Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.
Part 8: Scripture and Rebellion, Scripture on Consent
By Leonard O. Goenaga
Finally, on consent, Scripture provides a framework that, in the least, is agreeable with several of the Colonists assumptions. Having pursued a survey that noted the contents of Scripture on the role and authority and government, on the common good, on liberty, on unchecked power, and on the rule of law, the issue of consent seems to rightly flow from such grounds. As the Founders stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” What do these truths and rights look like in light of Scripture? First, there exists an equality of persons according to the imago dei and lex talionis (Gn. 1:27; 9:6; Jam. 3:9). Second, rulers are accountable to the people. On such accountability, Grudem notes:
The need to gain and maintain consent from those who are governed, through elections at periodic intervals, is probably the single greatest protection against the abuse of power and the single greatest guarantee of accountability on the part of rulers. Rulers who become corrupt and abuse their power regularly abolish free elections, imprison or murder political opponents, intimidate voters, and rig elections so that they ‘win’ because their cronies control the ballots, the counting of votes, and the media reports of the election results.1
Third, government exists to serve the people (Rm. 13:4). Answering the question “who is best suited to decide what is best for the people,” Grudem answers “ultimately the people who are supposed to benefit from the rule of government should be the ones who can best decide what is actually for their benefit and what is not.”2 Fourth, as deduced from the first three, government works best with consent. In appointing leaders, the consent of the congregations was sought in Acts 6:3. Rehoboam the king “did not listen to the people” (1 Kg. 12:15), and the result was the rebellion of ten tribes.3 Other leaders who ruled without consent are also portrayed negatively. 4
1 Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 106. Compare this to the Crown’s revoking of colonial charters and legislatures [“abolish free elections”], seeking the imprisonment of Sam Adams and other leaders [“imprison or murder political opponents], forcing colonists to house soldiers in private property [“intimidate voters”], and establishing royal provincial governors, courts, and their own legislatures over those chosen freely by the people [“rig elections so that they ‘win’].
2 Ibid. 107. It can begin to be seen by ‘no taxation without representation’ was such a big deal. What was occurring was a form of rule where there exists no means within the government to add legitimacy to such taxation. If the Colonists had some direct representation in parliament, such parliamentary measures could rightly be said to be produced by representatives of the people. However, absent this representation, no formal measures or checks existed, and this principle was then in deep abuse.
3 “So the king [Rehoboam] did not listen to the people” (1 Kings 12:15). As a result, ten tribes rebelled. “And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, ‘What portion do we have in David? . . . To your tents, O Osrael!'” (1 Kings 12:16).
4 Examples of rulers portrayed negatively include: Pharaoh (Exod. 3:9-10); Philistines (Judg. 14:4), Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1- 21), and the Romans (Mt 2:16-17; Lk 13:1; Ac 12:1-2).
The Moral Liberal Research Writer, Leonard O. Goenaga, is a Baptist Associate Pastor (assigned to the Youth) at Glory of God Christian Fellowship, Raleigh, North Carolina; a Mentor (Computer Lab/Technology) at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club; a husband (to Katrina); and rugby coach. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (with a specific concentration in Political Theory, Social Contract, and Constitutionalism), a second B.A. in Religious Studies (with a concentration in World Religions and Early Christianity), a Master of Divinity in Christian Ethics, and an A.A. in Entrepreneurship. He has begun Ph.D with a concentration likely centered on an analysis of Locke’s Social Contract, H.L.A. Hart’s Legal System, American Constitutionalism, and Baptist Ecclesiology of Covenant. Visit his website at Leonardooh.com