The Rev is not a political man. A significant part of his disaffection comes from the powers that be. Yet while he has so little time for politicians, he happily proffers his opinion, like everyone else, because after all every opinion is valid (even if the substance of the opinion is entirely flawed). He also loves using sound bites and evades any opportunity to substantiate his opinion with an objective and reasonable thought that takes everything on face value.
His main penchant is to accuse politicians of “Servile, Pusillanimous Duplicity”. In fact, he sees all party politicians belonging to the SPD party. Servile he says as they are slaves to their own self-interests. Pusillanimous as they are weak willed and will drop any notion of a personal conviction if it draws criticism and goes against popular opinion (popular opinion as established by the redundant, vapid media). And duplicitous as they are prone to changing their minds; deceptive in ways that are so obvious to all apart from the politician him/herself. His history of gullible acceptance of promises that politicians have made only to find that the results are not forth coming have led to his political disaffection.
So a new election is upon the UK and another opportunity to consider the policies on offer combined with the drivel that pertains to party election campaigns is in full swing, much to the annoyance of the Rev. He has no idea who to vote for. In fact he doesn’t know on what basis he should make his decision. That doesn’t say much for his major in Political Theology but there we go.
Yet he has determined to build some criteria on which he can make a decision. But the first question to be answered concerns the relationship between the state and the Church.
Paul paints the following picture: ” Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.” (Romans 13: 1-7).
The Rev has a problem with this. Paul is effectively speaking about the Roman Empire and specifically Nero. It would be nonsensical to surmise that Nero was “God’s servant” when you consider the “Marks of a God fearing man“. So what does Paul mean by stating the above? John Piper deals with the above passage by holding it in the context of the whole Bible (very Biblical Theology), then goes on to state that what Paul meant was that the Church should only obey authorities if they are “Good” and can be ignored if they are “Bad”, as such justifying disobedience to the authorities as they are never “Good” (questionable logical conclusion). This line of arguing means that we should only vote for Governments that most closely reflect Christian values. This has led to a lot of angst with secular society as it lends itself to “Gay-bashing”, the abortion conversation and surprisingly global warming denial and an obsession with capitalism (We’ll come on to them in a later article).
So what does Paul mean?