Civil Magistrates and God's Law: Part Two
This article appeared in the October 22nd edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 10.20.09 By D. Eric Williams
Along with many others in Cottonwood I have recently succumbed to the flu. Rumor has it, our community has the privilege of being a part of the Great Swine Flu Epidemic Of 2009. In any case, I've spent the last six days (and counting), dealing with fever, aches and pains and so on.
My family and I have also been praying for the community. We will continue to pray the Lord God will be gracious to us during this "cold and flu season" and that those who are ill will recover quickly and the rest of the population will be protected.
In last week's article I said civil magistrates are ministers of God. This according to the plain words of Romans 13:4. I ended the article by pointing out the logical conclusion to this principle is that civil magistrates are supposed to rule according to the law of God. The question is, who decides how to apply the law of God to a society? Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals God's unchanging truth, is modified in application according to the cultural situation.
For instance, the Israelites were told they should stop to help an enemy whose beast of burden had fallen under its load (Exodus 23:5). If we were to apply this principle today in a woodenly literal fashion we would find ourselves largely free of its encumbrance. However, true followers of the King take time to consider that it is the principle of helping our enemy in need in view here. Indeed, this scripture specifically enjoins us to stop and help our enemy when we see him at the side of the road with a flat tire or an otherwise incapacitated automobile.
Granted, this is not a "civil law" nor is it an especially difficult principle to interpret and apply. However, it does remind us we must read the Word of God with wisdom.
So who decides how to apply God's law outside of the political climate of ancient Israel? Is it the church? No, the Church has the responsibility speak truth and to call civil magistrates on the carpet for their breach of God's Word but civil authority does not rest in hands of the Church. Is it the Family? No, families (and individuals), form voluntary associations in order to influence civil magistrates but the right to bear the sword does not rest in their hands.
Obviously, it is the civil magistrate who decides how God's law is to be interpreted and applied. This means one of the great tasks we face in order to bring the political arena under the authority of Jesus is to educate young men and women in the matters of theology and biblical political theory. To the vast majority of Christians this idea might sound as crazy as little green men from outer space. Nevertheless, the alternative is to have Christians elected to office who are no different then the world and thus merely "conservative" examples of godlessness.
Bringing politics under the authority of Jesus is a grass roots phenomena just like anything else in the kingdom of God. It will take place over generations. It will require Christian families who understand there is no neutrality in the realm of education. It will require homeschools and Christian schools that understand the need to bring all under the Lordship of Jesus. It will require Churches that teach the whole counsel of God. It will require political science curriculum (highschool and college at least), that addresses the issues of civil governance from a distinctly Christian perspective.
Next week we will look at examples of law that a Christian civil magistrate might propose in this modern age.