Governor of Virginia Embraces Romans 13:1-7

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Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s newly elected governor and graduate of televangelist Pat Robertson’s RegentUniversity, said at a prayer breakfast before his inauguration that he looks at his political career and being governor as a ministry.  He also said, “For a ruler to be just and to be fair and to have the wisdom needed in order to do right for the people, one must constantly refer to the word of God.”
It seems one of this “ruler’s” favorite “word of God”/Bible passages is Romans 13:1-7 which reads, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” (Common sense tells us that someone who rules by fear deserves no honor.)
What more could a government and politician/ruler hope for than to enjoy the Almighty’s cart blanche endorsement! In his prayer breakfast speech, McDonnell said this verse is “very important.”
A problem Christians in America have with this Bible teaching, which they don’t appear to be aware of, is that America was founded on violent resistance to the established government. Any kind of resistance to government, especially violent resistance, is prohibited by this Bible teaching. If America’s founders, and if Americans today, took this Biblical nonsense seriously, not only would they and we not resist the government and powers that be, they and we would live in fear and subjugation to the politicians/rulers, the government and powers that be.
This anti-progress, anti-freedom Bible teaching openly and falsely says the powers that be are ordained by God to rule over us. That anyone who resists what the government wants to do is resisting God because of God ordaining the politicians/rulers/government. That we are to live in fear of the armed government authorities for they “beareth not the sword in vain.” Due to this fear we are to subject ourselves and our families to blindly obeying the government. We are to sheepishly “pay ye tribute” to the political whores without question or complaint, we are to “render therefore to all their dues,” for they are ministers of God!
Compare this Biblical superstitious ignorant nonsense with the Deistic document, the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration completely ignores the Bible god and turns to a Deistic idea of God. It says, “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,” thus portraying people as having separate and equal places in the world, not people who are to subject themselves to complete obedience to a government or to a ruler. 
The Declaration goes directly and strongly against the teachings of Romans 13:1-7 and rejects completely any idea that governments and rulers are sanctioned by God. And instead of teaching fearful subjugation to the government and its rulers like Bob McDonnell, the Declaration of Independence teaches that whenever a government fails to promote the “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” of the people, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”. It goes on to say, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” This is the direct opposite of the Bible quote Bob McDonnell said is “very important.”
Romans 13:1-7 is “very important” not just to McDonnell, but to the entire government. FEMA uses this “very important” Bible teaching to instruct Christian clergy on how to control people for the government’s purposes during a national emergency, such as a WMD attack by insurgents.
The government operates on fear. “Revealed” religions operate on fear. They were made for each other.
Perhaps “ruler” Bob McDonnell would do better to trade in his Biblical beliefs for the ideals and beliefs of a fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote “the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”
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Robert L. Johnson's picture
Columns on STR: 94

Robert Johnson is a paralegal and a freelance writer in Florida. He was raised Roman Catholic, but after reading Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, he became a Deist. In 1993 he founded the World Union of Deists and in 1996 he launched the first web site devoted to Deism,  He is listed in Who's Who in Hell and is the author of Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You and An Answer to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  He wrote the introduction to The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition and also writes for


Paul the cab Driver's picture

Since the governor is going to rule by biblical principles, perhaps he can start with Romans 13:8, the very next verse after his favorite passage. That verse says "Owe no man any thing but love." Does this mean he is going to abolish Virginia's debt? And if so how is he going to do that without violating Romans 13:9 which says "thou shalt not steal"? Since taking any man's property without his permission is stealing, taxation is theft. (Well, theft plus paperwork.)
Bob McDonnell is apparently making the same mistake of many Christians in reading this passage. Unfortunately, so is the author. The passage in Romans 13:1-7 legitimizes some governmental authority, but it never authorizes all governmental authority. In fact, when closely read, it provides an outline of what government is allowed to do in a Biblical model.
Romans 13:1 says the powers that be are ordained by God. But ordination is not free reign. Ordination is the assignment of specific duties or functions. It comes from the same root word as "orders". A pastor is ordained. That does not give him the authority to order the church secretary to sleep with him. A marriage is ordained. That does not give Bonnie and Clyde the right to go rob banks.
The next few verses outline exactly what the province of government should be. Rom 13:3 says "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil." Thus, when a government (which is simply a group of people, by the way) acts in a way which sanctions evil, or which punishes good, it is clearly out of bounds and exceeding its ordination.
And what are Christians told to do in this case? Romans 13:7 says "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." It also says in Romans 13:8 we are to owe no man anything but love. We do not owe our government tribute, custom, fear, or honour when it oversteps its ordination by ceasing to be a terror for true evil doers, or when punishes good people, or when it commits evil itself.
This principle was very clear to early Christians. St. Peter and St. John disobeyed a direct order from their government when ordered to stop preaching. In fact, they answered their governmental accusers by saying that we should listen to God rather than to mere mortals. (Acts 4) Throughout the Book of Acts, and later through early Church history, we find that the early Christians refused to obey their government when it violated God's commandments. This is why Christians were fed to the lions.
There is a possibility that St. Paul was deliberately ambiguous when he penned Romans 13. After all, he was in prison, and it could probably be assumed the guards would read his letters. However, such ambiguity should always be clarified relevant to the rest of the Biblical context. And believe me, if Christians understood this passage better, and preached it so, we probably would not be in as bad a mess as we are now with our government.

