When was the last time you heard a Sunday sermon on the role of government from a Biblical perspective? I would assume it’s not on most preachers “Top Ten List of Topics to Preach” (if there were such a list). I was impressed to learn, after reading Civil Government: a Biblical View by Robert D. Culver, that there are many scripture passages that directly communicate governmental standards in which to live by that Americans have incorporated in our political system today.
The practices and examples of Israel concerning the influence of our current government ideals show the roots of modern governmental bodies – the democratic ideals we held to in the formation of the U.S. Government. (I used the word “held” purposely because it is my observation that we are slipping away from our founding fathers’ original intent.) Americans today either do not know or understand the religious roots underlying our current government institutions. In their original form, the United States modeled the Biblical view of how civil government should operate. Today, however, we’ve taken ideas from the Bible but do not give God the credit for that inspiration. For example, the concept of the balance of powers came straight out of Isaiah 33:17-22, which suggests the now-conventional division of powers in that of judge (judicial), lawgiver (legislative), and king (executive). There are also three orders of God’s relation to the world: the order of creation, preservation and redemption. Governments’ role in this is to preserve society by protecting, fostering and improving human life in an orderly fashion.
If the government does not fulfill its role of preservation, this hinders what Culver calls the “Order of Salvation.” The need for civil tranquility as a condition for evangelism and Christian nurturing is key. Because it is also the responsibility of government to enforce basic public morality, when morality becomes relative to the trends of the day, the government should not cater to those whims because this means morality now is subjective (can change based on popularity) instead of objective from a transcendent source, a.k.a. God. Consider how the Freedom of Speech right has been twisted to allow pornography to proliferate; it’s difficult to see how government is upholding its role in this area of preserving a moral society. Separation of Church and State has been also twisted to the point where most people think this means you keep your faith behind closed doors—that you should never express your religious beliefs in public. These cultural conditions make it challenging to provide a receptive society for spreading the gospel.
Culver explained that culture is “religion externalized.” A society is the expression of the ultimate concern of its people; the basic convictions of the populace. The paradox of what the biblical picture of the world is—good but fallen, evil yet reconciled—stands out to me. Yet without institutional instruction laid out in the Bible, humanity’s tendency towards violence would most likely end in self-destruction (notice all the apocalyptic movies made today). Where are the happy endings? The State needs to act as an order of preservation made necessary by human sinfulness, protecting society from its own destruction.
Try as we may, Utopia will never be fully realized on Earth until Christ returns to establish His rule. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t throw up our hands in defeat. We still need to work towards a Biblical view of government. Christians need to be involved in governmental policy, either by running for office, or at the least, voting for those who hold closer to Biblical morals. We need to teach the Biblical forms of government out of the necessity to peacefully protect human life by keeping humanity’s sinful nature at bay. The Bible should be studied to learn about social righteousness, established by God’s instruction. Biblical hope can revolutionize and transform the present.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 15:13