. Carl Vehse and todd, correct me if I am wrong by all means, but do I understand you guys in saying that you believe that Bonhoeffer and the German resistance was wrong in trying to bear the sword without authorization from a legitimate government. What about situations where one government calls another government illegal, like in the case of the People’s Republic of China (mainland China) versus the Republic of China (Taiwan)? Who does a Chinese citizen obey and place himself or herself under the authority of, especially in the case of a war if one were to break out? Governments go into exile as other people take power, as can be seen in Africa.

    What about say, in the case of Stalinist Russia, where all opponents were crushed and murdered and you had no government in exile anymore because the other leaders were killed? Where you are unable to organize opposition without force because opposition will be met with death, like against Pol Pot who murdered a third of his people. I guess people are still sinning in bringing the sword to overthrow the tyrant ruling them, but my sinfully prone mind has a hard time in condmening them, which I guess is why we have the ultimate Judge ruling in heaven who can clearly rule on such matters.

    I’m not trying to dispute with anyone, I’d just like your viewpoints and ideas on the matter.

  • richard

    Anthony Sacramone, over at “Strange Herring” has some good comments and quotes today from Bonhoeffer that make tODD’s charge he was a moral relativist look pretty silly: strangeherring.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/quote-of-the-day-dietrich-bonhoeffer-feb-4-1906-april-9-1945/

  • richard

    Anthony Sacramone, over at “Strange Herring” has some good comments and quotes today from Bonhoeffer that make tODD’s charge he was a moral relativist look pretty silly: strangeherring.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/quote-of-the-day-dietrich-bonhoeffer-feb-4-1906-april-9-1945/

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

    This has been one of the best and most thought provoking discussions I have read on this blog, and we would all benefit from a continued and serious study of these issues.

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

    This has been one of the best and most thought provoking discussions I have read on this blog, and we would all benefit from a continued and serious study of these issues.

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. Romans 13:3 didn’t apply, as there was no good to be seen under the Third Reich. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. Romans 13:3 didn’t apply, as there was no good to be seen under the Third Reich. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@61), if you’re not going to actually read my comments, then don’t bother replying to me. I haven’t actually “charged” Bonhoeffer as a “moral relativist” in this thread — I used that term for those who wanted to defend Bonhoeffer’s actions because of the cultural context in which they occurred. That, of course, is relativism by definition.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@61), if you’re not going to actually read my comments, then don’t bother replying to me. I haven’t actually “charged” Bonhoeffer as a “moral relativist” in this thread — I used that term for those who wanted to defend Bonhoeffer’s actions because of the cultural context in which they occurred. That, of course, is relativism by definition.

  • richard

    I’m apologize for mis-representing you, tODD. But, it would be good to engage with some of Bonhoeffer’s writings before you condemn his actions.

  • richard

    I’m apologize for mis-representing you, tODD. But, it would be good to engage with some of Bonhoeffer’s writings before you condemn his actions.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@59), it’s not a question of “picking a fight”, but rather responding to points that are raised. I hope you don’t feel that I’m responding merely because I don’t like you or such.

    But I find it fascinating that a self-described “literalist” would attack my, well, “literal” reading of this passage. Frankly, I have to question your “literalist” credentials, if you’re going to read the Bible like that.

    I’m not sure I would describe myself as a “literalist”, because there are parts of the Bible that clearly are not meant to be taken literally — Jesus’ parables, for instance, are not literal. But then, Jesus says so himself. And that’s the point: the context of the text itself tells us how it should be read.

    And yet, the only context you offer to change the literal reading of Romans 13 comes not from the Bible. Now, you don’t actually offer anything that would suggest that Romans 13 does not apply univerally. You only note that the historical context fits with what Paul is saying, and this is no surprise. But where do you get that Romans 13 does not apply to us today?

    You raise the issue of 1 Cor. 11 and head coverings for women, as some sort of evidence that we don’t read the Bible “literally” — or, at least, not all the time. It’s kind of a pick-and-choose sort of thing, I guess. And yet, even Paul, in that same context, makes clear that his reasoning about head coverings (extended from the universal principle of male headship — or do you deny that as historically affected, as well?) is not universal, but only for that context, as he says about head coverings, “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (ESV; the NIV has an unfortunate translation in this verse, as my pastor has informed me).

    So I will turn this around on you: should wives submit to their husbands? Or is that only something meant for that church at that time?

    I am troubled by your reading of Hosea 8:4. You find in it a contradiction with Romans 13:1, and, rather than trying to find how the two may be in harmony, come to the conclusion that flatly contradicts Scripture: that not all governments are established by God. Do you similarly toss out all other apparently contradictory passages, Don? And how do you know which one to side with when they disagree?

