Friday, November 17, 2006

Some Important Scriptural Principles About Government

We returned this afternoon from the annual meeting of ETS (the Evangelical Theological Society). One of the books I purchased was J. Budziszewski's Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action.

Budziszewski pens an essay examining the thinking of "the [four] premier influences on American evangelical political reflection": (1) Carl F. H. Henry ("pricker of the evangelical conscience"); (2) Abraham Kuyper ("preceptor of the neo-Calvinist magisterium"); (3) Francis Schaeffer ("sentinel at the secularist border"); and (4) John Howard Yoder ("student of the war of the lamb").

There are then four response chapters: (1) David Weeks (Azusa Pacific University) on Henry; (2) John Bolt (Calvin Theological Seminary) on Kuyper; (3) William Edgar (Westminster Theological Seminary) on Schaeffer; and (4) Ashley Woodiwiss (Wheaton College) on Yoder.

I may blog through at least the first chapter of this book, in which Budziszewski observes that despite the presence of evangelicals in the public square, "they have never developed a clear, cohesive, and Christian view of what politics is all about" (p. 15). I'll save it for another post to explain why Budziszewski thinks this is the case and what he thinks can be done about it.

For now, it may be helpful to highlight the following ten general principles that Budziszewski finds in Scripture regarding the nature of government:

  1. God is the true sovereign; he ordained all human government for the good of man, whom he made in his image (Ps. 22:28; Rom. 13:1, 3-4; Gen. 1:27).
  2. Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations into the light of his Word (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 21:23-24).
  3. He disciplines the nations according to their deeds (Jer. 18:7-10; Jer. 5:28-29).
  4. He also disciplines their rulers (Dan. 2:20-21; Jer. 25:12; Dan. 4:27).
  5. In general, disobedience to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only obedience but honor (Rom. 13:1-2, 7).
  6. But there are exceptions: Any governmental edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed (Acts 5:29; Dan. 3:18; Ex. 1:17, 20-21).
  7. The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintenance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed (1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Isa. 10:1-2).
  8. In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never deliberately to take the life of the innocent (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4).
  9. Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this can be done only by the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:22-25).
  10. Moreover, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due to the state, the church is never to be identified with it (John 18:33-36; Acts 20:28).