Chuck Baldwin on Romans 13

A while ago I came across this video series of talks on Romans 13 by Chuck Baldwin.

Here is a brief review.

Positively, I appreciate Baldwin's zeal for liberty and an honest government. Baldwin asserts God does not demand unlimited and absolute submission to earthly gov’t. This is very true. There is a moral law above laws of government. Christians ought not blindly take their cues for morality from what the political government legislates. Earthly government has a limited jurisdiction.

Verse one of Romans 13 calls us to submit to the governing authorities, or the "higher power," as the KJV has it. Baldwin reminds us that God is the highest power, which is true, but his qualification hints that we can nullify our obligation to submit to the earthly authorities, which Paul meant in the first place.

We don’t have to submit, just because the government is more powerful than us, Baldwin says. True, but we do have to submit to an established government. Government is not just power, it is an order set by God and by the society. That doesn't mean we have to obey any existing law or government, regardless of its injustice, as Baldwin implies of his critics. He has a strawman argument here: if you argue for more submission to government than Baldwin allows, you must advocate unlimited submission to de facto power. Wrong. I believe there is a time to resist government's authority, but Baldwin has a hair trigger on resistance, instead of patience and working against injustice within the law.

This seems to be an on-off switch, instead of a dimmer switch, for Baldwin. If the law is unjust at all, do not obey it. If the government is dishonest at all, it is not legitimate. This asks for virtual perfection, before we need to submit. It is a recipe for anarchy, honestly. He refers to Hebrews 13:17-18: submit to church leaders. Paul then says he has a clear conscience. So Baldwin infers erroneously that we only need to submit to those with a clear conscience.

Baldwin asserts the people have a right and duty to change or replace their government when it is disobedient. But the government is always disobedient, made up of sinful men. When does it get bad enough to take up arms? It seems he is saying at the first infraction we resist and take up arms. But he doesn’t get into this in the details. This must be answered convincingly if he wants to gain traction with more folks.

Baldwin makes several errors or false inferences like this.
He says Paul spent a lot of time in jail for resisting the civil authority.
Wrong: Paul was arrested when the Jews or others rioted.

He says every martyr was killed by a government hostile to the faith.
Wrong. Many are killed by vigilantes, not the government itself.

Prov 24:24 - "He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” him the people will curse." This is given as an observation of what will happen, but Baldwin makes it a moral obligation on us, literally screaming that we should curse the government that calls evil good. This violates Exodus 22:28; Ecclesiastes 10:20; Acts 23:5.

He reads politics into Scripture when it isn't there. Salt losing its savor is good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:13). Baldwin says this refers to political tyranny, but the point is that it is useless - you are no longer doing what God meant you to do: bear witness to Him.

This gets at a lack of political perspective in Christian discipleship. I agree tyrannical government is a moral evil, but keep this in perspective. Paul counseled slaves to be content if they couldn’t gain their freedom – to live as Christians without political liberty, literally personally enslaved (1 Corinthians 7:20-24). There is a bias toward liberty, but not a grasping after it at all costs, not a rage against bondage which I see in Baldwin.

There are also examples of extreme and unhelpful rhetoric. He says things like:
- Some pastors think the founders were not right to rebel vs Britain, appealing to Rom 13. They don't have a right to celebrate July 4 or speak well of our country, Baldwin says. I disagree. Many thoughtful people today are uncertain if the War for Independence was legitimate before God. They can love our country now, without having their patriotism questioned. Baldwin implies that if you have a king or less political freedom than you should, that you're a spineless wimp and a rebel yourself. This is historically provincial.
- Locke advocates destroying unjust government like you kill a tiger or a lion. Baldwin quotes this very sympathetically.

I would advise those seeking wisdom on how to relate to a government that is less and less Christian and just, to look elsewhere than Chuck Baldwin. This would be a good start.

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