I am merely summarizing the political views of several past theologians and justifying the actions of other Reformed heroes. I am also asking questions as to whether the rhetoric and aims of the Declaration of Independence still apply. Dedicated to:Chris RhoadesAndrew MeyersRyan Setliffand many others in whom the fire of liberty still burns. I am also writing to steer more zealous ones than I from paths that would lead to their destruction.
An honest reading of my posts would evidence immediately that I believe only a lesser civil magistrate, acting within bounds of the law, can properly resist via armed force "crazed and usurping" tyrants. This qualification eliminates many from applying (myself included; it also raises the very interesting question of who is a civil magistrate and to what range of people Romans 13 calls 'powers that be.') However, lesser magistrates do exist. When I get to the library I will type out the relevant sections from Reformed theologian, John Jefferson Davis.
In the meantime, here is a manifesto (Schaeffer did the same thing that I am doing and nobody is getting onto him. Actually, he plagiarized Rushdoony but we won't get into that).
I. The Precarious Nature of Liberty
RL Dabney writes, ""The history of human rights, that their intelligent assertors usually learn the true grounds of them "in the furnace of affliction"; that the posterity who inherit these rights hold them for a while, in pride and ignorant prescription; that after a while, when the true logic of the rights has been forgotten, and when some plausible temptation presses them to do so, the next generation discards the precious rights bodily, and goes back to the practice of old tyranny."
II. So what should we do and not do?
A. We should pray that God would make bare his arm and convert the nation (I am borrowing that phrase from Iain Murray). 1. We should pray that God would continue to Reform his church by his word and spirit. We should pray that God would stop the slaughter of the unborn. We should pray that magistrates should enact just laws, and pray for them. Believe it or not, I pray for Bush.
B. We wait on God. 1. America is not read, spiritually, to repeat 1776. So short answer: no action. I need to stress this. People think I am some youthful, zealous fireeater. Not so, as my statemtns here and elsewhere clearly indicate. 2. Such convictions that were present in Cromwell's England, The Patriot's America, and Davis's Confederacy, are produced only by generations of Calvinistic preaching, covenantal preaching to the extent that the outlook of the culture is definitevly changed. As you can see--a problem arises. We lack that time. I do believe God will give us preachers in the future, but even then it takes several generations. As Molech is rearing his ugly head even now, we won't be ready, spiritually, to meet him as a nation. 3. Nevertheless, there are small pockets of committed Christian influence (and here is where it gets tricky, for I have long wanted to write about the primacy of county politics, sphere sovereignty, and local jurisdiction, but time has not allowed it). This is the undeveloped link in my argument simply for the reason that the answer lies in a footnote I read in a journal a while back and haven't had a chance to evaluate the argument. Nevertheless, if it confirms what I think, then I can develop this point further. 4. The above being said, it is best to err on the side of caution (unless that caution puts more innocent lives at stake, which is usually not the case). See again, I am urging patience on the part of my brethren.
C. So I ask again, what do we do in the face of tyranny?
1. Rutherford Redivivus. What does a Chrisitan populace do in the face of hostility?a. Redress wrongs by constitutional and lawful means. We present our case in public debate. b. If this fails and conditins arise where we cannot worship God according to his word, and we no longer have the means by which to make a lawful appeal to the civil magistracy, and as good Christians our aim being to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, we leave the "troubled area" and establish a Christian enclave somewhere else. Samuel Rutherford writes, "Flying from the tyranny of abused authority, is a plain resisting of rulers in their unlawful oppression and perverting of judgment" (Lex Rex, 157).c. If our enemies follow us, and since they would now (usually) be acting outside their jurisdiction, and threaten the lives of our women and children, then we may take up arms to defend our kinfolk. Rutherford again: "If flight do not prevail, Goliath's sword and an host of armed men are lawful" (160; actually, that whole section of Lex Rex is quite interesting). 2. However, we do not do so for our own selfish motives (see, the third time I urge patience), nor should we engage in offensive action against the State. a. It is beyond the jurisdiction of individual citizens to take up arms against the state.b. Lesser civil magistrates, however, may take up arms against the State, provided the proper preconditions are met (see II.B-C). A godly civil magistrate, although lesser, mary arise with the support of the Christian people, and may depose tyrants so that the social order and peace of the realm may be restored. John Calvin writes, "For sometimes God raises up open avengers from among his servants, and arms them with his command to punish the wicked government and deliver his people, oppressed in unjust ways, from miserable calamity" (IV. XX. 30). Calvin restates this line of thinking in the next section. The editorial footnotes at this point become really fascinating: "The Magdeburg statement affirms the duty of armed resistance to a ruler who violates the law of God."Conclusion: I will conclude by summarising J.J. Davis' outlines for just revolution.
1. It must be a just revolution.
2. Issued by a lawful authority
3. Reasonable hope of victory
4. There should be due proportion between the good achieved and the probably evil side-effects stemming from violent means.
5. It must be rightly conducted through the right use of means.(Evangelical Ethics, 224-225)
That's all. I have the support of Rutherford, Cromwell, Dabney*, Thornwell, and others. My view is not new. It is quite old actually. I have never argued that private citizens can band together to kill tyrants as vigilantes. However, as JJ Davis clearly articulates, lesser magistrates may. *Dabney: There is a higher law superior to constitutions and statutes; not, indeed, the perjured and unprincipled cant which has no conscience against swearing allegiance to a Constitution and laws which it declares sinful, in order to grasp emoluments and advantages, and then pleads "conscience" for disobeying what it had voluntarily sworn to obey; but the everlasting law of right in the word of God. Constitutions and laws which contravene this, ought to be lawfully amended or repealed; and it is the duty of all citizens to seek it. Robert L. Dabney, A Defense of Virginia and Through Her the South pg. 17.