DennisLeeWilson's picture

"The Declaration goes directly and strongly against the teachings of Romans 13:1-7 and rejects completely any idea that governments and rulers are sanctioned by God."

This excellent article EXPLAINS WHY Christians have such a difficult time rejecting the notion of rule by governments and accepting the idea of self governing individuals.

H.O. Charles's picture

The way I take that passage is that if you disobey your governing authority -- good or bad, you take your life in your hands. As far as I can tell, this is true, regardless of whether or not the Bible says so. Have you decided to overthrow the government? If you are successful, then "the powers that be are ordained of God" now applies to you! This concept hinges upon how you see God. If you see him as an magnified human, then of course it won't work. But if you see him as a spirit (John 4:24), then you might see some possibilities...assuming you have a heartfelt grasp of what "spirit" means.

And don't forget that the Bible also says that God "removes kings and raises up kings" (Daniel 2:20-23). This seems to be right in line with your observation about America's foundation.

On another note...

I am going through a divorce right now and I have learned something from it. My wife has made up her mind that I'm a horrible person. Therefore, when she asks me if I did something horrible, I can either say "yes" and justify her bias, or I can say "no", which will *prove* [to her] that I'm lying. It's a lousy situation for both of us, but there is nothing I can do about it because one cannot fight prejudice with facts. (This applies to my prejudices as well, whatever they might be.)

But slightly deeper than that is the fact that sometimes my truthfulness seems to be conflicting. I will claim "A" and then later claim "Z". For instance: Sometimes my statements will be of fact and sometimes of desire. Sometimes they will be of a specific nature while other times they will be general. Sometimes they will be statements of past events and others statements of present or future. And so forth.

My wife, having abandoned all real communication with me, will use any perceived differences as evidence of a blatant discrepancy (either between my two claims or between my claims and her point of view) and conclude that I'm lying. The problem here is not that I'm lying, it's 1) that she has made up her mind that I'm deceptive, and 2) she has no interest in really knowing about items "B" through "Y", which would help clarify a lot.

I used to try to explain it all to her. I have to say that I did a pretty good job of it too -- these issues were not nearly as complex as she was making them. However, she had already made up her mind that I was unreliable and simply could not see the sense in what I said. So I eventually quit trying and have resorted to letting her work things out in her own time. She's leaving and there's nothing I can do to stop her.

My point in sharing this is that we can't truly know a person based on facts alone, there is a spirit to that person that -- if you can relate to it -- tells their true story. I would extend that to the "person" of God (either real or fictitious) as well. It is clear to me that all I needed was a slight bias (or benefit of the doubt) toward the Bible to see a simple truth in the above passage. I would suggest that it is a slight (or more) bias *against* the Bible that can only see utter nonsense in the same passage.

Of course, I won't deny that well-intentioned-but-evil-hearted people will manipulate a given truth to support their selfish indulgences, but that makes *them* unreliable -- it has no effect on the truth they exploit, whatever it might be. However, once we've been immersed in that perverted version, it is often very difficult to ever take it as it was originally intended and it's easy to dismiss it as "nonsense".

Just food for thought.

Have a great weekend!

zrated's picture

as a Christian, i've had trouble with this for a long time and wrote about the inherent contradictions of these types of verses, not only with the Christian ethic, but with the actions of biblical heroes and even Christ himself. state loving Christians hate the article - i'm proud of it.

