||The Myth of "Representative Government"
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.
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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"
- 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
- 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
- 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,
||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
KC: So we only have to pay what is their
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?
KC: What, then?
- 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
- 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
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,
Biblical Laws on Taxation 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
Biblical Laws on Submission 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 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.
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
"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
"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
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
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
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.