A Most Desperate Necessity
I have happened to observe one component of Christian theology which seems to have interestingly disappeared in recent years and it is the correct understanding of how we should view and be active in the government. Like a soldier trying to learn how to fire his weapon in the midst of a war zone, many Christians are attempting to figure out the subject of government now that we are at a pivotal crisis point. The best time to lay out battle plans is before they are necessary and not while the enemy is shooting at you! This is a pivotal moment in the history of not only our country called America, but also in the world as a whole. Needless to say, having the proper ammunition to fire back at those who pervert the biblical definition of government is a necessity. Therefore, I urge you to study this subject with me and let’s gain some Scriptural insight so we can come out of the trenches and onto the battlefield with knowledge of how to fire our weapons.
Defining Boundaries and Roles
Arbitrary laws or God-defined, those are ultimately the only two options for government. According to Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary the first definition of the word “arbitrary” is, “Depending on will or discretion; not governed by any fixed rules; as, an arbitrary decision; an arbitrary punishment.”1 When talking about arbitrary law it is law which is based solely on the will of someone or a group of individuals. Under this view, laws are then defined by a dictator, a small group of individuals, or the societal will at large. All of these facts mean both the exact rules of a land and the function of the government are merely up to the whims of humanity. Such is the approach to government of those who do not believe in God. If you believe everything is purely material and there is no God, then by logical necessity you must believe in the determination of law by arbitrary means.
However, there is only one other alternative and that is for God Himself to be the standard for law and for the boundaries of government to be determined by Him. Let me ask you this, do you want a judge to rule on your case based upon his own will or based upon the law of God? The Scripture states two or three witnesses are necessary before a testimony can be accepted, that is the law of God (Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1, and 1 Timothy 5:19). However, suppose a judge is acting according to his arbitrary nature and decides to convict you of murder because an incorrect or crazy man claimed you did it. There is only one witness, but he convicts you and sentences you to death based on the testimony of only one person.
Under biblical principles, a person cannot be convicted of murder on the basis of only one witness (Numbers 35:30). On the foundation of arbitrary law where the will of humanity is what matters, there is nothing that says you cannot be convicted on the testimony of but one person. So, tell me friend, do you see the importance of God having the authority on these matters instead of arbitrary and fickle man? In one case, you can point to the laws founded in God’s Word. In the other words, you are left up to the whims of a judge and his feelingss on that particular day.
The Need To Return To Our Roots
Here is the blessing, in America and in much of the West we don’t have to re-invent the wheel when it comes to thinking about government. First of all, we have the Word of God to guide us and it serves as our authority (more on that in a bit). Secondly, we have the heritage of faithful Christians left to us in our nation. Consider the Declaration of Independence which says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” thus showing the foundation is in God. Of the declaration, G.K Chesterton said, “The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.”2 This principle of setting God as the foundation for the government is not new, we just need to return to and stand on this concept.
Another intriguing example is the absolutely rousing speech by Patrick Henry where he famously said “give me liberty or give me death.” This excellent oratory is filled with references to God. He talks about “the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.”3 He says, “Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.” He also says, “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.” Once again, we see that this fiery patriot is another of countless examples whose governmental ideas were firmly grounded in biblical Christianity.
The Standard is God
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Word of God is sufficient for all we need as Christians to live glorifying to God and think rightly in every realm of life. This fact stands true even in the realm of evaluating governmental authorities and their roles. As we proceed through this series, I want to urge you to base all of your thinking about the authority of God. We have demonstrated how other Christians root their thinking in Him. The vital distinction between government by man government and government by God has also been made crystal clear. The rest of the posts devoted to this topic will outwork what it means for government to be defined by God. Our only way to honor God in this realm is to obey what He has commanded. In order to accomplish that objective we must submit to His authority. I pray all of us will do just that and see the beauty of God who sets the definition for all things including government.
3 Henry’s speech here: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/patrick.asp