pedalman's picture

Thank you, Paul the cab driver, for taking the time to explain the spiritual application of Romans 13. I agree and would add that a believer is not one who ONLY believes in Jesus, but actually lives his teachings, as Jesus said, if you love me keep my commandments. Jn. 14:15. Also, in James 2:19,20, we read that the devils believe, and tremble in their belief, which is a lot more than most professing Christians do, yet we know the devils are not "saved". So there are many hypocrites who profess to be Christian, yet do not live it, and we might expect to find such in government positions, yet they are "ordained" of God to punish the evil doers in the world so that God's people might be able to live lives of peace and righteousness. (I Peter 2:13": Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; "14": Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. ) And of course, we can not serve two masters so when the ordinances of man conflict with God's Word we must choose God's way.
After all, John 18:36 clearly says that a follower of Jesus is not to use force or violence against evil, as Jesus set the example of self-sacrifice, yet many in the military would claim belief while living lives contrary to God's Word and will. So basically the Christian expects the unbeliever (in gov't) to use force to punish evil so the world is a better place for all. At times believers also get wrongfully punished by gov't, but they are pilgrims and strangers here, and take no active part in physical warfare, even in self-defense--it is better to die and go to heaven, than kill an unbeliever and send their soul to eternal damnation, since the dead can not repent and be saved.
Also, Mr. Roberts asserts correctly that this nation was founded by violence, and my ancestors who had settled in southeastern Pa. had to deal with George Washington--was he ordained of God or was the "king" of England the one to follow? Since my relatives were Anabaptists, they did not fight for either side, but gave aid such as horses and food and medical care to both sides as the opportunity presented itself. Many local churches back then held that First Peter 2 required allegiance to Britain: " Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." Others believed as the cab driver above writes, that the King of England had forfeited his divine ordination or position, and therefore they rooted for Washington and the troops to win and establish a new, more Godly form of government, especially in areas of religious freedom, which happened. But today, Christians can not pay allegiance to this U.S. gov't which condones baby killing, sodomy, adultery (divorce and then subsequent remarriage with a previous partner still living), forced insurance programs which are a form of gambling, etc. So I and others live under the radar, waiting to see if a more Godly gov't will allow us to live in a land of which we can be proud.

Jim Davies's picture

Romans 13:1 is a tough one for theists who recognize that government is the root of all evil. Paul the Cab Driver does a creditable job, indeed, of trying to square the circle; but it really can't be done. "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" and they are stuck with that. Fine and dandy that ordination isn't license; but the verse implicitly assumes that "good government" is a logical possibility, whereas we can very clearly see that it's an oxymoron. If humans are self-owners, ALL government denies that fundamental right and is, therefore and thereby, evil.

Consequently God either (a) exists but is evil, or (b) doesn't exist. As I see it (b) is by far the most likely; he is simply an invention of those who try to add a layer of moral justification for their violation of the self-ruling rights of their fellow men.

tzo's picture

Romans was written by Paul, who self-annointed himself an Apostle. Some people a couple of hundred years or more later decided that Paul's writings were divine. How did they decide? They were divinely inspired, I guess.

Paul's writings have very little to do with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, which is a bit odd since the religion is called Christianity.

If Christians actually focused on Jesus's words and actions and ignored the other self-proclaimed Apostles and such rabble then we could assume Christians would actually be a help to a civil society instead of a bane.

If you want to take Paul's words literally, then you have to take the side opposite of Jesus, whose words and actions contradict Paul. Then call yourself a Pauline, not a Christian.

Since this is STR, I will quote Jefferson here: "Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus."

The Bible should be, at most, a pamphlet.

Jim Davies's picture

In this immediate context at least, I beg to differ with Tzo. Paul's words in Romans 13:1 closely echo Jesus' own, in John 19:11, when he was being interrogated by Pilate: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."

He, too, therefore, clearly believed that God had ordained the Roman empire and its provincial governors.

Both of them were being ill-treated by that political power, so the fact that both held fast to the view that it was a divine institution is remarkable. Both were cases in which belief flew in the face of rational evidence. Neither of them seem to have taken account of the contradiction.

Suverans2's picture

If you are correct in this, Jim, then neither of them read Psalms 2:2 (KJV) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [Jehovah], and against his anointed...

However, you might not be correct in this assessment, because Paul is also attributed to 'saying' this about Jesus, at Colossians 2:15 (LITV), "having stripped the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, triumphing over them in it."

Which is the reason, of course, is why the first charge brought against him was teaching people not to pay tribute (taxes) to the Caesar.

Luke 23:2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute [G5411] to Caesar...

G5411 ...a load (as borne), that is, (figuratively) a tax (properly an individual assessment on persons or property...) ~ Strong's Greek Dictionary

zrated's picture

paul's words were not only contradictory to jesus' words and actions (jim, it's a stretch to say that Christ's words to pilate were an endorsement of the roman empire, as opposed to the idea that God allowed that power in that instance in order for his will to be fulfilled), but they were also contradictory paul's actions and the words and actions of his contemporary, peter, as i pointed out through the link above.

i don't think that the bible can be trusted in every case. though Christians believe that the the bible is the word of God, i believe that it contains the word of God, though not necessarily everything it contains represents such. it has spent too much time in the hands of untrustworthy people for us to be assured that it has not been altered for the sake of controlling Christians.