Sunday, March 13, 2011

No power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God

Please also read:
Conspiracies of the Jews

This article is a reiteration and expansion on the one entitled: Be Subject to Higher Powers, Render to Caesar, in which the exposition of St. John Chrysostom on Romans 13 was put forth for consideration.  Herein, we will find St. Thomas Aquinas further expounding upon and supporting what St. John Chrysostom has said concerning "higher powers".

Romans 13:1:Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.

Those who would say that this means that all civil governments in the world must be obeyed in all things fail to understand the teaching of St. Paul to the Romans, whose context is clearly shown forth in the verses which follow.

Romans 13:2-5: “Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation. For princes are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good: and thou shalt have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to thee, for good. But if thou do that which is evil, fear: for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God's minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.”

It is clear that the purpose of the power ordained of God is the promotion of the common good and the thwarting of evil.

But when a person who holds a public office should use the power that he has received contrary to the common good, then there is no longer a duty of conscience to obey them and the “laws” they institute for their own personal gain or for the persecution of men, but rather we may indeed resist them, since they are now acting contrary to their ordination, that is, they are acting as a terror to the good work, but not to the evil.  Yes we may lawfully resist such powers, nor will we purchase damnation by doing so.

If that seems like a shock, then let us consider the following:  Satan is described as a higher power.

Ephesians 2:2-3:And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief:”

Ephesians 6:12: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places."

But we must resist Satan.

Ephesians 6:13: "Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect."

St. James 4:7:Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you”

Why, then, should an earthly power be treated any differently?  Again, when God has revealed the purpose of the higher powers, and St. Paul tells us that it is to act as a terror not to the good work, but to the evil, then it is clear that no power is ordained of God that is a terror to the good work.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 4: "Wherefore even as it is lawful to resist robbers, so is it lawful, in a like case, to resist wicked princes"

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 92, Art. 1: "For if the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on true good, which is the common good regulated according to Divine justice, it follows that the effect of the law is to make men good simply.  If, however, the intention of the lawgiver is fixed on that which is not simply good, but useful or pleasurable to himself, or in opposition to Divine justice; then the law does not make men good simply, but in respect to that particular government. In this way good is found even in things that are bad of themselves: thus a man is called a good robber, because he works in a way that is adapted to his end.

Hence St. Paul's teaching to the Romans has nothing to do with obedience to arbitrary or unjust government, but to government which deliberately effects its Divinely ordained purpose:  To make men good and to punish evildoers.  The government that has this in view and acts accordingly ought to be obeyed as justice demands, but the unjust may be resisted.

We know that this is the right way to understand St. Paul, in that he gives the faithful an example of an unjust ruler whom he himself resisted:

2nd Corinthians 11:23-33: "At Damascus, the governor of the nation under Aretas the king, guarded the city of the Damascenes, to apprehend me.  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands."

And God Himself has intervened, by the agency of angels, when rulers were acting as a terror to the good:

Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11: "And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes. And when he had apprehended him, he cast him into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers to be kept, intending, after the pasch, to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him.

"And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him: and a light shined in the room: and he striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said to him: Gird thyself, and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And going out, he followed him, and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision. And passing through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street: and immediately the angel departed from him.

"And Peter coming to himself, said: Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews."

While it is true that all power comes from God, it does not follow that every exercise of that power is ordained of God.  Ordination means actively instituted or established for a set purpose.  Since we reject the Calvinistic heresy that proposes that God ordains men to commit sins, or that God actively created evil, then we know also that no power that is evil and persecutes the good is positively ordained of God.  Satan was created and ordained by God for good, but became evil by his own malice, thus forsaking his ordination.  It is for this reason that St. James tells us we must resist him, although by creation he is a prince, an angel and a higher power.

It is a firmly rooted and established principle, even as far back as the Old Testament, that earthly powers are ordained of God for a set purpose:

3 Kings 10:9: "Blessed be the Lord thy God, whom thou hast pleased, and who hath set thee upon the throne of Israel, because the Lord hath loved Israel for ever, and hath appointed thee king, to do judgment and justice."

There it is simply and perfectly in line with the teaching of St. Paul.  The king (earthly power) is ordained not to steal your property or redistribute wealth, not to take away men's God given natural rights, not to bully, oppress, persecute or tyrannize, but to do judgment and justice.

The First Recorded Divine Institution of Government was REPRESENTATIVE Government

Deuteronomy 1:13-17: "Let me have from among you wise and understanding men, and such whose conversation is approved among your tribes, that I may appoint them your rulers.

Note the words of Moses: "approved among your tribes".  That is to say that the tribes approved and authorized the rulers who were then given power and authority - in other words  it appears from this passage that the power of governing the people is subject and subservient to the approval of the same people, for the common good.

But how can we recognize whether a power is ordained of God, or whether it is an unlawful tyranny?

