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Rick Warren:

I’m not a Catholic but I stand in 100% solidarity with my brothers & sisters to practice their belief against govt pressure […]

I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29.

Chuck Colson:

We have come to the point—I say this very soberly—when if there isn’t a dramatic change is circumstances, we as Christians may well be called upon to stand in civil disobedience against the actions of our own government. That would break my heart as a former Marine Captain loving my country, but I love my God more. . . . I’ve made up my mind—sober as that decision would have to be—that I will stand for the Lord regardless of what my state tells me.

Timothy George, with Chuck Colson:

Many bishops have already declared that they will not obey this unjust law. The penalty for such a move would be severe. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other organizations would be forced to pay punitive fines ($2,000 per employee) for refusing to purchase insurance that violates the teaching of their church.

For some institutions, it would spell the end of their existence—and their far-reaching service to the public and the needy.

But Catholic institutions aren’t the only ones affected by this mandate. Prison Fellowship, for example, which employs 180 people, could not purchase insurance for its employees that covers abortifacients. Nor could the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families afford the fines we would incur. . . .

We would urge you, therefore, to raise your voice against this unjust mandate that violates our first freedom as Americans. . . . We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom [in the US] in our lifetime.

HT: Denny Burk

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38 thoughts on “Christian Civil Disobedience against the U. S. Government?”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Christian Civil Disobedience against the U. S. Government?

    Hmmmmm… I wonder whether Radical Two-Kingdom Proponents like Darryl G. Hart support the idea of Christian Civil Disobedience against the U.S. Government given Obama Administration’s HHS mandate?

    1. Jed Paschall says:


      Not that I have taken any position on the HHS issue, simply because I haven’t been paying much attention to this political debate. But 2kers are hardly of one voice on the matter. You can go to Old Life to see a nice little dust-up on the issue of civil disobedience and 2k ethics:

      The Bible is Not Off Limits, But Only Settles So Much

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        “But 2kers are hardly of one voice on the matter. You can go to Old Life to see a nice little dust-up on the issue of civil disobedience and 2k ethics”

        Hi Jed,

        Thanks for the link. I read this part where Darryl Hart wrote: “Zrim argues that the Bible forbids civil disobedience while Jed questions whether a 2ker may employ the Bible in this way.”

        And this part by Darryl Hart: “Yet, the Reformed creeds insist that church assemblies should address only matters that are spiritual and ecclesiastical.”

        I have seen these arguments made repeatedly by Zrim and Darryl Hart. But as you noted there are differences amongst and between the voices of Westminster Seminary West 2K proponents regarding the issue of 2K and civil disobedience.

        For example, here’s what Dr. Michael Horton recently wrote:

        “Good questions about civil disobedience. That’s not really germane to the “two kingdoms” idea, though. There were “two-kingdoms” folks who participated in peaceful protests–even sit-ins–during the civil rights movement and “one-kingdom” folks who advocated excommunicating anyone who participated. Christians may be called to defend the law above the positive laws of nations. Even churches–as church–may be called to obey God rather than the state when the latter enforces policies that would require the church to violate its calling. For example, churches one day in the US may lose their tax-exempt status if they are explicitly pro-life. That’s not persecution, since that status is not a divine right to begin with. However, if the state ever required silence on the matter where God has clearly spoken, churches would have to respectfully refuse to comply with the state.

        In any case, I don’t see how “two kingdoms” determines the civil disobedience question in one direction or the other.

        Michael Horton”

        1. Jed Paschall says:


          Thanks for the link, I had read Horton’s response before there was much dialog in the combox, it looks like you were pressing some really salient questions. I think we are tracking here, 2K doesn’t necessarily give us the answer to whether or not civil disobedience is warranted. I personally do think that there is warrant for the Christian to practice civil disobedience, even if I am somewhat ambivalent on certain “culture war” issues – typically leaving that answer to individual conscience. My own personal criteria for engaging in dissent from governing authorities (which can be civil disobedience depending on the laws of that particular jurisdiction) are as follows:

          1) Civil disobedience is warranted when obedience to authority places one at peril with the higher ethical demands of the general equity of Biblical Law (e.g. Decalogue), and/or Natural Law ethical maxims that either echo or reinforce these Biblical demands.

          2) When a government stands in violation of it’s own laws – for example when the US violates the Constitution, it is the right of the citizen to dissent whether or not the citizen is a Christian.

