What Are Biblical Principles of Government?
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2012 Nov 14
When I talk about biblical principles undergirding government, I’m not talking about things like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or church discipline. Those are biblical dynamics/principles and are to be exercised properly in the context of the church, not the United States government. And people understand that. That’s why it’s surprising to me that many Christians reject the premise that we can vote for a non-Christian who upholds biblical principles foundational to government. Let me explain.
A non-Christian doesn’t know Christ and can’t truly understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). But a non-Christian can embrace and uphold Christian principles that sustain government. He can do so for two reasons. First, he can embrace those principles intellectually because he is created in the image of God. Second, when we talk about biblical principles related to government, again, we’re not talking about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or church discipline. And, neither are we talking about things like the candidate’s view on alcohol, movies, the Sabbath, divorce, what time your daughter has to be home from her date, (or whether your daughter should date or court or neither for that matter). When talking about biblical principles related to good government we’re talking about things like liberty and justice for all, the rule of law, protecting the people from attackers while not seeking to be imperialistic, not intruding into areas it doesn’t belong, enabling the free flow of exchange in the market place, not imposing confiscatory taxes or wasting the tax-payers money on things that should be handled by the market, etc. In short, we’re talking about things that government should do to maintain a civil society as opposed to a lawless society.
It’s not that as a Christian leader I am encouraging us to vote for non-Christians. On the contrary, one would assume Christian political players would understand and uphold biblical principles related to government. The problem is that many of them do not. So, in each election I’m looking for that candidate who most closely seeks to uphold Scriptural principles concerning that arena – government. I certainly wouldn’t want a non-Christian teaching Sunday School but we’re not talking about Sunday School. I’m simply arguing that biblical government is better for the people and more pleasing to God than a Christian man in office who doesn’t understand biblical principles of good government, and thereby harms people as a result, and brings reproach on Christ and His gospel.
Finally, we Christians want to elect persons who understand these principles (that ultimately flow from a biblical worldview) whether they are Christian or not. By that statement I mean that the principles of liberty and justice for all, for example, flow from a biblical worldview and no other. I do not mean they flow from the person we elect. Liberty and justice make no sense in a postmodern context (contemporary America). In that context, the ones with power decide what’s right and impose it on those who are disempowered. For a non-Christian to promote liberty and justice for all, he has to borrow such concepts from a biblical worldview. He can be taught to believe those things even if he doesn’t fully understand them or realize from where they come. Thomas Jefferson was such a man. But, that’s part of the grace God gives to a civil society that elects leaders who believe in such things, whether those leaders are Christian or not.