MILWAUKEE — A pastor from Wisconsin has authored a book advising state and municipal government leaders that when they are forced to make a choice between obeying God or the federal government, they must always obey God rather than men.
Matt Trewhella pastors Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has long been a proponent of the lesser magistrate doctrine, which teaches that “when a higher authority makes an unjust law, the lower authority must resist it.” He says that he first became interested in the concept while considering the plight of the millions of unborn children that are aborted in the nation with the permission of state and local governments.
Trewhella believes that states civil government leaders should have resisted the ruling in Roe v. Wade and fought to protect innocent life within their borders.
“They should have defied the federal government and said, ‘We don’t care what the Supreme Court has ruled; this is an immoral, unjust law, and there will be no preborn babies slaughtered in our state,'” he said. “Unfortunately, of course that didn’t happen because people are ignorant of this doctrine.”
In Trewhella’s book, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates, the non-denominational pastor outlines that the belief that leaders must obey God rather than man is not only sound in Scripture and is reflected throughout history, but it is also practical for the crossroads that Americans face today. He noted that some civil magistrates are already acting upon the doctrine whether they realize it or not.
“You can pick up the newspaper and find sheriffs who are making open declarations against the federal government regarding the Second Amendment. You can even see whole state legislatures like Wyoming that have taken a stand against federal actions to disarm or infringe our Second Amendment rights,” he outlined. “You can also see states taking action on immigration and a host of other things.”
He said that the same concept must be played out in regard to abortion and homosexual “marriage,” among other issues.
Therefore, Trewhella wrote the book to educate civil magistrates across the nation and around the world about the doctrine, and to inform Christians that when leaders defy immoral edicts to take a stand for truth, that their actions are “proper, right and legitimate.”
When asked why the majority of Christians frown upon civil disobedience and believe that men must unconditionally obey every law imposed upon them, he opined that churches often have an improper hermeneutic regarding Romans 13.
“It’s a lie,” Trewhella stated. “I think a lot of people just like to go along to get along. They just want to be able to continue to pursue their goods and their ease, and they don’t want to be bothered by anyone who upsets the apple cart, so they turn a blind eye, and they create a false theology to accommodate the form of Christianity that they have adopted.”
“Romans 13 makes it clear that a civil magistrate is to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil,” he said. “When they subvert their God-given function and begin to reward those who do evil and punish those who do good, we have a duty to obey God rather than man. And that’s been the standard teaching throughout history.”
Even Scripture chronicles Christians who were faced with the choice of following man’s law or God’s law, Trewhella outlined.
“There are many passages and stories like the three Hebrew children [Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego] and Daniel, where the people of God disobey the civil government and are commended by God for doing it,” he stated. “The three Hebrew children were part of the civil government there in Babylon, and of course Daniel was one of the governors directly under the Babylonian emperor himself.”
“And so, they interposed against these unjust or immoral laws as lesser magistrates,” the pastor and author continued. “[They were] willing to hazard their own life and perhaps take some suffering upon themselves by doing what was right rather than what was expedient.”
However, in today’s day and age, Trehwella noted, Christians often throw their brothers and sisters in Christ under the bus if they refuse to obey earthly laws that contradict the law of God. He recalled how Judge Roy Moore of Alabama was belittled when he refused to remove the Ten Commandments from the premises of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“When he took a stand in Alabama, he was abandoned by and large by Christians and [he had] Christian leaders condemning him because of this mindset that we should always obey the civil government no matter what,” Trewhella remembered. “And because people didn’t understand that what he was doing was proper, right and legitimate, they left him blowing in the breeze. And the story is well-known regarding what took place there.”
But Trewhella states that Christians need to know better. He said that he wrote his latest book to both educate the body of Christ and encourage civil magistrates that take a stand in the face of tyranny.
“It’s important that this doctrine be taught to the magistrates of this nation and people of this nation,” he said. “We have the time and opportunity to inform the magistrate of the legitimacy, right and duty to resist the higher authority [when it impugns the law of God].”
Trewhella’s book, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate, is available at LesserMagistrate.com