    Maybe it’s just me, but Romans 13 is the clearer of these two passages. Hosea consists largely of metaphor or allegory, whereas Romans is plain theological teaching. And yet you throw out the latter for the former. And what is the former, Hosea, describing here? Most of the passage is about Israel’s apostasy, following other gods than YHWH. Frankly, I’m not well-versed enough in Old Testament history to know if this refers to a specific set of incidents or not, or if “kings” and “princes” is referring to the idols mentioned in the rest of the passage. But let’s assume it does not.

    Is it still possible to read Hosea 8:4 and Romans 13:1 and not throw one of them out? I would argue yes. God mentions Israel having rulers he does not “approve” of — indeed, this is obvious, as they were many evil rulers then. But does that mean God didn’t establish them, anyhow? The question you seem to be struggling with in Hosea 8:4 is: can God allow sinful things to happen, even if he doesn’t want sinful things to happen? I’m pretty certain you know the answer to that question in general. So, again, ask yourself: can God establish an authority consisting of sinful, evil men? Or ask yourself: did God establish Saul as king over Israel, even while warning Israel not to do so?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@59), it’s not a question of “picking a fight”, but rather responding to points that are raised. I hope you don’t feel that I’m responding merely because I don’t like you or such.

    But I find it fascinating that a self-described “literalist” would attack my, well, “literal” reading of this passage. Frankly, I have to question your “literalist” credentials, if you’re going to read the Bible like that.

    I’m not sure I would describe myself as a “literalist”, because there are parts of the Bible that clearly are not meant to be taken literally — Jesus’ parables, for instance, are not literal. But then, Jesus says so himself. And that’s the point: the context of the text itself tells us how it should be read.

    And yet, the only context you offer to change the literal reading of Romans 13 comes not from the Bible. Now, you don’t actually offer anything that would suggest that Romans 13 does not apply univerally. You only note that the historical context fits with what Paul is saying, and this is no surprise. But where do you get that Romans 13 does not apply to us today?

    You raise the issue of 1 Cor. 11 and head coverings for women, as some sort of evidence that we don’t read the Bible “literally” — or, at least, not all the time. It’s kind of a pick-and-choose sort of thing, I guess. And yet, even Paul, in that same context, makes clear that his reasoning about head coverings (extended from the universal principle of male headship — or do you deny that as historically affected, as well?) is not universal, but only for that context, as he says about head coverings, “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (ESV; the NIV has an unfortunate translation in this verse, as my pastor has informed me).

    So I will turn this around on you: should wives submit to their husbands? Or is that only something meant for that church at that time?

    I am troubled by your reading of Hosea 8:4. You find in it a contradiction with Romans 13:1, and, rather than trying to find how the two may be in harmony, come to the conclusion that flatly contradicts Scripture: that not all governments are established by God. Do you similarly toss out all other apparently contradictory passages, Don? And how do you know which one to side with when they disagree?

    Maybe it’s just me, but Romans 13 is the clearer of these two passages. Hosea consists largely of metaphor or allegory, whereas Romans is plain theological teaching. And yet you throw out the latter for the former. And what is the former, Hosea, describing here? Most of the passage is about Israel’s apostasy, following other gods than YHWH. Frankly, I’m not well-versed enough in Old Testament history to know if this refers to a specific set of incidents or not, or if “kings” and “princes” is referring to the idols mentioned in the rest of the passage. But let’s assume it does not.

    Is it still possible to read Hosea 8:4 and Romans 13:1 and not throw one of them out? I would argue yes. God mentions Israel having rulers he does not “approve” of — indeed, this is obvious, as they were many evil rulers then. But does that mean God didn’t establish them, anyhow? The question you seem to be struggling with in Hosea 8:4 is: can God allow sinful things to happen, even if he doesn’t want sinful things to happen? I’m pretty certain you know the answer to that question in general. So, again, ask yourself: can God establish an authority consisting of sinful, evil men? Or ask yourself: did God establish Saul as king over Israel, even while warning Israel not to do so?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@63), thanks. But I must ask: will reading Bonhoeffer’s writings tell me more about God’s will for citizens than God has already expressed in Romans 13 and elsewhere in the Bible? If not, then I think that’s all I need to know to be able to discern right from wrong.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Richard (@63), thanks. But I must ask: will reading Bonhoeffer’s writings tell me more about God’s will for citizens than God has already expressed in Romans 13 and elsewhere in the Bible? If not, then I think that’s all I need to know to be able to discern right from wrong.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 64:

    I posted a long, explanatory post this morning, and it is lost in the filters somewhere. Maybe I’ll try to re-post it now. Suffice to say, you are reading way too much into my comments. I am not at all saying that the Bible should not be read literally, but merely that it must be read in context. Where there are apparent contradictions between different scriptural passages, they are typically due to contextual differences, and readily resolve with further consideration. The passage of Romans 13 is clear. However, when Romans 13:3 doesn’t seem to apply (e.g. there is no good coming from the civil government, as in the case of the Third Reich), then exceptions may arise. You, yourself, have acknowledged that sometimes we have to disobey civil authorities. Then, we are talking about degree. I’ll try to re-post that earlier comment (in which case it will probably later appear, in various forms, two or three times).

  • DonS

    tODD @ 64:

    I posted a long, explanatory post this morning, and it is lost in the filters somewhere. Maybe I’ll try to re-post it now. Suffice to say, you are reading way too much into my comments. I am not at all saying that the Bible should not be read literally, but merely that it must be read in context. Where there are apparent contradictions between different scriptural passages, they are typically due to contextual differences, and readily resolve with further consideration. The passage of Romans 13 is clear. However, when Romans 13:3 doesn’t seem to apply (e.g. there is no good coming from the civil government, as in the case of the Third Reich), then exceptions may arise. You, yourself, have acknowledged that sometimes we have to disobey civil authorities. Then, we are talking about degree. I’ll try to re-post that earlier comment (in which case it will probably later appear, in various forms, two or three times).

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority? I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?
    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit.

    I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one. As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority? I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?
    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit.

    I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one. As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    Nope, it still is not posting. No links, and no unusual words, so it must be an issue of length. I’ll try breaking it up.

  • DonS

    Nope, it still is not posting. No links, and no unusual words, so it must be an issue of length. I’ll try breaking it up.

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    (continued below)

  • DonS

    Let me see if I can summarize my thoughts perhaps a little more clearly than I did late last night. There is no question in my mind that Romans 13 clearly teaches that we need to respect civil authority. At least 99.9% of the time, tODD is absolutely correct in his interpretation of that scripture. However, we all agree that there are instances where civil authorities mandate evil, where we must decline and thus disobey that authority (Acts 5:29). So Romans 13 is not absolute. The question then becomes, what are these instances and what actions can we take in disobeying civil authority in order to follow and obey God? Is there ever an instance in which the actions we can take can include violence against that civil authority?

    I think tODD is again almost always right, that we should take the most non-violent option available in resisting an evil civil authority. Preach illegally, house and spirit away condemned Jews, smuggle Bibles, hold illegal underground church services, etc. We are commanded to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and no civil authority should deter us from doing that. However, is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?

    (continued below)

  • DonS

    (continued from above)

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

    This has been one of the best and most thought provoking discussions I have read on this blog, and we would all benefit from a continued and serious study of these issues.

  • DonS

    (continued from above)

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

    This has been one of the best and most thought provoking discussions I have read on this blog, and we would all benefit from a continued and serious study of these issues.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    Continued….

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    Continued….

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    Or not. I can’t get the rest of it to post, even breaking it up into single paragraphs…..

  • DonS

    Or not. I can’t get the rest of it to post, even breaking it up into single paragraphs…..

  • DonS

    (From comment #68) — In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    (From comment #68) — In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage, relying on the Acts 5:29 exception. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great responsibility for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. I can’t walk in his shoes on that one.

  • DonS

    I give up. There are many different variations of the same comment stuck in the spam filter somewhere. This thread will be a mess later.

  • DonS

    I give up. There are many different variations of the same comment stuck in the spam filter somewhere. This thread will be a mess later.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bummer. I was looking forward to more.

    Probably Veith has a filter that prevents you from posting much of anything if you type out the phrase “tODD is absolutely correct”, as you did @68.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bummer. I was looking forward to more.

    Probably Veith has a filter that prevents you from posting much of anything if you type out the phrase “tODD is absolutely correct”, as you did @68.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great burden for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. He gave his life in an attempt to stop a great evil. In context, I’m not sure his actions contravened Romans 13.

  • DonS

    In order to take one of these actions, we must seemingly directly contravene a clear scriptural passage. You can’t do that without bathing the matter in prayer, and receiving some kind of clear guidance from the Holy Spirit. I guess I can’t blithely condemn Bonhoefer for where he found himself by 1944, as the Third Reich had by then murdered and ruined millions of his neighbors and friends, destroyed his own ministry, and wreaked havoc throughout the world. Responsible German citizens would have felt a great burden for what the government they had instituted in 1933 had done. He gave his life in an attempt to stop a great evil. In context, I’m not sure his actions contravened Romans 13.

