|| Previous || Next || Romans 13 || e-mail || V&FT ||


TAXATION, CONSENT of the GOVERNED,
AND THE MYTH OF THE STATE


We haven't thought through the implications of Christendom's long-held doctrine of the State. Let's look at it more closely.

Romans 13 has long been the mainstay of the traditional view of the State.
What it says is that the principalities and powers
--against whom we as Christians are to "wrestle" (Ephesians 6:12)
are ordered by a sovereign God, who ultimately will cast them down from their thrones and dominions (I Corinthians 15:24).
This is what Romans 13 says. 
What the theologians have said Romans 13 means is quite another thing.

What Romans 13 means, we are told, is that the State (which we have argued elsewhere is an institution of theft, violence, war, and coercion, an institution which longs for "separation" from the Church of Jesus Christ) is nevertheless a "Divine Institution." God prescribes a State; He commands men to form a State.

None of this is present in Romans 13, and it is certainly denied by the rest of Scripture, from the founding of the State by Nimrod (Genesis 10), the ordering of one State by God to judge another State (Isaiah 13), to the description of the State as a beast from the sea, empowered by Satan himself (Revelation 12-13).

Why have the theologians missed the mark so radically?

They have rightfully seen that "vengeance belongeth unto God" (Deuteronomy 32:35) and that we as Christians are not to seek peace in society through violence (Matthew 26:52; Romans 12). Thus, violent revolution is not Christ's way of putting down the powers (Titus 3:1). Christ triumphed over the powers not by the way of political advancement (John 6:15) but by the Way of the Cross (Colossians 2:15). We are to follow this pattern of good works (I Peter 2:21).

But the theologians have been grasping for political power and "respectability" in the eyes of the "establishment," the "system," the world (kosmoV). They have labored to justify the existence of the State. They have tried to participate in its machinations, and encouraged their followers to do the same. This is their doctrine of "Representative Government." If it were not so unBiblical, it might not be so self-contradictory.

The Myth of "Representative Government"

indent.gif (90 bytes)The two prongs of the traditional (American) view of the State are pointing in opposite directions. He who tries to eat with the mangled fork of the theologians will soon feel the pain.
indent.gif (90 bytes)Pointing in the direction of submission -- "obedience," "subservience," and even "patriotism" and "national pride" -- is the use of Romans 13 to inculcate servile approval of the policies of the politically active. We are to bow before the politicians of church and State, recognizing that they live on a higher plane of existence than the lowly "layman." Citizens are not to "revolt" against their leaders, but exhibit obsequious trust in their wisdom. The slaughter of young men in foreign lands, the redistribution of wealth through a debased currency, and the levying of taxes at a rate many times that of God's tithe (10%) are not to be questioned, but supported. This prong is a perversion of the Christian doctrine of non-resistance and respect for Godly wisdom.
indent.gif (90 bytes)The other prong of this twisted fork points to the depravity of man (even of statesmen!)  "Power corrupts," we are told. "Checks and balances" are needed. Or it is said that since the State is God's "minister," that the State must abide by God's Law, and when it fails to do so, it loses its legitimacy. This is simply a way of escaping the sharp implications of the first prong.   Thus, when colonial merchants were fed up with the taxation imposed by the British colonial government (a rate of 3 to 5 percent, some experts hold), they began the "American Revolution." Rather than the governed obeying the governors, as the first prong demands, the governors must now have the "consent of the governed" before they can pass their laws. This is total hypocrisy. But is is also the mythology of all States. Let us expose the fašade.

Taxation and Biblical Law

How much does the State have a right or an obligation to tax, according to the Bible? The question cannot be answered with even one verse. The Bible does not command men to even form a State, much less extract revenue ("tribute") from those they have conquered. In the dialogue below, I discuss this issue with a leading "Reconstructionist" scholar, Greg L. Bahnsen. The fact that a mind as sharp as Dr. Bahnsen can't make sense out of the traditional view of the State shows that it is beyond rehabilitation.   [cut to the chase]

