Part Two continued…
The Christian’s duty of paying taxes even extends to “de facto” rulers. If Hodge is correct, then the jurisdictional argument stands in direct conflict with Scripture at this point. Renowned commentator, John Murray, adds his substantial theological influence to the question concerning whom “the powers that be” refer to:
The powers that be refer to the de facto magistrates.13
Christians especially should think twice before dismissing the insights of these exegetes whose reputations are well known and beyond dispute. If we are to pay taxes to de facto magistrates, how much more should we be careful to pay taxes to those representatives properly elected? “De facto” rulers may even be those rulers who emerge after a revolution. As will be shown, there has been a radical revolution from within in this country. In truth, failure to pay taxes is rebellion towards God which will result in His judgment (Romans 13:2). It also needs to be noted that the passages in Romans 13:1,2,5 control the proper interpretation and the recipients of taxes in Romans 13:7. There is not a hint anywhere in the writings of the apostle Paul, that believers were to resist Roman taxation.
In his commentary on the Westminster Confession Of Faith, G.I. Williamson makes the following observations:
But the Scripture teaches us that civil government comes from God, and that it has authority by the will of God with or without the consent of the governed. This clearly implies that the Christian is to regard the de facto government of any particular country in which he may reside as de jure.14
Does this mean that the Christian must submit to any command from government? Or course not! Williamson explains our duties and the biblical exemptions from unlawful commands:
(1) We ought always to obey the “lawful commands” of our government. We are in any and every instance “to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). (2) We must always obey God rather than man when there is a conflict between the two (Acts 5:29). “We must obey God rather than men.” (3) We may resist actively as well as passively if that be necessary to obedience to God. When a civil authority becomes a terror to good works rather than evil, we believe that Christians have the right of active self defense (of life and property) by sanction of law (Ps. 82:4, Prov. 24:11,12 etc.). 15
A popular misinterpretation of Romans 13:1-7 says that if the government is not executing wrath against evildoers, (Romans 13:4) then the Christian is under no obligation to pay taxes to such a government. Proponents of this viewpoint seem to be implying that unless the standard of Romans 13:4 is met substantially, then the government in power has abrogated its authority and individuals are free to disobey laws of their choosing. Abortion is cited as proof that our government is not executing wrath against evildoers. In this case, it is true. However, the government is largely still executing wrath against evildoers. For example, criminals are still being prosecuted for theft, public drunkenness, rape, perjury, and murder to name a few. The law system in America still, in many ways, reflects the influence of biblical teaching. Roman law did not reflect any biblical influence.
What about taxes that go for unjust expenditures? Some tax protestors have attempted to use a moral argument to justify not paying taxes. They say that some of the tax monies go for immoral purposes and they in good conscience cannot pay taxes of this nature. Is the Christian obligated to pay these types of taxes? Is this type of argument valid? Haldane addresses this question:
Some persons make a distinction between general and particular taxes, and refuse to pay taxes levied for particular purposes, when these purposes are believed to be bad. But there is nothing that will render it unlawful to pay a particular or specific tax, that will not equally apply to a general tax, any part of which it is believed is to be applied to a bad use. Why are we not accountable for the application of every part of a general tax? Because we have no control over it, and our approbation of it when we pay it is not implied. The same consideration exempts us from any share of responsibility respecting the sinful application of a specific tax.16
If the moral argument were valid then Christians would never be able to pay any taxes. Haldane correctly points out that not paying specific taxes does not solve the problem. There is always a portion of general taxes that go for immoral purposes. How would the Christian ever decide how much of his general taxes to withhold? Withholding just some taxes is not the solution. Why? Because a portion of the remainder that was paid would still go to unjust expenditures. If you paid only one dollar a portion would still subsidize something evil. If this type of moral argument were valid no Christian could ever pay taxes. In addition, what is intolerable for one Christian would be tolerable to another. It would be difficult to escape subjectivism. And furthermore, placing veto power in the hands of the individual is a form of human autonomy. Would non-believers have this same right to determine which laws they will obey and the ones that will be ignored? If so, what are some of the implications for society? Societies built upon human autonomy are characterized by lawlessness or they become brutal tyrannies.
Rushdoony, in his book Christianity And The State has referred to the tax protest movement. What Rushdoony says in this book has relevance to the moral arguments advanced by tax protesters for refusing to pay taxes:
Third, we do have Donatism with reference
to the state today in such movements as the
Donatism was a perfectionist heresy. People did not want to participate in the sin of the state, so they did not pay taxes. This approach is fundamentally the same as monasticism. Becoming a monk or hermit was a way to escape the evils of the world. The tax protester’s attempt to escape the sins of the state has led to some unintended consequences, namely, the further empowerment of the socialists and pagans who are left in control. When those who believe that government is the solution are left in power, the results are always more government, i.e., higher taxes and more regulations. The modern day tax protesters are becoming culturally ineffectual and irrelevant. By dropping out of society the tax protester is surrendering cultural ground to the sinful state. Christianity, properly understood, engages culture at every level. Escapism is not the hallmark of Christianity. The righteous man battles against false arguments and does not flee in the face of trouble. See II Corinthians 10:4,5.
