Why did Jonathan Boucher believe that obedience to government is particularly important for Christians?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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As an Episcopal minister, Jonathan Boucher opposed the American Revolution based on the grounds that insubordinate behavior was unbiblical. Hence, in his twelfth discourse, he argues that Christians must particularly obey the government because, essentially, it is one of "the positive commands of God." He continues to argue that "when Christians are disobedient to human ordinances, they are also disobedient to God"; therefore it is Christian duty to be obedient to both liberal and harsh governments alike. However, the remaining question is exactly why he feels disobedience to government equates to disobedience to God.

As a Christian minister, he would have been well acquainted with biblical verses speaking of the need for Christians to be humble and subservient. However, in his twelfth discourse, he is careful to only make arguments based on political philosophy rather than based on theology. The only verse he does cite is Galatians 5:1, which speaks of Christ setting his believers free. Regardless, beyond Galatians, he would have developed his ideas and preached his ideas on the pulpit based on several biblical verses concerning government. For example, he would have been influenced by Jesus's speech to the pharisees, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Matt. 12:17). He would have also been influenced by other teachings of Paul concerning government: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." (Rom. 13:1) Hence, since there are so many biblical verses about humility and subjugation, as a Christian minister, he would have felt duty-bound to preach that insubordination toward the government was immoral for the Christian believer, whereas subordination is moral.

However, in his twelfth discourse, instead of making biblical references to support his claim that Christians must obey government in order to obey God, he only makes references to political philosophy to support his views. For example, he references John Locke, who argued, "Where there is no law ... there is no freedom," to show that when people, especially Christians, act in lawless rebellion, they do not actually liberate themselves.

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