KC: I look through the Bible and I look through standard Reconstructionist works like Rushdoony, and I see more statements about how the king is going far beyond Biblical Law, and it's not a good situation. Basically here's the Reconstructionist view: a lot of the things the State is doing is theft. (But no matter how bad it is, nor how many ways it violates God's Law, the State is still good, and Christian self-government without a State is always bad.) Well I say everything the State does is theft, because where does God, in His Law, say that you have the right to do what the State is doing?
GLB: It says right here . . . and you see that's . . . it's not just a matter of a dispute of opinion, but I think it comes close to being sinful for you to say that everything the State does is theft. Because Paul says in Romans 13 --
KC: See? Now you go back to Romans 13 again!
GLB: Well why not?
NOTE: We were discussing one of many Vine & Fig Tree papers which discuss Romans 13 and the origin of the State. These papers provide evidence for the demonic origin of the principalities and "powers" that are nevertheless ordered by God.  See for yourself if we've shown the traditional view of Romans 13 to be less than Scriptural. The State "serves" God's purposes for now, but to say the State is God's "minister" is hardly a laudatory term.
KC: I agree that when the State steals from someone or puts people in prison --
GLB: He says they are not stealing; he says you're supposed to submit for conscience' sake, "for this cause pay ye tribute."
KC: Well I agree with that, (that we are not to pick up the sword and take vengeance against the State.)
GLB: Because they are God's ministers, because they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing. They're doing what God wants them to do --
KC: When they're napalming Vietnamese children?
GLB: No, I think what that shows is that God will hold them accountable when they cross the line.
KC: Well I agree --
GLB: Long ago I said, if your point was God gives authority to these men and so it's very tempting for them to go beyond that, and God will judge them when they do, then you'd be exactly right. But when you say everything they do is theft, Paul directly here says that they are ministers of God's service attending upon this very thing; render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is DUE.
KC: I agree with that. (We are to "Give to every man than asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again." The State "serves" God's purposes by stealing from other thieves (Isaiah 10, 13).)
GLB: For conscience' sake. . .So it's not theft!
KC: No it is theft, it's just that you submit to it. Paul says "you rejoiced in the spoiling of your goods" (Hebrews 10:34).
GLB: When a man comes down the street and he says, "You give me that money; for conscience' sake you have got to give me that money," I say, You don't understand "conscience," Jack; I don't owe you anything. But God says you do owe the State taxes.
KC: Why does Paul then commend, I think its the Hebrews, for rejoicing when their goods were "spoiled." I think we are to rejoice for conscience' sake.
GLB: That doesn't prove that they had anything coming.
KC: I know it doesn't!
GLB: This is tribute that is "due."
KC: No, I don't think so. In Matthew Jesus says we don't have any obligation to pay taxes but we pay them anyway.
GLB: No, he doesn't say that. He says He doesn't as the One Who is Lord over the temple have to pay the temple tax, but he does for the sake of --
KC: But the children of the king don't have to pay taxes either.
GLB: He's making the point about Himself there in Matthew, but whatever you want to do . . .
(KC: Let's get our Bibles out and read the passage, Matthew 17:24-27. Does Jesus say He alone is free, or the children? Is the tribute paid for Jesus alone, or for Him and His disciples?)
GLB: Let's come back to the passage (Romans 13) and not slip off of it.
[KC: Actually we were getting onto the point not off it: Does God in His Law require some to extract "tribute" from others? Does He explicitly give this power in His Law? or does He merely say "Resist not evil"?]
GLB: "Render tribute to whom tribute is due."
KC: Alright. Is that in God's eyes or the tax bill?
GLB: He says it's for conscience' sake, and that they are God's ministers when they do it.
KC: I agree; pay the tax bill. And just like Assyria when they killed and murdered people was God's deacon, God's servant (against the wicked) --
GLB: No, because at that point you shouldn't have submitted to Assyria for conscience' sake, because they were lawless in what they did.
KC: No, because God specifically says the people who won't go to Babylon when they are taken captive are disobeying. [Yet Babylon was lawless in taking them captive.]
GLB: They're not disobeying a command that tells them they have to go out and rape women and pillage and all that. Assyria took it upon themselves to become god-like, in doing God's will at that point. And they were judged for that. Just like those who crucified Jesus, Jesus says you would have no authority if it were not given to you from above. He doesn't say you don't have authority, He says you better recognize the Source of your authority because you can't do what you're doing here and get away with it. And he didn't; Pilate certainly knows now that he was wrong to have Jesus crucified. Pilate should not have crucified Jesus; it was "lawless hands" that did it. So for conscience' sake no one should have submitted to the order of Pilate to crucify Him. But here Paul says for conscience' sake pay your taxes.
KC: I agree with that. (If the State commands you to work for the IRS you should conscientiously object. But if someone else doesn't object and begins collecting tribute from you, you rejoice in the spoiling of your goods.)
GLB: Well then we have only a verbal disagreement, apparently.
  KC: No, I'm just saying they don't have the right to tax.
GLB: No, it says right here [in Romans 13] that they --
KC: We have an obligation in conscience to pay, but the State doesn't have a right to demand it.
GLB: It says they are doing God's service. For conscience' sake we are to pay the taxes because it is their due. How can it not be their right if it's their "due"? That's just what it means to have the right to tax: that it's due to you.
KC: But on other occasions even you don't agree with that. Obviously they don't have the right to tax the amount that they are taxing.
GLB: Yeah, I don't think everything the State is taking today is their due.   But I think taxes in general --
KC: So we only have to pay what is their "due"?
GLB: No.
KC: But, you see, that's what the passage says; We are supposed to pay everything they tax!
GLB: Well it may say that, but it also says they have it coming to them.
KC: Everything they tax? is theirs by right?
GLB: No.
KC: What, then?
[pause]
GLB: The State doesn't have the right to execute men for disobeying Hitler or Idi Amin either. But it does have the right to execute others. And so Paul says that they are God's minister, avenging His wrath, and when they go beyond doing what God tells them to do. . .there is a good question of how we should react to that, but the fact that they go beyond their authority doesn't mean they didn't have any legitimate authority to begin with.
KC: So we should only pay the taxes that they rightfully take?
GLB: Your paper says that they had no legitimate authority in the first place and that's what I can't find a Biblical scholar anywhere, really, who believes that. Now I know that you're not supposed to determine the truth by those remarks, but when you say it's so obvious and you keep referring to that, you either have to come up with

