Romans 13 and Anarcho-Capitalism

Consider this situation: You saved for years to go on a cruise of the Caribbean. It is not just the sights and sounds or the fun and food, it is the chance to sail the open seas. You have dreamed a sailor’s dream: to face the dare and danger of a storm racing across the open deck. And you want to hear the wind in the wires make that tattletale sound as the waves break over the railing. Yes, you want an Edmund Fitzgerald experience of sorts, but with buffets and entertainment, a warm shower and soft bed, and a happy and safe return to port.

OK. You really want to feel a slight storm blow across the deck. Nothing too scary. Just a little excitement to breakup the doldrums of suburban life.

On the evening of your second night, a storm approaches. The crew begins asking passengers to head inside for the safety of shelter. You hesitate. This is your once-in-a-lifetime cruise and your only chance to feel the power and bite of the wind and rain coming from that storm which is now creating a tiny tempest in an otherwise calm sea. You know you could easily slip past the crewmembers without detection and live that dream by the edge of the windward railing. But you are a Christian. So what should you do?

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If I were in that situation, I would simply head inside. As a Christian, I am to follow the governing authorities — I am to place my obedience to God over my desires to witness the storm firsthand. The captain and his designees are responsible for protecting the lives of all onboard. I am not to resist them. They are not to be feared, nor are they a terror to good conduct. And even if I can evade their authority, for the sake of my conscience, I am to obey their instructions.

This is significant. Why? It shows that the instructions given by Paul in Romans 13 extend beyond a Christian’s interactions with the state. And it shows that the existence of government is not required to fulfill the intent of the chapter. More importantly, it shows that Christianity and anarcho-capitalism can coexist.

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When I am in a store and I see a door with a sign that reads, "Employees only," I do not enter. Not because entering would break some law. I do not enter because the governing authority of that store has said that I am not to enter. And I am called to obey and not resist the authority of the store owner. Just as I am called to obey the rules of my neighbor when I am on his property or in his house.

A world without the state would never be a world without authority. Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome during the Roman Empire, the reign of the Caesars. However, since the Bible is truth through eternity, Paul’s instructions are true regardless the form of governing authority. We are to obey those who govern our various situations: my neighbor on his property, the security guard at the mall, and the shopkeeper in his store. And as God has arranged all, he has arranged matters so that each ruler is to be a minister of God, within his individual realm.

However, as Christians, no earthly law can exceed the word of God. When the two clash, God always wins. And when the governing authority extends its reach beyond its defined role, it has become an enemy of God. This is true whether the ruler is Caesar or a group of neighbors acting as the local junta that is democracy. And it is even true when the ruler is the captain of the ship or the owner of the store, or your neighbor in his backyard.

We are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. This will also be true under anarcho-capitalism as we will have to render unto the property owner that which he is due. But we will only have to render as we see fit, based on where we chose to go.

As Christians, we are to obey the legitimate governing authority, but it does not follow that the authority must be the state. Paul’s instructions are the same no matter who is in charge. And in an anarcho-capitalist world, we would only be forced to obey the governing authorities whose properties we chose to enter.

A better world, indeed.