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Part Two:  The Powers in the New Testament

In previous papers we have suggested that the origin of the State may be found in demonic activity, and that nations are encouraged in their rebellion by evil angelic forces.

A New View of Romans 13

In this paper we extend that thesis to the New Testament, and especially to Romans 13.  

Romans 13 has traditionally been used to support the State, by asserting that it is a "divine institution," having been commanded by God to exist:  "The powers that be are ordained of God."

Our view, taking into account our Old Testament survey of the demonic origin of the State and its opposition to God's Providence and Covenant promises, gives Romans 13 quite a different interpretation: "The demons and the men whom they incite to form empires are ordered by God, and serve His purposes in history."  Taking Romans 13 as a unit (with Romans 12) this position holds that
(a) Christians are not to take vengeance on others (12:17:21);
(b) we are not even to take vengeance on the State -- God has it under His control (13:1-2);
(c) if we want to avoid the violence and theft of statists, we must trust in God's Government, and believe His promises (13:2- 6; cf. 12:14-15);
(d) our personal obedience to His Law will be the means by which a New Order under Christ is established (13:8-14).

A conservative, evangelical Christian will properly ask two questions: 

First, why hasn't this theory seen a lot of press in respected Christian publications?

This is a good question; a theory which is not universally accepted by the Church of Christ and has not been throughout Church history deserves to be greeted with some skepticism.  Briefly (and we shall return to this), at the time of Constantine, when Christianity was made the "official religion" of the Roman Empire, the Church lost much of its savor, especially with regard to the application of Biblical Law to the State.  Not until Cornelius Van Til clarified the philosophical issues, and Rushdoony applied these insights to the political and social application of Biblical Law did we begin to see some reform in this area. 

But the current view of Romans 13 is so widely accepted.  Is it wise to reject it?

The dominant view of the (non-Catholic) Church at the time of the Reformation was that the Pope is "the antichrist."  Only a very small minority hold that view today.  Only a very small minority believe that the State is demonic; perhaps it will soon be more widely accepted.

Second, some will point out that these papers on the State rely largely on liberal German scholarship, which generally denies the authority of Scripture.  How can we trust such a theory, considering its source?

Some might dismiss this argument as ad hominem but there is validity here.  If our argument were held only by heretics in left field, we would be right to re-examine our position.  Ironically, the twentieth-century scholars who have put forth the demonic theory of the state, have been concerned to let the Bible speak on this issue.  Many of them, in fact, do not believe the theory themselves, they just want to be "objective" and "scholarly" in telling the academic world what the Bible really teaches!  Morrison, in his book The Powers that Be, notes that this Biblical doctrine was ignored by 18th- and 19th-century scholars "because of the conviction that there actually are no such things as 'angelic powers'" (p. 21).   We believe in angelic powers, and whether Morrison and others believe in them, they are at least making something of an effort to report what the Bible says without imposing their own beliefs on it.  We should certainly scrutinize German theologians, but we need not dump them completely; they are created in the image of God, and are capable of gaining genuine knowledge from the Bible, even if they don't believe it, and even if they gain their knowledge on the "borrowed capital" of the Bible itself.

Additionally, many Bible-believing, evangelical scholars are embracing this view.  It is interesting to note that this view emerged with some strength in the early part of this century, but then vanished around 1930-1940.  It quickly gained wider acceptance after that.  Can you explain why?  As we said earlier, the Church has often been a real yes-man around the State, especially when the State has paid the salaries of the preachers.  Why did German theologians drop the demonic view of the State?   Because their arms were full of Hitler and his millennial Reich!!  Now that the State is padlocking churches, kidnapping Christian school students and jailing their parents, the new view of the State is appearing a little more believable.

But we reject "newspaper exegesis."  What saith Scripture? (Acts 17:11)

Lords Many and Powers Many

In the previous paper we examined the Old Testament view of the State and its relationship to angelic powers, as well as the Judaistic conception of the Scriptural doctrine. 

"At this point we should limit the discussion to the field of our special concern:  Is the manifold relationship between angels and princes, 'world rulers' and earthly empires, Satan and 'this world,' which is so evident in Judaism, present to any degree in Paul's view of the spirit world and earthly rulers?" (Morrison, p. 22)

"The relationship between the civil authorities and the spirit powers, which has been shown to be common to Jewish thought of his time, is evident in several places in the New Testament.

"The very vocabulary which designates these powers lends weight to the impression that Paul was aware of a correspondence between the spirit world and the State.  The term 'lords' (kurioi) in I Cor. 8:5, for example, refers to angelic powers, but the same word could equally apply to the succession of earthly rulers in the Near East (Acts 25:26).  [One scholar] suggests that the passages which relate to the Law's being given through angels may indirectly refer to the old Jewish belief which identified the angels present on Mount Sinai with the angel princes of the peoples.  According to this view the Law was pronounced in seventy languages, but every nation except Israel refused it (Gal. 3:19; Heb 2:2; Acts 7:38,53)" (pp. 22-23).

Even if this is not the correct interpretation, most Bible students are unaware of the involvement of angels in the formation of the Israelite church-state.  We need to consider these passages.

