State or Civil Government
I will use these terms interchangeably, capitalizing State to recognize its legitimacy as a God-ordained authority. In certain contexts, “state” will be used to designate a state of the United States, but mostly it will be used to designate civil government at all levels: local, state, and federal.
Definition of Politics
From the Greek, polisor state. “The science of government; that part of ethics which consists in the regulation and government of a nation or state, for the preservation of its safety, peace and prosperity; comprehending the defense of its existence and rights against foreign control or conquest, the augmentation of its strength and resources, and the protection of its citizens in their rights, with the preservation and improvement of their morals. Politics, as a science or an art, is a subject of vast extent and importance.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
Necessary Background Understanding
The reader will better understand the following with the background of law, love, grace, mercy, justice, and equity (click here). Civil law is a derivative and particular application of God’s law. Thus, God’s law is central to salvation and to the peace of a society on earth. To miss this connection is to miss both the fullness of Christ’s sacrifice to fulfill the law and the great freedom for civil society that is made possible by the application of God’s law in government.
1. Law Is Inescapably Derived from Ethics
“Ethics deals with the voluntary conduct of individual man insofar as it is judged to be good or bad in reference to a single, inclusive, and determinative principle of moral value grounded in and validated by ultimate reality.“ (Henry Stob, Ethical Reflections, page 24. Civil government and law is unavoidably grounded in ethics, some basis by which right and wrong is determined. And ethics is grounded in “ultimate reality”, by definition. Ultimate reality is religious, even though secularists (and even Christians), may try to avoid or obscure the issue. As a religious subject, then, government and law must necessarily be defined and prescribed by God Himself speaking through His Scriptures. Also, this worldview area should be understood with the background of Social Justice. (See those Summary Principles.)
2. Law Involves Force, Implied or Exercised
While all law is based in ethics, behind civil law is a power that intends to enforce it, while ethics is “voluntary” (above). That is, the rule of law under the civil government carries the “power of the sword.” Thus, civil law is “involuntary,” that is, “enforced.” The large part of this enforcement is functionally voluntary (for the Christian, this obedience is a duty under God), as a police force is not stationed in every home or with every individual. But, the “power of the sword” behind the law should not be minimized. And, herein lies the great error of many Christians that State welfare is “charity.” The difference is free, voluntary decision vs. the threat on one’s life and property, if not obeyed! See The not-so-great welfare state… below.
3. The Bible Is a Book on Civil Law
While the Bible is centrally about salvation, by definition, as God’s ordained code of morality, it is a book for the basis of civil law. An expression that has been bandied about among Bible-believing Christians is that “the Bible is true in all areas to which it speaks.” Relative to law, this belief statement reasons that a theocracy existed under Old Testament Israel, but the New Testament gives little in the way of a pattern for civil government. This reasoning is seriously false.
In any area where human behavior is concerned, the Bible must be central for the Christian. This limitation of the Bible has not only made it irrelevant to essential areas of life, but has greatly contributed to Christianity being irrelevant in the market place of ideas and to Christianity practically being placed in a ghetto! The Bible is The Book on Civil Law, as the only source of ethics for God’s people, as it is The Book on Psychology. Again, the background of Biblical law in the context of love, grace, mercy, and justice is written on this website here.That discussion is central to the principles here.
All Christians must begin active, vigorous studies and debates about the Biblical application of law to the civil state today. It is accepted that direct application of many Biblical laws, especially case laws, to modern times is difficult. However, with the Bible as The Book on law, it is mandatory that modern applications be made.
Historical note: Throughout history, civil government and religion have been intertwined. With law grounded in ethics, and ethics grounded in religion (“ultimate reality”), this union is inescapable. However, Biblical Christianity separates the power of the sword in the State from the Church. The States to be influenced by individual Christians in public debate and through their various positions of authority in civil government and in society. The Church through its teaching and preaching is to keep its members informed on moral and spiritual matters that arise in matters of State policy. At times, the Church may even need to take formal positions against State policy that is flagrant against Biblical social justice.
4. Biblical law is the Most Basic and Important Area for Mankind to Know and Understand
Biblical law is representative of God’s character, that is, His righteousness. God’s law is perfect and holy. Biblical law is the standard of responsibility that God requires of man. Failure to live up to this standard caused man’s misery and ruin in the Fall. Salvation is made possible by Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the law in His perfect life and substitutionary atonement for man’s failure. Biblical law is the only means by which man may live freely and cooperatively with his fellow man at all levels of social interaction. See Law and Love.