At this point, the tape was turned over. The subject, as so often happens, was shifted from taxation and prescriptive commands for the State, to capital punishment, which we have argued elsewhere is never given to the State, but was a command for the Church. I can assure you that the question of how much the State has a right to tax was not answered; I would have had the answer repeated for the tape; perhaps even bronzed. If I could find one verse where Biblical Law says "You may call yourself a 'State' and forcibly seize (say,) six percent of a man's income," then I would agree that the State has any rightful authority to do so, and then we can argue about what to do when the State takes 60%-90%, or what poor Frederico Fellini should do next time Italy assesses him for 104% of his income (he moved). If I could find such a passage I could also criticize the American revolutionaries who murdered British officers over a tax rate of 1-3%. By no means am I saying that we shouldn't pay the tax. But where does God give the State the right to tax (a demand backed by a threat)?

Now the mainline American theologians are in a difficult spot. If they try to insert their mangled fork further into their mouth, they are stuck with obeying a tyrannical and oppressive government, whose IRS machinery operates with Gestapo-like tactics, the very existence of which (in the 16th Amendment) is shrouded in constitutional darkness, and whose tax-rates are increasing with every cost-of-living increase in our paychecks.

But when they try to pull the fork out of their mouths, the "Consent of the governed" prong jabs them the other way: "The People" are put in control; they determine the form of government and the governors must answer to "The People."

Let us imagine Joe Protestant, as he tries to obey the two commands of American Protestantism with regard to taxation, and finds himself face to face with the Myth of the State.

Taxation and "Representation"

Joe receives an official-looking letter in the mail: he has been summoned for jury duty. He dutifully reports and is impaneled on a tax case. The defendant is accused of skipping taxes. His argument is a legal one, that is, he is saying his actions are according to the letter of the law. After listening to the defendant's case, Joe is completely baffled. Does the law of the land give the government the power to tax in the way it is? The defendant's case is compelling; it seems that the government is over-stepping its powers under the United States Constitution. The specific statutes are vague: is filing a tax return "voluntary," a matter of "self-compliance"? Joe decides to get out his sermon notes from First Behemouth Church of the Christian Right. What did his pastor say about taxes and the State, anyway?

Biblical Laws on Taxation indent.gif (90 bytes)Joe searches long and hard, but cannot find a single verse in Scripture which gives men the right to call themselves "the State" and then demand money from others at the barrel of a gun. That the State now takes over half a man's income, and in some cases completely destroys the inheritance of widows and orphans, cannot, by Joe's way of thinking, be Biblical. God surely does not give men the right to do what the IRS in many cases does. Perhaps He doesn't give the IRS the right to do anything it does.

Biblical Laws on Submission indent.gif (90 bytes)But Joe is somewhat uncomfortable with the defendant's refusal to pay any taxes. Joe believes men are supposed to give the government something, he just isn't sure what.

Constitutional Laws on Representation indent.gif (90 bytes)But what really confuses Joe is his Pastor's sermons on "The Christian Origins of American Government." The Constitution is supposed to be a Christian document, but for the life of him, Joe can't find any mention of Jesus or any Scripture texts. The Declaration of Independence is particularly discomfiting to Joe:

"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them. . . .

Aren't we supposed to be subject to the powers? (And what are "the Laws of Nature"?)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident ... that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

"I thought the powers were 'of God,'" Joe says to himself. Joe's public school civics class comes to mind and he remembers that, far from being "subject" to the governors (Romans 13:1?), the governors are "public servants," and the people are over the governors! As one book put it, "God is the higher power over man and man is the higher power over the law which created and governs our government. The public servant is at the bottom of the totem pole. That is why he is called a public servant. He must obey the Constitution, the individual, and God." "How can I be subject to them if they are supposed to be subject to me?" Joe asks.

"REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT":
Is this not the slavish hypocrisy of telling the State what we want it to tell us to do?

 

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. . . .