Seven Biblical Characteristics of Ordained Governance

1.  Protect the Innocent 

4 Kings 24:3-4: "And this came by the word of the Lord against Juda, to remove them from before him for all the sins of Manasses which he did. And for the innocent blood that he shed, filling Jerusalem with innocent blood: and therefore the Lord would not be appeased."

Manasses, which means "he that causes to forget", caused the Israelites to forget God, and shed much innocent blood, hence it is clear from the above verse that in this he was NOT a power ordained of God, acting in many ways contrary to His laws.

In laying down the laws for judges, the Lord gave the following:

Exodus 23:7: "Thou shalt fly lying. The innocent and just person thou shalt not put to death: because I abhor the wicked."

2. Protect the Freedom and Rights of the People

Our God given natural rights are clearly enunciated among the Ten Commandments, and summed up by Jesus in the following verse from St. Matthew's Gospel.

St. Matthew 7:12: " All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets."

God is an impartial lawmaker, and makes no distinction in these commandments between people of different gender, class or nationality.  If a person shares human nature in common with any other, then he has the right not to be violated, period.

Proverbs 22:2: "The rich and poor have met one another: the Lord is the maker of them both."

Pope Pius IX, Nostis et Nobiscum, #20: "[I]t is likewise a mark of the natural, and so of the immutable, condition of human affairs that even among those who are not in higher authority, some surpass others in different endowments of mind or body or in riches and such external goods; therefore it can never be lawful under any pretext of liberty or equality to usurp or injure in any way the good or rights of other men. Divine precepts on this subject are clear and can be found throughout the holy scriptures. They forbid us strictly even to desire the goods of other men, much less seize them."

3. Provide Justice, Judgment and Equity

Jeremias 22:2-3: "Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Juda, that sittest upon the throne of David: thou and thy servants, and thy people, who enter in by these gates. Thus saith the Lord: Execute judgement and justice, and deliver him that is oppressed out of the hand of the oppressor: and afflict not the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, nor oppress them unjustly: and shed not innocent blood in this place"

4. Give fair trials to all who are accused
And do not sentence those who have no accuser

Deuteronomy 19:16-20: "If a lying witness stand against a man, accusing him of transgression, Both of them, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord in the sight of the priests and the judges that shall be in those days. And when after most diligent inquisition, they shall find that the false witness hath told a lie against his brother: They shall render to him as he meant to do to his brother, and thou shalt take away the evil out of the midst of thee: That others hearing may fear, and may not dare to do such things."

"St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 67, Art. 3: "Objection 1. It would seem that a judge may pass sentence on a man who is not accused. For human justice is derived from Divine justice. Now God judges the sinner even though there be no accuser. Therefore it seems that a man may pass sentence of condemnation on a man even though there be no accuser.

"On the contrary, Ambrose in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:2, expounding the Apostle's sentence on the fornicator, says that "a judge should not condemn without an accuser, since our Lord did not banish Judas, who was a thief, yet was not accused."

"I answer that, A judge is an interpreter of justice. Wherefore, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 4), "men have recourse to a judge as to one who is the personification of justice." Now, as stated above (Question 58, Article 2), justice is not between a man and himself but between one man and another. Hence a judge must needs judge between two parties, which is the case when one is the prosecutor, and the other the defendant. Therefore in criminal cases the judge cannot sentence a man unless the latter has an accuser, according to Acts 25:16: "It is not the custom of the Romans to condemn any man, before that he who is accused have his accusers present, and have liberty to make his answer, to clear himself of the crimes" of which he is accused."

5. Provide Expeditious Due Process of Law

Deuteronomy 25:1-2: "If there be a controversy between men, and they call upon the judges: they shall give the prize of justice to him whom they perceive to be just: and him whom they find to be wicked, they shall condemn of wickedness. And if they see that the offender be worthy of stripes: they shall lay him down, and shall cause him to be beaten before them. According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be..."

A government that deprives individuals of their rights without due process of law is a government devoid of justice.  All men's rights are to be respected and cannot be removed by any other man.  When lawful government provides a just and fair hearing or trial, however, it is competent to determine whether or not a man has forfeited his rights through crime.  Only then may the State lawfully remove a man's freedom/property/life, as the severity of his crime dictates.  It is nevertheless the prerogative of the State to exercise mercy if it will, although this mercy may not be exercised in such a manner as to put others in danger (e.g. letting a hardened murderer or rapist go free).

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 3: "Now when a judge oppresses anyone unjustly, in this respect he departs from the order of the higher authority, whereby he is obliged to judge justly. Hence it is lawful for a man who is oppressed unjustly, to have recourse to the authority of the higher power, by appealing either before or after sentence has been pronounced. And since it is to be presumed that there is no rectitude where true faith is lacking, it is unlawful for a Catholic to appeal to an unbelieving judge, according to Decretals II, qu. vi, can. Catholicus: "The Catholic who appeals to the decision of a judge of another faith shall be excommunicated, whether his case be just or unjust." Hence the Apostle also rebuked those who went to law before unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:6)."

