I’ve noticed some Christians who argue that Christians should not be involved in politics. One person compared it to trying to clean up the porn industry and the mafia. The porn industry is not confiscating my property in ever increasing amounts through taxation, creating money out of thin air that results in the devaluation of my savings and income, and sending young people to fight in immoral wars. The porn industry does not have the power to fine and incarcerate people who protested peacefully at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. It’s a terrible analogy.

Today’s government is like the Mafia, or I should say the Mafia is like our government. I doubt that we would want either of them to rule over us. If Christians do not get involved in rolling back the unbiblical authority of our present governments (city, county, state, and nation), are we to believe that we will be left alone?

God and Government

God and Government

With a fresh new look, more images, an extensive subject and scripture index, and an updated bibliography, God and Government is ready to prepare a whole new generation to take on the political and religious battles confronting Christians today. May it be used in a new awakening of Christians in America—not just to inform minds, but to stimulate action and secure a better tomorrow for our posterity.

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Exodus 18 is a lesson in decentralized politics and is especially appropriate in showing the nature of representation and accountability in the area of civil government and the relationship between self-government, family government, and civil government. Moses was given legitimate authority to rule (sovereignty), but he was unable, because of built-in creaturely limitations, to rule effectively and absolutely. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gave him the following advice: Put others in leadership positions under you as representatives and make them accountable to you and the people accountable to their new rulers.

The thing that you do is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I shall give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace (Exodus 18:17-23).

Lesser magistrates were appointed with moral character in mind. They were to be “able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain.” Each of these magistrates was responsible to the next higher magistrate: Magistrates over tens were accountable to magistrates over fifties; magistrates over fifties were accountable to magistrates over hundreds; magistrates over hundreds were accountable to magistrates over thousands; and magistrates over thousands were accountable to Moses who was accountable to God. Why the accountability? Because magistrates represent God in some way as Aaron and Moses did in their designated jurusdictions.

The best men are to rule for the public good founded upon God’s law, thus, a republican form of government. God has ordained governmental “powers” (plural) (Romans 13:1). These “powers” are represented by men who are “ministers of God” (13:3) This is why Scripture informs us that it is “in the abundance of counselors [that] there is deliverance” (Prov. 11:14b; 24:6). That is decentralization, limited jurisdictional authority, and limited power. These can’t be maintained if there is no pushback from the people. Here’s what happens when Christians leave the governing authority to others.

The State as God

All rulers act in the name of some god, whether the people, themselves, the State, some false god, unbridled power, or the God who made heaven and earth. There is no neutrality.

The State (civil government) is given authority to rule but only in a designated limited capacity. Too many have used the State to seek power for the sake of power. As O’Brien tells Winston Smith in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Power is not a means; it is an end.” Later on, Smith shows that he finally understands when he painfully writes: “GOD IS POWER.” Of course, he came to realize that the State is God because it has declared itself to be omnipotent.[1] Orwell’s dystopian future may seem like an unrealized political nightmare, which it is, but much of its philosophy has made its way into the body politic of the American system:

• “Once it is agreed that the individual is subject to management, the case for leaving him free from (say) government interference evaporates.”[2] The question is no longer should man be managed by the state but who will manage man and how will be managed?

• State power is manifested through Public Policy. “Nothing contrary to public policy should have tax exemption, and, some hold, any right to exist. Today, public policy includes homosexual ‘rights,’ abortion, an established humanism, and much, much more. The implication is plain, and, with some, it is a manifesto: No one opposing public policy has any rights. The public policy doctrine is the new face of totalitarians.”[3]

• “In the United States, federal tax policy illustrates the government’s unconscious rush to be the god of its citizens. When a provision in the tax law permits the taxpayer to keep a portion of his money, the Internal Revenue Service calls this a ‘tax expenditure,’ or an ‘implicit government grant.’ This is not tax money that the state has collected and expended but money it has allowed the citizen to keep by not taking it. In other words, any words, any money the citizen is permitted to keep is regarded as if the state had graciously given it to him. 

• “Everything we have is from the state, to which we owe gratitude. In fact, we are the property of the state, which therefore has the right to the fruit of our labor.”[4]

“One Nation Under God” means nothing to those in power except in the declaration that they are the new gods.

The State as Father

Without a proper understanding of the State’s God-ordained purpose and limited jurisdiction citizens can be trapped into believing that the State should promote policies beyond its legitimate role and authority. This can lead to the people turning to the State for protection and security.