          As an aside Van Drunen has an excellent article titled “The Use of Natural Law in Early Calvinist Resistance Theory” published in the Journal of Law and Religion. Here he demonstrates where theologians such as Beza depart from Calvin on the topic of civil disobedience, grounding their arguments in Natural Law and Scripture. Early British Calvinists, such as John Knox also used similar argumentation. What I find interesting is that the question of the propriety of civil disobedience was as unsettled in the Reformation as it is today. However, the Reformed Resistance Theorists have a huge impact on how 2k thinkers approach Natural Law, regardless of their position on civil disobedience.

          1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

            Hi Jed,

            I’m unclear about what you and Zrim are arguing about. Zrim says here that

            “I too don’t see how 2k determines the civil disobedience question in one direction or the other. Though related, it seems more like a Christian liberty issue.”

            Since you’re a 2K’er, you have the Christian liberty to practice civil disobedience as you discern the matters at hand according to Zrim.

            1. Jed Paschall says:


              If you go to the initial conversation Zrim was much more adamant that civil disobedience was neither biblically warranted nor permissible. Our conversation in particular was pretty intense on the matter. It seems as if he has come off of his initial stance, or at least softened it.

              1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                “It seems as if he has come off of his initial stance, or at least softened it.”

                It looks like he has softened it substantially! Seemingly repudiating his previous position given his recent statement of:

                “it [civil disobedience] seems more like a Christian liberty issue.”

              2. Jed Paschall says:

                I am glad to see the movement, regardless of what his prior stance was. For me, as a 2k advocate, I think that some of the leading voices in the movement have been more against civil disobedience than for it, when frankly the doctrine of 2k doesn’t exactly indicate the answer one way or the other. I really don’t have a problem with those who cannot engage in civil disobedience based on their conscience or own understanding of Scripture, since this thinking is attested in certain strands Reformed theology from it’s inception. What I do have a problem with is the argument that 2k entails anti-civil disobedience regardless of the nature of the circumstance, as this paints a picture of 2k that simply doesn’t match reality. The fact of the matter is there is a good deal of diversity amongst 2kers on a whole host of cultural issues.

                My objective in these is at least in part to demonstrate that there are warrants for civil disobedience, and Christians need not shy away from these when circumstances demand it. This is all part and parcel of the Christian’s call to sound ethical reasoning, and the ability to discern good from evil. The fact of the matter is involvement in the affairs of the civil kingdom can be incredibly complex, and I don’t think there is a one-size fits all approach to social and civic issues.

              3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                “I am glad to see the movement, regardless of what his prior stance was.”

                Heh. Your statement kind of reminds me of the brouhaha over TD Jakes and the Elephant Room 2 controversy.

                I.e., “I am glad to see TD Jakes move towards trinitarianism, regardless of his prior stance on modalism/manifestations.”

                Some folks were arguing that TD Jakes should make a more vocal and explicit repudiation of modalism/manifestations if he’s genuinely moved to embracing Trinitarianism.

              4. Jed Paschall says:


                That’s like saying your recovery from a sprained ankle was a lot like my recovery from open heart surgery. The Trinity is a cardinal doctrine, and civil disobedience is an important concept that Christians can disagree on.

                Obviously the Trinity is a zero-sum game, either you believe it or you’re out, so there isn’t any use in trying to be “closer” to the doctrine. But here, on an issue that I think stands closer to the periphery (still important though), I can live with movement toward more acceptable positions. I guess that’s how I see this particular issue. Besides, I’ve never been too impressed with MacDonald anyway, going all the way back to my Chicago days – he seemed like an odd fit for TGC to begin with.

              5. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

                Hi Jed,

                It wasn’t the scale of the issues being compared, what was being compared was whether genuine movement was being made by the claimant.

              6. Jed Paschall says:

                On that account your guess is as good as mine.

  2. Pastor Matt says:

    If this is what the Obama administration does while running for re-election, what will it do if it is re-elected with nothing left to lose?

  3. Joey P says:

    In a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Between this decision, the sodomite marriage momentum and the prayer banner issue in New England, I think its safe to say that our nation is just marching further into the moral abyss.

    I argued with more Christians than I care to count about the dangers of the Obama administration…but all I heard was a lot of nonsense about how he cares about the poor and idiocy about “social justice.” Actually, I think it is that a lot of young Christians don’t want to be stereotyped as intellectually backward or closed minded, so they do what their left-leaning professors and hipster friends tell them to. I was shocked with the zombie-like drooling hordes that were taken in by the Obama hype. But, now we get to deal with the consequences of the stupidity of the American electorate.

    1. kpolo says:

      I would question whether you argued with Christians in the first place. CINOs need to read Matt 7.

