Go to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoffer. That’s exactly what David Koyzis does in a curious way for readers of Christianity Today.
But first he clears the obstacle of 2k:
Of course, there was nothing wrong with following Rome’s legitimate decrees. Jesus had said so himself. When the Pharisees tried goading him into speaking against imperial taxes, he surprised them with words that form the touchstone of Christian reflection on civil disobedience: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). Some mistakenly interpret this to mean that there are two kingdoms—one belonging to God and the other to Caesar. But that would put God and Caesar on the same level. In reality, Caesar receives his authority, including his divine mandate to rule, from God. As Jesus affirmed before Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).
Whether Koyzis knows better, the point of 2k is not that politics belongs to (the) man and religion belongs to God. For the guhzillionth time, 2k affirms that government of all stripes — family, church, state — comes from God. The issue is whether church and state have different tasks and so different jurisdictions. It sure sounds like even the Westminster Divines thought so. The task of the state is:
God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers. (23.1)
What the church does is not that:
Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto. (25.3)
Oh, that neo-Calvinists could keep straight what 2k is (as if all non-neo-Calvinists look the same).
Then Koyzis pulls an interesting feat. He notices that Protestants have no real tradition of civil disobedience until the Nazis and racism:
The Reformation forced Christians to reflect once again on the limits of Caesar’s domain. In previous centuries, when Western Europe was essentially a single Christian commonwealth, occasional clashes between political and church authorities rarely spilled over into the pews. But by the 16th century, the Reformers would face hostility from both pope and emperor.
Martin Luther may or may not have uttered his famously defiant declaration—“Here I stand. I can do no other”—before the Holy Roman Emperor. But he was certainly skeptical of civil disobedience. Condemning a German peasant uprising, Luther cited Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, justifying disobedience only when government tries to coerce faith.
Like Luther, John Calvin supported obedience to political authority, which he praised in the highest terms: “Its function among men is no less than that of bread, water, sun, and air; indeed, its place of honor is far more excellent.” He held that Scripture requires obedience even to a bad king, who may be carrying out God’s judgment. Calvin favored constitutional checks on the ruler’s authority, but he opposed individuals launching rebellions.
Two major 20th-century events decisively shaped the church’s perspective on civil disobedience: the rise of Nazi totalitarianism in Germany and the struggle for black civil rights in the United States.
As the church lady used to say, “well, isn’t that convenient.” Too bad Koyzis doesn’t explain how the persecution of Christians by the Roman empire or the wars between Protestants and Roman Catholics or the taxes of Parliament on British colonists were such a walk in the park compared to Hitler and Jim Crow.