5. “What is” is the Greatest Stumbling Block to “What Ought to be” for Modern Christians in America
Since the United States was begun, her great foundation in Biblical law has been gradually eroded in civil government and law. Now, it is so greatly distorted by “what is” that the typical American Christian has virtually no grasp of “what ought to be.” We have moved from the “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to legalized abortion, ever encroaching restrictions on freedom, and no real understanding of what “happiness” is.
Failure of preaching and teaching and to understand grace and love. The greatest fault in this erosion is Biblical preaching and teaching that has failed to preach the “whole counsel of God,” that is, Biblical law. The paradox of this failure is that the “gospel of grace” which has been individualized and restricted to mostly an emotional experience, is greatly elevated in significance by an understanding that God’s law is a measure of His righteousness and love. Our inalienable rights, the Bill of Rights, and all the intentions of the Declaration of Independence will not be realized in our time until Christians begin to understand the importance of God’s law in His Providence and Common Grace for mankind. (See Welfare later in this document.)
Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 states as its first definition of “government,” that of “(an individual’s) control, restraint. Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.” In modern times, “government” is linked with “civil government.” However, no society that is not primarily ordered by men who govern themselves (morally) and who govern their families similarly, either can come into existence or exist for very long once established.
The loss of this foundational view of self-government is a major stumbling block to Western society today. As long as the concept of “government” exists outside of men in the form of civil government, their responsibility of government of self under God will not be prominent and will prevent the formation of a truly moral civil government.
7. The Christian’s Duty to Understand and Apply the Bible in Government and Law
Christians who serve in civil government or work with the interpretation and application of law in any way have failed in their duty under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to those whom they serve, if they do not have a basic and reasonably complete understanding of Biblical law and how it applies to their position of responsibility. Every Christian in every State bears two offices at all times: elector and juror. He does have these opportunities to influence the law and the civil government.
8. God’s Directives, Brief but Comprehensive
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1-7)
These statements summarize a comprehensive program for both the civil government and its citizens. These are the skeleton and the remainder of the pertinent Scriptures are the flesh of the whole system. As a Hermeneutic, the reader should note that these verses in the Bible follow Chapter 12, in which is found government by the church and an individual’s government of himself.
9. No Conflict
Rightly understood within a complete Biblical worldview, there is no conflict in what is right for individuals, families, churches, social groups, and state governments at all levels. This statement is earth-shattering in its import, as State policy is often designed with some special interest group in mind.
10. “All Authorities That Exist are Appointed by God.”
While there has never been a perfect civil government on earth, nevertheless they are all appointed by God in His Sovereignty. “Whoever resists (this) authority resists the ordinance of God” (above). Differing with, and going against State policy, is tantamount to resisting God Himself, and such action will bring not only punishment from the state, but judgment from God Himself. Citizens are not only to obey their rulers, but “hold them in esteem and honor.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 13:7)
Historical note: The American colonists understood this concept, derived by John Calvin, so that the Declaration of Independence established a “lesser magistrate” of the American colonies that could Biblically resist the tyranny of England. Thus, a “lesser magistrate” may challenge a greater one, but the process of duly forming this entity proscribes revolution, vigilantism, and violent resistance by anyone or any group who have not form this “lesser” entity.
There are two exceptions to this commandment of state obedience:
(A) “We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men”
(Acts 5:29). Where the commandments of God to His people clearly conflict with the laws of the civil government, then God’s commandments are to be obeyed in spite of punishment that is threatened by the state. Peter’s commitment to evangelism in one example. The disobedience of the Hebrew midwives to the Egyptian authorities is another example. The lying to the authorities by Rahab is another.
(B) the Right of Individuals to Protect Themselves
Sometimes, there is not time or opportunity to form a lesser magistrate. Alexander Solzhenitsyn has regretted that the Russian people did not resist the night raids of the KGB. He ponders what might have happened if each family had wounded or killed one or more soldiers, each time these raids took place. Over time, this resistance might have weakened the regime or caused them to reconsider their actions. What does one do when soldiers come to rape one’s wife or daughter? Clear violations of God-given rights to life in immediate circumstances may call for violent resistance in self-defense. In essence, this resistance is an extension of (A) above, but different in the violence of the situation. Also, one should ponder the results of such resistance. When resisted, the State may inflict greater damage on the person or family than they would have otherwise.
