Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Financial Order

posted by xscot mcknight

Last Friday we observed that Jesus himself knew that the sons of the kingdom were free from the Temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27), but to avoid scandal his followers were to pay the tax. Paul goes one step further: he thinks taxes should be paid because of order.
So Romans 13:6-7. He roots his comment about taxes in the need to maintain order by paying whatever is due: taxes, revenue, respect and honor.
Wright suggests, from Tacitus, Annals 13:50-51, that taxation was being protested at this time. He also suggests this payment of everything has to do with respect for an office, while retaining the right to protest a person unworthy of that office. (Paul’s own example before the Jewish authorities is an example.)
Wright closes this section of Romans with a comment about 9/11, contending that the American appeal to Romans 13 after this terroristic act was inappropriate. He argues for an international justice system to navigate such waters, but observes that the powerful nations don’t want to be held accountable to a justice system they can’t control. Romans 13 doesn’t help, he says. But Paul’s letter does help for it sets God’s justice, freedom and peace over against those of Caesar.



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Shawn

posted October 2, 2006 at 2:26 am


“Wright closes this section of Romans with a comment about 9/11, contending that the American appeal to Romans 13 after this terroristic act was inappropriate.”
From his subjective pov, nothing at all to do with the Bible and imho wrong.
“He argues for an international justice system to navigate such waters”
Such a system by its very nature would not be just.
“but observes that the powerful nations don’t want to be held accountable to a justice system they can’t control.’
No, they dont want to be held to ransom by a system that would be exploited by Marxists, professional left-wing activists and Islamic fascists.
I like some of what Wright says, but his incessant forays into anti-American political rants only show both his naivete and his bias.



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Scott M

posted October 2, 2006 at 6:19 am


Shawn, unless you believe that part of God’s order for governments includes wars of aggression against another, it has everything to do with the Bible. An interpretive lens that justifies our nation’s acts of aggression under Romans 13 as ‘God-established’ would also necessarily justify many of the actions of Saddam’s government as well. And that’s without even diving into the whole false objective/subjective dualism you are positing. There is no perfect system in this world, but a refusal to abide the counsel of other nation-states devolves into the old ‘might makes right’ paradigm of empire. Sure, we’re the undisputed top dog at the moment and can pretty much dictate as we please. The problem with the approach of empire is that such a status quo never endures indefinitely.
Also, a claim to humility (the ‘h’ in imho) and (at least by contrast with the projected label) of ‘objectivity’ in a post that includes words like ‘rants’, ‘naivete’, and ‘bias’ creates a certain … dissonance.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2006 at 7:11 am


Shawn,
I read NT Wright’s commentary; I read no “rant”, he is not given to “naivete,” and his “bias” is no more than anyone else’s. Hence, what is “subjective” about NT Wright is what is subjective for each of us.
While I tire at times with the European agenda, I welcome that voice to the table because it is a voice that tells me of the American experience in Europe.
Instead of an ad hominem argument against Wright, you might explore how Rom 13 applies to the USA in our time, and how it can be used to justify invasion of Iraq.



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Dana

posted October 2, 2006 at 7:44 am


Hi Scot: Let me plead a certain ignorance on the temple tax as a function of Paul’s Romans 13? I follow OK I think on taxes being paid in order to maintain order, I’d see street taxes, education taxes, etc. If I do step out of understanding this it might be at the point of making taxes preventative- which, occurs, in the form of tobacco sin taxes and liquor sin taxes, my question then regards whether that is what Paul is getting at by using the repayment of funds to the government for the purpose of preserving the union? Temple tax in my feeble brain wasn’t a function of government but nation, and up front, again, I’m ignorant on it and admit it…appreciate your input and site…it’s thrilling and extremely helpful to me.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2006 at 7:53 am


Dana,
Not sure what you are getting at friend.



