Part of my intention in posting a recent two-part post for this blog, Reclaiming America, was to biblically ground a political worldview for the upcoming presidential election in November. Looking at government as God does has never been more needed in my lifetime than now.
As per the objective of sharing my captive thoughts to Christ with you in this space, I’d like to begin having my readers think through this 2020 election, with a view to ‘render to Caesar’ (government) what is his, and to Christ what is his – both under the Lord’s dominion, with the emphasis of those initial posts exhorting Christians to focus their attention on reviving and reclaiming the church – it’s theological fidelity, before concentrating on reviving a nation of 330 million plus citizens, which is neither our mandate or mission, nor is it within our means to do so.
However, in the interests of rendering to Caesar our proper vote from a Christian perspective, we must be informed with and be engaged in our political process, for as long as we have the right to do so.
If there weren’t enough political hot potatoes to handle already, in forging a biblical worldview of our country (e.g. COVID-19, racial and civil unrest, the economy) it’s government and the two candidates vying for the White House, news came forth late last week that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the diminutive firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died from complications of pancreatic cancer.
Ordinarily, a death of one of the high court’s justices would not spur as much anxiety, political analysis and speculation as Ginsburg’s has this past week, but then again, she was no ordinary justice.
Ginsburg, a former attorney who argued cases on behalf of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) before the Supreme Court on a half-dozen occasions, was an architect of the fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, before serving 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming perhaps its most prominent member.
Having been by her own admission a rather radical, leftist and liberal activist, in and out of her chair, her death has already set in motion what promises to be a tumultuous and critically important political battle over who will succeed her, thrusting this Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.
Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested,’5-4’ type cases such as abortion and family law, impacted by the sexual revolution and religious freedom.
The implications of Ginsburg’s vacancy on the high court are massive, affirming the rationale for why a majority of evangelicals elected Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. It is the President who exercises the given authority to appoint Supreme Court and federal court justices in our country.
The President has practically only two options to choose from in making these federal appointments, both having to do with one’s interpretation of government’s role and this nation’s constitution itself. Will he appoint a justice who understood that our constitution was meant to be interpreted by the author’s original intent, which was for it to be an objective and time transcendent document of law and values (‘originalist’ view)? Or, a justice who believes that the constitution and it’s Bill of Rights is a subjective, evolving document, meant to be interpreted by following the prevailing winds of an American culture and court at any given time?
That is the ideological divide that marks the court. Either government is about the separation of powers and authority as the founders intended, between the executive (White House), legislative (congress) and the judicial (SCOTUS), or it is not. One branch of government was never intended to usurp the authority of the other, as the Supreme Court has over the last several decades, with its controversial decisions on cases and matters of faith, family and freedom.
The legislative body of government ordained by God and elected ‘by the people for the people,’ never made law legalizing abortion or ‘same-sex marriage.’
Rather, it was the judicial body that made those laws in essence by their slim majority decisions in both 1973 (Roe v. Wade) and 2015 (Obergefell) respectively, among a host of others.
What is God’s Role for Government?
Government is one of the three institutions which God created to anchor and order mankind, along with marriage and the church, as revealed in scripture. That same scripture being all ‘sufficient and necessary,’ is what reveals God’s purpose for government (Ro. 13:1-8).
After calling for Christians to reasonably submit to the governing authorities God has placed over us (Ro. 13:1-2) and dutifully doing so in paying taxes (vv. 5-7), sandwiched in between those passages are two very clear, New Testament verses which lay out the nature and greatest priority of a government:
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (Ro. 13:3-4, ESV).
In other and more simple terms, government is mandated by God to administer law and order to a given society, American and otherwise. Those who profess Christ and are supporting the more violent and unlawful protesting taking place in this country should pay particular attention to this.
The government does not “bear the sword in vain”, or for nothing, meaning a firm response to violence and anarchy, including the call to execute capital punishment today, as ordained to be a swift and most severe form of punishment and deterrent to cold-blooded and premeditated murder that aims to limit evil and promote good and godly behavior, while upholding the sanctity of innocent life, from womb to tomb.
Commenting on this doctrine, the reformer John Calvin wrote, “.. The Lord has designed in this way to provide for the tranquillity of the good, and to restrain the waywardness of the wicked; by which two things the safety of mankind is secured: for except the furyof the wicked be resisted, and the innocent be protected from their violence, all things would come to an entire confusion.”
It is that scriptural worldview which informed so many of the reformers and founding fathers of this nation, including it’s first President, George Washington who said of Government’s power and authority to keep law and order, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
That quote affirmed the apostle Paul’s inspired admonition from Romans 13 for citizens to heed government’s primary purpose of keeping law and order, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval..”
In conclusion of this thought, ‘captive to Christ’, may we begin our consideration of casting a vote on November third, by reconciling the law of love for individual Christians with God’s purpose for law, order and government- affirmed by this nation’s foundational documents in mind and with a certain Supreme Court vacancy up for grabs.
Let’s pray that we may see the good that results from applying the principles of God’s word and the horror that results from rejecting them, as we at the very least, seek to keep out of office those who attempt to explicitly oppose God’s authority. This is where election worldview starts.