    2. That seems a bit harsh, Joey. Wouldn’t you agree that within orthodoxy there is room for political dialogue without blanket condemnation? I would encourage you to look at your last post and, regardless of the truth of what you said, examine if it was said in love. Your democrat brothers are nice too ;-). What if your homosexual friend were to read you calling gay marriage “sodomite marriage”? I feel like that would not aid in loving him and pointing him towards Jesus. Please, for the sake of the gospel, be kind.

      And as far as providing abortifacients to church employees/at Christian hospital. Right or left, I think it is obvious that we simply cannot comply with that.

  4. John Wilson says:

    I opposed morally and theologically the Iraq War. Yet I still went.

  5. rwconspirator says:

    I find it interesting that we are just now getting to the point of discussing civil obedience now that the government is mandating businesses to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives etc. Where were all of these when the government has supported planned parenthood and overseas abortions using taxpayer money? Has anyone ever refused to pay their taxes out of civil disobedience, because they don’t want their hard earned money to go toward funding genecide? I have to admit I have thought about it for years and am considering it more strongly now. I am not against paying taxes. I think it is the duty of every citizen, but if a practice is so evil as to burden the conscience of a good proportion of a nation’s citizens, the government should not be funding that practice with tax payer money. Let private individuals donate to planned parenthood if they deem it such an important social institution.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I think it’s a fair question worth discussing. But how do you get around the fact that Jesus and the NT writers paid taxes and commended tax-paying to the authorities, and that tax money was undoubtedly often used for murderous purposes?

      1. rwconspirator says:


        I have definitely thought about that as well. I don’t know that I have any way to “get around” that. I just know that it makes me nearly sick to my stomach to think of how our government is using my hard earned money to fund genecide and promote left wing social engineering. So I mean… what? We just keep feeding the beast? The abortion holocaust is far worse (in terms of sheer number) than that carried out by the Nazi’s. Were the German’s justified in allowing Hitler to round up the jews and exterminate or did they have a moral obligation to DO something about it? Surely, the latter is the case. The question is: what can we do? I have signed petitions and worked pro-life booths. I have seen others and had friends that went to pro-life marches at the capital. I have placed my hope in elected officials to end abortion through legislation, and after all these, nothing is ever done. Honestly, I now think the only chance we have is to change the hearts of the people and the only way to do that is for the Church to become a driving force in culture again as it was up until the 50’s preaching the truth of the Word of God openly with boldness. I know though, that this is going to be a long process, and many, many innocent lives will be taken before any noticable progress is made toward this goal. How can I in good conscience continue to play a part by handing over my money to the government?

      2. Mahlon says:

        We MUST pay our taxes no matter what it goes to. Jesus makes it clear we are to render unto Caesar what is Caesars. Our government is no worse than the Romans. To my knowledge, the US is not burning people alive, feeding them to lions, or hanging people from a cross. The sin is on the Government, not us for what they do with their taxes. The word “render” means they are owed the money. But, if they force us to violate our conscience personally by providing morning after pill (abortion) to our employees, then I see nothing wrong with civil disobedience as long as it is peaceful. The problem now is that it is not taxes paying for contraceptives; it is the employer who has to personally provide for morning after pills by buying insurance that covers it FREE OF CHARGE to the employee.

        1. rwconspirator says:

          No worse?!!! 45 million babies have been aborted in the US in the 30+ years since Roe V. Wade! This is an unthinkably large number and arguably the worst atrocity in the history of mankind. If you think the Nazi Holocaust is worse, then you don’t believe that a fetus is a human life, becaust all things being equal. The American Holocaust has claimed far more lives in comparison.

      3. Shayne McAllister says:

        This is not taxes, it is a fine. It’s a fine for not doing something that, if the fine is not paid, will send you to jail. Big difference.

        1. rwconspirator says:

          And if you don’t pay your taxes, they will confiscate your property or haul you off to jail and in both senarios my conscience would be violated and in both senarios, I don’t have a choice… So the difference was what again?

    2. Lyle Mantooth says:

      I thought about this issue, basically thinking I could short-change the IRS by a proportional amount that might be spent on abortions. But I realized that that’s way too much work for a tiny, TINY percentage of what I should pay. It’s like trying to only get oil from specific companies: it all comes in the same pipe eventually.

      No, it’s far more effective to raise a public outcry against these practices and to vote for people who might actually get them overturned. And above all, praying. Always praying.

  6. Juan Tisnado says:

    I really do not understand how is it that most conservatives oppose not only abortion but also those things that prevent unwanted pregnancies, which many times end up in abortions. Sure, some of thesr things are controversial, like the morning after pill, but consecutives also opppse things like It’s really ridiculous how ignorant our teens are.

