Is it possible for Caesar to overstep the divinely-ordained bounds of his authority?
The Founders of the United States would have answered “yes” straight away. Despite the classic Lutheran concern for keeping the fourth commandment (to honor parents and superiors), we also recognize bounds for the authority of earthly rulers. If your ruler forbids you to honor God’s name or keep his word, or commands you to worship an idol, then you must disobey your ruler. Daniel and his three friends provide good examples of this.
What about other aspects of our lives? Can we separate faith from the food we eat? From our health care? From our work ethic? From interactions with our neighbors?
If a person breaks into your house with apparent intent to harm or kill one of its occupants, but the ruler forbids you from using deadly force (either because the person is authorized by the ruler, like the KGB, or because the ruler simply wants a docile populace, like any number of tyrannical regimes), is it wrong to defend your household against the assailant? Early American society agreed that you ought to defend your household, and that doing so was also a necessary defense of our society at large. That was a primary reason that most of the states and finally the nation protected the right of individuals to “keep” arms. In fact, they extended this principle beyond our homes with the right to “bear” arms.
The fifth commandment (You shall not murder) also enjoins Christians to protect the lives of our neighbors, recognizing that there will be some lawless people who murder anyway. If we fail to do what is in our power to protect the lives of others, then we break this commandment. But does this hold true when it would involve defending against those authorized by Caesar? Does it hold true when Caesar simply wants a docile populace?
Martin Luther wrote colorfully against the Roman requirement that priests refrain from marriage. It continues to be recognized that this requirement is contrary to nature, contrary to the way God has made us. Unless there is an unusual gift from God, humans will always find it impossible to remain celibate. Therefore, the priest’s vow is contrary to God’s will, and he should be allowed to marry. (Marriage is the only proper context God has provided for intimate relations.)
Does Caesar have the authority to change what God has established, when the Pope did not? Can Caesar permit or even require intimate relations outside of marriage? Can the ruler rightly forbid his citizens from being joined in holy matrimony? It would seem that the God’s sixth commandment (You shall not commit adultery) should rate higher than the laws of any earthly ruler.
Consider God’s seventh commandment (You shall not steal). Whose property has God forbidden us to steal? Some might try to tell us that it’s the property of the state, perhaps the U.S.S.R. or the communist Cuban state. The Caesars of those places owned everything, and the people owned nothing. Promising to eliminate inequalities among the people, the Caesar made all of them like medieval serfs, taking away their property, their honor, and their ability to improve their own lives.
Private property is also a gift from God. This notion was reinforced by the peculiar property laws in ancient Israel, which protected a family’s land for that family even after it had been sold to pay debts. When the Jubilee arrived, all land reverted to its original owners. While this doesn’t apply to other nations, it does show that God recognizes privately-held property. So then, must Caesar also recognize privately-held property? What may his people do when he does not?
The Founders of the United States would draw a sharp distinction between the American people and those of other nations. We are not subjects, but free citizens. Here, the government serves us. Yet government in general — like all aspects of fallen human nature — tends to overstep its bounds, regardless of the politics involved.
Still, the politics involved these days revolve around the question of Caesar’s role in society. Are there prescribed limits to government power? What may be done if government transgresses such limits? You can answer the first question by reading the United States Constitution and its amendments, but some disagree. Some would have us put the Constitution in a museum as a relic of bygone days. What say you?
In light of this question concerning limits to the powers of Caesar, consider this ongoing summary of the nationalized healthcare bill currently being debated in Congress. Like most citizens, I don’t have time to read the whole thing (though I would expect my representatives in Congress to read it), so I appreciate this “Reader’s Digest” version. Does it represent a transgression on the part of Caesar? If you are an American, you get to decide.
> Pg 16: SEC. 102. PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE. lines 3-26 of the HC Bill – OUTLAWS PRIVATE INSURANCE by forbidding enrollment after HR 3022 is passed into law.
Pg 21-22: SEC. 113. INSURANCE RATING RULES of the HC Bill MANDATES the Government will audit books of ALL EMPLOYERS that self insure!!
Pg 29: SEC. 122. ESSENTIAL BENEFITS PACKAGE DEFINED: lines 4-16 in the HC bill – YOUR HEALTHCARE IS RATIONED!!!
Pg 30: SEC. 123. HEALTH BENEFITS ADVISORY COMMITTEE of HC bill – THERE WILL BE A GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you get.
Pg 42: SEC. 142. DUTIES AND AUTHORITY OF COMMISSIONER of HC Bill – The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits for you. You have no choice!
PG 50-51: SEC. 152. PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION IN HEALTH CARE in HC bill – HC will be provided to ALL non US citizens, ILLEGAL or otherwise.
Pg 58: SEC. 163. ADMINISTRATIVE SIMPLIFICATION HC Bill – Government will have real-time access to individual’s finances and a National ID Healthcard will be issued!
Pg 59: SEC. 163. ADMINISTRATIVE SIMPLIFICATIONHC Bill lines 21-24 Government will have DIRECT access to your BANK ACCOUNTS for electronic funds transfer. This means the government can go in and take your money right out of your bank account.