Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Romans 13 and the American Revolution

Most historians would agree that our Founding Fathers (and a large majority of the colonial public) were very apprehensive about actually breaking from Britain. In reality, most of the protests during the early years of the Revolution (the Stamp Act protests, Boston Tea Party, etc.) were acts of protest not rebellion. The fact of the matter is that most people were reluctant to embrace independence until 1776, and even then, many still had reservations.

One of the interesting facts that allude to this comes from the debate over Romans chapter 13. Both the British and the colonists repeatedly read the words of this chapter, which states that rebelling or overthrowing a government was sinful in the eyes of god (or at least that is how it was interpreted back then). Countless numbers of preachers gave sermons on Romans 13, begging the people to keep with the laws of god and reject the idea of overthrowing government. As one historian put it, “under the Framers' understanding of Romans 13, the American Revolution was not an act of anarchy or rebellion; rather it was an act of resistance to a government that violated the Biblical purposes for which God had ordained civil government.”

Several other preachers, however, suggested that since the king was the ultimate source of divine governmental power, then he should be embracing Romans 13 as well. American colonists were quick to realize the hypocrisy that existed in the King, since they felt he was denying the colonists their legal rights. By understanding scripture in this way, more and more colonists felt justified in embracing independence.


Brian Tubbs said...

Very interesting issue. Great post. As a preacher, I obviously find the religious underpinnings of the Revolutionary War to be of particular interest. And this was one of the significant debates.

In a pre-TV, pre-Internet, pre-modern highway, pre-radio society, the local church played an extremely influential role in the lives of the colonists. We often forget that. A great book that covers this subject (fairly) is Mark Noll's America's God.

Corazon said...

I could not agree more. I think there is ample evidence to support the fact that religion was a major influence in the lives of British Colonials. What interests me about religion in the colonies is the fact that it was so congested. There were so many different congregations, all trying to gain a stonger following. One of the best books I have ever read on the history of coloniar religion is "Faith of the Founding Fathers" by David Holmes. He gives great insight into how religious fervor, and later the Enlightenment, impcated colonial America. I'll have to check out Mark Noll.

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Jared Myers said...

It's not taught in American schools anymore that the British Parliament had zero legal authority over the American colonies to begin with. The colonies swore allegiance to the monarchy only. Therefore, every law the British Parliament passed that affected the American colonies was illegal by definition. As far as George III was concerned, he legally and officially abrogated his authority via the Prohibitory Acts in 1775.
Take that information and apply it to what we know happened in the few years leading up to 1775/1776, and we begin to see that far from being stuck-up/arrogant/ungrateful rebels and traitors, the American colonists showed an INCREDIBLE amount of patience and restraint in the face of completely unjustified tyranny and oppression.