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Quotes from A Christian Manifesto

1. Rutherford argued that Romans 13 indicates that all power is from God and that government is ordained and instituted by God. The state, however, is to be administered according to the principles of God’s Law. Acts of the state which contradicted God’s Law were illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Tyranny was defined as ruling without the sanction of God.

2. Rutherford held that a tyrannical government is always immoral. He said that “a power ethical, politic, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power; and is no more from God, but from sinful nature and the old serpent, than a license to sin.”

3. Rutherford presents several arguments to establish the right and duty of resistance to unlawful government. First, since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God—to resist tyranny is to honor God. Second, since the ruler is granted power conditionally, it follows that the people have the power to withdraw their sanction if the proper conditions are not fulfilled. The civil magistrate is a “fiduciary figure”—that is, he holds his authority in trust for the people. Violation of the trust gives the people a legitimate base for resistance.

It follows from Rutherford’s thesis that citizens have a moral obligation to resist unjust and tyrannical government. While we must always be subject to the office of the magistrate, we are not to be subject to the man in that office who commands that which is contrary the Bible.

Rutherford offered suggestions concerning illegitimate acts of the state. A ruler, he wrote, should not be deposed merely because he commits a single breach of the compact he has with the people. Only when the magistrate acts in such a way that the governing structure of the country is being destroyed—that is, when he is attacking the fundamental structure of society—is he to be relieved of his power and authority. A Christian Manifesto, F. Schaeffer, p. 100-101

In Lex Rex he (Rutherford) does not propose armed revolution as an automatic solution. Instead, he sets forth the appropriate response to interference by the state in the liberties of the citizenry. Specifically, he stated that if the state deliberately is committed to destroying its ethical commitment to God then resistance is appropriate.

In such an instance, for the private person, the individual, Rutherford suggested that there are three appropriate levels of resistance: First, he must defend himself by protest (in contemporary society this would most often be by legal action); second, he must flee if at all possible; and third, he may use force, if necessary, to defend himself. One should not employ force if he may save himself by flight; nor should one employ flight if he can save himself and defend himself by protest and the employment of constitutional means of redress.

On the other hand, when the state commits illegitimate acts against a corporate body—such as a duly constituted state or local body, or even a church—then flight is often an impractical and unrealistic means of resistance. Therefore, with respect to a corporate group or community, there are two levels of resistance: remonstration (or protest) and then, if necessary, force employed in self-defense.

For a corporate body (a civil entity), when illegitimate state acts are perpetrated upon it, resistance should be under the protection of the duly constituted authorities: if possible, it should be under the rule of the lesser magistrates (local officials). Rutherford urged that the office of the local official is just as much from God as is the office of the highest state official. pp. 103-4

Force, as used in this book, means compulsion or constraint exerted upon a person (or persons) or on an entity such as the state. When discussing force it is important to keep an axiom in mind: always before protest or force is used, we must work for reconstruction. In other words, we should attempt to correct and rebuild society before we advocate tearing it down or disrupting it.

If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force, and if there is a vigilant precaution against its overreaction in practice, then at a certain point a use of force is justifiable. We should recognize, however, that overreaction can too easily become the ugly horror of sheer violence. Therefore a distinction between force and violence is crucial. p. 106

This defense (of human life) should be carried out on at least four fronts:

First, we should aggressively support a human life bill or a constitutional amendment protecting unborn children.

Second, we must enter the courts seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s abortion decision.

Third, legal and political action should be taken against hospitals and abortion clinics that perform abortions (perhaps including picketing).

Fourth, the State must be made to feel the presence of the Christian community. This may include doing such things as sit-ins in legislatures and courts, including the Supreme Court, when other constitutional means fail...The bottom line is that at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty, to disobey the state.

This is scary. There are at least four reasons why.

First, we must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of a theocracy.

Second, it is frightening when we realize that our consideration of these things, and this work, will certainly get behind the Iron Curtain and into other tyrannical countries where Christians face these questions in practice every day of their lives, in prison or out of prison. p. 120

A matter of individual decision'

In our day an illustration for the need of protest is tax money being used for abortion. After all the normal constitutional means of protest had been exhausted, then what could be done? At some point protest could lead some Christians to refuse to pay some portion of their tax money. Of course,, this would mean a trial. Such a move would have to be the individual’s choice under God. No one should decide for another. (p. 108)

After recognizing man’s God-given absolute rights, the Declaration [of Independence] goes on to declare that whenever civil government becomes destructive of these rights, “it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it, and institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safely and happiness.” The Founding Fathers, in the spirit of Lex Rex, cautioned in the Declaration of Independence that established governments should not be altered or abolished for “light and transient causes.” But when there is a “long train of abuses and usurpations” designed to produce an oppressive, authoritarian state, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government...”

Simply put, the Declaration of Independence states that the people, if they find that their basic rights are being systematically attacked by the state, have a duty to try to change that government, and if they cannot do so, to abolish it. Christian Manifesto, pp. 127-8

If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God. If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in is own way at that time to worship Caesar. And that point is exactly where the early Christians performed their acts of civil disobedience even when it cost them their lives. Christian Manifesto, p. 130

It is time we consciously realize that when any office commands what is contrary to God’s Law it abrogates its authority. And our loyalty to the God who gave this law then requires that we make the appropriate response in that situation to such a tyrannical usurping of power. pp 131-2

A Christian Manifesto, by Francis Schaeffer, Crossway, 1981