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Biblical Government
a Summary of Church-State Relationship

F. Earle Fox

See Biblical Government-Summary  See also more on Biblical Government

 

I. The Gift of Freedom - & the Problem... 

The basics of Biblical government are quite simple, built on a uniquely American understanding of the "separation of powers".  My explanation of this separation is not the common one, but I hope that it will convey the power of the idea of separation.  What is being separated and why?  (A more detailed explanation can be found at http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/21PbAr/Pl/Cnst/Ed-FrMktVsWall.htm.) 

The separation is between the three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judiciary.  The legislative branch decides which proposed legislation will be made into law under the terms allowed by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The executive branch holds the gun to enforce those laws and punishes the offenders.  The judiciary, based on evidence brought to court and laws which govern judicial procedures, decides who is the breaker of the laws, assigns a punishment, and can give opinions about which laws are constitutional.  

Each of the three powers is itself governed by the Declaration and Constitution, and none of them, nor all of them together, can by themselves change the Constitution.  The Constitution can be changed only by we-the-people, through the amendment process.  The Declaration and Constitution are the property of the people under God, not of the government.  They are the covenant between God, the people, and the government -- in that order of importance. 

That means that the people under God are sovereign over the government.  The voting public, taken as a whole, is the thus Highest Officer of the State.  So, the government does not, as it did all through history under monarchies, etc., tell the people how they will govern the people, rather, we, the people, tell the government how it will govern us.  We do that through our elected representatives. 

All of this is being, and has been since almost before the ink signing the Constitution was dry, systematically scuttled by persons who wanted to centralized government in themselves far beyond what the Constitution allows.  Some may have had good motives, but the centralization of government beyond the Constitution is tailor made for seizure by evil-minded persons who wish to control the rest of us. 

The truth of the matter is that, even with this subversion going on, America has been by quite a wide margin, the most free people on earth, going about their business in the public arena and worshipping God (or not) as their consciences led.   During the 1800's, a citizen could live his whole life without ever having contact with the federal government. 

But today the drift is steadily toward each of us being minutely ordered and commanded in the most detailed aspects of one's life by the federal government.  The federal government increasingly redefines the difference between right and wrong away from God-given standards, decides who shall and shall not be a person, controls what should be a freemarket economy, steals from parents the right and obligation to raise and educate their own children, and snoops into our private lives.  Every one of these is an act of treason against we-the-people. 

So,  the questions we are looking at are:
(1) How can we in America return to the extraordinary union of stability and freedom we once had going about our business without overbearing government control?
(2) How can we maintain a true and honest pluralism, making room for widely differing views?  
(3) and at the same time have our Biblically founded government

II. The Separation -- between Deciding & Holding

The reason government must be limited is because it is dangerous.  As George Washington said: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.  Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."  That means it must be held closely accountable to God by we-the-people. 

Everything government does, it does, as it were, at gunpoint -- because government is for the enforcement or forbidding of some behavior.  Coercion is a good and necessary tool of any society, but it is (or ought to be) limited to those behaviors necessary for the sustaining of society.  Contracts entered into ought to be fulfilled, otherwise people get cheated, lives and property ought to be protected.  Etc. 

But some things ought never, never, never to be under government control, i.e., coerced.  That list includes religion, commerce, education, welfare, and redistribution of income.  The primary roles of civil government are (not necessarily in this order):  
(1) protection of the freemarket of ideas, i.e., the public domain as the place of that free speech of the
        First Amendment -- with the understanding that truth-seeking be the prior foundation of position-defending;
(2) referee for public freemarket commerce, etc.);
(3) manager of public property (roads, harbors, etc.); and
(4) protector against enemies, foreign and domestic. 

Our Constitution sets up government so that there will be checks and balances, that is, each branch will have enough independence to maintain its own role, but also to put a check on either of the other two branches if they should overstep themselves.  The primary use of check and balance is to keep the use of coercive force within specific limits.  The use of coercive force is thus limited to the executive, making it easier to contain -- with the other two branches holding it accountable.   But it is further limited. 

The legislature is the branch closest to the people.  They are regularly elected and reelected.  They are given the charge to decide how coercive force will be used.  The executive branch may not decide how to use the gun of enforcement which it holds.  It is limited to obeying the will of the people as expressed by the legislature. 