11. Morality Can Be Legislated
The epithet, “You cannot legislate morality,” is false on two levels. (1) Morality is the only source of law, as concluded above. (2) Civil laws strongly direct overt behavior. Speed limits slow most motorists down. Many people do not steal because of the possibility of getting caught. Abortion was severely limited before it was legalized. Tax breaks on home ownership greatly influence that industry (not necessarily for the “good“). Civil law, as Biblically directed, then, is one of the greatest aspects of the common grace of God.
That civil law does not necessarily cause moral behavior at all levels is true. It will not cause a husband to give tender affection to his wife. It will not make every person generous toward charitable works. It will not cause children to honor their parents. However, the effect of civil law on overt behavior, and the tendency of overt behavior to affect one’s attitude and thinking, should not be underestimated. Civil law will not make a “bad” person good, but by threat of punishment, and sometimes reward, it may influence that “bad” person not to commit acts of evil and occasionally even to do “good.”
12. Law and Its Sanctions Are a Deterrence to Crime
Christians should not accept the premise that punishment is not a deterrence to crime. First, it is clear from empirical evidence that punishment is a deterrence. Speeding for the large majority of motorists does not occur. Speeding on a military base (where punishment is severe) is almost unknown! But, beyond empiricism, God says that punishment is a deterrence. “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 8:11; see Deuteronomy 19:20 and Romans 13:1-7 – above). Where God speaks, empirical evidence is not necessary, but the latter should correspond to God’s truth when properly performed.
Law, of Necessity, Must be a Deterrent to Crime No police force has ever, nor will it ever, catch every perpetrator of a crime. A police force cannot be everywhere all the time. Thus, the fear of punishment is necessary to a “civil” society, to keep would be evil-doers in check where law enforcement cannot.
13. Does the Bible Endorse One Form of Government?
While the Bible does not explicitly endorse one form of government, Biblical characteristics of law argue for a representative form of government. Then, it would be necessary to have an executive arm to enforce law that was thus legislated, and a judiciary would be necessary to interpret that law.
Biblical Characteristics of Government and Law
- Rule by Men of Character: Jethro advised Moses to appoint “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21). King David was “a man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 16:7). Men (elders and deacons) who are to rule the church must meet certain moral requirements (I Timothy 3; Titus 1). These are men who have learned to govern themselves and their families, before being allowed to govern others. God does not allow immoral, or men with disorderly lives, to govern.
- Local Rule, Primarily: Jethro advised Moses in the selection of men to rule small groups outward to larger groups (Exodus 18:21). Central rule, especially by one man, was not of God’s choosing (I Samuel 8). Rule by churches is by local representatives (I Timothy 3; Titus 1). Only for special situations was regional rule necessary (Acts 15).
- Leadership by Men, Primarily “Heads of Households”: Throughout the Scriptures, God’s method of rule is through men, not women. Men are to have proved themselves with the government of themselves and their own families and in being able to provide for them (success in employment or business).
- Leadership by Property Owners: As heads of households, these men would have owned property. Property in Israel was so important that it was transferred from one generation to the next.
- Representative Government: (A corollary of [A].) The rule of law, lex rex, mandates that those who govern seek to serve under God’s law, not under vox populi, the vote of the people or under their own ideas. While they may be elected by the people, their allegiance is not to them, but to God. In fact, the more that such representatives ally themselves with their constituents, the more that those who rule are likely to be influenced negatively and sinfully by the desires of their electorate. “You shall not follow a multitude (majority) to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). In addition, the population in its manifold daily duties does not have the time to devote to the intricacies that are involved in governing.
- Plurality for Wisdom: For sufficient wisdom to exist in one man to rule fully and adequately would be unusual, if not impossible. Thus, operating under Biblical statute and principle, a plurality of godly men is necessary for godly rule.
- Limited Law: The Bible establishes a “pyramid” of legality. From the two great commandments of Jesus Christ, to the Ten Commandments, to all the commandments and laws of the Bible, and finally to the case laws of the Old Testament, a pattern of laws is established that is unified and limited.
- A Judiciary is Necessary: Laws cannot be written for every conceivable circumstance. Indeed, in general, the fewer the laws that should be written the better for those governed. Thus, a judiciary is necessary to interpret and apply law to specific situations. However, this judiciary must interpret the law, not define law which is the responsibility of the legislature.
- Historical Note: The leaders of the American colonists who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution understood these principles (in the main) and established the United States system of government on them. Prior to these documents was the Reformation which focused on the Scriptures as the Very Word of God Written, and within that, the recognition of laws to govern man as an individual, family, society, and nation.