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Shawn

posted October 2, 2006 at 8:08 am


Scott:
“Shawn, unless you believe that part of God’s order for governments includes wars of aggression against another”
I dont. I do believe that part of God’s order includes the right of government to defend its citizens against terrorism.
“An interpretive lens that justifies our nation’s acts of aggression”
The US has not committed any acts of “aggression”. It has acted in defense of itself and its allies.
“There is no perfect system in this world, but a refusal to abide the counsel of other nation-states”
What counsel? The UN? France? Russia? China? All of which had been paid off with Saddam’s blood money or had less than honest motives.
Counsel is only appropriate when its motivated by both justice and real concern for the person or nation being counselled. Much of world opinion in the aftermath of 911 was motivated by neither.
“Also, a claim to humility (the ‘h’ in imho) and (at least by contrast with the projected label) of ‘objectivity’ in a post that includes words like ‘rants’, ‘naivete’, and ‘bias’ creates a certain … dissonance.”
I believe in being honest and calling a spade a spade. Wrights attacks on America’s and Israel’s right to self defense are biased and motivated by European political correctness. My Papa didint bring me up to mince words.
Scot:
“Instead of an ad hominem argument against Wright, you might explore how Rom 13 applies to the USA in our time, and how it can be used to justify invasion of Iraq.”
As the post says Wrights attack on the US was in the wake of 911, not the removal of Saddam. But I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the issue.
So, lets apply Romans 13 and Pauls teaching on this. Several facts come to mind;
Al-Qaeda and its affiliated network carried out several terrorist attacks around the world and against the US starting with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and continuing with the embassy attacks in East Africa and the bombing of the USS Cole, amongst many other atrocities. In 1997 Al-Qaeda officialy decalred war against the US and ALL its citizens. These atacks culminated in 911. Saddam spent millions funding terrorism against Israel and repeatedly threatened to attack and destroy it.
Now, by any reasonable standard the US government had the right to self-defense and the right to bring the Al-Qaeda to justice, and the right to defend its ally Israel. This accords with Pauls teaching on the right of government to wield the sword in self-defense and the defense of the common good. I cannot therefore see how Wright comes to the bizzarre consclusion he does unless he is motivated by something other than concern for Biblical teaching.
I was not enaged in Ad Hominem. I was enaged in a robust defense of the right of the US and Israel to defend themselves against terrorism, including Saddams. I have read many of Wrights opinions on this subject, and I think he is twisting Scripture to justify his attack on that right. And such an attack requires, even demands, a clear and strong response.



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Shawn

posted October 2, 2006 at 8:27 am


Ive said my piece on the subject but I’ll remove myself from any further comments. The whole subject of terrorism and the European response to the US and Israel is too much of a hot topic for me emotionally.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2006 at 8:29 am


Shawn,
I’ll not respond to your comments to Scott.
Tom’s position is typically European. For a military invasion to occur, he thinks it should pass through an international system first — and he probably (so it seems to me — you too?) thinks the UN is such a body. He thinks we did not do enough through the UN and with enough international support. He thinks that would be a proper use of Romans 13. I don’t think that kind of thinking “bizarre.”
I have read plenty of Tom’s comments about this; it is typically European — and I hear it all the time, both from those who are moderate evangelicals (like Tom) and those who are much more conservative (friends). They think Rom 13, when used by individual countries in a global, international context, is taking the law into their own hands.
Whether we agree with this reasoning or not, it is not bizarre.
Isn’t this what he is saying?



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Scot McKnight

posted October 2, 2006 at 8:38 am


Shawn,
I understand, but sure would like to hear your view.



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Robert E. Mason

posted October 2, 2006 at 11:24 am


Shawn,
I get just as emotional as you do, but from the other side of the fence. I shall, therefore, try to say this sine ira ac studio.
First, I do not see national self defense in Romans 13. Paul, it seems to me, is speaking about order within society, not order between societies.
Second, is a war of aggression ever on the table for Christians? Didn’t Jesus reject this option when Satan took him up the mountain and offered him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor?”
Third, the invasion of Iraq, as a matter of fact, has not been about defeating terrorism. All the evidence indicates that it has strengthened Al-Qaeda, fostering its growth. President Bush has turned the Whitehouse into a stealth recruitment station for Al-Qaeda.



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Jacob

posted October 2, 2006 at 12:40 pm


I can understand Wright’s criticism of using Romans 13 to justify sending troops overseas. Romans 13 does indeed seem to be focussed on the role of the government in terms of how it treats it’s citizens. “The sword” in Romans 13 sounds more like police power than military actions. So to my thinking, Romans 13 doesn’t apply to either wars of aggression or going to war in self defense. But in terms of Paul’s thinking, if it doesn’t apply to individual countries, what’s the justification for applying it to an organization like the UN? Paul was talking about a country that practiced “empire building” in the most classic sense. Where does he suggest that individual countries submit to some other organization?
But just where did Americans appeal to Romans 13 in support of our actions in response to 9/11? I don’t recall this as part of the discussion. Is he talking about deploying US troops abroad? Or is he talking about detainees in Guantanamo Bay? Is he possibly criticizing the increased surveillance of communications in America? Without knowing what in particular Wright is criticizing it’s difficult to respond intelligently.
Unless one is going to recommend a theocratic state, I don’t see how one could criticize the American resonse in Biblical terms. If any government were to avoid using their military sword to defend their people I don’t see how it could be considered good. It’s open for debate whether going to Iraq has helped or hurt in terms of deterring terrorist activity, but is the “right” of a country to engage in war (or even empire building) even addressed in the NT?



