Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Biblical Theology of Civil Government, Part 1


Declaration of Independence
     The elections are coming in a few days. These are the most important elections in the last fifty years. Therefore, I thought it important to take a hard look at a biblical theology of civil government.  How should Christians think about Civil Government? How should Christians relate to it? We should see civil government through the lens of a biblical worldview.  Every worldview has three components––1st A theory of creation. 2nd An explanation for how things have gone wrong.  And 3rd a theory of redemption, i.e how to fix it.

     That is the outline for the next few posts. We will look at Civil Government through the lens of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

     First Creation. God created Adam  to exercise dominion. (Genesis 1:26–28) "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”"

     God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion. That means he that God asked them to rule in God’s place, to rule as servants. They were to exercise God’s dominion in God’s way. God created Adam and Eve perfect. In their original state, they were unblemished by sin. That means they were able to exercise God’s dominion as God would do it.

     God also gave Adam a commandment and asked him to submit to it. His submission would be the basis for his dominion. 

     This side of the Fall (Genesis three) the only way we can know what that dominion would have looked like is to look at Christ. Remember, he was the Second Adam. As the Second Adam he was the only “sinless” man to live on this planet. He was also filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ’s cross shows us what exercising God’s rule looks like.  

     In other words, Christ’s life shows us what Adam’s submission to God’s rule would have looked like had he not sinned. Jesus perfectly, and joyfully, submitted to all lawful authority. That included his parents, the Synagogue leaders, the Pharisees, the Roman Civil Government, and most importantly, God the Father. On the basis of that obedience God gave him dominion.

     Had there been no sin we would all be like Christ. We would joyfully and perfectly submit to all authority. We would also exercise God’s dominon as servants. Had the Fall not occurred, there would be no greedy people, no uncontented people, no lazy people, no selfish people, no material scarcity, no self-will, no rebellion against authority, no criminal acts, no orphans, etc.

     Therefore, there would be no need for Civil Government. For example, without lawbreakers there would be no need for courts. There would be no contract breakers. There would be no divorce, or dysfunctional families. There would be no civil disagreements for the courts to adjudicate.

     Defense is another function of Civil Govt. However, since there would be no war, there would be no need for standing armies, policemen, Sheriffs, State Patrols, etc.

     There would be no sin to separate God and man. God would mediate his law directly to each soul.
In short, there would be nothing corresponding to today’s Civil Government. Civil Government exist to keep peace and order by coercing submission to Civil authority. But, if there had been no Fall everyone would joyfully submit to authority. There would be nothing for Civil Government to coerce.

   “No States would have existed, but only one organic world empire, with God as its king, exactly what is prophesied for the future which awaits us when all sin shall have disappeared”[1]––Abraham Kuyper

      In conclusion, created sinless, created in God’s image, man would have needed no for Civil Government. Rather, he would be governed directly by God. However, the Fall changed everything, and that is the subject of our next post. 





[1] Abraham Kuyper,  Luectures on Calvinism, Quoted by Robert Culver in Toward A Biblical View of Civil Government, Chicago: Moody, 1974, pg 28 

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