Monday, July 18, 2005

Toward A Systematic Christian Political Philosophy

I recently set out to find or formulate a consistent and systematic Christian political philosophy. I cannot even begin to describe what I discovered in my searching these last few weeks without making the understatement of the century, “Overwhelming!” The search and research has consumed my free time, my sleep, and nearly every free waking moment. Besides being tired, frustrated, and a lot better informed than I was a few weeks ago, I feel like I have accomplished little or nothing. This explains much of the reason why it has been such a long time since I last posted.

My methodology and guidelines were relatively simple. I would start out by evaluating existing political ideologies / philosophies and determine which best aligns with Scripture and attempt to discard those which were clearly not Christian. From there the problem snowballed, I found that there were so many systems and subsystems that overlapped and internally contradicted themselves logically that I was more confused than when I started.

Regrouping from the frustration it all, I then tried to determine if there were more basic questions that needed to be answered in order to break the problem down into a set of simpler problems.

What is the most Biblical “form” of government or political system? What spheres of life does government impact and what limit or extent is the Biblical role in each sphere? Are these spheres impacted differently by different levels of government? What is the Christian’s proper role or involvement in the political process? Over the coming weeks I hope to deal extensively with each of these topics. This is a learning process for me, please leave comments. I will start by trying to “narrow the field” to those forms of government that are the consistent with the Christian faith.

What is the most Biblical “form” of government or political system?

Does the Bible prescribe a preferred form of government? In seeking biblical wisdom on this topic I looked first in the Proverbs.

Consider Proverbs 28:
Reading Proverbs 28, there is no particular indication of what form of government is preferred in the teachings to the "ruler", it only deals with the “righteousness and holiness” of the ruler. This seems to be a consistent theme through the entire Bible. If God had an overwhelming preference for a particular form of government, it seems that He would have specifically prescribed it in scripture in some place. Even if you go searching for such a prescription for governmental systems in scripture, the closest you will find might be some sort of a benevolent monarchy. I certainly don’t believe that is the most Christian form of government (as you will see below), but it demonstrates my point.

Consider Colossians 1:15-18 (also 1 Peter 2:13-14)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Again, it is obvious that God’s concern is not so much with the form of government, but rather that the leaders of whatever form of government that exists are subject to Him and holds Christ as preeminent. This fact in itself, while not prescriptive, does give us an idea about the form of government is best. It MUST be one in which the leader may hold Christ as preeminent. Clearly, any authoritarian religious based system (excepting a Christian Theocracy) would never allow the rulers to be subject to God and hold Christ as preeminent. [Note: While I do not favor a Christian Theocracy, it must be granted that it passes this test.] There are many forms of secular humanist authoritarian governments, which should be considered "religious based" and can be eliminated right along with Islamic and any other religious based authoritarian government.

Secondarily, any form of government that might be selected by Christians must consider the fundamental state of human nature. It is my belief that the founders of the United States established our form of government not based directly on some Biblical prescriptive, but rather upon a proper understanding of what the Bible says about the fallen nature of mankind. And since men have a fallen nature, they are inclined to preside over corrupt governments. They chose our system because it provided the checks and balances that minimizes the abuses of power that are inevitable of fallen men who are also in positions of power. Most governmental systems themselves are not inherently corrupt; it is the men that rule that are inherently corrupt.

What forms of government might satisfy both the primary and secondary tests I stated above? Are there any other Biblical tests that need to be applied?

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