  • DonS

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    As for the American revolutionaries, their acts of rebellion were initially non-violent. However, I suspect that they could foresee that the British authorities would respond with violence. To the extend that true believers were involved in setting the early acts of rebellion in motion, they were accountable to God for that, and I don’t know how that would turn out. The bigger question was later. Once events were set in motion, was it OK for Christians to take up arms in support of the Colonists against the British? Good question. I suspect the answer is yes, because a new civil government, in the form of the Continental Congress, was by then in place, and they would have been subject to it.

  • DonS

    OK, comments 72 and 73 continue from comment 68. I’m sure you’re right about the “tODD is correct” filter :-)

  • DonS

    OK, comments 72 and 73 continue from comment 68. I’m sure you’re right about the “tODD is correct” filter :-)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I have no idea what’s going on with the comments here, but I’m glad they showed up. Perhaps there’s some logic to prevent too many comments in a row by one commenter, as well as one preventing overly-long comments (though my novella @64 squeaked through)? I only offer this because your comments @72-3 showed up after I said something.

    Or perhaps you keep tripping over some kind of Godwin’s Law filter, owing to the discussion of Nazis and all. :)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I have no idea what’s going on with the comments here, but I’m glad they showed up. Perhaps there’s some logic to prevent too many comments in a row by one commenter, as well as one preventing overly-long comments (though my novella @64 squeaked through)? I only offer this because your comments @72-3 showed up after I said something.

    Or perhaps you keep tripping over some kind of Godwin’s Law filter, owing to the discussion of Nazis and all. :)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don, I was largely with you in your first comment (@68), which you concluded with the important question — the thing we’re really debating here — “is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?”

    However, I feel you kind of punted in your next comment (@72), essentially offering a “Maybe? Who can say?”

    I would strenuously disagree that it is ever advisable to “directly contravene a clear scriptural passage”, even with much prayer. Many people seeking to go against Scripture do receive guidance, though not from the Holy Spirit! After all, why would the Spirit contradict the very words he inspired the biblical authors to write? Does the Holy Spirit — that is, God — second-guess himself?

    I’m not saying it wasn’t hard to live in Nazi Germany. I just don’t see on what basis you could say “I’m not sure his actions contravened Romans 13.”

    As for your third comment (@73), I think we are more in agreement, because the principle in Romans 13 is being applied. And I’ve already touched on this (@22). Of course, American Christians applying Romans 13 could have also come to the conclusion that they should fight on the side of the British as the legitimate government. At least they would have been trying to apply Scripture.

    I still don’t see any defense of Bonhoeffer’s action that tries to do that, though. All I hear is “the Nazis were evil”, and indeed they were. And Bonhoeffer added one more evil act to the sorry state of things.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don, I was largely with you in your first comment (@68), which you concluded with the important question — the thing we’re really debating here — “is there ever an instance when it might be permissible to engage in violence or attempt to overthrow the government?”

    However, I feel you kind of punted in your next comment (@72), essentially offering a “Maybe? Who can say?”

    I would strenuously disagree that it is ever advisable to “directly contravene a clear scriptural passage”, even with much prayer. Many people seeking to go against Scripture do receive guidance, though not from the Holy Spirit! After all, why would the Spirit contradict the very words he inspired the biblical authors to write? Does the Holy Spirit — that is, God — second-guess himself?

    I’m not saying it wasn’t hard to live in Nazi Germany. I just don’t see on what basis you could say “I’m not sure his actions contravened Romans 13.”

    As for your third comment (@73), I think we are more in agreement, because the principle in Romans 13 is being applied. And I’ve already touched on this (@22). Of course, American Christians applying Romans 13 could have also come to the conclusion that they should fight on the side of the British as the legitimate government. At least they would have been trying to apply Scripture.

    I still don’t see any defense of Bonhoeffer’s action that tries to do that, though. All I hear is “the Nazis were evil”, and indeed they were. And Bonhoeffer added one more evil act to the sorry state of things.

  • richard

    But tODD–earlier in your posts you cited approvingly to those who hid Jews. This involves bearing false witness. I think you are too blithely dismissing the moral dilemmas Christians faced in the Third Reich. At the risk of sounding like a moral relativist–it isn’t just a matter of right vs. wrong.