14. Laws Should be Limited so That They can be Understood and Obeyed by Those who are Governed by Those Laws
God wrote the law upon man’s heart. He wrote the Bible which contains all the laws that He intended for mankind in one Book. In the same way, positive law should be limited to that which (in the main) can be understood by the common man who is then able to live within its parameters and understand his offense when he breaks it. A reasonably intelligent person should be able to argue his own case before a judge in most matters of civil action. All mankind will stand before the Great Judgment Throne in the Last Day and will clearly understand his transgressions before a Holy God. If God in His infinite wisdom can make laws intelligible to man, man is no less required to make laws that can be learned and known by those subjected to them.
James Jordan (The Law of the Covenant, page 63) writes:
Increasingly in our modern world, law has become a complicated, esoteric matter which can be understood only by lawyers. This is a trend away from Hebrew-Christian law, which is simple and public. In the ancient world, both cultic and judicial laws were often hidden from the people, but in Israel the law was to be read to everyone, every seven years (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). Moreover, since the law is addressed to everybody, not just to rulers and priests (indeed, Israel was a “nation of priests”), “everyone is held personally responsible for the observance of the law. This leads in turn, to the concept of individual and joint responsibility. No longer is it the sole concern of the leader of the community (e.g., the King of Mesopotamia) to maintain justice and to protect the rights of his community. This responsibility is shared by every member of the society…” (Jordan is citing Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, [The Magnes Press, 1967], page 264)
Positive Law Should be Minimal: Based upon the above, positive law should be minimal and legislated only where it is imperative for social order. We live in a day of laws upon laws. For example, there are laws against child abuse, racial crimes, “hate” crimes, and many others. All these easily fall under already existing statutes against bodily harm, murder, theft, and other such laws. Therefore, such particular laws distort and even change the justice system from its purpose of justice and equity to that which is not its purpose, social engineering.
Rights are given by God. The obligation of the State is to protect those rights for her people. If a State were to have the authority to grant rights, then it would also have the authority to take them away. No State has that authority for it would exceed God’s authority.
Right to life: Perhaps, all God-given rights can be summed up in the “right to life.” Human life cannot be lived in it fullness without the protection of the State from harm and violence from perpetrators of evil. Every person must have the have freedom to live righteously, according to God’s laws. Ownership of property is established by the Eighth Commandment and necessary to making physical provision for oneself and his family and necessary to the preservation and propagation of life. In order to go about all the tasks that God has assigned to man, he must have freedom (liberty) to pursue these tasks, not having to worry unreasonably about threats to his life and property. For the propagation of life, civil laws must be designed to enhance family life and severely punish those who violate its integrity. And, thus is happiness made possible.
Historical Note—Property and Happiness: About the time that the Declaration of Independence was written, the common phrase about “rights” was “life, liberty, and property.” For some reason, “happiness” was inserted into the Declaration, instead of property. Its intent and consistency with Biblical law is better understood as “life, liberty, and property.”
Caveat The right to life and the right to freedom may be forfeited. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God, He made man” (Genesis 9:6). The Bible is clear that there are capital crimes. What those are is beyond our purpose here. Suffice it to say that pre-meditated murder is one. Thus, the right to life is forfeited. For lesser crimes, such as theft, the right to one’s own property will be forfeited to the extent that restitution is required. Obviously, in both these instances some degree of “freedom” is lost because of irresponsible behavior or criminal activity. See Crime and Punishment.
Wrong Understanding of Rights Because rights have been divorced from God, the government believes that it has the authority to issue rights. Thus, we have in America today a right to medical care, cradle to grave security, pornography, family leave, and many others. Perhaps, the distortion and heinous error of rights is most clearly seen in the defense of unlimited abortion under a woman’s “right to privacy,” issued by the Supreme Court of the United States. This action was a violation of the responsibility of the judiciary (above) only to interpret law.
16. All Governments are Theocracies by Definition of Ethics and Law
A theocracy is a government which is ruled by God (theos, God; kratosa rule, regime, strength). Israel was a theocracy until the anointing of kings, beginning with Saul. However, philosophically this definition is too narrow. As we have established, all law comes from ethics (concepts of right and wrong), and all ethics comes from one’s concept of ultimate reality. As has been discussed many times on this website, ultimate reality is one’s most fundamental philosophy of life. It is religious, whether one actually believes in a supernatural being or not. Whatever is one’s ultimate reality is that person’s god, for he bases all his decisions on that reality. And, given the power to do so, he would govern all men under laws that were developed under his god (belief system). Thus, all law is ethics, and all ethics is derived from a god. Thus, all system of laws and government are god-derived, a theocracy, an inescapable concept. (I am thankful to Gary DeMar of American Vision for this concept.)