    1. Melody says:

      How could teens possibly be ignorant about sex? It’s everywhere.

      I took some Jr. Highers to a purity conference a couple years ago and one of them told me it was a really good *reminder* to save sex for marriage, that it’s easy for her to forget sometimes how important that is. In Jr. High.

      1. Juan Tisnado says:


        The fact that kids KNOW what sex is and how to have it, does not mean that kids are not ignorant nor immature about sex. A quick glance at teen pregnancy rates will show this. Kids must UNDERSTAND not just the how to do it but also all of the physiological and psychological parts that involve the sexual relationship. Teens who are educated about sex are much more mature and respectful toward sex. Educated teens are much more prone to wait to have sex.

    2. Ken says:

      While I can’t speak for everyone, conservative opposition to government-sponsored or mandated activity in the realm of sex education and provision of contraception extends to the often highly questionable content of said education (usually not delivered from a biblical perspective) and the abortifacient quality of many contraceptives. The latter are typically dispensed without consideration for exactly how they prevent pregnancy–it is typically American to be pragmatic about all things, this included, so the emphasis is upon what is safe and effective for the woman who is pregnant without regard for the conceived child.

      1. Juan Tisnado says:

        More and more kids are having sex. As a result, more and more unwanted pregnancies occur, and consequently, more and more abortions. The question is, what do we do about it? Our conservative tactic simply is not working.

        When you speak of the “abortifacient quality of many contraceptives,” I assume that you are talking abut the infamous morning after pill, which according to you it is “dispensed without consideration for exactly how they prevent pregnancy?” Who doesn’t know how it exactly prevents pregnancy? That information is very easily obtainable. It prevents the fertilized egg from implanting on the uterus.

        The pragmatic thing to do is to reduce the number of non-desired pregnancies. We got to educate our kids so that they are mature and responsible about sex.

        And, Sadly we only have very few options, therefore we must be pragmatic and contraception is a much better option than abortion.

        1. Ken says:

          Unless, of course, the contraceptive actually produces an abortion, in which case we’ve gained nothing except self-deception.

          Actually, several so-called “morning-after pills” are true contraceptives in that they interfere with ovulation. I was speaking of true abortifacients such as IUDs, mifepristone, and even (some researchers believe) “the Pill” itself.

          My reference to “dispensed without consideration” speaks to the intent of the prescriber, not the prescriber’s understanding of the mechanism by which the product works. In other words, it is not important to some prescribers how the product prevents or interferes with pregnancy, just that the end result is no pregnancy. Entirely pragmatic, as I said.

          If it hasn’t been clear already, let me state that I abhor pragmatism as a guide to action. What “works” isn’t always what’s right.

          I quite agree that good education about sexuality is very important and that maturity and responsibilty about sex are laudable goals. But state-sponsored/mandated education on human sexuality is usually all about the hows and whys and rarely about the why nots. Divorced from a biblical perspective and a solid spiritual foundation sex is perilous on multiple levels.

        2. kpolo says:


          1) Intentionally preventing the fertilized egg (a human being) from implanting is abortion (aka murder).

          2) Sex-ed doesn’t reduce pregnancies. Your comments betray your worldview. Kids are not indulging in sex because of lack of knowledge. Kids are indulging in it because of raging hormones, a culture that glorifies “stolen waters” and mocks “marital fidelity” and teaches them that you can have sex without consequences. The indisputable scientific fact is that the teen brain is not wired for “rational” behavior in the face of sexual urges.

  7. DRT says:

    28 states today mandate coverage of contraceptives. I think it is 8 states that require such coverage by churches. This has not been an issue before, and it is an issue now not because of what it is doing but because of who is doing it. Shame to those.

    1. John says:

      DRT, I do hope you understand our political system well enough to get the difference between states’ power and federal power. If you can’t understand that, I sincerely hope you never vote.

      1. Juan Tisnado says:


        What DRT is saying is very true. If the violation of religious liberty is so important to conservatives, to the point that we are talking about civil disobedience, where where we when those states mandated religious organizations to comply to this?

        Violation of religious liberty IS violation of religious liberty, does not matter whether the State does is or the Federal Government does it.

  8. Lydia says:

    Just to add to the posted quotes, John Piper tweeted:

    RT @RickWarren. I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a gove[rn]ment mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29 Yes.

  9. Foibled says:

    The first role of government is to provide a space of freedom for its citizens. The second, provision of services, much always be subjected to the first. In the US today, equality in the provision of services trumps the space of freedom. That is the root ideological problem. Someone needs to take that on, otherwise we will have continual battles like this and eventually equal provision of services will win over freedom, at least for a while.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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