Sunday, May 1, 2011

God set all authorites - Questions

In an effort to address the questions sent to in response to the sermon May 1, 2011, "What Authority Must I Obey?" as soon as possible I am bunching them together.
The following two questions fall into the same general category.
If an authority bans Christian practices or demands unholy practices, should we still obey? If not, then how can we draw the line between what to obey and what not to?
Civil rights mvmt, MLKJr? What about Gandhi?

When Martin Luther King & Gandhi called attention to the ungodly practice of separating people on the basis of their skin color (in the case of MLK) and claiming dominion over a nation on the basis of Manifest Destiny (as in the case of Gandhi) they were attempting to correct a law and/or practice of the existing authority. Without going into the history of both situations – which have been sensationalized in print and film making it hard for the popular reader to follow the main issues – my observation is that both men looked for the least illegal approach to resolving the issue/s they were wanting to address. While both practiced peaceful marches, for which both had precedent, but during which they faced authorities who, themselves, operated outside their own rules.
I do not mean to lessen the choices of them – and others like them in other countries – to disregard the authorities “rule changes” only to point out that when appealing to a higher authority, as in the constitution by MLK, there will be times when the area becomes more unclear. I would emphasize the need to check ones motives before deciding to take on the authorities in such a manner.
Let me address the individual who chooses to disobey a law he or she believes to be ungodly. In those situations the person is to obey God without rebelling against the existing authority. A doctor who refuses to perform abortions while working in a medical facility that requires that of its doctors must leave that employ or refuse to perform and be prepared to accept the discipline of the employer. That same doctor could, under the law, seek other remedies within the law. Christian martyrs throughout history have chosen to disobey laws they believed to be ungodly without rebelling and accepted the punishment.

The other two questions like wise fit into the context of Just War:
The colonies rebelled against England's authority when founding America. Are you saying that this was wrong and our founding fathers brought judgment on our country?
What about the American Revolution? The founding fathers disobeyed the English authorities in breaking away from their government. Was that disobeying God?

The American Colonies sought remedy from the King and when that met a continued deaf ear chose, as a matter of conscience, to separate with an appeal to God, taking the appeal to the level of a Just War. The principles of a Just War were originally put together by Roman Catholic scholars with Thomas Aquinas being one of many. I have included the basics below and more links can be found at for further research.

Principles of the Just War
* A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.
* A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
* A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient--see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
* A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
* The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
* The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
* The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

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