Sexual Identity: Community and Church Issues: Vice Presidential Debate and Romans 13
I watched the vice-presidential debate last night. Who didn't, right? Apparently, we all thought that these debates would somehow move the poll meter to either the left or the right. Political analysts, at least those I watched, were not convinced that such a thing had or would occur. However, the debate was interesting. Perhaps most interesting was the question at the end, the one about faith. Senator Kaine said that he believed that a person ought to "live fully and with enthusiasm the commandments of their faith" but added that "it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everyone else."
Is Senator Kaine correct? Whether it was Senator Kaine or Governor Pence who said it, is such a statement true? How should we think about this statement?
Well, let's try to answer that question. Both Senator Kaine and Governor Pence profess to have faith in Christ and so, let's presuppose that the Bible is God's authoritatively infallible and inerrant word. With that as our starting point, was Senator Kaine correct when he argued that as an individual he was to live fully and with enthusiasm the commandments of his faith but as a public servant those commandments must be held at arms length?
Well, let's think about this question in light of Romans 13. Verse 1 says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." The salient points regarding this passage are obvious but I'll state them anyway. First, if all governing authority comes from God, then governing authority is not absolute. Governing authority is derived authority and if derived, then that derived authority can never suspend God's authority. Instead, governing authority must always respect God's authority.
Let's apply this to the abortion argument that appeared in the faith segment of the debate. In the Bible, God has said numerous things about the issue of life. He forbids murder (Exodus 20:13). He claims to have known us at the point of conception, in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13-16). And if an unborn baby is caused to prematurely abort then He demands life for life (Exodus 21:22-25).
But consider Senator Kaine's pro-choice argument. He said that women struggling with whether or not to abort their unborn child should consult their own conscience. Yes, they might consult their supportive partner or even their minister but in the end these women are the final authority. He admonished pro-life folks to trust woman on the matter of their own reproductive choices. "Why don't you trust women?" was Senator Kaine's plea. But if the source of governing authority has spoken on the issue then how can the derived authority remain silent much less contradict God, the source of governing authority? In fact, verse 2 goes on to say that whoever resists the derived authority has opposed God. But what if the derived authority opposes God in support of contradicting authorities? How can these ministers for good expect good from God?
So, was Senator Kaine correct? No, clearly, he was not. A public servant cannot serve another authority while in office. The public servant must serve the source of all governing authority. The governing authority must serve the One from whom he derives authority. The governor must, as David says, Kiss the Son, the reigning King lest he perish in the way (Psalm 2:12).
Jeffrey A. Stivason has been serving the Lord as a minister of the gospel since 1995. He was church planter and now pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He also holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Jeff is the Managing Editor for Place for Truth.