For example, Adolf Hitler studied the policies of Otto Von Bismarck because Bismark understood the German’s state of mind.[5] Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf, “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.” William L. Shirer, an eyewitness to Nazi atrocities, remarks in his classic work on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

To combat socialism Bismark put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.[6]

The power of civil government increases because the people are looking for a father figure to take care of them” They’re like teenagers who never grow up.

“Rulers have ever been tempted to play the role of father to their people…. The state that acts like a wise parent instead of a vindictive judge has been an attractive image to many people. They include ecclesiastical authorities who have completely missed the point of the gospel warning to ‘call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven’ (Matt. 23:9). The father is the symbol not only of authority but also of provision. ‘Our Father who art in heaven…. Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matt. 6:9, 11). Looking to the state for sustenance is a cultic act [an act of worship]; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder has rightly interpreted that scene: ‘The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.’

“The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. ‘Our whole lives are their business’ [God in the Dock, p. 134]. The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever. That is an evil impulse. The good parent prepares his children for independence, trains them to make responsible decisions, knows that he harms them by not helping them to break loose. The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically to destruction.

“When the provision of paternal security replaces the provision of justice as the function of the state, the state stops providing justice. The ersatz [artificial and inferior substitute] parent ceases executing judgment against those who violate the law, and the nation begins losing benefits of justice. Those who are concerned about the chaos into which the criminal justice system has fallen should consider what the state’s function has become.  Because the state can only be a bad imitation of a father, as a dancing bear act is of a ballerina, the protection of this Leviathan of a father turns out to be a bear hug.”[7]

The State as Messiah

William F. Buckley captures the essence of the people’s preoccupation with the divinized state: “If there is crime in the street, it is because government does not provide enough day care. If there is unemployment in the steel mills, it is because the government is using too much steel making submarines. If there is a growing number of broken homes, it is because government has not passed the Equal Rights Amendment. If there is tension owing to Soviet deployment of missiles in Europe, it is because the government has failed to lie down with Moscow, as with a lamb.”[8] We can continue the litany: If there is child abuse, it is because government does not make abortion an easier alternative. If teenagers are having babies outside of marriage, it is because the government has not made more free contraceptives available. If tests scores are declining, it is because the government does not give enough money to education.

Slaying Leviathan

Slaying Leviathan

Historian Glenn S. Sunshine surveys some of the stories and key elements of Christian political thought from Augustine to the Declaration of Independence. Specifically, the book introduces theories of limited government that were synthesized into a coherent political philosophy by John Locke. Locke, of course, influenced the American founders and was, like us, fighting against the spirit of Leviathan in his day. But his is only one of the many stories in this book.

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Politicians pick up on the theme of dependency and use it for great political gain: “The idol state uses the language of compassion because its intention is a messianic one. It finds the masses harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, needing a savior.”[9]

The State as Lawgiver

Israel, by keeping and doing the law, would manifest wisdom and understanding “in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Deut. 4:6). In time, nations did come to learn of Israel’s wisdom (1 Kings 10:1-10). Unfortunately, Solomon and many who followed him went off track and abused their office. The Psalmist tells us that “Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine” (Psalm 119:98). The law gives man “more insight than all [his] teachers” (v. 99). 

In addressing the Texas legislature, Chuck Colson told the legislators that “the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.” Several legislators were amazed at this wisdom. They came up to Colson “one after another and said things like, ‘That’s a tremendous idea. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that?’ I had the privilege of saying to them, ‘Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.’”[10]

The goal of Christian involvement is to restrain the authority and power of government. Ignoring the civil sphere only empowers it and those who Mafia-like have used it for their gain against the citizenry.

[1] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 197.

[2] John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State. Quoted in Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 198.

[3] Rousas J. Rushdoony, “Religious Liberty versus Religious Toleration,” Chalcedon Position Paper, No. 31, 2.

[4] Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 187.

[5] The Second Reich was formed by Bismarck in 1871 after Prussia’s defeat of France.

[6] William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 96n.

[7] Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 183‑184.

[8] “For the Democrats, Government is a God,” The Atlanta Journal (July 23, 1984), 9‑A.

[9] Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 185.

[10] Charles Colson, “The Kingdom of God and Human Kingdoms,” Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, ed. James M. Boice (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), 154-155.