That does it; Joe spent quite some time studying the French Revolution and the Maoist Revolution in China, and is familiar with the rhetoric of "the People" engaging in revolution. Now Joe is really confused. Just how does all this line up with Romans 13?

Joe gets out the copies of the exhibits submitted by the defendant. The defendant argues that Joe, as well as the other 11 jurors, have the right to exonerate the defendant even if the law says otherwise. This, the defendant argues, is based on the powers of the people, who have final say as to what their "elected representatives" may do, and to whom these "representatives" must answer. The defendant has provided some fairly clear statements by respected authorities:

"If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge and contrary to the evidence. This power of the jury is not always contrary to the interests of justice." (U.S. v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 at 1006)

"The pages of history shine on instances of the jury's exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law." (U.S. v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113 at 1130)

Joe takes this doctrine of "jury nullification" seriously. He concludes that in America government answers to the people. He believes political reform can take place if juries across the land decide to take their powers seriously and vote not to convict those who do not "rejoice in the spoiling of their goods." Joe holds out, and by a vote of 11-1, the defendant is spared a conviction for tax evasion. Joe and the defendant become good friends, and begin to tell others of their Constitutional rights to nullify unjust laws and assert their rightful authority over their servants, the "officials" of the government.

The following questions have to be answered, and they haven't even been asked by most people:

  • Which verses of God's Law authorize men to call themselves "the State" and seize property and wealth? Note: do not confuse this with verses which command us to give to those who demand it of us. This question asks for verses which say "You must/may take money from your 'constituents.'"
  • At what rate does the State have a right to tax? 10%? 50%? 100%?
  • If God has given the State the right to seize 9% of a person's income, and the State demands 11%, how much should we give the State? (What is "due" to the State?)
  • Can Christians accept the American doctrine of sovereignty resting in the People?
  • How does "consent of the governed" square with the traditional view of Romans 13, of God prescriptively setting some people (kings) over the others (subjects)?

Consent of the Self-Governed

If you aren't persuaded that the State has no authorization from God to exist, that there is no authorization in the Bible giving any command/permission to anyone to form a State and coercively "tax" money from others, then consider the right of the People, alleged in the Declaration of Independence, to abolish government and form a new one. Suppose I convinced a majority of (voting) Americans to abolish the present State and set up a new system: self-government. Autarchy, Anarchy, Laissez-faire, anarcho-capitalism, whatever you want to call a Family-centered State-less society. Can you cite a Bible verse which prohibits men from abolishing the State and living as Abraham did, without a State?

How about taxation: Suppose we decided to retain the current form of government (Constitutional Republic) but make all offices voluntary, i.e., without pay. With the State turning over health, education, welfare, commerce (and all other functions which the Bible gives to the Family) back to the Family, we could charge no taxes.  Would this be permissible? Can you give one verse which says the State must charge taxes, that its offices may not be voluntary? Suppose I succeeded in establishing a voluntary State through majority vote of "the People," and shortly thereafter you convinced me that the State must levy taxes. Can you cite a verse which tells me at what rate?

The absence of such verses simply corroborates what we have already argued, that God does not command men to form a State, and coercively extract money from others. God gave all the responsibilities of those acts and things which provide for social order to the Household of Faith, working through voluntary associations. The presuppositions of capitalism and socialism are at war here.

More questionsindent.gif (90 bytes)Consider our State in America, and then consider the traditional view of Romans 13. If the Declaration of Independence corresponds to "the Powers" of Romans 13, does Romans 13 then command me to obey that document, accepting my "duty to throw off" an unacceptable government and establish one which to me seems "most likely to effect" my "Happiness"? If I am "happier" with an anarcho-capitalist form of society (no State), does Romans 13 command me to abolish the existing government -- by armed revolution if necessary -- and to work for such a Laissez-Faire social order, under the logic of the Declaration of Independence?

Some have viewed with alarm our previous papers on the State, its demonic origin, and its eventual disappearance. It is of the utmost importance, they claim, for there to be a State to tell us what to do, to "restrain wickedness." We need to be "under authority," they say; we must be "under subjection" to a State.  Such are nearly always very conservative in their politics. Thus, when the State begins telling them that they cannot do something they want to do, or must do something they don't want to do, they are quick to remind the State that its powers are "limited," and that they are answerable to us as "Servants of the People." Why do we maintain this fiction? There is no real "authority" here; we are responsible. Constructing a State is simply the slavish hypocrisy of telling the State what to tell us to do. In so doing we seek to avoid our responsibilities and we cultivate a smug self-righteousness.


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.



The
Christmas Conspiracy


Virtue


Vine & Fig Tree


Paradigm Shift


Theocracy


Subscribe to Vine & Fig Tree
Enter your e-mail address:
vft archive
An e-group hosted by eGroups.com

Vine & Fig Tree
12314 Palm Dr. #107
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
[e-mail to V&FT]
[V&FT Home Page]