Guest / Limited Access /

Q:Considering the biblical injunction to submit to civil government (Rom. 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-14), were Christian colonists justified in participating in the Revolutionary War?

A:Only one population in the colonies clearly was justified by classical Christian reasoning in taking up arms to defend itself—the half-million or so enslaved African Americans who were held in bondage as the result of armed attacks upon peaceful noncombatants.

When it comes to the British actions toward the colonies in the decade before 1776, almost all historians concede those actions were insensitive, based on lamentable misconceptions of colonial life, and often simply stupid. George III, a responsible family man who tried to act like a Christian, was far from the ogre pictured in the Declaration of Independence. But he had no real feel for life in the colonies, and he, when choosing advisers, allowed political loyalty to take precedence over sound assessments of ability. So colonial leaders complaining about mistreatment from Britain were not making things up.

But were the admitted abuses serious enough to warrant an armed revolution? Patriot leaders thought so, but there is a problem with why they thought so. They were troubled less by actual evils (like the tax on tea, which, ironically, had made tea cheaper in the colonies than in England). Rather, they interpreted the bumbling British actions as a conspiracy to exterminate liberty in the colonies.

This belief explains why, as political tensions increased, patriot leaders accused the British of behaving like Roman Catholics. Decades of warfare pitting Catholic France against Protestant Britain had taught all the British, even the colonists, simply to equate tyranny with the pope and freedom ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueMeet the Churches Engaging—and  Keeping—Young People
Subscriber Access Only
Meet the Churches Engaging—and Keeping—Young People
A study of 250 congregations suggests that engaging youth and young adults has little to do with style and everything to do with substance.
RecommendedShould Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?
Subscriber Access Only Should Churches Display the American Flag in Their Sanctuaries?
Observers weigh in on patriotic piety.
TrendingPutting the Fear of God in the Fashion Industry
Putting the Fear of God in the Fashion Industry
Menswear creator Jerry Lorenzo wears his faith on his sleeve.
Editor's PickWhat 'No Man's Sky' and C. S. Lewis Tell Us About the Spirit of Our Age
What 'No Man's Sky' and C. S. Lewis Tell Us About the Spirit of Our Age
The recent hit sci-fi video game promises an infinite galaxy to explore. Is that enough?
Christianity Today
Directions: Was the Revolutionary War Justified?
hide thisFebruary 8 February 8

In the Magazine

February 8, 1999

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.