  • richard

    But tODD–earlier in your posts you cited approvingly to those who hid Jews. This involves bearing false witness. I think you are too blithely dismissing the moral dilemmas Christians faced in the Third Reich. At the risk of sounding like a moral relativist–it isn’t just a matter of right vs. wrong.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Read the quotation from Bonhoeffer posted at “Strange Herring”: http://strangeherring.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/quote-of-the-day-dietrich-bonhoeffer-feb-4-1906-april-9-1945/

    His view of guilt and the imperative of moral action in the midst of ambiguities is tied up with his view of justification and what it means that Christ bore the guilt of the world. It’s some profound reflection, and it’s not as simple as we are sometimes assuming on both sides of the issue.

    (Sorry for problems with comments not getting through. I’ll work on it.)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Read the quotation from Bonhoeffer posted at “Strange Herring”: http://strangeherring.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/quote-of-the-day-dietrich-bonhoeffer-feb-4-1906-april-9-1945/

    His view of guilt and the imperative of moral action in the midst of ambiguities is tied up with his view of justification and what it means that Christ bore the guilt of the world. It’s some profound reflection, and it’s not as simple as we are sometimes assuming on both sides of the issue.

    (Sorry for problems with comments not getting through. I’ll work on it.)

  • richard

    But, Dr. Veith, all tODD needs is the Bible to discern right from wrong. Or did I get that wrong, tODD?

  • richard

    But, Dr. Veith, all tODD needs is the Bible to discern right from wrong. Or did I get that wrong, tODD?

  • DonS

    Wow, so I really did mess up the thread. Sorry for all of the redundant comments.

    It’s probably time to wind this up, but I have one more question. tODD, why do you draw the line respective to Romans 13 at violence? We are all, including you, already reading an exception into Romans 13, based on Acts 5:29 and other such passages, wherein it is clear that on many occasions Christians (in the N.T.) and Jews (in the O.T.) acted in defiance of civil authority where that authority contradicted God’s commandments. So all of us, including you, are not reading the passage entirely literally, but rather in the context of the entirety of scripture.

    Romans 13 doesn’t address violence at all. So, if you are already interpreting the meaning of Romans 13 as including exceptions, how are you so certain, in the absence of other scriptural support, that violence in pursuit of God’s higher authority would ALWAYS be wrong? You may be right, I’m not saying you aren’t. But, how are you so sure, particularly concerning Bonhoefer’s dilemma?

  • DonS

    Wow, so I really did mess up the thread. Sorry for all of the redundant comments.

    It’s probably time to wind this up, but I have one more question. tODD, why do you draw the line respective to Romans 13 at violence? We are all, including you, already reading an exception into Romans 13, based on Acts 5:29 and other such passages, wherein it is clear that on many occasions Christians (in the N.T.) and Jews (in the O.T.) acted in defiance of civil authority where that authority contradicted God’s commandments. So all of us, including you, are not reading the passage entirely literally, but rather in the context of the entirety of scripture.

    Romans 13 doesn’t address violence at all. So, if you are already interpreting the meaning of Romans 13 as including exceptions, how are you so certain, in the absence of other scriptural support, that violence in pursuit of God’s higher authority would ALWAYS be wrong? You may be right, I’m not saying you aren’t. But, how are you so sure, particularly concerning Bonhoefer’s dilemma?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 84 — you wrote this: “I would strenuously disagree that it is ever advisable to “directly contravene a clear scriptural passage”, even with much prayer. Many people seeking to go against Scripture do receive guidance, though not from the Holy Spirit! After all, why would the Spirit contradict the very words he inspired the biblical authors to write?”

    As I mentioned above, you yourself have acknowledged that we need to directly contravene Romans 13 in the event that the civil authorities require us to act against God’s law.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 84 — you wrote this: “I would strenuously disagree that it is ever advisable to “directly contravene a clear scriptural passage”, even with much prayer. Many people seeking to go against Scripture do receive guidance, though not from the Holy Spirit! After all, why would the Spirit contradict the very words he inspired the biblical authors to write?”

    As I mentioned above, you yourself have acknowledged that we need to directly contravene Romans 13 in the event that the civil authorities require us to act against God’s law.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    How about this, Richard (@87): “Scripture is the one divine source from which, as from a spring or fountain, we draw all our theology; and Scripture is the only norm to judge teachers and teachings in the church.” Care to dispute that? Or do you have another source for discerning right from wrong?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    How about this, Richard (@87): “Scripture is the one divine source from which, as from a spring or fountain, we draw all our theology; and Scripture is the only norm to judge teachers and teachings in the church.” Care to dispute that? Or do you have another source for discerning right from wrong?


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