The less internal self-government one practices, the more external government he / she / requires. The more external government employed, the less freedom one has.
The above statement is a general principle with which we should all be familiar. In order to practice proper internal self-government, one must have a strong moral foundation and character. Such a moral foundation is provided in a properly developed Biblical worldview. This principle, itself, is an expression of such a worldview and consistent with the character of God and His design for the human race.
As we struggle with the application of this principle in the area of civil government, I am going to suggest three basic options. Before we consider them, let me make two points. First, we will never have an arrangement that is totally free of external government of some form. However, our goal is to strive for an environment in which it is reduced as much as possible. Second, neither having more external government than needed nor having less external government than is needed will produce good results. More produces unnecessary oppression and less produces chaos. Both are destructive.
Our Basic Options:
1. Do Nothing
By this I mean that we could simply ignore truths and principles and the need to seek out responsible solutions for problems and abuses as they arise, passively allowing things to run their course. As we observe the current trends in our culture, failing to address the course we are on will inevitably result in self-destruction. Sadly, bad theology, of which many Christians are subject, leads people to take this approach. This approach is often defended under the guise of love or because of the assumption that everything that happens is God’s will (one phase of His three-part will) and therefore to be passively accepted. Again, such an approach and misconception will produce destruction.
2. Increase External Government
This approach looks to establish more laws, rules and regulations as the solution for our social ills. Such an approach is not a solution. Such laws might manage to decease some external expressions of crime and wrong-doing but the trade off is oppression and loss of liberty and independence. This is the socialist / communist approach. Along with a general loss of liberty and increased oppression, there has to be a group of people who are in charge of making and enforcing the laws and regulations. As considered below, without proper internal self-government, such people will eventually become self-serving tyrants overseeing and controlling the lives of everyone else which will eventually necessitate some form and measure of force and coercion. History clearly bares out this pattern. The results of this approach has, as well, proven to be disastrous.
3. Rebuild our Moral Foundation
As difficult and nearly inconceivable as it sounds, the only hope we have is to rebuild the moral foundation upon which we approach individual and corporate life. The underlying problem we face is corruption and the corruption is a result of poor moral character. Our comprehension and communication of moral law (as opposed to civil law) has diminished in frightening measures as the influence of secularist, materialist and atheists have grown. Secularist, materialist and atheists inherently have no foundation for moral law and can only produce a “survival of the fittest” mentality that is self-centered and unrestrained in the efforts employed to accomplish one’s own selfish end. John Adams reflected this in his statement, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The task of teaching and training in the area of morality does not lie within the jurisdiction of the civil government itself but with educational and religious institutions (which should be free of the external government of civil authorities). The challenges are great but, unless the Christian community wakes up in a big way, there is no hope of even beginning the process of rebuilding our moral foundation. Biblical Christianity has been attacked from many angles and has not effectively responded to such attack. Sadly, a majority of congregations are content with a nice Sunday service that stokes their emotional engines but does nothing to address the overarching and underlying problem we face in our culture. It is too often the case that we are convinced that we should stay out of such issues and just sing our happy songs safely and securely in our corner of the world while we passively wait for Jesus to whisk us away to heaven.
There is a process to rebuilding our moral foundation. The foundational component is genuine conversion –surrendering in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus at which time we are filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit. However, this is just the beginning, not the end of the process. We are to experience ongoing growth in knowledge and application that will perfect our moral understanding and character. This is not to stop with a mere personal, private, individual application. We are to take the truths and principles of God’s kingdom and do what we can to see to it that all corporate and social institutions, spheres and realms operate according to such principles. This becomes a challenge involving an aggressive (not coercive) effort to promote such principles in the marketplace of ideas. This is consistent with Paul’s statement, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Co.10:5). This requires much training and preparation which is sadly lacking.
I end with one final perspective that can potentially generate a measure of controversy. Though I have emphasized the crucial element of genuine conversion in this process, it must also be understood that employing the truth and principles of God’s design for life on earth in our social structures and institutions does not require that every individual within such institutions are personally Christian converts. This would be ideal but, in the same way that people who are positively affected by capitalism are not all committed capitalists, the trickle down affect of Biblical principle produces blessing where it rains down.
Is.2:2 “Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.”