Wherever and whenever God is absent from any governmental structure there can be no prosperity. This is especially true as it concerns national governance. And so, whenever there is a lack of a Biblical Law structure within a nation, the life of that nation withers aways and slowly dies. Unbiblical governance not only strips its citizens of prosperity, it strips them of everything else, including freedom, justice and safety. We are witnessing this today. The more God’s system of law and justice is removed from Government the more quickly the nation dies. The more authoritarian leaders are allowed to rule with tyrannical intent the more misery the citizenry experiences. And while men cannot rule perfectly in light of their fallen nature, they are still to be held accountable to the standards of justice and righteousness according to the Divine Standard, and model of Scripture. Therefore, governance should come as close to this perfect model as possible, in spite of the fallen nature of man.
Calvin believed this very thing, that the fallen nature of man should be taken into account when choosing leaders, but never used that as an excuse for those leaders to violate the commands of God or become tyrannical in their rule. Siting Exodus 18, Calvin believed that the election of rulers was legitimate, and stood in the place of God for the good of the people. Noe: For the good of the people according to the Standard of Scripture which clearly defines good and evil. Never were those in power to define good and evil for themselves but were to use the standard of Holy Writ for their definition.
In 1536 Calvin set forth these 5 principles ideas for Governance.
- Depravity is a human variable to be accounted for and accommodated
- Accountability for leaders was a necessity.
- Republicanism was the preferred form of governance.
- Constitutionalism was needed to restrain both the rulers and the ruled.
- Limited government beginning with the family was foundational.
At the root of all of Calvin’s ideas was the Sovereignty of God and the universal legitimacy of His Law for men and nations. If we were to label Calvin’s idea, we would call that government a Theonomic Theocracy. This simply means that the nation would function according to the moral law of God (Theonomy) having God as the Sovereign Ruler (Theocracy) making the nation accountable to Him.
According to Scripture, Governors are to act as Ministers for the good of the people as representatives of God. These ministers are not above the Law but are to maintain the integrity and application of the law. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Church at Rome when he lays out the duty of the civil magistrate, without giving them any excuse for their propensity to sin. And yet, he makes this glaring point, that many who quote these passages fail to add.
Ro 13:7 ¶ Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
This caveat would seem to exclude those who violate Biblical principles. According to the Apostle, only those that are worthy of obedience are to be obeyed and honored. If magistrates (whether they are civil or ecclesiastic magistrates) become overbearing or tyrannical, then there is not to be any honor given to them, nor tribute or reverential fear. They have effectually violated their oath of office and their purpose under God for good, effectively delegitimizing their position. They become illegitimate rulers. This seemed to confirm what the Old Testament historical narrative taught: resistance to tyrants is a command of God.
Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, often referred to as the Point Guard of the Reformation, wrote in his 1574 work on ‘The Rights of the Magistrates’ which supported Republicanism and the limited submission to governors. Beza’s argument normalized the idea that residence to evil governments is a duty of the righteous, and was adopted by men like John Knox, Pierre Virret and John Penea. This deepened Calvin’s Theo-Political ideas into a more mature and cohesive philosophy of Governance.
Beza mapped out three conditions that had to be met before armed resistance against an evil tyrannical leader could be carried out.
- The Tyranny must be undisguised and notorious
- The recourse to arms must not be carried out before all other non-violent options are exhausted.
- Beza finally warned that every effort should be made to ensure that the resistance does not bring about unintended consequences, which may be more destructive than the tyranny itself.
John Witte, the director of Religion and Law at the Emory University, observes,
“Calvin developed arresting new teachings on authority and liberty duties and rights in church and state that have had an enduring influence on Protestant lands as a result of its adaptability this rendered early modern Calvinism as one of the driving engines of Western constitutionalism. A number of our bed rock Western understandings of civil and political rights, social and confessional pluralism, federalism and social contract, and more, owe a great deal to Calvinist theological and political reforms.”
Therefore, the first question to be addressed is, “By what standard do we vet leaders who are called to rule over men and nations?” God’s first requirement for Biblical Governance is JUSTICE. “He that ruleth over men must be just…” Justice must be the principal foundation of the magistrate. There can be no partiality when adjudicating a matter. ie. no two tear justice system.
Moses gives this commandment in the Law.
Le 19:15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
De 1:17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
De 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
Perhaps reflecting upon his father’s indiscretion in judgment Solomon says this,
Pr 24:23 ¶ These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
This requirement is given because God is no respecter of persons and the magistrate is to emulate God.
Moses adds this:
De 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regarded not persons, nor taketh reward…
David gives one additional requirement for a legitimate ruler.
He must fear God. This fear is attached to wisdom, for it is the fear of the Lord that begins wisdom. Now, while these are necessary requirements, they are by no means exhaustive. The reason for this, I believe, is because the full catalog of requirements was already given in the Law of Moses from Exodus 18.
Consider the many aspects of these passages as they not only reflect the character requirements of rulers, but the representative republicanism that Calvin spoke of. The agreed maxim of a Godly governance already stipulated the fundamental components of Government.
- God is Sovereignty
- A Covenantal relationship between God and His creatures exist.
- A standardized system of Divine, non-negotiable Laws, statutes and ordinances whereby a ruler would rule are to be maintained.
The idea of Republicanism simply meant that the nation was to be structured under a law system and its rulers were to be elected by the people as their representatives. The reason why America is in the grave yard spiral into the abyss is because the clergy has been remiss in training their congregants on the principals of governance and how they should choose their potential leaders. Until the church and its ministers understand that they are to be the driving force for the integrity of the culture by being actively involved in government affairs America will continue its downward slide into tyrannical oblivion.