Connecticut residents waited in long lines on Thursday to register their firearms and high-capacity magazines before the state’s new gun laws go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. WFSB-TV reports that a ‘long-line of people’ stood outside the Public Safety Building in Middletown, Conn., all day to register semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. Several residents were upset with the ‘unconstitutional’ requirement, while at least one person didn’t appear to mind.
This report from The Blaze details the feelings of citizens while having to register their lawfully-owned firearms in Connecticut. They’ve been told by their state legislature that there are no intentions of taking away their firearms, they just want to know who owns them and where they’re at. Never mind the reality that only law-abiding citizens are waiting in line to register their firearms. Never mind that the legislature has no legitimate reason to know who owns these firearms and where they’re located. And never mind that if gun ownership is necessary to the security of a free state, the government knowing the location and ownership of firearms has a damnable consequence for operational security. These citizens (I use that term loosely) are standing in line to willingly give a government they don’t trust information it shouldn’t have so it can violate liberties it’s not supposed to infringe. And yet, here they stand in line.
One man is reported as saying, “I understand why they’re doing it, but I don’t think it’s constitutional.”
Then why, one has to ask, is the man standing in line to do something unconstitutional? My concern is that some Christians while reading this article are already quoting to me Romans 13. Americans – and indeed, American Christians – need to have a mature, discerning understanding of the Bible’s call to submission to governing authorities.
Here are a few points to help you understand Romans 13 in light of our current national discourse:
If you’re under the impression that Romans 13 teaches a complete submission to all kinds of lawful and unlawful governments in all situations, you’re mistaken.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1, ESV)
Who – or what – are ‘the governing authorities’? Even though ‘authorities’ is in the plural, the use of the definite article implies that this is speaking of the supreme earthly ruling authority or authorities. These authorities – whatever or whoever they are – have been ‘instituted by God’ in accordance with divine providence. His providential appointment of earthly authorities is clearly what’s in view here, for any more explicit action on the part of his divine sovereignty would hold the Almighty complicit in the case of despots; God chose to allow the rising up of authorities for purposes known to his sovereign will. Indeed, God raises up wicked authorities so they can be cast down (like Pharaoh, given as an example of ‘being raised up’ to be destroyed in Romans 9:17).
Who is our ‘authority’ in the United States of America? The question, as asked, can’t be answered. Our authority is not a who, but a what. Our authority is a body of laws, not a body of flesh. In short, our Caesar is the United States Constitution. Beyond that, the framers of our Constitution created that document to be a non-binding rule of laws only authoritative upon the people so long as they find it compatible with conscience. This principle was set in precedent in the very words of the first truly-American document, the Declaration of Independence:
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, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The very men who framed this declaration were some of the very same men who crafted our Constitution, and those who weren’t still shared these founding principles. There comes a time, our founders argued, that people can freely dissolve political bands if they’re being governed in a way that is contrary to Natural Law and God would prescribe they be governed.
If these men were rabble-rousers, we could discount their opinion as that of barbaric rebels in violation of Romans 13. But as it turns out, these were the men who set our Caesar in place. These were the men (and those were the principles) that crafted the ruling authorities that govern us today. And these men, if one would be thoughtful enough to employ the organ that sits upon our crown, clearly stipulate that America’s Caesar must submit to Natural Law and God or the the people are under no obligation to call him king. Surely, the guiding principles that they reasoned to declare independence from Great Britain found their way into the government they established.
No doubt, some would argue that the executors of law are the rightful authorities. No doubt, if the President ordered a surrender of firearms tomorrow, many Christians would comply under the dictates of Romans 13. And yet, the President takes an oath of office to defend and uphold the Constitution. Clearly, if the president takes the oath to defend the Constitution, the Constitution is the higher rightful authority. The President, legislators, and Supreme Court all are servants of the American Caesar. When they act contrary to the powers delegated to them by the Constitution, they are usurpers to the rightful ruling authorities and it becomes treasonous to obey them. And if the Constitution ever dictates contrary to Natural Law and God, its authority must be denied by free, thinking men.
There are those nations whose earthly authority is a person of flesh and blood. But the ruling authority in our nation is Natural Law and God as interpreted by free men, delegated to the care of the Constitution and executed by servants in three branches of government.
And so, is a Christian obligated to register his firearms if he feels it unconstitutional? I submit to you that a Christian must not register his firearms if he feels it unconstitutional. We mustn’t commit treason against our rightful ruling authority. And if the Constitution were to one day change (or be re-interpreted by an activist judiciary), the founders who established our ruling authority also established a precedent by which free men separate from those political ties and instead submit to Natural Law and to God – the very same God that requires us to protect and defend our families in 1 Timothy 5:8 (which I would argue requires firearms that aren’t subject to government seizure).