Just Revolution

Michael Tinney, a member of the 2013/2014 Roundtable in Ethics, explains the answer to the following question. Is the overthrow of an existing king, ruler, or government, if war or violence is necessary, ever biblically justifiable?

Elements of a Just Revolution:

1. The cause must be just. This must be more than a disagreement with the policies of the government in power; rather the government in power must be oppressive and deny basic human rights. Examples of this type of oppression would be the killing or imprisoning of innocent citizens, or political or religious opponents; or seizing property without justification, and denying essential basic human rights.

2. There must be a better government to replace the unjust one. This means there must be a government in place or a governing body that can be formed to replace the former government. This replacement government should enact justice and protect the rights of its citizens. The revolt should not be by a disgruntled group or power hungry group.

3. There must be a reasonable chance of success. The revolt must be well supported and well planned. (A person or small group may disobey the government because conscience dictates, but this would not be a revolution. They would be martyrs or suffer the consequences of civil disobedience.)

4. A forceful overthrow of a government must be a last resort. The oppressed group should exhaust all ways to try to obtain a peaceful solution or changes.

5. The ensuing conflict must be conducted in a righteous manner by the parties attempting to overthrow the government. Though fighting and war may be necessary, there should be no brutality; murder of civilians or children; unnecessary destruction of life and property. As much as possible, the fighting should be defensive in nature, such as the American Revolution, where independence was declared, but there were no attacks until the British used force to suppress the rebellion.

Biblical justification for overthrow of government:

II Kings 9-12: Jehu chosen by God to destroy the house of Ahab;

The royal officials that threw queen Jezebel to her death;

The military guard that hid Joash from the wicked queen and then killed her and her followers

In Daniel 11:32 it says the people among you who know their God will be strong and act – reference to those who stood against Antiochus Epiphanes (Maccabee revolt).