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A Christian View of Government – Part II

Factors that deliver a nation from tyranny or anarchy: … (continued)

4. Adequate power of government

a) Governments must have enough power to maintain their own stability.

=a “lack of centralization” in a government leads to disorder and poverty. The Bible recognizes the evil that results when there is no effective government and anarchy prevails. Judges 17-21 shows what happens when there is no effective government at all (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25).

5. Limited power of government

a) The power of a government must be limited enough so that it does not take too much freedom from the people.

i. Tradeoff between government power and individual freedom. (greater power = greater potential of corruption)

b) In the United States there are many provisions in the Constitution designed to limit the power of government:

i. I) Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly, II) Freedom to petition the

government for redress of grievances, III) Right to bear arms, IV) Term limits for the office of president, and V) Regular

election of members of Congress.

6. Separation of powers in Government

a) In the Bible several passages support the ideas of limited governmental power and separation of powers.

i. The OT gives many examples of kings who had unchecked power and abused it: Saul, David (2 Sam 11), Solomon (1 Kings 11:3-4; 10:14-20 cf. Deut 17:17), the divided monarchy (1-2 Kings; 1-2 Chronicles).

ii. The Bible also contains a number of positive examples of divided power: Tribes, clans and families in the OT, the calling of 12 apostles (Matt 10:1-4; Acts 1:15-26), shared roles as seen with Peter and James as the spokesman for the apostles (Acts 2:14; 3:12; 15:7; 15:13; 21:18; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12), the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:22), and government of local churches by elders (Titus 1:5; James 5:14).

7. Government accountability to the people

a) Regular, fair elections, free access to information about government actions and spending, and term limits for the most powerful offices all help to insure such accountability.

b) Examples in scripture indicate that government works best with the consent of those who are governed.i. Ex 4:29-31; 1 Sam 7:5-6; 1 Sam 10:24; 2 Sam 2:4; Acts 6:3.

c) There are negative examples in scripture of tyrants who did not gain the consent of the people but ruled harshly. i. Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:15), Pharaoh (Ex 3:9-10), Philistines (Judg 14:4), Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs 25:1-21).

Should a Christian Vote?

A Christian in a democracy has, by birthright, been given responsibility to govern the nation, through an elected representative. The problem with representative democracy is that unless you run for office yourself, you will seldom find a representative who represents you exactly. We are forced to choose between principled voting or pragmatic voting.

If we vote on principle, we vote for the representative who most closely represents our vision of society and government, regardless of his or her chances at overall success.

If we vote pragmatically, we vote for the least evil representative, or for the most likely contender to the party we do not wish to see in government.

Ethics sometimes requires a ‘greater-good’ choice, or a limiting ‘evil’ choice. However, there are certain matters where the pragmatism in question could become evil:

Right to life: no one we vote for should be in favour of murdering the unborn.

Justice: no one we vote for should be in favour of rehabilitating convicted murderers.

Theft: no one we vote for should be in favour of taking another’s private property. To abstain from voting altogether should usually be because you see no viable representative. This is then an abstention out of conscience. We should not refuse to vote out of apathy, disdain or cynicism.

Civil Disobedience

We know from the example of Daniel, the apostles, and the Hebrew midwives, that we do not have to obey

government at all times. When then are we permitted to disobey? Two positions have emerged:

Antipromulgation Anticompulsion
When it permits evil When it commands evil
When it promulgates evil laws When it compels evil actions
When it limits freedom When it negates freedom
When it is politically oppressive When it is religiously oppressive

Biblically, we see the anti-compulsion position:

  1. Refusal to kill babies (Ex 1:15-21)
  2. Refusal to worship an idol (Dan 3)
  3. Refusal to pray to the king and not to God (Dan 6)
  4. Refusal to stop preaching (Acts 4:18)
  5. Refusal to worship the anti-Christ (Rev 13)

Civil Disobedience should be non-violent resistance, not violent rebellion.

How to Respond to Oppressive Governments

  1. Pray for them (1 Tim 2:1-2)
  2. Work peacefully and legally to change government.
  3. Disobey oppressive commands. (Dan 3, 6)
  4. Flee Oppressive Governments (1 Kings 18)
  5. Patiently Endure Suffering (1 pet 4:12-13)
  6. Trust the Providence of God (Rom 12:19)

What about revolution?

Revolution = violent fight against existing government. 

  1. God exhorts against joining revolutionaries (Prov 24:21) b.
  2. Revolutions are condemned (Korah, Absalom, Jereboam). The God-ordained revolution against Athalia was necessary to preserve the bloodline of Messiah.
  3. Israel didn’t fight Pharaoh, it fled.
  4. Jesus exhorted against using the sword for that reason (Mat 26:52), or retaliating against others, including government (Matt 5:38-39).

Adapted from Wayne Grudem & Norm Geisler

  – David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa

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