What kind of rulers do we have today? Do we still have a constitutional republic? If not, can our leaders be considered part of a de facto government? M. Stanton Evans tells us the reality of what has happened in our country:
For the plain reality is that the Constitution as originally adopted, and expounded in The Federalist, is no longer with us; the forms and titles remain, there are still entities called states, and there are divisions of administrative function. But the system of limited powers that was supposed to be the palladium of our freedoms has been consigned these fifty years and more to the dustbin of forgotten doctrines.18
Evans’ analysis is sad but true. The Constitution, for all practical purposes, is a forgotten document. The Constitution is supposed to function, as “chains” that will hold down the power of the federal government. Constitutionally speaking, the current federal government is a de facto government. There has been a revolutionary judicial takeover from within. This revolution has taken place largely with the consent of those governed. As said earlier the courts are using a different mindset or world view when interpreting the constitution today
In light of this, what should the Christian’s attitude towards government be? Should we submit to the laws of the present-day government? We read in 1 Peter 2:13,14:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s
sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme, Or unto
governors, as unto them that are sent by him…
It is significant that at this point in history, Christians and Jews did not have their own independent nations with a king. This indicates that this command transcends history and is relevant today. In 1 Peter 3:1 we learn that the purpose of subjection is to be a witness for Christ that non-believers may be won by our lifestyle. The early Christian apologists were able to say that Christians were the best citizens. It may be necessary to obey unjust laws for “the Lord’s sake.” For the Christian, the commands of Scripture transcend the arguments for not paying taxes. What is our ultimate authority, Scripture or the arguments and examples of abuse cited by tax protesters? Is it possible to begin using mistaken arguments and outside sources to interpret the Bible? It certainly is, and this has always been a problem that Christians have had to be on guard against. The issue is, which authority will guide our actions?
Many modern tax protesters and “patriots” quote from Patrick Henry’s speeches. What they do not seem to realize is that Henry gave his speeches to the Virginia State Legislature. He was an elected representative of the people. To use portions of Henry’s speeches to justify actions that go around, or by-pass our elected representatives is to misunderstand him completely. Acting independent of our representatives is the way of anarchy. This is what I fear is the rule governing the actions of many modern “patriots” and tax protesters. Neglecting to work with and through our elected representatives is the heart of the problem with the tax protest movement. The War for Independence was the culmination of a long process. At length, our legislators called us to take up arms against a power that had abrogated its authority.
The War Between the States was similar. The great leaders of the South led their people in a heroic constitutionally justified action against the dangerous abuse of constitutional principles by the North. It is a fact that the North won the war. Because of this the North determined the new direction of the country. The victor in war is always able to impose the terms of victory. The victor writes the history of the war for succeeding generations. During the bitter Reconstruction, the North imposed its will upon the South, e.g., the Fourteenth Amendment. The North’s victory has had serious constitutional consequences for our original form of government. The North’s victory set the stage for the uninterrupted growth of the federal government. The Sixteenth Amendment is the funding mechanism for the federal government’s expansion.
Some individuals in the tax protest and patriot movements have actually discussed the eventuality of various forms of civil revolt. Civil disobedience is only appropriate when the state, through its laws, prohibits Christians from obeying God. If Congress passed a law forbidding tithing to churches, the Christian must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29) because tithing is an act of worship. The book In Defense Of Liberty Against Tyrants was one of the most popular books in America during the time of the War for Independence. This book lays out the biblical conditions that must exist before private individuals can lawfully resist the civil government with the force of arms. The author argues that it is the civil magistrate who must spearhead the resistance against tyranny, before private individuals can justify the use of armed force against an unlawful government. The author explains it like this:
What shall then private men do, if the king will constrain them to serve idols? If the magistrates, or if the magistrates of the place, where these particulars dwell, do oppose these proceedings of the king, let them in God’s name obey their leaders, and employ all their means (as in the service of God) to aid the holy and commendable enterprises of those who oppose themselves lawfully against his wicked intention. 19
The two examples in the above paragraphs concerning the Civil War and the War for Independence are instances where this pattern of resistance against tyranny was followed. This approach is consistent with our covenantal obligations. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that individuals do not have the right to defend themselves against an unwarranted attack by tyrannical government agents. When facing life and freedom threatening situations, fleeing is best when options permit. The lethal use of force to defend oneself and family may be justified depending upon the circumstances.
