With a ha-ha-gotcha smirk, Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the late, great remnant of Christendom, quoted Romans 13 to justify forcibly removing children from their parents at the USA border. White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, also reinforced that all this is biblical.
This Bible teaching is famous, of course, in USA, for being used to try and keep the original 13 colonies loyal during their fight for independence in the eighteenth century. Again, it’s famous in USA for being the verse Southern states used against Northern abolitionists defying the Fugitive Slave Act in the decade leading to the Civil War. The verse was used to justify the Apartheid regime in South Africa.And the verse was apparently a favourite of Adolf Hitler’s.
What are those called in Romans 13:1 who God has set over us? Have you considered that your parents, your school teachers (your principal), policemen, police chief, judges, the priest, the bishop, the county commission, the state government, are the authorities who are installed by God, and that you owe them obedience?…Over all, we owe the Fuhrer and the government obedience. If you set yourself up against the authorities and against the state, you are standing against God’s structure and are subject to punishment. [Life and Doctrine: Christian Teaching with Study Questions]
Meanwhile, back here in NZ – with lots of people meeting in Jerusalem for GAFCON 2018 (is “Gacon” a typo – or are the creators of the acronym FOCAs seriously now producing another clanger: GACON?!), Latimer has responded to the possibility that someone somewhere might now bless a Committed Same-Sex Couple and not lose their job by an anonymous missive that
We live in difficult times as Anglicans in this land. General Synod’s recent decision to allow the blessing of same-sex relationships has shaken many. A church which claims a Biblical foundation now finds itself permitting its members to teach that blessings are both consistent, and not consistent, with Holy Scripture and the doctrines of the church. …
Even within the Fellowship some individuals have already left Anglican churches. Some churches are deciding whether to leave existing Anglican structures.
These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways. This is a time to show grace to each other. … While the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and the need for repentance for sexual sin is a matter of first importance (for salvation depends on us repenting of our sin), I would argue that the decision of if and how to leave or stay, is a secondary matter.
The Ven. Dr Peter Carrell is worth a read on this here. And I stress that I see the General Synod Te Hinota Whanui decision no different to Anglicans being free to differ on the understanding of marriage after divorce, and little different to Anglicans holding different positions on blessing weapons of war, the exact nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence, the use of different forms of contraception, and so forth. Tragically, Committed Same-Sex Couples has become something of an Anglican obsession these last few decades.
Has this anonymous author really engaged seriously with this issue in relation to those who differ? The very point of the difference is in the author’s sentence: “These are brothers and sisters who hold to the Bible, and yet are able to respond in different ways”.
Most concerning, not simply theologically, but consequentially pastorally, is the Pelagian teaching that our salvation is dependent on our repentance, the quality of our repentance, the fullness of the sincerity of our repentance. Good luck finding anyone who can with full integrity of heart say they have fully repented of their sin.
Furthermore, the anonymous author has not grappled with the distinction between what is wrong (and evil) and what is sin. Something is a sin if one consciously and freely chooses to do what is wrong/evil. Conscience is primary – and if one does wrong, sincerely believing it is right, it remains wrong but is not a sin.
Certainly, if one is so inclined, one could argue that salvation is risked if one freely chooses to do what one believes to be a grave evil. But the suggestion that salvation is imperilled by doing what one believes to be right is a gross distortion of the Good News and a parody of a loving God.
Yes – you can use the Bible to justify many, many differing and opposing positions. It can be twisted like a wax nose. John Calvin used this image:
Scripturam esse nasum caereum; quia converti possit in omnes formas. Scripture is a nose of wax, because it can be formed into all shapes. [Acta synodi Tridentinae cum antidoto (Geneva, 1547)].
As did Martin Luther:
Also sehen wir wie fein die Romanisten mit der schrifft handeln, machen drauß was sie nur wollen, als were sie ein wechsern nasen, die man hyn und her zihen mocht. So we see how neatly the Romanists deal with the Scripture, making of it just what they want, as if it were a wax nose, that one can pull this way and that. [Werke 1.343.28 (1520)]