You’ll need to put your thinking caps for our programs today and next week. As you visit the Pastor’s Study, we’re going to help you think through the massive subject of God and Government.
That’s so important, especially as here in the United States we see increasing divisions, polarization, and party antagonisms, and also as we witness increasing opposition to the Christian faith in the public arena.
But, looking at an even bigger picture, we see before our eyes a movement toward anarchy on one side: States and individuals louting laws, people trying to prevail over others by violence or coercion, and even
proposing measures or taking actions that would undermine or actually rebel against established social norms. On the other side, there’s the danger of tyranny: Replacing government by law with government by
decrees or executive orders. Essentially, in
How do we fit all of this with what the Bible, the Word of God, says about government on any level? The apostle Paul gives a summary of that in the 13th chapter of the book of Romans, beginning in verse 1.
(And it’s interesting that Paul wrote during a time of cruel and horrible tyranny in the Roman government itself.):
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. But how far does that subjection go? What if the governing authorities give commands that are contrary to the Word of God? What if the governing authorities actually threaten your life or the life of others by their governing?
For there is no authority except
kinds of take-overs, are those legitimate governments if they have stolen the lands, possessions, and reins of authority by acts of force?
Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Is there, in any situation, a right of people to rebel against authorities who, in
essence, have replaced God with themselves? Was the American Revolution justified? Was it right to oppose (and even seek to overthrow) the Nazi regime – a regime that wanted to make its own power absolute? What if those in authority in our own land succeed in replacing our constitution
with something that is the very opposite of a constitutional republic. Is there any right of resistance? By whom? How?
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. But what if rulers – on any level – become terrors to what God calls good, and begin actively promoting what God calls bad – and which even human nature recognizes as evil?
(The ruler) is God’s servant to you for your good…He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. But what if the one in authority becomes a servant of what is bad? How can he still be a servant of God if he uses his power to punish those who do good, and to
promote, encourage, and even finance what is wrong?
While we may not even want to think about questions like these, we must. Our forefathers in the history of the Christian church did. They didn’t always agree, but they wrestled with some heavy-duty questions about God and Government. And, especially with our own government and our own nation in view, we’re going to do the same this week and next on A Visit to the Pastor’s Study. We want you to think about government, and about governing officials, under the Lordship of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
That’s important in election years – and every year!
For today’s program, we’re going to look at the subject of God and Government through the lens of a book written in 1644, by one of the most brilliant and godly students of Scripture and of the Christian faith in
his day. The book is called, Lex, Rex (meaning “The Law in Relation to the King”), and it was written by the Scottish pastor and theologian, Samuel Rutherford. You’ll learn more about the book and its author in a
couple of minutes; but, for now, you need to realize that the book so infuriated “the powers that be” in the England of that day that it was ordered to be burned, and its author was charged with high treason.
Believing that the book laid the ground for rebellion, a proclamation was issued that every person in possession of a copy was to deliver it up to the King’s solicitor or be treated as an enemy of the government.
On the other hand, many have made the case that Samuel Rutherford’s Lex, Rex – a carefully reasoned response to 44 questions about the government using arguments from the Old and the New Testaments, Christian theology, historical understandings of civil government, and natural law – that this book, Lex, Rex, was one of the most influential pieces forming the thought of John Locke, whose social contract view of government is at the heart of our American political system. England condemned the book that would become a formative influence in the government of the nation that would spring from it. And one can make the case that this book helped to provide the strongest arguments for the revolution that would give birth to that nation – now known as the United States of America.
We’ll be looking into these things on today’s Visit to the Pastor’s Study – God and Government, part 1. I have two guests today. If we’re going to understand a Scottish author and his book, we should have someone from Scotland who’s an expert in both. Matthew Vogan (who was also my guest for our program on The Piety of Samuel Rutherford) is General Manager for Reformation Scotland Trust. The goal of Reformation Scotland is to inform, educate, and promote understanding of the attainments of the period in
Scotland during with Lex, Rex was written. Those who are part of Reformation Scotland work hard to mine the riches of the wisdom of the past to give insight for Christians and for the Christian church today.
Matthew will help us get some of that rich wisdom with his insights from Samuel Rutherford and Lex, Rex.
Dr. David Innes is my other guest for today’s program. He serves as chair of the program in politics, philosophy, and economics at The King’s College in Manhattan. He is also
Kingdoms of Men. His expertise is in the integration of Christian faith and politics.
Dr. Innes will help us apply some of the lessons of Lex, Rex to our own nation, to its government, and to the current political situation.
We have a lot to do today!
Matthew Vogan of the Reformation Scotland, and Dr. David Innes, professor of political science at The King’s College in Manhattan, thanks for being with us to help us better understand God and Government through the lens of Samuel Rutherford’s work, Lex, Rex.
Here’s a link to the full program:
Yours in the King of Kings,