Theonomy and Reconstruction In modern evangelical circles, theonomy and reconstruction are virtually anathema even to be mentioned or discussed. But, I contend that few other Bible-believing Christians are wrestling with the difficult issues of civil government, law, and social justice. That theonomists and reconstructionists have their rough edges and overbearing authoritarianism is accepted. But, their intent to govern every area of life under Scripture should be unquestionable to Bible believers. Who else has their comprehensive scope? For reasonable reviews of theonomy and reconstruction, see Reconstruction and Theonomy.
17. God’s Pattern: Covenant or Constitutional Law
The whole of God’s dealings with men is about covenant. Covenants that have been named, include the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Christocentric. While the theological nuances and “problems” with these cannot be dealt with here, nevertheless God established contracts (constitutions) with mankind. Some theorists have called government a “social contract.” A contract, by definition, has obligations (forgotten in America today), rights, and penalties ascribed to both parties.
18. God Sanctions Capital Punishment Based Upon Human Observation
An argument is often made against capital punishment that an error in due process may have been made and an innocent man would be killed. The Christian, however, cannot take this position. God has ordained that (1) capital punishment be exercised by civil government (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:4) on the basis of (2) two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). Jesus instructed that a person could be excommunicated on the same basis, a matter far more serious than capital punishment.
“(The magistrate) is an executioner of God’s wrath; and this he shows himself to be by having the sword, which the Lord has delivered into his hand. This is a remarkable passage for the purpose of proving the right of the sword; for if the Lord, by arming the magistrate, has also committed to him the use of the sword, whenever he visits the guilty with death, by executing God’s vengeance, he obeys his commands. Contend then do they with God who think it unlawful to shed the blood of wicked men.” (Commentary by John Calvin on Romans 13:4)
Capital Punishment from the Perspective of Eternity If the executed person is a believer in Jesus Christ, he is bound for heaven. If he is bound for Hell, we just have done society a great favor, for he was indeed evil, even if not guilty of his crime. On the one hand, secularists are consistent that if life on earth is the only life, then indeed they should be fearful of putting an innocent man to death. On the other hand, they have no reason to choose any right or wrong, so they cannot even speak to the matter of capital punishment.
19. Natural Law Theory
For centuries, many scholars have advocated “natural law.” It has its appeal in that it is somewhat divorced from “religious” concepts and that it is “universal.” Many conservative Bible scholars were among these advocates. However, natural law is too vague and arbitrary to be implemented as specific civil law. For example, nature is “red in tooth and claw,” as well as showing tender affection for its own “family.” Even murder, in some societies, has certain justifications, even being praiseworthy. The bottom line of natural law theory is a rule of majority or tyranny. That is, either several “governors” vote for what they believe is natural law or one person arbitrarily implements his interpretation. Natural law does not escape the “ultimate realities” of decision-making, which is law that is derived from within man himself.
The great expositor of law, William Blackstone, did not make the natural law error.
“Yet undoubtedly the revealed law is of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system, which is framed by ethical writers, and denominated the natural law. Because one is the law of nature, expressly declared so to be by God himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law. If we could be as certain of the latter as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but, till then, they can never be put in any competition together.” (William Blackstone, Section II, of the Introduction toCommentaries on the Laws of England.)
20. The Not-so-great Welfare State
The great illustration of how far the American government has gone astray from its foundations in Biblical law is the cost of federal, state, and local governments today. Welfare (including all its auxiliaries, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Aid to Dependent Children, Social Security, etc., etc.) is far and away the largest cost to these governments. So, most of the taxes that an American pays is for unbiblical reasons. And, added to this fact, is that all these programs have made the situations that they intended to help, in fact, worse. Then, the trillions of dollars being spent today on these programs is both foolish (unbiblical) and ineffective! Truly, this cost, both physically and spiritually, illustrates the depravity of man’s thinking in its full development! Violation of Biblical law is costly beyond measure in both dollars and injustice to the whole of society!
State welfare is not Biblical mercy and charity. There is nothing right about state welfare. It steals from one group to give to others. It imposes a huge administrative cost. (I have seen estimates from 75-90 percent.) It promotes laziness among its recipients. It gives without regard to responsibility and true need, based upon some arbitrary category of persons. It dehumanizes its recipients, making them into helpless victims. It promotes class warfare, giving “rights” to recipients, as well as establishing groups of “haves” and “have nots.” It trains recipient children in “the ways that they should (not) go.” It promotes illegitimate marriages and weakens the role of husbands. And, more.
