Kim Davis: Putting the “Protest” Back into “Protestant”

Kim Davis: Putting the “Protest” Back into “Protestant” September 8, 2015

I think most people are glad that Kim Davis is out of jail.  There has to be a better way to handle this situation that doesn’t involve prison.

David French, over at National Review, used the occasion of her release to discuss the way that our spiritual forefathers considered civil disobedience.  He begins:

Before a judge today ordered her release, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee announced their plans to meet with Kentucky clerk Kim Davis whose refusal to worship at the First Church of Justice Kennedy and sign her name to same-sex marriage licenses landed her in jail over the Labor Day weekend. Had her stand happened a few short centuries ago, Huckabee and Cruz would likely have been joined by a few notable figures from Christian history — men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox — the men who first put the “protest” in “Protestant.” They would have understood her stand completely. It’s the stand of the “lesser magistrate” — the lesser public figure — against a “greater magistrate” who has not only abandoned his God-given role and forsaken his God-ordained responsibilities, but is demanding that his subordinates participate in his rebellion.

At the dawn of the Reformation, the early Protestants faced the twin challenge of defying both ecclesiastical and earthly authority — often combined in the form of rulers acting in the name of the Catholic Church. The result wasn’t just a clash of arms, but a clash of ideas — a theological argument over whether the Reformers, including Protestant public officials, were required to obey their Catholic rulers as God-ordained authorities, abandon their new faith practices, and bring themselves — and their cities — back into obedience to the Holy Roman Emperor.

The theological response was relatively simple: When rulers defy God, they lose their God-ordained authority. When rulers require lesser authorities to cooperate in and facilitate evil, the lesser authorities must resist. As John Knox stated, “True it is, God has commanded kings to be obeyed; but likewise true it is, that in things which they commit against His glory, He has commanded no obedience, but rather, He has approved, yea, and greatly rewarded, such as have opposed themselves to their ungodly commandments and blind rage.” Calvin was even more blunt: “For earthly princes lay aside their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy to be reckoned among the number of mankind. We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.” In support of this assertion, the Reformers could point to no shortage of biblical examples, including such luminaries as David and Daniel.

Read the rest of David’s article on National Review, where he discusses the The Magdeburg Confession, a 1550 statement of defiance of Charles V, and how it applies to you today!

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