6. Punish evildoers

Genesis 9:6: "Whosoever shall shed man's blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God."

If a man has purchased goods or services worth an ounce of silver, then naturally he pays with an ounce of silver or something of equal value.  But if a criminal steals, then the criminal forfeits his natural right to whatever may already be in his possession of equal value - in addition to the value that the lawful authorities determine is sufficient compensation for the hardships the criminal has imposed upon the victim (or his family, nation, etc.).

Likewise, if a man murders his brother, then he has forfeited his natural right to what he possess of equal value to his brother's life, namely he has forfeited his own life.  As such, the State that opts to exercise capital punishment does not murder, but quite simply provides justice, which by definition is the rendering of what is due.  Simply put and in accordance with Scripture, the man who sheds  another's blood, owes his own blood.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 69, Art. 4: "Objection 1. It would seem that a man who is condemned to death may lawfully defend himself if he can. For it is always lawful to do that to which nature inclines us, as being of natural right, so to speak. Now, to resist corruption is an inclination of nature not only in men and animals but also in things devoid of sense. Therefore if he can do so, the accused, after condemnation, may lawfully resist being put to death."

"On the contrary, The Apostle says (Romans 13:2): "He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation." Now a condemned man, by defending himself, resists the power in the point of its being ordained by God "for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of the good" (1 Peter 2:14). Therefore he sins in defending himself.

"I answer that, A man may be condemned to death in two ways. First justly, and then it is not lawful for the condemned to defend himself, because it is lawful for the judge to combat his resistance by force, so that on his part the fight is unjust, and consequently without any doubt he sins.

"Secondly a man is condemned unjustly: and such a sentence is like the violence of robbers, according to Ezechiel 22:21, "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood." Wherefore even as it is lawful to resist robbers, so is it lawful, in a like case, to resist wicked princes; except perhaps in order to avoid scandal, whence some grave disturbance might be feared to arise."

7. Protect State Borders

Acts of the Apostles 17:26: "And hath made of one, all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times, and the limits of their habitation."

Just as the State must provide judgment and justice within its borders, it must likewise secure its borders against unjust foreign attack.

Rulers have the power and responsibility to keep a nation prosperous by wisely attending to its borders, in matters of commerce as well as security.  When States offer greater protection and rights to aliens or criminals than to the people lawfully living and working within and supporting the State through honest enterprise, then it is reasonable to recognize that there is a subversive element in government acting unjustly, contrary to the common good and to the demise of well ordered prosperity.

Subjection to Government is a Debt Owed for Service Rendered

Does all this mean that we can ignore everything that is decreed by a sinful ruler?  God forbid!  Every man has sin, and so if the answer to this question were in the affirmative, then there would be anarchy.  But whenever a ruler would propose to bind us in some way contrary to the laws of God, then it is abundantly clear that we do not owe him obedience in such a case.

In the very same passage where St. Paul entreats every soul to be subject unto the higher powers, he clearly established that they are ordained of God when they act in accordance with the natural law principles of rulers upholding the common good and punishing evildoers.  He says so quite explicitly:

Romans 13:6-7: "For therefore also you pay tribute. For they are the ministers of God, serving unto this purpose. Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 25, Art. 1: "[W]e fear a man, or love him on account of what he has of God; as when we fear the secular power by reason of its exercising the ministry of God for the punishment of evildoers, and love it for its justice: such like fear of man is not distinct from fear of God, as neither is such like love."

Do we owe Satan any dues?  Obviously not.  Is he a higher power?  Well he has more power than us mortals, that's for sure.  Is he ordained of God?  Not since he turned his power to oppression, persecution and tyranny, otherwise, we would still owe him the same dues, the same fear, the same custom and the same honour that we owe, for example, to St. Michael the Archangel, or that we owe to other saints and angels in Heaven.

Why then would it be any different concerning the powers of the earth, than it is with those of the air?

It is when "serving unto this purpose", that is the purpose of upholding the common good and punishing evil, that they are rightly called "ministers of God" to whom we ought to be subject "for conscience' sake".  We give them this subjection as it is due to them, a debt we owe them in return for their just exercise of office, for protecting us from evil and promoting the common good.  When they become the evildoers themselves, transgressing the law, oppressing the poor, murdering the innocent, robbing their fellow man and spurning justice, then it is quite manifest that they are NOT ordained of God, but have rejected His very word and the very purpose for God's ordination of a civil power.  In short, they have rejected the duty imposed upon them by the Natural Law.

1 Kings 15:23: "Forasmuch therefore as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath also rejected thee from being king."

