Toward a Christian Society 3: Civil Magistrates
This article originally appeared in the June 28th edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 06.24.07 By D. Eric Williams
Most Christians agree that followers of Christ are supposed to bring every area of life under the Lordship of Jesus. However, when the conversation turns to the Christian politician's duty of submission, there is far less agreement. The argument against full submission (and that is what it truly is), goes something like this. "Certainly Christians are required to submit to the Lord Jesus, but they are not to impose their religious beliefs on others. Therefore, a Christian legislator should not craft a bill that levies his personal spirituality on his fellow citizens." Yet, isn't it an imposition to introduce legislation that protects abortion? How about a law outlawing abortion? Are laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman an imposition of belief? Do laws restricting pornography enforce one belief system and not another? Obviously the answer is yes in every case. Every law, no matter how mundane, is based upon some idea of morality which reflects a particular belief system or world-view. We might be accustomed to identifying morality in ritualistic terms; as if morality is limited to a certain class of actions bound up in the private expression of one's faith. However, morality has to do with how we act in every situation. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defines "moral" as,
...relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior: ethical: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior: conforming to a standard of right behavior.
But who decides what is "right behavior?" If our understanding of "right behavior" is mistaken, then the laws that are drafted in light of that standard will be misguided as well. There is a standard of morality, for instance, that says it is perfectly moral to kill a baby in the womb. It is this twisted moral sense that undergirds laws protecting the practice of abortion. And yes, laws protecting abortion - like all laws - impose a particular belief system (world-view), on those who are bound to obey them. It is never a question of morality or no morality, law or no law. Instead it is a question of which morality and which law? There is always a choice to make and no matter what side you choose (as a lawmaker), you will be compelling others to abide by a particular set of beliefs whether they agree with them or not. .
Now, for some reason, many Christians have bought into the notion that it is wrong for a Believer to impose his understanding of law and morality on another through legislation, but that it is okay for the non-Christian to impose his beliefs on others by law. I'm not talking about trying to legislate faith; I'm talking about fashioning law that is a reflection of one's world-view. Christian legislators should not try to pass laws that force people to attend Church; they should seek to pass laws that insist on moral behavior as defined by the Bible rather than human wisdom. Therefore, the Christian magistrate who is truly submitted to Jesus Christ will use God's word as his standard of measure when deciding how he should vote on a particular bill; he will carefully evaluate it in the light of the Bible. Furthermore, any bill he presents to his fellow legislators will likewise be written in compliance to the Scriptures.
The bottom line is this; Christianity - submission to Christ - is more than personal piety. It is a world-view and as such it controls absolutely everything we do. Certainly wisdom is required on the part of the Christian magistrate as he seeks to bring his sphere of influence under the Lordship of Jesus; we are not called to regulate religious practice or matters of personal conscience. But that doesn't give us leave to abandon the public square altogether.
(Don't forget to visit www.cottonwoodcommunitychurch.org or www.dewms.com to participate in the ongoing discussion concerning the Christian Society.)