“(Beza) now made the traditional distinction between tyrants who usurped their office and legitimate authorities who became tyrannical. Usurpers were to be resisted fervently, ideally by the authorized lower magistrates. But if these magistrates failed, even private persons, following the example of the ancient McAtee’s (oops — make that Maccabees), could lead the resistance if God opened a way to them. Legitimate authorities who became tyrannical, however, could be resisted only by the lower magistrates, such as the electoral princes in the Holy Roman Empire or the Estates-General in the kingdom of France. Private persons could and should disobey unjust orders and laws, or flee the jurisdiction. But they could not fight or resist on their own. ‘[We] do not cease to beg our brothers to arm themselves only with patience, until God comes to their aid, either in another way, or by raising up a [new] prince.’
These early reflections were ‘an embryonic justification for democratic revolution’ writes Robert Kingdon. Bez’s argument in a nutshell was this: the political office was ‘ordained by God and represents God in the world.’ But the political officers who occupy that office depend for their authority upon ‘the public consent of the citizens.’ When the political officer no longer respect his office and no longer represents God in the world, ‘public consent’ can give way to ‘public dissent.’ When this dissent is expressed properly through the lower magistrates, the political officer loses his authority and must be resisted, and if necessary forcibly removed from office.
John Witte, Jr.
The Reformation Of Rights — pg. 104-105
Now the question that commands our attention is whether our current situation here in these United States is a situation where tyrants have usurped their office or whether it is a case of legitimate authorities who have become tyrannical. Actually, I think this could be argued both ways. The former argument would reason that we have tyrants who have usurped their office because they are in violation of their oath to the Constitution. This violation of their oath to the constitution would de-legitimize any claim they might have to being legitimate authorities. On the other hand one could argue that they are legitimate authorities who have become tyrannical if only because they were lawfully elected to their positions. My instinct is to go with the former argumentation thus allowing more freedom for the individual to resist the tyranny but for the sake of discretion and prudence, I will, at this point, side with the latter argument that our current usurpers are legitimate authorities who have become tyrannical and who can only be resisted in the context of lesser magistrates. I think when we are considering a topic such as ‘faithfulness by public dissent’ we should be err on the side of caution.
The implication of this is that, we as Christians, should be earnestly petitioning God that He would be gracious to raise up lesser magistrates in order to lead His people against the tyranny that we are currently under in these United States. The second implication of this is that if God should raise up lesser magistrates to oppose the current tyranny that we are under it would be disobedience to God to not support these lesser magistrates with oaths of fealty and deeds of valor. If God should be pleased to raise up what some would characterize as ‘lesser magistrates’ to lead against what some would characterize as ‘greater magistrates’ we would need to return to the motto that ‘obedience to tyrants is disobedience to God.’
Until such a time as God changes the equation here we must give Him no rest in making known our desire of magistrates who would rule consistent with His Word. Also, we must be willing to bear all that is levied against us by wicked rulers as God’s just judgment against us for being complicit in arriving at this point where the foundations of righteousness are being decimated.
In the end though we must note this…
Given the right conditions Reformed doctrine requires faithfulness by dissent or to put it another way, should God provide the right conditions a lack of civil disobedience would be disobedience to God.