Saturday, August 25, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 8: Politics

What is the Purpose of Government?
"According to the biblical Christian worldview, human government was instituted by God to protect each person's unalienable rights from mankind's sinful tendencies." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 126.
The state, or government, is very clearly a God-ordained institution (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). God ordains and removes governments (Daniel 2:21). Governmental rulers are to be God's ministers. Citizens are to submit to the laws of the government as long as those laws do not require disobedience to God (Acts 4:19, 5:29), because allegiance to God requires submission to the law.

There are some reasons God gives for the existence of the state. The most obvious may be the depravity of man and his wicked fallen nature (Jeremiah 17:9), which make government of men necessary. Government, in many ways, serves to protect man from man's sinful nature. Governments also exist to guarantee (secure) basic human rights to individuals and to promote and further justice (see Weeks 7A and 7B for more information).

Government has its roles and its limits. It does have limited, God-given responsibilities, which include:
  • Guaranteeing/securing basic human rights
  • Promoting, furthering, and dispensing justice, including the death penalty (Genesis 9:6)
  • Protection of its citizens from foreign and domestic enemies
  • Collection of taxes to fund its limited responsibilities (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; Romans 13:6-7). Much as some people might want to deny it, government has the right to collect taxes and you have the responsibility to pay them!
History and biblical principles point to the conclusion that, in general, dispersed power is better than centralized power. The more power a leader has, the more tempted he will be to abuse it.

The government is not to infringe on the responsibilities of the church and of the family. Examples of tasks not delegated to government include:
  • Interference with religion
  • Tax-funded handouts to certain individuals
  • Control of family size
  • Interference with rearing children
  • Education of children
  • Control over the economy
History also teaches us that human government almost always attempts to overstep its God-given boundaries. But we also see that abandoning God and trusting individuals or the state will result in a power-hungry, abusive state (Note: I am reading a biography on John Adams right now, in which the French Revolution—and Adams' accurate response to it—is discussed. This atheist-led revolution toppled the long-standing monarchy, but quickly replaced it with a "government" that was incredibly bloody. That's just one example). Marxists, humanists, and others who seek a kind of "Utopia" put their trust in man and/or the state to bring about a perfect world order here on earth. It will never work, because it excludes God and is based on man.

There are some important reasons why America's form of government is superior. Notice that I said "form" of government; we recognize that even a great country like ours can have a government that gets a bit out of control. Our founding fathers had the wisdom to divide powers among the three branches of government, so that it was not possible for one person or small group to seize all control. They also established a systems of checks and balances which gives each branch both incentives and cautions about the possible excessive power of the others. These reasons acknowledge man's sinful human nature and try to thwart it. It is also important to note that our country's founding philosophy included an original recognition that man was created in the image of God, and that this Creator God gave him unalienable rights which neither government nor man could never take away. (See the Declaration of Independence.)

The Christian has four primary responsibilities toward government.
  • Submission and Obedience. It is worthwhile to note that obedience to just government diminishes the need for governmental power.
  • Honor and Respect. We may not like them; we may think they are wicked and godless. But God still expects us to show our leaders honor, and to show respect to the government.
  • Prayer. We are to pray for our leaders (although I am reminded of the rabbi's famous prayer in Fiddler on the Roof). Pray especially for wisdom and biblical decisions.
  • Participation. Here are some suggestions of ways you should be a participant in your local, state, and/or federal government:
  1. Voting knowledgeably. EVERY Christian citizen in America ought to register and vote for candidates whom they have determined to be the most likely to promote biblical principles in government.
  2. Passing out and signing petitions for causes with which God would be pleased.
  3. Running for elected office. God does not call everyone to do this, but he calls some. It is not a dishonorable one (Aside: Vote for Dorothy Matesevac, Highspire Council 2007!!).
  4. Serving in non-elected office. Even zoning boards and the like need Christian influence—do you really want a strip joint or a casino in your town?
  5. Persuading your elected officials and others of what is right and biblical. This may involve getting involved and getting to know these people. It may even giving them a gospel witness. You may feel led to write letters to the editor or to candidates; these are good practices.
One last thing: Government must only be disobeyed when it requires us to disobey God. God must be obeyed. Remember Daniel? The king commanded idolatry (Daniel 6:1-10), but he obeyed God. Notice, too, that he wasn't willing to compromise with God in order to avoid punishment. He was willing to be a martyr for God—those are the kind of citizens our country needs.

A few quotations to close this entry:
"If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants." William Penn
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." James Madison
"The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God." John F. Kennedy.

"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." Proverbs 29:2

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