A nationally known pastor and Bible teacher, that I appreciate and agree with most of the time, has actually written that the founding of America was a sin:
"Over the past several centuries, people have mistakenly linked democracy and political freedom to Christianity. That’s why many contemporary evangelicals believe the American Revolution was completely justified, both politically and scripturally. They follow the arguments of the Declaration of Independence, which declares that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are divinely endowed rights.When you combine a lack of knowledge about the American Revolution with a wrongly applied interpretation of Romans 13, you end up with good conservative Christians adding to the misinformation about our Founders and believing that America was established by an unchristian rebellion.
Therefore those believers say such rights are part of a Christian worldview, worth attaining and defending at all cost including military insurrection at times. But such a position is contrary to the clear teachings and commands of Romans 13:1-7. So the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers."
My friend and regular Worldview Weekend speaker, David Barton, has written a paper entitled “Was the American Revolution a Biblically Justified Act?” in which he notes:
The Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Congregationalists, and most other Christian denominations during the American Revolution believed that Romans 13 meant they were not to overthrow government as an institution and live in anarchy. This passage does not mean they had to submit to every civil law. Note that in Hebrews 11, a number of those who made the cut in the “Faith Hall of Fame” as heroes of the faith were guilty of civil disobedience—including Daniel, the three Hebrew Children, the Hebrew Midwives, Moses, etc.…If the Founding Fathers had removed themselves from underneath the authority of Great Britain because they were choosing anarchy over an established government, then that would be a violation of Romans 13. Although Romans 13 is not an endorsement of every [form of] government, it is a description of what God says is the proper role of civil government.
In Scripture, God initiates several realms of authority in human governance: family, church, and state. We take these to be the normal pattern of social interaction, and civilizations throughout history have reflected these in some form. Simply because the presence of these institutions is normative, however, we should not expect every instance of them to be acceptable.
For example: fathers are the God-ordained head of the family. But those who physically and emotionally abuse their children and wives have perverted their position of authority by their unbridled acts of violence against the very ones that he is commanded by God to love sacrificially as Christ loved His church (Eph. 5:25-26). Almost all would agree, that he should be removed as head of that family in protection for his family. Wives and children should not passively accept in any form any physical abuse whatsoever, just because the concept of family government places the father as head of the home. God has created family government, but that does not mean abusive actions by the head of the family is endorsed by God. On the contrary, it is abhorred by God and a violation of His Word (Eph. 5:22-31; 6:1-5; 1 Cor. 13).
To illustrate further, few people would disagree that a pastor or elder of a local church should be honored in leadership—his God-ordained position of authority—if the leader is guilty of grave moral and ethical failures (1 Tim. 3:1-9; Titus 1:4-9; 1 Cor. 9:21ff). Christians who attend a church where a pastor remains unrepentant of the failure to continually fulfill his biblical duty as an under-shepherd of Jesus Christ by violating God’s standards and faithfulness to His Word in life and/or doctrine (1 Tim. 4:12-16; 5:21-24; Titus 3:9-10), should remove themselves from that church and find one that complies with God’s principles. As the Apostle Peter so aptly states:
"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." -1 Peter 5:1-4
Which brings us to the arena of civil government. Romans 13 articulates God’s specific plan and purpose for state authorities. As with church and family rule, God does not condone every individual political leader in every form of government that emerges. God has designed government and granted them the responsibility to punish the wicked and reward and protect the righteous (cf, Roms. 13:1-7). But as in the examples given above, there will be wicked and corrupt political leadership that will pervert and abuse the authority granted to them by God in the maintaining of the order and governing of society. Nazi Germany failed spectacularly in that calling. Likewise, Stalinist Russia. These modern examples are easy to judge. Yet the picture becomes similarly clear for America’s early history when we understand the nature of eighteenth century British rule over the colonies.
In light of these principles, did our founding fathers really act in disobedience to Romans 13 against the tyrannical reign of the King of England? On the contrary. For eleven years, our Founders petitioned the King of Great Britain to cease his unlawful, unbiblical actions against the colonials. Although the monarch ignored their grievances, they remained under his authority until he sent 25,000 troops into the colonies for the purpose of seizing property, invading homes, and imprisoning people without trials. The king’s actions violated his own British common law, the English Bill of Rights, and the centuries-old - Magna Carta.
It was only once King George III started down the path of violent suppression, the Founders announced their intent to separate from Great Britain. They wrote at length that they were involved in self-defense, which they rightly believed was biblically acceptable. British troops fired the first shot in every confrontation leading up to the Revolutionary War—the Massacre of 1770, the bombing of Boston in 1774, and the Lexington and Concord engagements of 1775. In addition, as Dr. Marshall Foster of the Mayflower Institute has noted, there were settlers living in America for well over one hundred years that had nothing to do with the British colonies and King George's claim to governmental authority over them.
Unless you are an extreme thoroughgoing pacifist, there is no basis for saying the Founders sinned in defending themselves against King George’s troops and their terrorist tactics against the colonists. Biblically, there is merit for a just war, and for just civil political disobedience. The Founders’ fight was not a “military insurrection.” Our early leaders took seriously their standing before God and believed He could bless a war of defense, but not a war of offense. They fought to protect their own lives and those of their family and friends.
Many Christians get queasy over the subject of “civil disobedience” and invoke Romans 13 to avoid the responsibility of standing up to a deviant government. While I agree it is crucial that Christians pursue civil disobedience only when obeying government requires us to disobey God, Scripture offers clear direction on when such action is acceptable. Kerby Anderson points out the following biblical principles for civil disobedience:
1. The law or injunction being resisted should clearly be unjust and unbiblical.The Founding Fathers did not violate New Testament principles when they instituted American independence and it is critical that we close ranks on this fundamental issue. Now, were all the Founders dedicated Christians of our Lord Jesus Christ? Of course not. And though America is not a Christian nation, it is undeniable that our nation was founded under God’s guiding hand—not in spite of it. Whether or not we continue in the godly heritage of the first Americans is a vital concern, but it’s one that should be debated between “us” and “them,” not between “us” and “us.”
2. The means of redress should be exhausted.
3. Christians must be willing to accept the penalty for breaking the law.
4. Civil disobedience should be carried out in love and with humility.
5. Civil disobedience should be considered only when there is some possibility of success.
Click here to listen to "Worldview Matters" where Tim Wilmdon of the American Family Association and Dr. Marshall Foster of the Mayflower Institute and I discuss nationally known Bible teacher, author and pastor, Dr. John MacArthur's comments on this issue from a radio program that aired July 12, 2008. It is a helpful and must listen to.
Brannon Howse is the president and founder of Worldview Weekend
and author of "One Nation Under Man: The Worldview War Between Christians and the Secular Left,"