The Christian Vision of Government (I)

As the church began its slow retreat from the world [after 1660], the humanists began their conquest of it. The state was first of all captured, and, especially after the French Revolution, became more and more openly humanistic in one country after another. Schools were also captured, turned into state institutions, and made the voices of the new established religion, humanism. Law was steadily changed from a Biblical to a humanistic basis and one area after another captured for the new religion. This conquest was capped by the possession of the churches by the new religion. Priest and pastor began to proclaim, not the word of God, but the word of man, not regeneration by the sovereign and saving grace of God, but revolution by the supposedly sovereign power of man. Not the Kingdom of God but the Kingdom of Man was the gospel of the new order in the churches. The new pilgrimage of man was not to Bethlehem or Golgotha, but to Dracula’s Castle.[1]

The Christian person is obligated to get his directions for all things from scripture, including his understanding about government. The Bible has a lot to say about government and mostly, government has not been good.

There are a host of instances in scripture illustrating the political abuse of power. Two of them are Abimelech (Judges 9) and the reign of King Saul. In some ways Abimelech was a pre-cursor to Saul. Both were authoritarian, ruthless and brutal. Abimelech was a son of Gideon, but the Bible says that

…as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god. Thus the sons of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the household of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in accord with all the good that he had done to Israel (Judges 8:33-35).

When Saul became king in Israel a couple of generations later, the nation was in a similarly poor state. In response to the nation’s appeal for a king, God said to the prophet Samuel, “…they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-so they are doing to you also” (I Sam.8:7, 8).

As George Grant comments,

Samuel attempted to warn the people of the inherent dangers of their scheme. There would be taxation. There would be conscription. There would be coercion. There would be tyranny. It was inevitable. But the people would not be swayed.[2]

Samuel explained:

This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horseman and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his ploughing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day (I Sam.8:11-18).

What was the theme of Saul’s regime? Confiscation. Later, the Bible tells us that “He [God] killed him…” (I Chron.10:14), and God later said of Israel at this time, that “I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath” (Hos.13:11). Clearly, Israel got Saul as their king, because of national apostacy.

In the cases of both Abimelech and Saul, the Bible plainly shows that the nation (or city, in the case of Abimelech) was degenerate before these leaders attained prominence, that it was then led by a degenerate, destructive person who became a means of God’s judgment, and after the death of these two men, God made clear that the elevation of these leaders had been His means of punishing the city or nation for its idolatry or disobedience.

We learn from the regimes of Abimelech and Saul that a nation’s political or governmental choices are really derived from its religious beliefs. When Israel was degenerate spiritually, it chose degenerate leadership. A nation that hates or ignores God will quickly get an oppressive regime, because when people run from God, they inevitably run into bondage.

This is an aspect of God’s righteous judgment certainly evident from the twentieth century. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed in his Templeton Lecture in 1983:

if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century . . . I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: men have forgotten God.

In every way, the predictions of Samuel regarding the degenerate nature of King Saul’s reign from 1096-1056 B.C., are more than fulfilled in the socialist state of the modern era. In fact, in many ways it is worse today than it was under Saul; wouldn’t you be grateful for a tax rate of only 10%, and no government debt?

Now, there are suggestions in Australia that our government is looking covetously at the massive superannuation funds. A working paper from APRA (Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority) suggests that “[The data] corroborates evidence from previous studies that holdings of illiquid investments can benefit superannuation funds by improving diversification and increasing risk-adjusted returns.” [3] This looks suspiciously like our leaders would like us to invest a portion of our super funds in government infrastructure, and it is conceivable that at some time in the future, we’ll be compelled to do so.

All of these things should show us why a Christian vision of government is essential. If we Christians want to have governments that are Christian in nature, a lot of things will have to change, beginning in the Church. Why should this be? Because the Bible says that “it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God…” (I Pet.4:17).

The nation’s expectation of government will not change for the good, without the Church initiating the process. We must repent of our sin of unbelief, expecting government to be our saviour, for Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world. It must be re-affirmed that education, health and welfare (according to the Bible) are not aspects of government responsibility: they are individual, family and church responsibilities that we have been avoiding now for generations.

This must change.  And we will need to repent of our irresponsibility, in allowing government to try to do so much for us that we should have done ourselves. Christians must start saying to their elected representatives, “stop confiscating my money and spending it on these wasteful projects, or I’ll take my vote elsewhere.”

If we really do have a Christian vision of government, change will have to begin with us.  And isn’t that the way God meant it to be?

[1] Rushdoony, R., “Roots of Reconstruction,” 1991, p.882.

[2] Grant, G., “The Changing of the Guard,” 1987, p.137.

[3] Kris Sayce, quoted  in “Money Weekend,” 12/11/2011.