The Objections of Conscience
Patrick Henry Reardon on Civil Disobedience
A recent editorial in Touchstone drew attention to the Pauline thesis that the authority of the state is a conscientious authority. That is to say, the Christian is obliged to submit to civil authority, “not only because civil authority has the power to exact that submission, but also ‘for the sake of conscience’ (Romans 13:5).”
If this is so, obedience to the authority of the state is not morally neutral, and the resolve to resist that authority is a most serious and potentially perilous decision. Caesar, after all, is called “God’s servant,” and whoever resists Caesar “resists what God has appointed.” Those who do so, moreover, “will incur judgment” (13:2,4). Civil obedience is a conscientious responsibility.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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