“And agreeably to this supposition, we find that Paul argues the usefulness of the civil government in general, its agreeableness to the will and purpose of God, who is over all, and so deduces from hence the obligation of submission to it. But it will not follow that because civil government is, in general, a good institution, necessary to the peace and happiness of human society, therefore there are no supposable cases in which resistance to it can be innocent. So the duty of unlimited obedience, whether active or passive, can be argued neither from the manner of expression here (I Peter 2:13, Romans 13:1-7) nor from the general scope or design of the passage.
And if we attend to the nature of the argument with which the apostles enforces the duty of submission to the higher powers, we shall find it to be such a one as concludes not in favor of submission to all who bear the title of rulers in common, but only those who actually preform the duty of rulers by exercising a reasonable and just authority for the good of human society. This is a point which it will be proper to enlarge upon, because the question before us turns very much upon the truth or falsehood of this position. It is obvious, then, in general that the civil rulers whom the apostle here speaks of, and the obedience to whom he presses upon Christians as a duty, are good rulers, such as are, in the exercise of their office and power, benefactors to society. Such they are described throughout this passage. Thus it is said that they are not a ‘terror to good works, but to the evil;’ that ‘they are God’s ministers for good, revengers to execute wrath upon him that does evil;’ and that ‘they attend continually upon this very thing.’ St. Peter give the same account of rulers: They are ‘for a praise to them that do well, and the punishment of evildoers’ (I Peter 2:14). It is manifest that this character and description of rulers agrees only to such as are rulers in fact as well as in name: to such as govern well and act agreeably to their office. And the Apostle’s argument for submission to rulers is wholly built and grounded upon a presumption that they do in fact answer this character, and is of no force at all upon supposition of the contrary. If ‘rulers are a terror to good works, and not to evil’; if they are not ‘ministers for good to society,’ but for evil and distress, by violence and oppression; if they execute wrath upon sober, peaceable persons who do their duty as members of society, and suffer rich and honorable knaves to escape with impunity; if, instead of attending continually upon the good work of advancing the public welfare, they attend only upon the gratification of their own lust and pride and ambition, to the destruction of the public welfare — if this is the case, it is plain that the apostle’s argument for submission does not reach them; they are not the same, but different persons from those whom he characterizes and must be obeyed according to his reasoning….
If those who bear the title of civil rulers do no preform the duty of civil rulers, but act directly counter to the sole end and design of their office, if they injure and oppress their subjects instead of defending their rights and doing them good, they have not the least pretense to be honored, obeyed and rewarded, according to the apostle’s argument. For his reasoning, in order to show the duty of subjection to the higher powers, is, as was before observed, built wholly upon the supposition that they do in fact perform the duty of rulers….
Rulers have no authority from God to do mischief. They are not God’s ordinance or God’s minsters in any other sense than as it is by his permission and providence that they are exalted to bear rule, and as magistracy duly exercised and authority rightly applied in the enacting and executing good laws. Laws tempered and accommodated to the common welfare of the subjects must be supposed to be agreeable to the will of the beneficent author and supreme Lord of the universe, whose ‘Kingdom rules over all’ (Ps. 103:19) and whose ‘tender mercies are all over His works’ (Ps. 145:9). It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers. They are more properly called ‘the messengers of Satan to buffet us’ (II Cor. 12:7). No rulers are properly God’s ministers but such as are ‘just, ruling in the fear of God’ (II Sam. 23:3).When once magistrates act contrary to their office and the end of their institution, when they rob and ruin in the public instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen. So that whenever that argument for submission fails, which is grounded upon the usefulness of magistracy to civil society (as it always does when magistrates do hurt to society instead of good), the other argument, which is taken from their being the ordinance of God, must necessarily fail also, no person or civil character being God’s minister, in the sense of the apostle, any further than he performs God’s will by exercising a just and reasonable authority and ruling for the good of the subject.”
Jonathan Mayhew — Reformed Minister
Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers
William Symington was a Scottish Covenanter pastor. In 1838 he finished his manuscript that later became published as ‘Messiah The Prince.’ There are very few books that labor so diligently to show from scripture that Jesus Christ is the risen Mediatorial King, not only of the Church, but also of the Nations in their various civil-social expressions. Dr. Symington’s work leads one to see that it is not only the Church that must bear allegiance to the risen Priest-King Jesus, but also the Counting Houses, Law courts, Economic arrangements, and every other institutional structure of any given people.
