Christianity,  Politics,  Theology/Bible

Obamacare and Civil Disobedience

I’ve already been asked about the morality of paying taxes to the U. S. government in light of the new healthcare law which provides federal subsidies for abortion. Albert Mohler answers that question today in an extended essay on his website, and I commend it to you.

“Render Unto Caesar? On Paying Taxes After Obamacare” – by Albert Mohler

Mohler builds on two New Testament texts in particular that I think are important: Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Mohler rightly identifies the governing authority during Paul’s and Peter’s time as the Roman Empire. Both texts command Christians to subject themselves to governing authorities, and Romans 13:7 specifically commands Christians to pay their taxes: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

I would add one additional observation. When Paul wrote Romans, it was near the beginning of Emperor Nero’s reign (mid-50’s A.D.), and this was before there was any major state-sanctioned persecution of Christians. When Peter wrote 1 Peter, it was near the end of Nero’s reign (around 64 A.D. if you take the traditional dating), and it is clear that the recipients of 1 Peter were undergoing persecution (1 Peter 1:6; 4:12). Thus, the command to obey governing authorities applies even in times of persecution—when Christians are being put to death unjustly.

So is there ever a time for civil disobedience? Yes, there is. The prime apostolic example of this is recorded in the book of Acts. When the authorities prohibited Peter and the apostles from preaching the gospel, Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). I think the principle is clear. Human governments get their authority from God, and they cannot bind the conscience to disobey God. When a government commands something that God forbids or forbids something that God commands, Christians must obey God rather than government. In such cases, they must be willing to disobey even if doing so brings a painful consequence (1 Peter 2:20; 3:14, 17). It seems clear, however, that the apostles didn’t include paying taxes to an immoral regime as an occasion for civil disobedience.


  • Nate

    I’m not advocating not paying your taxes, but as Americans, we have to wonder at this issue. If we are to never question government, then the question must be asked, “Is the American experiment an exercise in sin?” Because our founders, many professing believers, rose up against a government they felt imposed restrictions on them that were antithetical to their God-given rights. One cannot read the Declaration of Independence and not see this clearly. So were our founders sinners and were the believers who supported the revolution sinning against God?

    I would like to know where Dr. Mohler and others stand on that.

    And, at what point, when it is clear that the government is imposing on its citizens, in violation of the US Constitution (must purchase private health care), and clearly bribing senators and representatives with Medicare money, support a bill that the American people overwhelmingly reject, have the right to protest this by refusing to buy health-care, or to refuse to pay taxes because the federal government will pay for private abortions?

    I am not advocating pro or con on this issue, but I don’t think (as Americans) this is such a cut-and-dry issue. America is not Rome, we dont live under an Emperor, and this government is for the people, not imposed on the people (at some level).

    I’m interested in what others think, because freedom, IMO, has been radically removed from the hands of citizens in the last 40+ years and more and more of it is being removed each and every year. This is not specifically against the current administration, the Bush administration removed a tremendous amount of freedoms as well.

    How much is too much?

  • jigawatt


    Two quick comments on the WB article. First, it looks like Barton is arguing that God does not establish the specific leaders of our country. His numerous references to the principle of government over against the individuals who make up that government doesn’t square with the apolostic instruction. Second, as far as I can tell, he doesn’t address the Nero issue at all. Since he clearly sides with the founders on this, he ought to respond to the best argument the opposing side offers, that is, MacArthur’s (and Mohler’s, and Denny’s) comments re: Nero.

  • Nate

    Barton’s article was not concerned with the “Nero” issue, but it would be interesting to hear his view on it. However, it would be interesting to hear Dr. Mohler and others speak to the issues that Barton does bring out. The Reformation, the Separatist movement out of Anglicanism, even the distribution of denominations in the New World have layers of civil disobedience to the powers who were in control. These leaders were not just in control of religious affairs, but of civil as well. So were all these movements born out of sin?

  • David Vinzant

    Can anyone seriously believe that if Jesus had been in America in 1776, he would have urged his disciples to take up arms against Britain?

  • jigawatt


    Surely the Reformation and the Separatist movement had elements of civil disobedience. I’m not saying this is wrong. And I’m also sure that some of those within these movements took it too far. What I am saying is that the NT writers did not advocate a complete overthrow of the government, even under such intense persecution as Nero offered. Laws of the state should be broken when they conflict with God’s law (i.e. Daniel). But full-scale revolution is never given in the NT as the solution.

  • Nate

    jigawatt, I wasn’t advocating an overthrow of the government. Civil disobedience doesn’t always end there. As you said, the bible does show times where laws of the state should be broken. The Federal government murdering unborn children might be the line in the sand for some people. This isn’t an easy issue and I don’t think Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 are clear-cut on this issue, considering the taxes being paid or the submission to authority could entail the murder of the unborn. Moreover, when many of these Christians were being killed by Nero, they were being killed for refusing to bow the knee to Ceaser. In other words, they didn’t follow 1 Peter 2, because the leaders were leading rightly.

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