21. Remember, Christians, Your Social Responsibility
While I am making Biblical application to the civil government and its law, you, Christian, must remember the other area or worldview, Social Justice. Christians and their churches have the responsibility for “welfare” (acts of mercy under the direction of love and the law). If that responsibility seems too massive, the reason is that it is not Biblically understood. The principles of social justice are not those of State welfare. I have named many of these in that Worldview Area. I will cite one here, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10). That principle is neither unloving nor inconsistent with mercy. Its implementation will demonstrate the believers’ comprehensive understanding of Biblical concepts.
22. Separation of Church and State
God has assigned bodily restraint and punishment to the State alone, “the power of the sword.” God has assigned spiritual authority and judgment to the church alone, “the power of the keys” (“good” standing within the physical church). The issues of the Reformation illustrate the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and the remedies provided by Biblical scholarship of the Reformers, in particular John Calvin and John Knox. The States not to interfere with the authority of the Church in any way. The Church influences the State through its preaching and teaching on moral issues, directed at both believers and unbelievers. This influence, however, is always spiritual. The Church never has any Biblical authority to coerce the State in any way other than the spoken word of its ordained men and individual Christians, as they exercise their political responsibilities as citizens and government officials (as they are duly appointed or elected). Those in positions of civil authority, whether Christian or non-Christian, have a duty under the authority of God to implement Biblical morality and laws in the most complete manner possible.
23. The Church Is Far More Powerful than the State
While the State has the power of the sword and has executed millions of Christians throughout history, the Church has far more potential power than the state. This power has not yet been fully exercised because the Church has failed in its role to teach its members the whole counsel of God (that is, a Biblical worldview) with only a few exceptions in historyThe power of the Church is the power of the Holy Spirit working through Biblical truth in regenerated Christians. Examples in history are Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire (with such imperfection that it rapidly disintegrated), Geneva under Calvin (limited to a city only), Scotland during the Reformation (for a short period of time), and most fully realized in the founding of the United States with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Church will never be able to exert this power again until it once again teaches the whole counsel of God which—does not yet appear to be happening with any regularity or frequency, as of this writing (2007).
“The Time has Come for Judgment to Begin at the House of God (1 Peter 4:17) Individual Christians and churches must ask forgiveness of God for their failure in the above responsibility. The political mess that is present everywhere in the world is due to this failure. Christians cannot point to the news media, liberal politicians, or anti-God scientists for the present political condition on earth today (with the possible few exceptions of military coup d’etats)
The Kingdom of God The Kingdom of God is the Spirit of God at work in the world to accomplish His righteous purposes. This work may include both believers and non-believers and churches and secular institutions. It works most powerfully under overt Biblical principles of justice, administered by believers. Evangelism is a part of the advancement of the Kingdom, but fails in the purposes of the Kingdom, if it does not teach and implement comprehensive principles of Biblical justice to all worldview areas. The Kingdom of God has no identification with civil government, but the influence and advancement of the Kingdom is a God-given duty to Christians in government with an overt understanding that they are to apply these principles of justice as they have authority and opportunity. The Kingdom of God is not limited to the Church, but the Church is the major power towards the advancement of the Kingdom through its preaching, teaching, and work. While the Kingdom of God will never be fully implemented on earth, Christians are to work towards that end, as directed by the King of Kings. See Kingdom of God.
24. Christians and Churches are to Pray for Their Governments
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior…” (I Timothy 2:1-3).
25. The American System of Punishment is Largely Unbiblical
The Bible requires retribution in varying amounts where theft or fraud has been perpetrated. American “justice” does not. Imprisonment, as punishment, is unbiblical and prevents the reconciliation of the offender to his victims, the spiritual “healing” of both parties that comes with that process, and its model that could possibly lead to spiritual reconciliation to God. See Crime and Punishment.
26. The Civil Government Is to Provide for a Police Force
The police force should be adequate to catch, prosecute, and punish criminals. This police power should be limited to those laws that are consistent with Biblical justice.
27. The Civil Government Is to Provide for a Military Sufficient for National Defense and Use in Just Wars
Whether this army is best implemented in a standing military or a citizen military, is open to debate. For sure, citizens have a responsibility to serve in the military and provide this effort towards their own defense. Whether this military should be by draft or by volunteerism is also debatable. I have not decided on these two issues myself.
