Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Biblical View Of Civil Government, Part IV


These Men Are Not our Hope
This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on civil government. We have made the point so far that the Fall in Genesis three made civil government necessary. In the world to come there will be no civil government as we know it. 

The results of the presidential elections have distressed and disappointed many of us. All of this begs the question. How should we relate to civil government today? The answer to that question is fraught with many ambiguities. 

Our relationship with civil government is always an oxymoron. Since God created civil government to restrain evil we should be thankful and submissive, but since those that run civil government are themselves sinners the State ends up perpetuating as much (sometimes more) evil than it restrains. Therefore our application is gratitude salted with a deep and profound pessimism.

Six applications…

1. Christians rightly related to Civil Government are thankful

In a fallen world civil government is a necessary blessing. Life would be hell without it. Even the worst civil government is better than no civil government. The book of Judges tells us what that looked like, anarchy.  There was no king in Israel. Everyman did what was right in his own eyes. 

2. Christians rightly related to Civil Government are submissive.

I will let scripture do the heavy lifting. (Romans 13:1) "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (1 Peter 2:13–14) "Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good."

3. Christians rightly related to Civil Government are clear about Sin

It is the conclusion of most observant historians that the less a people believe that men are sinful the more sin they will in fact actually perpetuate. By contrast, the more a people believe that man is sinful, the more virtuous they will in fact actually become. Therefore, when discussing the Believers relationship to civil government the first thing you must be clear about is human nature. (See Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Vision).  This has huge implications.

For example, Christians that understand sin reject all forms of utopianism. Utopianism is the belief that man collectively, i.e. civil government, can create a utopia on this earth. Hitler, Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were all utopians. They believed that they could usher in a “workers paradise” through civil government. Twentieth century “utopianism” has caused the brutal deaths of at least 200 million people. These deaths were the byproduct of social engineering. Here are some examples in contemporary society…progressive tax codes to redistribute wealth, eugenics (selective breeding of people), China’s one child policy, racial quotas in  hiring or admission to schools, etc..  

Belief in man’s goodness leads to “Utopianism” which in turn leads to social engineering.
Note: Because of its confidence in humanity, the Democratic platform is fundamentally utopian. It tends to see Civil Government as a social savior. By contrast belief in God’s Word gives us a clear understanding of man in sin, which transfers our trust from the State to God, which in turn leads to limited government. Christianity motivates dependence upon God not civil government.


 “Only God’s love," notes Robert Culver, "is strong enough to perfect man, and then only by divine redemption. Our hope for the future, however much we may approve of good government, does not lie in man at all. Our hope is in God. ‘Behold, you God will come." 


“Put not your trust in Princes, in men in whom there is no salvation” (Ps 146).


For example, Christians clear about sin support the need for a strong police force. Because liberals tend to be unclear about sin, they are soft on the need for Police and other forms of social coercion.

Christians clear about sin reject all forms of political “idealism.” From Republicans to Libertarians to the Tea Party, there are no ideal candidates or parties. There is no perfect political system. All are blighted by sin. Engagement with all involve significant compromises.

Christians clear about sin support a strong civil defense. Because they believe in sin they believe that other nations will attack and seek to dominate. Therefore they place limited value on negotiation.  

Christians clear about sin also support social structures that encourage personal responsibility.  For example, they reject the concept that “fairness” means an equal distribution of wealth. Instead, they tend to support capitalism. Why? Capitalism best restrains the lusts of fallen man and best directs human avarice to the advantage of the culture at large. Capitalism rewards family, hard work, and thrift. It also punishes laziness and the inability to defer gratification.[3]

For example, Christianity motivates the support of social structures that encourage sowing and reaping. Christianity discourage social structures that obstruct this process, i.e. socialism and its fruits––welfare, tax structures that penalize prosperity, etc.

Christians clear about sin reject environmentalism. Environmentalism is the conviction that my problem is something outside of me––patriarchy, racism, sexism, colonialism, socialism, communism, ethnocentrism, Specie-ism, industrialism, homophobia, etc.. By contrast Believers are clear about the problem. Our fundamental problem is indwelling sin. In the words of Jesus––(Matthew 15:19–20) "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”"

Christians clear about sin don’t give ultimate trust to Civil Government, including Democracy. They never put their final trust in men or human institutions. (Jeremiah 17:5–8) "Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

4. Christians Rightly Related to Civil Government Prioritize Political issues with God’s priorities.

The sanctity of human life is of first importance to God. The Democratic and Republican platforms are polar opposites on this issue.  This appears in their respective positions on issues such as abortion, euthanasia, etc. 

Sexual Morality is also of first importance to God. Marriage and Family depend upon commonly accepted biblical standards of sexual morality. The Democratic and Republican platforms are opposites in this regard also. The issues are same sex marriage, the normalization of homosexuality, sex education in public schools, etc. For example, The Republican Platform reads, “Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.”

Religious freedom also matters greatly to God and to God's people. Every nation needs churches free to preach the gospel. The church is a prophetic presence, light and salt, in secular culture. When civil government muzzles the church, secular culture suffers. 

There are other issues, (Size and scope of Government, Foreign Affairs, Care for the poor, etc.), but Christians carefully triage all of these issues with God’s priorities.

5. Christians rightly related to Civil Government work to improve Civil Government.

Past Christians have engaged the political process. Our Political and religious freedoms are the direct result of Christianity. In fact, we owe a debt to John Calvin and the Puritans for the whole concept of modern political freedom.[4]

We need Christians who share these convictions in every level of Civil Government.
We are duty bound to become informed about political issues. We are then duty bound to vote our conscience.

We are duty bound to pray for Civil Government. We should pray for spiritual revival. A sinful people cannot remain a free people.[5]

6. Christians rightly related to Civil Government always keep the main thing the main thing.

Improving Civil Government is never the main thing for us. The gospel is the main thing.
That was the New Testament priority.  Chemical abortion was rampant in the first century. Slavery was rampant in the first century. Homosexuality was rampant in the first century.  Many men had Catamites, and it was accepted practice. There were almost no civil liberties. There was no guarantee of a speedy trial, or for that matter a trial of any kind. Poverty was rampant.

Yet, the authors of the New Testament showed little interest in any of these social issues. The apostles were not social crusaders or political reformers. They were interested in one thing––the proclamation and dissemination of the gospel. Why? Because the Government that concerned them was the reign of Christ that had begun and which would find fulfillment in the world to come.

Ultimately, that should be our concern also.




[1] For more on this subject see Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions, (New York: Basic Books, 2007)
[2] Ibid, Culver, pg 29
[3] See Jay Richards, Money, Greed, and God, Why Capitalism is the Solution Not the Problem.
[4] See Douglas Kelly, The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World, (Phillipsbuirg: P&R)
[5] See Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide 

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