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Michael Kruse

posted October 2, 2006 at 1:01 pm


I have read four of five of Wright’s books and several articles. I find his theology engaging and very helpful. However, I find his attempts to apply aspects of theology to world situations utterly stupefying. In “The Last Word” he wrote, “The greatest of the Enlightenment-based nations, the United States of America, has been left running a de facto world empire which gets richer by the minute as much of the world remains poor and gets poorer.” (p. 13) The clear linkage here is that USA prosperity is directly related to people getting poorer around the world. I don’t know what Wright’s economic training is but the perspective he articulates are the same words that come out of the mouths of neo-Marxists and I know from experience the prevalence of such economic thinking in Mainline and European seminaries.
The fact is that according to such “right-wing” organizations like the UN, worldwide subsistence poverty is in decline. No nation that embraces open trade, property rights and the rule of law has experienced a famine in the last half century. Nations that embrace these values are experiencing economic growth and widening prosperity. Those that have not have stagnated or have declined. The US, far from being the cause of poverty in the world is the single greatest contributor to widening global prosperity through economic trade.
“He argues for an international justice system to navigate such waters, but observes that the powerful nations don’t want to be held accountable to a justice system they can’t control.”
I have heard this idea by others like Wallis, McLaren and Yoder. As for “…held accountable to a justice system they can’t control,” I think that improperly frames the question. They don’t want to be held accountable to a justice system that has no respect for open trade, property rights and rule of law. Just who, precisely, makes up this new international justice system? The UN? What makes us think this new body is going to be more just than the US? If the US is a “de facto empire” why would this new entity placed above all nations not also be a new empire?
By integrating the world in free exchange and trade you make the world more interdependent. Interdependence lessens the likelihood that nations will embark on destructive paths. I think a far more reasonable path is to create a world where everyone has a common interest in non-violence and peace rather than war and aggression.
As to the issue of Iraq, I reject the idea that this was a move toward empire building. I think it was done partly as an effort to stop a prime exporter of state sponsored terrorism and partly based of the (IMO misguided) belief, as articulated by Bush, that there is an instinctive desire for democracy in all people. There is a wonderful post the Acton Powerblog today called Democracy a Universal Human Desire? where John Armstrong argues that democracy is not an instinct but a cultivated value. This is the miscalculation by the Bush Administration. I fully believe the administration officials, egged on by Neo-Con types, fully believed that they would be welcomed as liberators and democracy would instantly flourish in Iraq. Most of the stuff I read suggests that prosperity precedes democracy. As wide segments of the population experience greater wealth they began demanding more of the institutions that protect their wealth (i.e., democracy, rule of law, property rights, etc.) Democracy is a by-product of change not the engine that drives change.
I find the “international justice system” approach to be reminiscent of the modernist liberal project and it makes the same error that Bush made. It assumes some foundational instinct for justice, liberty and democracy to present in humanity. I think the better strategy is the emergence of institutions constructed by free nations and the incremental expansion and inclusion of other nations as they are coaxed along the road to prosperity and democracy.



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RonMck

posted October 2, 2006 at 1:57 pm


This debate shows the problem with the argument from order. If you start with Hobbes, you end with Leviathon. If order comes through the big guy beating up the bad guy, you eventually need a bigger and bigger big guy (world government). The problem is that in a sinful world, big guys eventually become bad guys. Who will beat up the world hegemon or government when it eventually becomes a bad guy. Paul and Jesus did not advocate order through big guys beating up bad guys. They advocated a radically different way of good guys turning the other cheek and doing good to bad guys.
On a more important question, who decides what taxes are owed. Obvviously, the ruler does not decide what honour he is owed. So if we decide how much honour we owe, I presume that we also decide how much taxes we owe as well. Jesus made the temple tax into something voluntary. Sound like Paul is doing the same for all taxation. Taxation is theft, if it is not voluntary.



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Nick

posted October 2, 2006 at 3:58 pm


Rom 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For 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 you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good…6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
These words are not without significant exceptions. I think it is foolish to think that American Christians believe this advice applies in general to today’s political situation. Europeans are wrong to think the majority of Christians think God is always on our side, and that we submit to or support our leaders simply because we believe God is actually managing all our policies, as if Bush was perfectly in tune with the Holy Spirit. We are realists, like you Europeans, and are aware that leaders, even right-wing Christian presidents, can be wrong. They aren’t always just in punishing the right people. Christians who support Bush’s reaction to 9/11 I think do so because going into Iraq was important for our self-defense and the long-term stability of the Middle East.



