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January/February 2015

Discover more articles from this issue.

Bad Faith

It is hard to find anyone unashamedly opposed to religious liberty. It is becoming even harder to find that rare person who understands the principle at...

National Religion

This expression has been so often repeated that it begins to have a familiar sound. It is constantly upon the lips of certain classes of professional...

A Question of Law

The principle at play in the Hobby Lobby decision.

Experiments with Empowerment

A review of Robin Wright's Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (2008).

A Great Miracle Occurred Here

The Maccabees and the fight for religious liberty.

The Devil Is in the Details

Building a Christian state.

Civil Disobedience: A Christian View

In his work Does God Approve of Civil Disobedience? (Sioux City, Iowa: Anchor Publications), scholar Wallace McLaughlin says confidently that “God does...

Menace or Misunderstanding

ISIS actions force nations to examine the religious nature of terrorism.

Genocide in Iraq

The future of ancient Iraq's ancient religious communities

Magazine Archive »

Published in the January/February 2015 Magazine
by Haven Bradford Gow

In his work Does God Approve of Civil Disobedience? (Sioux City, Iowa: Anchor Publications), scholar Wallace McLaughlin says confidently that “God does not approve of civil disobedience. If men who claim to speak for the churches say otherwise, then you may be sure that in their declarations you do not hear the voice of Christian churches, but of men engaging in purely human affairs under cover of a name which they are not entitled to use. For where the doctrines of men hold sway there is no Christian church.” However, this sounds eerily similar to what the Lutheran and Catholic leaders told their flocks during the Nazi era.

Houston Baptist University scholar/educator Louis Markos, in his work From Achilles to Christ (InterVarsity Press), gives the example of Sophocles’ play Antigone as an affirmation that there is a higher, universal, immortal law written in the heart, mind, and conscience of human-kind—a law that transcends civil penalty.

In Antigone, Creon, the governor of the state, has commanded that no one may bury his nephew, Polyneices, brother of Antigone. Antigone, though, defies her uncle Creon’s command and proceeds to spread burial dirt on Polyneices’ body.

Eventually Creon encounters his niece Antigone and accuses her of breaking the law; Antigone responds that she was obeying a higher law written in our hearts, minds, and consciences: “For me it was not Zeus who made that order. Nor did that Justice who lives with the gods below mark out such laws to hold among mankind. Nor did I think your orders were so strong that you, a mortal man, could overrun the gods’ unwritten and unfailing laws. Not now, nor yesterday’s they always live, and no one knows their origin in time.”

This philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience also has roots in the New Testament. For example, the apostles were warned that if they continued preaching and practicing the teaching of Christ, they would be imprisoned and perhaps executed. Despite the warnings, the apostles continued preaching and living the teachings of Christ; and they were unjustly imprisoned. The New Testament says they suffered imprisonment joyfully, for they were suffering for the Lord’s sake. One might say the earliest Christians taught and practiced nonviolent civil disobedience.

Indeed, as the New Testament teaches, Christians “ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, KJV).

Author: Haven Bradford Gow

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