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Biblical Principles of Government

Obedience to the law means the existence of legal norms that serve as a counteraction to the arbitrariness of power. The Bible has traditionally been considered as the most significant book on which the establishment of democratic institutions are based (Fischer, 2013). The goal of civil authority is to organize the whole society according to God’s principles of freedom and justice. This paper aims at analyzing how biblical principles help to the understand the role of government.

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Modern Western rights and freedoms are rooted in biblical principles. Thanks to Christianity, no one could place himself above the law. Another indisputable merit of Christianity is the idea of the inextricable link between law and freedom (Hurt, 2016). God’s will is considered the highest law and, therefore, is placed above the human laws. As the Bible says, “the law of the Lord is perfect, it strengthens the soul” (Psalm 18: 8). Therefore, the moral duty of a human is not to obey those laws that pervert the law of God.

God has endowed every person with the desire for freedom, and therefore political tyranny is an attempt of civil authorities to replace natural freedom for slavish dependence, which serves the vicious goals of dishonest rulers. According to the Declaration of Independence, all people are endowed with such inalienable rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson, 1776). Freedom has been laid in human nature by God, and if it is taken away, then people will invariably desire its return. In matters of law, one cannot rely on the human mind, since all of humanity is afflicted with sin. As the Bible says, “the foolish things of God are wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Therefore, legal rights should be considered those that God has given people in the Bible.

Freedom is a guarantee that other human values are best supported, and it has many meanings in a federal context. The word “federalism” comes from the Latin “foetus”, meaning “convention”, which is a fundamental concept in biblical tradition (Fischer, 2020). It means agreement with God, as well as between those people who build their relationships based on the convention. It may reflect the desire for maximum individual freedom, as in the US federal system, or the desire to defend the freedom of the constituent parts (Fischer, 2020). In the federal society, partners must act following the principles that are enshrined in the Holy Scriptures.

Since human nature was corrupted by original sin, the law should not so much rest on the human mind as on the wisdom of God. As the Bible says, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). It means that the state should be separated from the church. At different times, the institution of the church has taken different positions in the public consciousness, from a moral compass to a large landowner and a subject of politics. Today, in the Western world, its political influence is incomparably less than its moral and ethical status.

Since the time of the Fall, the world has been in a state of moral decay and sinfulness. However, government has become a powerful obstacle to destructive selfish human passions. By its nature, “sin is lawlessness and rebellion against the law and mind of God” (cf. 1 John 3: 4). People have the right and responsibility to resist sin and crime in society, but only with the help of God’s power (Barmash, 2019). God instituted civil government to punish those who do crime. However, people should obey to the law not only because of the fear of punishment; they should behave according to the perceived values and social norms (Moynihan & Pandey, 2007). The one who resists authority is opposed to God’s ordinance and will incur condemnation.

Biblical principles help to recognize the approach of government to various policy issues, for example, the issues of racism, intolerance, and discrimination, as well as religious freedom. Before God, everyone is equal, and all citizens must equally participate in the political life of society (Fischer, 2013). Freedom is the greatest of the rights that God originally bestowed on a person. Scripture consistently and unequivocally refers to freedom as a blessing and relates slavery, as well as any other form of discrimination, to punishment and curse (Morrow, 2017). In civil society, the law must protect the freedoms of citizens and resist any form of enslavement. Thus, human rights in the United States are proclaimed by the US Constitution and its amendments.

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Power should not be centered in the hand of one person or one group of people. This is the basis of the separation of powers rule (Isaiah 33:22). The judiciary, legislative, and executive branches of government are mutually independent and control one another, this principle is constitutionally enshrined. The Constitution limits each of these branches due to the various sources of their formation and the principle of overlapping powers. For example, the President can recommend laws passed by Congress and appoint officials in the federal judiciary (U.S. Const. art. I, § 2). The Supreme Court may declare unconstitutional laws passed by Congress, as well as decisions of the President (U.S. Const. art. III, § 1). In turn, Congress may refuse to approve executive appointments and reject international treaties.

The rule of law is possible only if the civil authorities can recognize the hierarchical domination of God’s laws over the state ones. Biblical principles are perfect; human powers are afflicted by sin and are driven by the desires of the body. People can be slaves to sin, disobedient to God, but those who elect sinners to power and obey their sinful decrees themselves fall into the bondage of sin. If people want freedom and legality for themselves and future generations and not complete submission to the arbitrariness of authorities, then they need to return to the biblical principles of the rule of law. They imply the protection of the individual through God-given freedoms, and not through a powerful legislative branch that tries to control the life of civil society.

References

Barmash, P. (Ed.). (2019). The Oxford handbook of biblical law. Oxford University Press.

Fischer, K. J. (2013). Biblical principles of government. [PDF document].

Fischer, K. J. (2020). Biblical principles of government and criminal justice. Liberty University Journal of Statesmanship & Public Policy, 1(1), 1-13.

Hurt, Z. (2016). The price is wrong: A biblical approach to punitive damages. Liberty University Law Review, 10(2), 1-31.

Jefferson, T. (1776). The declaration of independence.

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Morrow, W. (2017). An introduction to biblical law. Eerdmans Publishing.

Moynihan, D. P., & Pandey, S. K. (2007). The role of organizations in fostering public service motivation. Public Administration Review, 67(1), 40-53.

The Holy Bible, new international version (1984). Zondervan Publishing House.

U.S. Const. art. I, § 2.

U.S. Const. art. III, § 1.

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