Today we have a number of representatives who are calling for the present tax system to be completely scrapped. Let us seize the opportunities that are before us. We must act biblically for change through our representatives. Though we may not agree with our present representatives, they are, by a vote of the people, our representatives. Let us use some of our energy to educate members of Congress and state legislators who can repeal bad amendments and return us to the way of freedom. Biblically speaking it can be argued that it is the magistrate who protects us from tyranny. This is because it is the magistrate who is the God appointed ruler. God providentially appoints the rulers, who are in ideal circumstances elected by us. It is past time to support freedom-loving representatives who will repeal unjust laws and cut the funding of government schools and other unconstitutional freedom eroding agencies.
We must not forget the example of the apostle Paul and the implications that this holds for us. The apostle Paul paid taxes that were oppressive and unjust and did not drop out of the system of his day. Paul recognized that the civil government was a divinely created institution. In fact, he went so far as to say in Acts 25:10, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat where I ought to be judged.” Paul recognized the Roman government as legitimate in spite of its corruption. How many tax protesters today could say this? Paul was not capitulating to tyranny: he was working within the system by appealing to his Roman citizenship as a tool. Like Paul, consider the example of Azariah, the chief priest who opposed King Uzziah:
It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord….Go out of the Sanctuary for thou hast trespassed….
II Chron. 26:18.
The example of Azariah should inspire Christians to speak out against government corruption. Azariah did not flee in the face of government wickedness. If Christians are to be the salt and light of society then running for public office may be necessary. Kevin Swanson, author of The Second Mayflower, is an example of a Christian who is trying to be a solution. Kevin has run for governor of the State of Colorado and the U.S. Senate. His campaigns have resulted in opportunities for himself and his church to talk about godly principles for government. Elected representatives are in a unique position to change oppressive tax laws. Dropping out of society makes it extremely difficult to educate politicians, or anyone else. Leaving the system allows socialists and other non-believers to win by default.
As Christian reconstructionists we know this is exactly what has happened when the church, influenced by dispensationalism, teaches their people that Christians have no responsibilities in the areas of culture. The consequence of this theology is that many Christians withdraw from society. Dispensationalism is a new system of interpreting the Bible, which began in the early nineteenth century. The theology of this system assigns to the church a roll of fulfilling heavenly purposes only, the saving of souls, waiting for the rapture, trying to figure out the identity of the anti-Christ, eating and retreating, other unworldly activities, etc. When tax protestors drop out of society, this may very well be a secular counterpart to the dispensational disengagement from society.
Ideas have consequences. If the ideas are false, the consequences can be disastrous. By repudiating a number of mistaken theologies and strategies we can get back on track so that government excesses and abuses can be corrected. Dropping out of the system will make us culturally irrelevant. Besides, short-term solutions ultimately fail. We are in a war of ideas. We need to change peoples’ minds, their world view. It will not be an easy task, but one that can be accomplished. This will take dedication and preparation on our part for a long-term battle. If we remain unwavering, then our children’s children will again taste the freedom of our forefathers.
Christ calls us to disciple the nations in Matt. 28:18-20. We are given a cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28, which is carried out through the Great Commission. We can accomplish the task of reclaiming our freedoms through teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God. We must have patience and apply wisdom. Flash in the pan activism accomplishes nothing of lasting value. Flash in the pan activists usually end up becoming apathetic beer drinkers. It has been said that we must “think generationally.” We must see that our fight to regain freedom is a long-term multi-generation battle. Our children will see positive change as a result of our allegiance to the cause of freedom. It is interesting to note that many tax protestors who claim to be Christian have in many cases been led astray by a pessimistic, dispensational eschatology (a view of history, which believes in the ultimate defeat of God’s people). Fallacious belief systems have serious, culturally debilitating consequences. Our lives must be built upon the solid Rock that is Christ. The gospel will triumph in history (Dan. 2:34,35; Matt. 13:31-33). The belief in either Christian or materialistic evolutionary origins determines how we live. Likewise, those obsessed with the end times can suffer a cultural paralysis, which prevents a meaningful contribution towards building a Christian society. Origins and eschatology can be either positive or negative. The Christian must carefully consider Scripture before taking action.
To be contiued….
Endnotes Part two
13. John Murray, The Epistle To The Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 150.
14. G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession Of Faith, (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1964), p. 241.
15. Williamson, p. 241, 242.
16. Haldane, p. 587.
17. Rushdoony, Christianity And The State, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1986), p. 108.
18. M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1994), p. 267.
19. Junius Brutus, A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants, (Edmonton, Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, Reprinted from the 1689 translation, 1989), p. 46.