Re: Do non-U.S. Christians say "God Bless America?"

From: Joel Cannon (
Date: Fri May 30 2003 - 10:04:17 EDT

  • Next message: "Re: Do non-U.S. Christians say "God Bless America?""

    I said some time ago:

    > > While on the subject of being faithful to Romans 13, it does seem
    > > ironic that the instruction to pray for the emporer comes in the
    > > context of forbidding revolution (He who rebels against the authority
    > > is rebelling against what God has instituted, Rom. 13.2). It seems
    > > that it is difficult to translate Paul's instruction to first century
    > > Christians into our own. Revolution was evidently a possibility to
    > > them. They lived in a world that, perhaps apart from Israel, knew
    > > nothing equivalent to the modern nationalism that we have
    > >

    Rich said in part:

    > Roman Law was a great protection for those city states liable to
    > attack. Why would the early Christians in a city like antioch,
    > regularly destroyed, want to revolt against the Romans and the
    > stability of Roman law?

    Good question. The question could be made more precise by asking why
    Paul wrote in Rom. 13.2, "He who rebels against the authority is
    rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will
    bring judgement on themselves." Presumably, this admonition did not
    come "from left field" and Paul perceived such revolt to be a
    possibility. It does not necessarily follow that Antiochans would
    think the same as Romans, but I suspect that is the case.

    Without pretending too much, I offer two items that might help to
    explain it or make it more plausible.

    1. Christianity was a Jewish movement. National revolt was a normal
       part of a significant fraction of Jews' consciousness, particularly
       the Shamaite Pharisees like Saul. In N.T. Wright's words, "You
       couldn't get a razor blade between religion and politics." "No King
       by YHWH" was what Jews said (notice how ironic the chief priests
       statement that "we have no king but Caesar", Jn. 19.3 is against
       this consciousness). This consciousness meant revolts serious
       enough for Roman military reinforcements in Israel about every 20
       years. Precisely how this played out in Rome's small church, which
       included Jews and Gentiles may be hard to say but the background
       would be there.

    2. The word "gospel" was a very particular "good news" with strong
       political overtones. It was the word used to describe the
       announcement of a new emporer. A runner (or runners) would announce
       the good news that "---- was king" (and I presume deity). The
       choice of the particular word for gospel was thus audacious,
       because the implication is that if Jesus is king, Caesar is
       not. Phil. 2:10 and 11, for example, was a highly charged political
       statement, and unlike Jews in general, who had legal protection for
       not saying the emporer was divine (and Lord), Christians did
       not. Possibly this consciousness (and the possible accompanying
       expectation that God would therefore be on their side and support
       them in their revolt against the pagan emporer) is behind the
       possibility of revolt implied by Romans 13.2.

    What I have written comes primarily from N.T. Wright "What St. Paul
    Really Said," and "The New Testament and the People of God" for those
    who want to check it out further.

    Joel W. Cannon | (724)223-6146
    Physics Department |
    Washington and Jefferson College |
    Washington, PA 15301 |

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Fri May 30 2003 - 09:51:02 EDT