The principle: he who holds the gun of enforcement may not decide how it will be used.  And he who decides how to use the gun may not hold the gun, i.e., legislators may not pull a gun and force their way.  They must survive the debate and convince the other legislators with honest and responsible truth-speaking. 

The primary separation of powers is thus between deciding and holding.  The legislature is to be obedient to the people (or get replaced next election), and the executive is to be obedient to the legislature (or be ousted at the next election or impeached by Congress). 

The judiciary decides who is guilty as charged by the executive, which puts them on the "deciding" side of the gap.  So they also cannot hold the gun.  They cannot enforce their own decisions.  Those judged guilty are handed back to the executive for doing their sentences.  That means that the executive cannot decide who is guilty. 

In that setup, each branch can do its duty as it sees fit, that is, each branch can decide whether or not a law or an action is constitutional.  Yet, the other branches can issue their agreeing or contradictory opinions on the constitutionality of the action or law.  Congress has the primary ability to discipline both the executive and judiciary by impeachment because it is closest to the people.

III. Church, State, & Moral Unity

 The people under God must defend their positions in an open market place of ideas where anyone is allowed to express his notions of law and government.  That means, like the legislators, religious people or any other people, may not hold a gun of enforcement.  They can win the day in either the market place or in the legislature only by teaching the people the Word of God, which includes Godly government, and thus getting Godly representatives elected. 

"Jesus is Lord" is a political statement, as both Caesar and the Apostles clearly understood.  The Apostles meant Lord over Caesar, and he did not like it.  The clergy thus have a vital part to play in the American system of government by preaching "election sermons" as done by the Colonial clergy.  The Church, the Christian community, cannot hold a gun of enforcement, but it must fulfill its teaching and spiritual/moral leadership role in order for a government of, by, and for the people to perdure. 

So, the role of the Church is to be the worship leader and the moral and spiritual teacher for society -- in a freemarket of ideas, on the level playing field of the public arena.  The coercive force of government can be brought into the debate only to protect the essential freedom of expression, not to make it go a certain way. 

This is what creates the synergy which drives a Godly society, and keeps civil government on a Godly tether.  When government wants to create its own synergy, independently of God, beware.  Tyranny is arising.  With no authority higher than itself, it declares itself in the role of God, to decide the meaning of life, the difference between good and evil, and who is and is not a person.   No human being or group should ever be given that kind of power or authority. 

God is important because only a moral consensus of the people can unite the people sufficiently to keep the central government from drifting steadily toward tyranny.  When the moral consensus of the people is shattered, as it is today, then the people are easy pickings for the centralizers.  Divide and conquer (as inspired by Antonio Gramsci). 

But only God can supply that moral consensus.  So the moral/spiritual unity of the people of God is essential to the success of Biblical government, and thus a free people.  That is why God is necessary for any civil government other than a tyranny -- in which case force, not Godly reason, becomes the decider. 

The people under God are to set the moral and spiritual tone of society.  They elect Godly people to the legislature and other government offices, who then lead the people in a Godly manner.  The government is held in check to its proper servant role by the spiritual energy arising in the community under God. 

When non-believers become the majority so that they can define the nature of civil government, then the people will become morally disunited, government will again grow too big for its britches, centralized, control- not servant-oriented, and the dark clouds of tyranny will again loom over the horizon.

Fact: as a matter of history -- it has been the Biblical view alone which historically generated a free society as America once had.  What happened in the founding of America, imperfect though it was, never happened anywhere else in all of human history, other than its beginnings in the early Biblical community (read I Samuel 8). 

Fact: as a matter of logic-- that is the only way it can be.  Nobody but God can combine a freemarket of ideas with a limited government and a welcome to all persons who will submit to the rules of the game. 

Only the Biblical God can guarantee the freedoms we have had (as acknowledged in our Declaration of Independence Preamble), and only if we return to the Biblical God can they be restored.  Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn had it right, the West is disintegrating because the West has forgotten God.  As St. Augustine said in his monumental The City of God, there is only one civilization and it wasn't Greece or Rome, it was and is the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.  All else is barbarism, the Fall.  Only a spiritual renewal, including a return to the Biblical worldview (One & Two) and the Biblical Good News, will bring a political renewal and continue the trajectory established by God in Western Christendom by advancing the political rulership of God in a freemarket of ideas. 

See Biblical Government-Summary  See also more on Biblical Government

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Date Posted - 12/21/2012   -   Date Last Edited - 12/29/2012