“Bodies-politic or corporations are to be regarded as large moral subjects. To suppose that men, as individuals, are under the moral government of the Almighty, and bound to regulate their conduct by His law, but that, as societies, they are exempted from all such control, is to maintain what involves the most absurd and pernicious consequences.”
Pastor’s Symington’s work flies in the face of much of contemporary Calvinism that has emasculated the Church’s Biblical Message of salvation by restricting the Church’s proclamation of a salvation to a personal area of one’s heart or perhaps limiting salvation to concerns of Church and maybe family. Such castrated Calvinism misses that the blessings of salvation are to come not only to individuals but also to the cultures that numerous individually saved people build when living together in community. Symington’s leaves one with the clear understanding that should the Lordship of Christ in non-Church cultural realms be vacated for some kind of attempt to work with the epistemologically self conscious unbeliever, in a putatively non-religious realm, where Lordship is only expressed through a Natural law will result in the exercise of Lordship by some other competing deity. Man, both individually and corporately considered, is a being animated by his conceptions of who he takes to be his Lord and if Jesus Christ, as revealed in Scripture, be not Lord in every area of Man’s cultural endeavors, some other false lord will be Lord in every area of cultural endeavor.
Part of the problem with some contemporary expressions of Calvinism in this area might be the insistence that those realities, which are spiritual, can’t be corporeal. For example, often we hear that the Kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom. I do not disagree. What I do disagree with though is that spiritual Kingdoms don’t end up being clothed with corporeal instantiations. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that all earthly kingdoms are corporeal instantiations of some spiritual Kingdom behind them which is the greater reality of which the incarnated Kingdom is but a distant echo.
Another thing that we get from some contemporary Calvinists is the quote of Christ telling Pilate that ‘His Kingdom is not of this World,’ as if that is to end all conversation on the Lordship of Christ over all cultural endeavors. What is forgotten is the way that John often uses the word ‘World.’ John often uses the word ‘World’ with a sinister significance to communicate a disordered reality in grip of the Devil set in opposition to God. If that is the way that the word ‘world’ is being used in John 17:36 then we can understand why Jesus would say that His Kingdom ‘was not of this world.’ The Kingdom of Jesus will topple the Kingdoms of this disordered world changing them to be the Kingdoms of His ordered world, but it won’t be done by the disordered methodology of this World and so Jesus can say, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Hopefully, we can see that such a statement doesn’t mean that Christ’s Kingdom has no effect in this world or that Christ’s Kingdom can’t overcome the world.
W.C.F. Chapter 23:3 [Of the Civil Magistrate. ]
” The Civil Magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.”
Elsewhere on IronInk I have a slew of quotes from the Reformers touching the relation between Church and State. There was so much information there that I suspect it was a overdose for most people. As such, what I intend to do over the next few weeks is to daily post just one of the quotes from that which I earlier offered in one large dose. This will make it easier for people to see on a daily basis how out of step R2Kt virus theology is with the Reformers.
Today from the French Confession
The French Confession – John Calvin
XXXIX. We believe that God wishes to have the world governed by laws and magistrates, so that some restraint may be put upon its disordered appetites. And as he has established kingdoms, republics, and all sorts of principalities, either hereditary or otherwise, and all that belongs to a just government, and wishes to be considered as their Author, so he has put the sword into the hands of magistrates to suppress crimes against the first as well as against the second table of the Commandments of God. We must therefore, on his account, not only submit to them as superiors, but honor and hold them in all reverence as his lieutenants and officers, whom he has commissioned to exercise a legitimate and holy authority.
1. Exod. 18:20-21; Matt. 17:24-27; Rom. ch. 13
2. I Peter 2:13-14; I Tim. 2:2
Rev. Danny Hyde is a minister in the URC and is sympathetic with the R2Kt virus. Over a year ago, he reviewed fellow virus simpatico Dr. David VanDrunen’s book “A Biblical Case for Natural Law, Studies in Christian Social Ethics and Economics,” Number 1, ed. Anthony B. Bradley (Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2006).
Chapter 2—Natural Law and Human Nature
VanDrunen makes his starting point not the oft-repeated texts in discussions of natural law in Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-15, but the image of God. This pedagogical turn is commendable as it lays aside the preconceived objections of those opposed to natural law and enters this subject in a fresh way.