"In the light of this general evidence, Paul's use of Ps. 110 takes on particular significance.  While the 'enemies' mentioned in the psalm refer to the nations which oppressed Israel, Paul has applied the term in I Cor. 15:24f. and Eph. 1:20f. to the heavenly powers.  The same kind of association is evident in Paul's use of Isa. 45:23 in Phil. 2:10f.  That Paul has obviously applied to the heavenly powers passages which refer to nations offers evidence that he accepted a system in which there were angelic powers behind the things of this world, including the nations and their rulers.   That Paul should associate the Old Testament's hope for Israel with the defeat of spiritual powers was only natural in the light of the contemporary belief that victory over earthly powers must be initiated in the heavenly spheres.  The proclamation of Christ's exaltation to the right hand of God was a forceful declaration of his authority and power, not only in the heavenly places, but also over all the rulers and powers of earth." (p. 23)

We can see that Morrison may have a low view of Paul's inspiration, and may attribute to Paul too much of a particular Jewish interpretation.  But it is clear that Paul agrees with the Old Testament view of the interconnection between nations and angelic powers, however we may eventually understand that relationship.  There is something in both the Old and New Testaments which suggests a connection, and we must understand it, not deny it.

The best way to begin to understand it is to see it in action.  Let us look at the way Paul speaks of "the powers" in the New Testament.  This is something you ought to be able to do yourself.  You should have a concordance of Greek words in the New Testament.  There are English editions of these so that you need not know Greek, but you can still find out how the Greek word is used.  The Greek word behind "powers," exousiai, is found in the following verses:

Luke 12:11:  But when they bring you before synagogues (cf. Revelation 2:9-10) and magistrates (arcaV) and powers (exousiaV) don't worry about your apologetics, or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit . . . .

I Corinthians 15:24:  The cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom unto God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule (archn) and all authority (exousian) and power (dunamin).

Ephesians 1:21:  (He raised Christ) from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality (archV) and power (exousiaV) and might (dunamewV) and dominion (kuriothtoV) and every name that is named, not only in this age (cp. Acts 4:7,12 with the inscription on the coins of the empire ["There is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved than that of Caesar Augustus"]) but in the next.

Ephesians 3:10:  . . .to the intent that now unto the principalities (arcaiV) and powers (exousiaiV) in the heavenlies might be known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God.

Ephesians 6:12:  We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities (arcaV) against powers (exousiaV) against the world-rulers ("cosmocrats") of the darkness of this age, against spiritual powers of wickedness in high places.

Colossians 2:15:  and having spoiled principalities (arcaV) and powers (exousiaV) He made a show of them publicly, triumphing over them . . .

It becomes plain in these texts and others that "The rule of the Roman Empire was the simultaneous integrated endeavor of spiritual and human authorities.  In Pauline literature 'authorities' (exousiai, including the singular used in such a way as to indicate a plurality, i.e., 'every authority') is consistently used to refer to the spiritual powers" (Morrison, p. 25).

Suggesting a demonic origin and character for the State might seem to incite political revolution.  But the Christian does not revolt against the Empire in violence or vengeance.  Following the teachings of the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere), he is not to resist evil, but to be "subject" to the powers (Titus 3:1).  The powers were created by Christ (Colossians 1:16), if for no other reason than that He would triumph over them and be glorified at their expense (I Peter 3:22; Colossians 2:10).

Rejection of the demonic dimension of the State has no authority in Scripture; it is clear from the use of the word "powers."

Theologically, this concept is basic to the Lordship of Christ.  This phrase, kurioV cristoV, "Christ rules as Lord," was basic to the Apostolic Church confession, and the word "Lord" carries a radical totalitarian claim.   Morrison surveys the important work of Oscar Cullman and concludes,

"Research into the basic beliefs of early Christianity has proved the central creed of Christendom and the New Testament to be simply 'Christ is Lord.'  The theology of the New Testament has been shown to be first of all Christological, and the first element of this outlook is the lordship of Christ.  The reign of Christ was consistently and forcefully proclaimed by the first Christians in terms of his triumph over the 'principalities and powers' which formed so real a part of ancient thought . . . .   Furthermore, while the good news of Jesus Christ had manifold relevance to private morality, individual loyalty, religious practice, and personal peace, it was in regard to the State that the lordship of Christ met its supreme test" (pp. 28-29).

The reason for the tremendous opposition to Christianity from the State (most notably in their execution of Jesus as a political revolutionary [I Corinthians 2:8]) can be found in the fact that the Biblical view of the State was held -- in a perverse way, of course -- by the ancient pagan world.  They too understood the State to be empowered and guided by spiritual forces.  When the Christians proclaimed that Christ had triumphed over all these powers, it was a concrete challenge of lords (I Corinthians 8:5-6).  Paul's letter to the Romans was just that: a letter to Romans.  To understand that letter, therefore, we must understand how Romans viewed the State.  This we will do in the next paper.

Christian "Anarchism" is Our Goal  | |  All Evil is Predestined by God   | |  Pray for a Servant's Understanding  | |  Angels and God's Throne of Government  | |  Stars and Idolatry  | |  Why the State Always Encourages Immorality  | |  Unlucky 13 -- Romans 13, Revelation 13 and Isaiah 13  | |   A Roman's-Eye View of Romans 13  | |  "Principalities and Powers"  | |  Lakes of Fire in "Smoke-Filled Rooms"  | |  Romans 13: The Burden is on the Archists  | |  Taxation, Representation, and the Myth of the State  | |   Why the State is not a "Divine Institution"   | |  Angels and Autarchy  | |  95 Theses Against the State   | |   Here is what a Christian Anarchist looks like after he has joined The Christmas Conspiracy.

Christmas Conspiracy


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