By What Authority? The Bible and Civil Disobedience

Sojourners, May. [Reprinted in The Rise of Christian Conscience, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987.]  6 pp.

Civil disobedience as a political tactic is a relatively recent genesis, but resistance to human sovereigns is as old as civilization itself. In the ancient world, this resistance usually took the forms of refusal to abide by the decrees of a king or a prophetic challenge to the legitimacy of the ruler’s authority. Such disobedience was a serious undertaking.

Although democratic descent and “free speech” were not unknown, the normal paradigm of political rule was that of the sovereign’s absolute authority. Since the king was divine in the ancient Mediterranean world, disobedience meant transgressing the very order of the cosmos. The radical monotheism of the Bible –the belief that only God was sovereign – therefore accepts acts of resistance to ruling political authority as part of the fabric of this salvation book history of Yahweh.

Full Article: By What Authority, Bible & Civil Disobedience chapter SKU: 86-1-Pd