Mailvox: Biblical utopians

KD asks about a friend:

I am also a Christian libertarian and I am having a discussionwith a friend on the topic. His argument is that “Just because something isnot possible…i.e. moral utopia….doesn’t mean we don’t strive for it,”(by using the government). He uses references in Romans 13:1-6.

“1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”

KD’s friend’s argument makes no sense, because on this basis, ANYTHING the government does is therefore right. Settinig aside my personal doubts about that concept, I note that the two of you are discussing what the government should do, not whether to submit to it or not, so these verses simply aren’t applicable. Note that Paul does not say to obey the authorities, but to do what is right instead. For someone who is asserting that it is necessary to submit to the governing authorities, he certainly found himself in jail a lot.

But even a casual observer will note that evil authority always fears those who speak the truth and do right, this may be one of those spiritual laws that are rationally counterintuitive – think of how the leadership of the Soviet Union feared Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and allowed him to speak out against them although they could have killed him at anytime.