Everybody agrees that man is created in the image of God. Everybody agrees that the image of God in fallen man puts him in a position that so that, on a ontological level, he knows God. Everybody agrees that this knowledge of God that is inescapable leaves fallen man without excuse. What the R2kt virus people and Natural Law lovers fail to deal with is that fallen man is using his epistemological gifting in order to suppress and deny what he can’t help but know due to the fact that the ontological fingerprints of God always remain upon him. The appeal to Natural law on the basis of the image of God in man refuses to deal with the reality that that image is irreparably fallen save by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The mistake of R2kt virus people and Natural law lovers is to think that general revelation can be read accurately and successfully without presupposing special revelation. Man does indeed bear the image of God but without being renewed he will, with his fallen epistemological gifting read natural law in such a way that God is left out of the equation.
Hence this approach does nothing to lay aside preconceived objections.
“VanDrunen, then, moves away from any abstract doctrine of natural law to its source, saying, “The foundation for speaking about natural law is not nature but the creator of nature, God himself” (8). Since God is righteous and just, our creation in his image means in the beginning we by nature had the capacity for righteousness and justice. Natural law is not something outside of God found through independent reason, but is the way God “wired” us according to the very nature of God himself.”
Yes, God wired us ontologically in this fashion. But as a result of the fall we are using our epistemological software to suppress our ontological hardwiring. If that suppression mechanism is successful in keeping the reality of God at arms distance then clearly it is successful at keeping what God’s Natural law communicates.
Those who advocate this position have a view of the consequences of the fall as less than total. Natural law advocates sound like those that contend that while the fall was really really bad it didn’t leave man hostile to God.
This is also evidenced by the classic Reformed idea that Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 show that salvation in Christ is a re-creation of the original image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. This seems to create a problem, though. If redemption is re-creation, then sin has obliterated the image and therefore natural capacity to do righteousness, holiness, and know God. As bad as the fall has affected us, fallen man nevertheless still in some sense continues in the image of God (Gen. 9:6; James 3:9). Appealing to Romans 1:18-32, VanDrunen states that rebellious, sinful man is inexcusable before God, whether Jew with special revelation or Gentile with only creation. All men know God exists and that there are certain moral absolutes. In fact, Paul even speaks of one sin as “against nature” (1:26 cf. 2:14-15).
The fall didn’t obliterate the image of God in man ontologically speaking. Man can never be anything other than the creation of God. But the Fall did obliterate man’s epistemological acceptance of being in the image of God. As a result of the fall, man is a schizophrenic being. He remains in the image of God. Ontologically he cannot escape that knowledge since his very existence and self-consciousness is part of the general revelation that declares the God that he is suppressing in unrighteousness, but epistemologically he swears up and down that he has escaped the knowledge of God. Hence, while God faithfully communicates Himself through Natural law fallen man is doing everything he can to jam the reception. Natural law cannot be a means by which to govern a “common realm” if only because it does not take seriously what the fall has done to fallen man’s inclination to tune out God’s Natural Law airwaves.
The Apostle well speaks of sinning against nature but that doesn’t mean that fallen man will confess that what he is doing is sinning against nature. Indeed, a Natural Law formulated by a homosexual fallen man (cmp. Rmns. 1:26) would conclusively prove that Natural law teaches that homosexuality is according to nature.
Chapter 3—Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms Doctrine
Another line of argument on natural law is that God rules over all things, but in two different ways: he rules the civil kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the left hand (Luther) as creator and sustainer of temporal, earthly, and provisional matters, while he rules the spiritual kingdom (Calvin)/kingdom of the right hand (Luther) as creator, but especially as redeemer of the eschatological kingdom.
But Calvin understood that the Magistrate was answerable to God. Turretin insisted that the Magistrate was responsible to enforce both tables of the Law. The Puritans had the idea of the Holy Commonwealth. An idea they supported from Scripture. All of these agreed with the idea of two Kingdoms but they all did not advocate it the same way that those in Escondido are advocating it.
While VanDrunen’s cursory survey of the two kingdom’s doctrine in the history of the Church is helpful, the rest of chapter 3 is incisive. Reading like a primer on classic covenant theology, VanDrunen traces these two kingdoms through Old and New Testaments. After the Fall, God called Adam and Eve as his redeemed people and despite cursing the elements of creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-27 these things would continue in the world.
The task of Adam and Eve in the Garden was to have dominion over their world. After the fall, Noah is given the same commission to be fruitful and multiply and so have dominion. The chastisement that God visits upon His old covenant people is due to their idolatry and their failure to take Godly dominion. There is no place in Scripture where the command to have godly dominion in all the earth is ever revoked. Indeed, our Lord Christ reminded His disciples that “all authority had been given Him in heaven and earth.” In light of that they were to take His dominion forward into all the earth and into every area of life to teach the nations to observe all things that Jesus had commanded them.