Our Rights not trumped by any Government

What you and I do not have the right to do against others individually, the government does not have the right to do against us, neither individually, nor collectively, neither through deceit nor through coercion, and it is always just as lawful to resist an evil and unjust government as it is to resist any other evil and unjust aggressor.  Remember, the government is made up of men, whose rights do not trump yours.

Romans 2:11: "For there is no respect of persons with God."

Acts of the Apostles 5:29: "We ought to obey God, rather than men."

Yet in blatant violation of God's law, the modern state, often under threats of economic bullying from its elite banker creditors, extorts an excess of property from its citizens in the form of exorbitant taxation and socialism, conscripts its citizens to fight illegitimate wars, and employs coercion to guarantee its own bloated bureaucracy. The modern state is really nothing more than a legalized tyranny, which has developed a habit of forcing its wishes on the people and even on other nations. This is the cause of the majority of wars, though this cause has been dressed up to appeal to certain ideologies,  e.g. "defending human rights," "preventing ethnic cleansing," and so on.

Stalin's justification for his totalitarian perversion was high-sounding: "We must free the world's workers from capitalistic exploitation."  Stalin was a monster at the head of legalized tyranny.

The recent American wars against Iraq and Serbia are not materially different from and Stalin's invasion of Hungary. Both employed the power of coercion to impose their will on another nation. Both Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic may have been dictators who routinely deprived their citizens of life, liberty, and property, as all tyrannies tend to do, but the American bombing missions did not solve this problem.  They instead deprived many more people of life, liberty, and property, and they do not restrict this behaviour to their conquests overseas.

Presently, Nearly EVERY World Power Fits the Definition of a Tyranny

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Prima Secundae Pars, Q. 92. Art. 1: "A tyrannical law, through not being according to reason, is not a law, absolutely speaking, but rather a perversion of law [...] Since then every man is a part of the state, it is impossible that a man be good, unless he be well proportionate to the common good: nor can the whole be well consistent unless its parts be proportionate to it. Consequently the common good of the state cannot flourish, unless the citizens be virtuous, at least those whose business it is to govern."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Prima Secundae Pars, Q. 105. Art. 1: "Objection 5. Further, as a kingdom is the best form of government, so is tyranny the most corrupt. But when the Lord appointed the king, He established a tyrannical law; for it is written (1 Samuel 8:11): "This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons," etc. Therefore the Law made unfitting provision with regard to the institution of rulers.

"Reply to Objection 5. That right was not given to the king by Divine institution: rather was it foretold that kings would usurp that right, by framing unjust laws, and by degenerating into tyrants who preyed on their subjects. This is clear from the context that follows: "And you shall be his slaves [Douay: 'servants']": which is significative of tyranny, since a tyrant rules is subjects as though they were his slaves. Hence Samuel spoke these words to deter them from asking for a king; since the narrative continues: "But the people would not hear the voice of Samuel."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 42, Art. 2: "A tyrannical government is not just, because it is directed, not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, as the Philosopher states (Polit. iii, 5; Ethic. viii, 10). Consequently there is no sedition in disturbing a government of this kind, unless indeed the tyrant's rule be disturbed so inordinately, that his subjects suffer greater harm from the consequent disturbance than from the tyrant's government. Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he encourages discord and sedition among his subjects, that he may lord over them more securely; for this is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the injury of the multitude."

 In Conclusion

Dear reader, it is for you to discern how this applies in your own relationship with those who claim government over you.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, Secunda Secundae Partis, Q. 67, Art. 1: "Objection 1. It would seem that a man can justly judge one who is not subject to his jurisdiction.

"I answer that, A judge's sentence is like a particular law regarding some particular fact. Wherefore just as a general law should have coercive power, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. x, 9), so too the sentence of a judge should have coercive power, whereby either party is compelled to comply with the judge's sentence; else the judgment would be of no effect. Now coercive power is not exercised in human affairs, save by those who hold public authority: and those who have this authority are accounted the superiors of those over whom they preside whether by ordinary or by delegated authority. Hence it is evident that no man can judge others than his subjects and this in virtue either of delegated or of ordinary authority."

Note: there is a difference between this kind of judgment that St. Thomas is referring to, that is juridical judgment, and epistemological judgment or discernment.  Not just any man can make a legal pronunciation or impose penalties, but all men have the right to make value judgments and to judge between truth and falsehood.

So be subject to the higher powers who have a lawful right to govern and who enforce the true law, knowing that you may resist only those acts and statutes which are contrary to justice, and those which have no jurisdiction over you.  Do this with the utmost of prudence and solicitude, and never forget that God is the highest power, to whom you must always be subject; His ways are always just.

Deuteronomy 32:4: " The works of God are perfect, and all his ways are judgments: God is faithful and without any iniquity, he is just and right."

Romans 8:28: "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints."

What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?

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