The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Is Civil Government a Biblical Concept?

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A brief survey of the Bible and its principles will show that it has directives for all areas of life. Does this include civil govern­ment? Is God as concerned about the structure and principles of political systems as He is about families? Or has God left the area of political sys­tems for man to develop according to the needs of a particular era or to satisfy the desires of a particular people? Or does the Bible claim “neu­trality” in certain areas of life, leaving man to create his own directives? For example, is there a Christian economic system? Or is the study of economics a neutral enterprise? Does the Bible set forth directives in the area of science? Are there certain creational laws that God has established to order the universe? Is it possible to develop an educational system from Scripture? Can educational facts have any meaning if they are not related to God and His word? Can one really be “educated” if Christ is not at the center of his life, giving meaning to all facts and experiences? Are there commandments that address the issues of business?

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is Lord and that His lordship extends over all the facets of society and its institutions, including the family, economics, science, education, and for this study, civil govern­ment. There is no realm of society where the lordship of Jesus Christ can be ignored. When political systems rule, they rule in accordance with a law system. This is inevitable. There can be no neutral law system. “It must be recognized that in any culture, the source of law is the god of that society” [1]. If man is the source of a society’s laws, then man is the god of that society. If soci­ety ignores the governing principles that God has set forth in His word, then that society is competing with the Lord of all creation. But Scripture is clear; God does not compete with His creation: “That they may know that Thou alone, whose name is the LORD, art the Most High over all the earth” (Ps. 83:18). God shares His glory with no man, society, or po­litical system: “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

There are many who would say that the Bible has no business in the so-called secular realm. The Bible is useful for spiritual matters but not the substantive matters of civil government, law, economics, politics, and science. Times have changed and the Bible is an out-of-date book. So say many in our day. But the Christian has the duty to follow the only true King and the commandments of His kingdom. If we truly love Jesus Christ, we must follow His commandments. When His commandments speak to civil government, we must obey. A. A. Hodge, the great Princ­eton theologian of a century ago, had this to say about the Christian’s duty to obey Jesus Christ in all areas of life, including civil government:

A Christian is just as much under obligation to obey God’s will in the most secular of his daily businesses as he is in his closet [in prayer] or at the communion table. He has no right to separate his life into two realms, and acknowledge different moral codes in each respectively-to say the Bible is a good rule for Sunday, but this is a week-day question; or the Scriptures are the right rule in matters of religion, but this is a question of business or of politics. God reigns over all everywhere. His will is the supreme law in all relations and actions. His inspired Word, loyally read, will inform us of His will in every relation and act of life, secu­lar as well as religious; and the man is a traitor who refuses to walk therein with scrupulous care. The kingdom of God includes all sides of human life, and it is a kingdom of absolute righteousness. You are either a loyal subject or a traitor. When the King comes, how will he find you doing? [2]

To deny that there is a biblical system of civil government is to say that God has no standard of righteousness and justice in this crucial area. If men and nations can pick and choose the system of civil government they desire, man becomes ultimate and God becomes subordinate to man’s desires. How could a system of civil government ever be evaluated if the system is arbitrary at the very start? If a group of disenchanted citizens wished to overthrow the first arbitrary government, what stan­dard of justice would prohibit them from doing it? If any man-made governmental system is legitimate, then it follows that all man-made governmental systems are legitimate. Those who have the means, the power, and the influence are the ones who rule. Because all of life is to re­flect the character of God, we must expect civil government to reflect His character as well. No two competing systems of civil government can be right. Only the Bible can be our guide in determining which is right. The experiences of history and the desires of men are of little consequence if they do not support or reflect the system of civil government outlined in Scripture. “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak accord­ing to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isa. 8:19-20).

  1. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, 4[]
  2. A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, 280-281.[]

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