Heidelminicast: Heidelberg Catechism 104—What Does It Mean To Honor Authorities?

The Heidelberg Catechism is one of the most beloved and well used catechisms to emerge from the sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformation. Published in its final form in 1563, the catechism has been used by millions of Christians to teach the faith to children and adults alike. Arranged in 52 Lord’s Days (Sundays) the catechism takes the Christian through the basics of the Christian faith (our creation, fall, redemption, new life in Christ, and glorification). It explains the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. It is a treasure. To encourage listeners and readers, we expect to post one question and answer a day on the HB. If you are subscribed to the Heidelcast or the Heidelblog (see below) you will receive these episodes automatically.

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  1. Yes. And the Rule of Law has been established in God’s Providence over all persons in the U.S. regardless of office. So the wholesale slaughter of infants that, if Roe V. Wade is codified, will extend to the very first breadth a baby takes. Murder of this sort is most vile and God’s Word does not state that such leaders be obeyed joyfully who slaughter them. How so? Because this is a Constitutional government in charge. The list goes on. Sadly, much of the sordid affairs of the United States are do to poor teaching and preaching and that from all camps including reformed.

    • Ron,

      Of course we’re opposed to abortion here. Please see the resources listed above.

      As to “joyfully” obeying the magistrate. The adverb changes things, does it not? Not sure what you’re implying.

      Herod slaughtered the innocents but as far as I can tell, there’s no indication in Scripture that rebellion was encouraged,

      Are you implying that because the USA is a constitutional Republic that Romans 13 doesn’t apply? Can you clarify your comment?

      For the record, I think the American revolution was just and I’m not advocating abject submission to all rulers in all circumstances but Calvin’s “lesser magistrates” principle helps us here.

  2. The form of Government according to the good and just laws of the land, the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence are the governing power. It is a nation of laws not of men. There is no comparison to Herod who was a law to himself.
    I joyfully submit to the established law of the land as noted above. I do not joyfully submit to any representative that attempts to establish the slaughter of infants (posterity) that are protected by the Constitutional documents. Rather, it is to be exposed like the Sly Fox was exposed for what he was. Likewise, Cretans were liars and today, those who attempt to overthrow the just rule of law as has come upon the U.S. like a flood are liars against the oath they took. Can Spirit wrought joy exist in such an environment? Of course. But does God abrogate human responsibility–especially that of His called people–who are authorized to come against those with proper Biblical means that break the very law they swore to uphold? Romans 13 applies to the USA as it is a nation of laws and not of men.

  3. Yes. In line with Romans 13, the current President is worthy of impeachment for a multitude of crimes against the U.S. and its citizens. There should be no gloating by the Christian should this happen, but Spirit wrought joy governed by a righteous attitude would be in order.

    • Ron,

      So, Rome, under Nero (who murdered Christians as part of a land scheme that went badly), was a nation of laws? Is the USA less a nation of laws? From where in Romans 13 do you get infer impeachment? Nero was Caesar when Paul wrote Romans 13. He was calling the Roman Christians, some of whom would die about a decade later, to submit to him and to other cruel magistrates.

      Are you accounting for the Heidelberg’s injunction to “bear with their infirmities”?

  4. There is no comparison between Rome and the U.S.A. Romans 13 calls for submission to the rule of law established in U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 2, Clause 5:

    The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

    See also: Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 ; Article I, Section 3, Clause 6; Article I, Section 3, Clause 7; Article II, Section 2, Clause 1; Article II, Section 4 as well as a couple of others by implication.

    The days of the men the caliber of John Witherspoon et.al. have long since passed.

    • Ron,

      I don’t doubt the importance of the Constitution nor of use of impeachment but I do doubt the validity of special pleadings, which ask us to set aside God’s Word in Romans 13. We ought to follow Witherspoon by affirming both Romans 13 and the constitution. They are not at odds with one another.

  5. That is exactly what I have stated. Both are affirmed. Yet, we must always remember, where the Civil Magistrate violates either, they are to be exposed. Let each Christian, and each congregation determine what their duty is before the Lord and act accordingly. The actions against slavery as well as discrimination based on race are some examples as well as other illegitimate actions by the courts that may have been a precedent at one time, have since been corrected. There is nothing in Romans 13 that prohibits standing for righteousness and coming against a Civil Magistrate that is not doing good for the citizenry but rather has become the wrongdoer. In the USA, there are many ways to correct this in all godliness. It may be a a calling for some but not others.

    • Ron,

      I entirely agree that the Christians ought to be involved in American civil life. I just published an essay arguing that very thing. I’m influenced by Calvin’s doctrine of the “twofold kingdom” whereby God is said to be sovereign over all things and to administer his kingdom in two distinct spheres. He distinguished between the sacred sphere (largely the church) and the secular sphere (e.g., civil government). He thought that abusive kings ought to be held to account by the lesser magistrate. In his context that meant, e.g., electors of the Holy Roman empire. In Geneva there were two legislative houses, a sort of house of representatives and senate of sorts. He expected that the grievances of the people would be taken by those bodies. In our setting, the grievances should be taken up by the legislative bodies and the courts as appropriate. He was no populist. He feared the masses as did the American founders. This is why the founders established the Senate and had them elected by the states (and not directly by the people). This is why they instituted an electoral college to elect the president.

      I agree that all American citizens and especially Christians ought to insist that the government act justly and we certainly have the liberty to advocate for redress if an officeholder violates his trust.

      Even as we do this, however, we remember that, so long as he is office, he is there by divine appointment and we show his office all due respect. The fifth commandment is the moral law of God, which is the point of the catechism.

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