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Government: A Christian Institution

 

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist have been appointed by God”
Romans 13:1

Governments ought to be inherently Christian. Governments ought to be filled with Christian officeholders. And government policy ought to be informed by the Christian worldview. No other ideological worldview should be entertained in the realm of government.

But today, these positions are not so easily confessed by the Christian. Strike up a conversation on this subject at your local church this weekend, and the other person will likely take issue with at least one (if not all) of these positions. For many, the government ought to be a “neutral” institution, seeking to protect and preserve as many ideological worldviews as necessary.

I believe that this is due to the fact that many Christians have not been discipled on this issue. Many of us, rather than having an out-and-out doctrinal disagreement, are just a little fuzzy on what government actually is. What disagreements we have are owed in large part to misunderstanding. Once we sketch out a biblical foundation that I believe we can all comfortably start from, I think we can come to an agreement on the pertinent issues of government and Christian involvement.

First, observe the obvious: God has created and ordered all things. In reading Genesis 1, we note that God creates “ex-nihilo,” or from nothing. There was absolutely nothing besides His own presence, and from that nothingness, the triune God brought all things into being. Equally as important, however, in Genesis 1, is that God also orders all things. That is to say, God prescribes and describes the function and responsibility of all things within creation. He commands the Sun to shine and bring forth light, He commands the plants to grow and bring forth vegetation and food, and He commands man to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion of the earth.

If every created thing obeys the Lord’s good design, then creation prospers and brings forth life. If any one thing forsakes God’s commands, then it introduces chaos, disorder, destruction, and death. This is the heart of sin, and it was Adam and Eve’s crime in the garden. So when we read in Romans 13:1 that government authorities are appointed by the ultimate authority (God) it follows that the ultimate authority also prescribes and describes their function. In other words, a good government is one that recognizes God’s authority, yielding to His commands.

What are the implications of this? Governments, wherever they are, are expected to obey the Word of God. They are not neutral entities existing outside of religion and culture. They are either serving their function – protecting and preserving life (Romans 13:3-4) – or they are degrading and destroying life. There is no in-between. We should rightly affirm a biblical separation of church and state, but shouldn’t foolishly believe that the separation of those two institutions means that government is somehow outside the all-encompassing authority of God.

The world wants to convince you that Christians must leave their faith at the door when we engage in the political arena, but it is impossible for you to do so. You either reason from the Scriptures, or you reason from some other source of wisdom. God has sufficiently informed people and governments of their precise roles through His word. The policies they are to make and enforce are not left up to guesswork but can be rightly discerned from the Scriptures. Governing laws, then, ought to be biblically derived. And who better to inform and carry out those laws than Christians?

Let us return to the four claims at the beginning of the article.

  • Governments ought to be inherently Christian: from this overarching statement, the other three follow. Government is a God-ordained institution; therefore, it ought to recognize the authority of Christ over it and obey His commands.
  • Government ought to be filled with Christian officeholders: if the reconciled man of God understands the wisdom of Christian government, then he will also recognize that it is best carried out by those who actually profess Christ as king. It should be the aim of every Christian to disciple its government leaders and to elect Christians for office.
  • Government policy ought to be informed by the Christian worldview: only the Christian worldview can lay claim to a truly biblical – and thus an inspired – worldview. Christians are thoroughly equipped with a proper and true understanding of the world and how Government ought to conduct itself. How should the government wield the sword of justice? Exactly as the Bible prescribes.

This culminates in the final position:

  • No other ideological worldview should be entertained in the realm of government: Logically, you cannot confess the others without also confessing this one. At no point should Christians desire to support any policy or candidate that contradicts the authority of Christ and His commands. Of course, you may not be able to avoid such a reality. But Christians should strive for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Brothers and sisters, expect, demand, and fight for a Christian government. To do otherwise is to fail to love God and neighbor.

For further reading
The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically by Richard Bauckham
Our Program: A Christian Political Manifesto by Abraham Kuyper
God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible by Jonathan Burnside
No Other Standard by Greg L. Bahnsen
Austin Rouse

Austin Rouse

Austin Rouse is the Pastor of Families and Students at Southern Heights Baptist Church in Russellville, KY, where he and his wife, Addie, reside with their two children, Naomi and Tommy. He will graduate from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary this fall with his BA in Biblical Studies and is on track to graduate with his M.Div in the fall of 2024. Austin shepherds Southern Heights in the areas of family worship and discipleship, mission strategization, corporate worship, and student ministry, and co-hosts The Council podcast with a fellow elder of the church.

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