An all-volunteer military limits the possibility of military adventurism, but does today’s military complexity require a professional military? In an all-volunteer military, will it have sufficient strength in numbers and expertise to be as strong as it needs to be? What should the penalty be for men who will not volunteer to protect their families and their neighbors?
The civil government is to make certain provisions for the individuals and families who are involved in police and military action: This provision is limited to injury and disease from actions that are directly a consequence of their official duties. This provision includes an adequate income, insurance (life, medical, and disability) to provide for themselves and their families. The State is not responsible for the health care or any other provision for these families beyond the consequences of their duty.
28. The Civil Government has a Role in Public Health Matters
This role must consider the best science available and must be carefully balanced against the rights of individuals and families. Clearly, today civil governments have greatly overstepped this role in mandating immunizations (especially those efforts to prevent harm from sexual immorality), OSHA regulations, workers’ compensation, a myriad of “safety” prescriptions (seat belts, wheelchair access, zoning, etc.), Americans with Disabilities Act, and many others. In these laws, the civil State is functionally asserting its ownership of industry and business.
29. Marriage and Divorce
For centuries after the Reformation, covenants were made between a man and woman engaged to be married. Those covenants should be re-instituted today with sanctions against the party who breaks the contract. There should be no particular ownership while the marriage is intact. The State’s only role in marriage is to enforce the sanctions of the contract, if violated by either party and the church is unable to settle the dispute spiritually. The State has no role in setting conditions for any marriage before the covenant is established. Current civil law has greatly promoted the breakup of the family in our times with easy divorce, based on such nebulous concepts as “no-fault” and “incompatibility. Divorce should be final: all contact of the guilty spouse with the children should be cut off. He or she has divorced himself or herself from the family by their unrighteous and hardened behavior.
30. United Nations, National Sovereignty, and Obedience to God
Membership by the United States in the United Nations (UN) is illegal by the laws of the United States, for example placing our military under the command of foreign officers who are not subject to the United States Constitution. God requires subjection to the laws of the state. (See above.) The UN requires subjection to its laws, many of which conflict with the laws of the United States. As the President, all other government officials, and the military swear to uphold and defend the Constitution, any other allegiance demands violation of their oaths of office.
31. The Civil Government of a People and its Laws Reflect the Moral Culture of That People
In general, the government of a people is no more righteous or evil than the people and culture that it governs. A people’s heart is made known by the moral codes by which it lives, and these find their way into law. Of course, there are exceptions, such as foreign invasion or military coups where power is imposed rapidly from within or without. But, over time, the heart (moral values) of a people will determine its government and its laws.
32. Civil Government is a Servant of the People
“Magistrates … are not to rule for their own interest, but for the public good; nor are they endued with unbridled power, but what is restricted to the well being of their subjects; in short, they are responsible to God and to men in the exercise of their power. For as they are deputed by God and do his business, they must give an account to him: and then the ministration which God has committed to them has a regard to the subjects, they are therefore debtors also to them.” (John Calvin on Romans 13:4)
33. Historical Note on the State as Plaintiff and Prosecutor
“From the fall of Rome (circa 500 B.C.) to after 1200, the courts of Europe were in varying degrees governed by Biblical law. True, much barbarian legal practice remained, and true, the law was far from being fully faithful to Scripture. At one point, however, the courts were very different. A criminal prosecution required a plaintiff. Without an accuser, there was no case and no judgment. The accusation had to be grounded in God’s law, and the plaintiff had to be an aggrieved or damaged person. The accusation and charge was in the name of God and His law.” With Frederick II, “the State now became the plaintiff on its own initiative, and high treason became a major offense… It was this step by Frederick II which “introduced the principles of totalitarian government into the Christian Commonwealth, contrary to its basic conceptions.’” (Systematic Theology, Rousas J. Rushdoony, pages 701-702)
This historical note shows the extreme distortion of modern law where virtually all crimes are “crimes against the state.”
34. Equity and the Common Laws of England
Equity is defined as body of legal doctrines and rules developed to enlarge, supplement, or override a narrow, rigid system of law, as in the history of English common law which had a settled and formal body of legal and procedural rules and doctrine to protect rights and enforce duties that had been fixed by substantive law. Equity provided remedies in situations in which precedent or statutory law might not apply or be fair. Thus, “common law” is not “common” in the sense that it is established by “common” society, but is actually the application of Biblical law to situations that are “common” to everyday life.
