Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other Republicans are making a show of defying a federal plan to resettle Mideast refugees in Tennessee. But the resistance is not anywhere near close to espousing the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. That doctrine is a lawful resistance to the lawless use of power, and requires a sense of antithesis and a recognition that human authority in the exercise of the sword of justice is delegated by God. God has created two ministries, the ministry of grace (the church) and the ministry of the sword (the judge, or in modern days the state). Each has a duty to secure Christian civilization, prosperity and justice. — DJT
By Bojidar Marinov
I’m sorry I need to burst this bubble, but the Republican governors’ “rebellion” against Obama’s refugee resettlement plan is not an application of the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate.
Yes, I know, the temptation to ascribe such noble motives to them, and to see the seeds of righteous resistance against tyranny in our country growing steadily is great. The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate has been gaining momentum among quite a few Christians, and among some government officials and political representatives as well. It seems the perfect political solution to the growth of tyranny in America to all of us who desire a political U-turn but want to avoid the bloodshed and chaos that have historically accompanied such U-turns. So, yes, it’s normal to expect to see it applied in our government – especially given that the U.S. does traditionally have a layered form of government which is decentralized and therefore gives enough liberty to local officials to resist.
I need to offer this caveat, though: The same doctrine would be completely useless outside the US, where local “magistrates” are simply employees of the central government. In the UK, for example, the resistance of local officials to tyranny would be nothing less than rebellion no different than the rebellion of private individuals; a lesser magistrate is simply not a magistrate anymore if he fails to obey the will of his sovereign, the centralized state. Thus, in its pure form, the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate works as a deterrent to tyranny only where tyranny has already been pushed back and thus room for independent action has been legally secured; and in our modern world, this means only a few polities in the world, limited to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Switzerland, and may be South Africa – and these polities trace their liberties back not to bloodless reforms but to violent revolutions which forced the central government to agree to limit its powers.
For all the other countries in the world, another Biblical solution to tyranny must be sought; or, the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate must be modified to an extent…