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forestwalker

posted October 2, 2006 at 4:52 pm


Ron,
The passages under discussion mark American (or Kiwi) style Libertarianism as un-Biblical. What stance these passages should lead us to take toward government is clearly debatable, but the Libertarian claim to absolute personal autonomy is incongruent with both the underlying assumptions and proclamations of these Biblical texts.



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RonMck

posted October 3, 2006 at 12:41 am


Forestwalker
You are correct in saying that these passages do not support libertarianism or absolute personal autonomy (equating the two is intellectual laziness). However the passages do not necessarily support a world empire or consitutional democracy either.
I get frustrated when Romans 13 is quoted as supporting whatever ever political system people happen to prefer. More thorough translation and exegesis is needed before the passage can be used to justify any system, whether libertarian, internationalist or something in between.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 3, 2006 at 6:21 am


RonMcK,
At one level this passage endorses government, not any government in particular — but government per se.



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Nick

posted October 3, 2006 at 9:20 am


does jesus oppose the resistance of authorities to defend one’s self, family, or larger community?



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Scot McKnight

posted October 3, 2006 at 9:23 am


Nick,
Are you asking “Jesus vs. Paul”?



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Dana

posted October 4, 2006 at 8:28 am


Hi Scot: Temple tax – “Last Friday we observed that Jesus himself knew that the sons of the kingdom were free from the Temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27), but to avoid scandal his followers were to pay the tax. Paul goes one step further: he thinks taxes should be paid because of order.” This tax wasn’t a form of government, or, was it? I’m not deep enough on temple tax…looking for a touch of enlightenment of which you have tons…Thanks – Dana



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Scot McKnight

posted October 4, 2006 at 9:30 am


The Temple tax was “government” in the sense that it was imposed on Jews to pay by the authorities; it was a religious tax to support the Temple. Jesus aid they are free with respect to the Father but pay it in order not to scandalize.



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Nick

posted October 4, 2006 at 3:14 pm


i don’t think Jesus (not concerned about paul) opposes the use of non-violent and even violent resistance to resist and confront government corruption and oppression today. so if a dictatorship oppresses (christian) people, should they (before God), actively oppose that government? yes, for God desires freedom for all people. some christians, like paul would say that God simply wants order, which is true, but not order without freedom. pacifism and always turning the other cheek, does not work if we are to protect are selves and others in this fallen world from “the bad guys.” God opposes all forms of injustice, and uses people to responsibly and actively do this.



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Shawn

posted October 4, 2006 at 5:56 pm


Scot, in reply to your question,
The problem I see with Wright’s view is his understanding of authority here and I admit that in a European context his view is not bizzare but standard. I do however think it is wrong for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the issue of the actual authority of the UN. I wont get into the various issues surrounding this but two things strike me as important. The US did have UN authority with regards to Afghanistan, and the UN’s failure to act on its own decisions with regards to Saddam was a major factor that convinced the US Admin that it had to act in order to protect the very integrity of the UN itself. Now I agree that this is a difference between Europe and the US and I think the US has the better ethical argument. The idea that no state should ever act without going through an international body, even if that body has become corrupt and comprimised is a very continental European attitude, especially a French one. It frustrates me, especially when the results are Rhwanda and Darfur, but I apologise for my over the top rhetoric.
Robert:
“Third, the invasion of Iraq, as a matter of fact, has not been about defeating terrorism.”
I disagree as would the Israelis killed by terrorists being helped by Saddams money, if they could still speak.
“All the evidence indicates that it has strengthened Al-Qaeda, fostering its growth.”
Actually there is evidence it has not. Check out a recent post on Instapundit that deals with intercepted messages between Al-Qaeda operatives showing that AQ believes it is failing and possibly losing the war.
Michael Kruse:
Brilliant post and spot on.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 4, 2006 at 6:23 pm


Shawn,
Thanks for your observations. My own read is that the Europeans experience international conflict differently than we do, but I’m also persuaded that our power demilitarized Europe and now they’re fussing about our power — not realizing that it is our strength that gave them peace.



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RonMck

posted October 6, 2006 at 2:51 pm


Scot
You faith and pride in American power scares me.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 6, 2006 at 3:02 pm


RonMck,
Hardly pride, friend. Not at all faith. Do you think the American military machine enabled Europe to create countries without much need for a military (other than UK)? Isn’t that pretty standard history after WWII?
If you’ve read me, you know I’m a pacifist.



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Shawn

posted October 6, 2006 at 9:15 pm


Helping to defeat both Nazism and Soviet Communism strike me as achievements to be proud of.



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