35. Equality Under the Law
As far as is possible within the parameters of social justice and other applications of Biblical law, all men should have equal opportunity both to be found innocent or guilty of crimes of which they are accused. The proof of guilt resides in the accuser.
36. Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
While no dictator ever really has absolute power, many have come close to it in their own nation. The dangers of State power cannot be underestimated. While “the power of the sword” is ordained of God, this power is handled by fallible, selfish (sinful) men and women. As power increases in a person or persons, the damage that can be inflicted increases proportionately. Thus, any government must have a means of checks and balances, as does the United States, showing the brilliance of the Founding Fathers. The people must also have checks and balances in their possession of firearms; the gold standard for currency; freedoms of speech, religion, and right to assemble, freedom from unjust seizures, among many others. Those who do not fear government power, even in the United States, have neither studied history, grasped the depravity of mankind, nor realized the power of the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and certain other Amendments to protect American citizens
37. Licensure and Laws of Partiality that Create Welfare Recipients
While licensure is sold to “protect the public” from unscrupulous practitioners, it de factois a State-created monopoly. By definition, licensure sets standards of practice to which these “professionals” have to adhere, or else they do not get a license. For more, see Licensure of Medicine.
“Modern laws are increasingly partial. Special laws are passed to favor or protect business, unions, farmers, blacks, women, etc. Thus, our laws have become a means of welfare, with each group seeking legal favors over against other groups. The result is a warfare society.” (James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, page 167.
38. The Civil Government Has No Role in the Education of Children, Public or Private
The responsibility of the education of children has been given to parents (Deuteronomy 6:1-25, Ephesians 6:4). Thus, any education is inherently religious. Any education by the State will have, as its agenda, the progression and growth of itself, as it currently exists. That agenda is also inherently religious and is an abomination to the role of education that God has given to parents.
For Further Reading: This Website
The above is really incomplete unless the following are included. Civil Government, Law, and Politics is dependent upon a society that is Biblically just and merciful.
Summary Principles of Economics (under development)
For Further Reading: Other Sources
Bandow, Doug. Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics. Crossway Books, 1988. Great review book, but contains some inconsistencies of principle and application.
Calvin, John. Commentary on Romans 13:1-7.
DeMar, Gary. Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Principles of Government.Dominion Press, 1987. Also, found online at www.freebooks.com.
Henry, Carl F. H. Aspects of Christian Social Ethics.Baker Book House, 1964.
Jordan, James. The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-12.Institute for Christian Economics. Also, found online at www.freebooks.com.
www.lonang.org. Website whose URL comes from the Laws of Nature and Of Nature’s God. Blackstone’s Commentaries may be found there, as well as many other historical documents.
www.lexrex.com A website dedicated to the principles of lex rex and the foundational principles of the United States.
North, Gary. Healer of the Nations: Biblical Principles for International Relations. Dominion Press. Also, found online at www.freebooks.com. Primarily on international law.
North, Gary. Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus.Institute for Christian Economics, 1990. Also found online at www.freebooks.com
The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God @ www.lonang.com, a website devoted to law and the history of law.
Witherspoon Lectures on Law, Government, and Culture.
Additional Notes After Original Posting
“We are living in a condition of permanent revolution … revolutions are here to stay and will grow much worse in scope and intensity unless men can be persuaded to return to Christianity, to practice its precepts and to obey the Gospel in its full implications for human life and civilized society. Barring such a revival, the future would belong to socialism and communism which on this view were but the most consistent sects of the new secular religion. (Harry Van Dyke, Groen van Prinsterer: Lectures on Unbelief and Revolution1989, pages 3-4.)
“It would not be enough for men to live as they please, and to have liberty promised them, except a regular order be established. It would, indeed, be better for us to be wild beasts, and to wander in forests, than to live without government and laws; for we know how furious are the passions of men. Unless, therefore, there be some restraint, the condition of wild beasts would be better and more desirable than ours. Liberty, then, would ever bring ruin with it, were it not bridled and connected with regular government….
That nothing is better for us than to be in subjection to God; for our liberty would become that of wild beasts were God to allow us to live according to our own humor and inclinations. Liberty, then, will ever be destructive to us, until God undertakes the care of us, and prepares and forms us, that we may bear his yoke. Hence, when we obey God, we possess true and real happiness. When, therefore, we pray, let us learn not to separate these two things which ought necessarily to be joined together, even that God would deliver us from the tyranny of the ungodly, and also that he would himself rule over us…. It is better that the devil should rule men under any sort of government, than that they should be set free without any law, without any restraint.” John Calvin’s Commentary on Jeremiah 30:9