Guide Civil Government: What the Bible Says About Its Origin, History, Nature, and Role

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Theologians and others also grappled with new questions about the historical accuracy of biblical accounts, as well as a host of provocative and controversial new ideas from such thinkers as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud about both the individual and society. Modernist Protestants sought to integrate these new theories and ideas, including evolution, into their religious doctrine, while more conservative Protestants resisted them.

The issue became a mainstay for Protestant evangelists, including Billy Sunday, the most popular preacher of this era. But it was William Jennings Bryan, a man of politics, not the cloth, who ultimately became the leader of a full-fledged national crusade against evolution. Evolutionary thinking had helped birth the eugenics movement, which maintained that one could breed improved human beings in the same way that farmers breed better sheep and cattle. Many who favored the teaching of evolution in public schools did not support eugenics, but simply wanted students to be exposed to the most current scientific thinking.

For others, like supporters of the newly formed American Civil Liberties Union, teaching evolution was an issue of freedom of speech as well as a matter of maintaining a separation of church and state. And still others, like famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, saw the battle over evolution as a proxy for a wider cultural conflict between what they saw as progress and modernity on the one side, and religious superstition and backwardness on the other.

Defending Scopes was Darrow, then the most famous lawyer in the country. And joining state prosecutors was Bryan. From the start, both sides seemed to agree that the case was being tried more in the court of public opinion than in a court of law. But then Darrow made the highly unorthodox request of calling Bryan to the witness stand. With Bryan on the stand, Darrow proceeded to ask a series of detailed questions about biblical events that could be seen as inconsistent, unreal or both.

For instance, Darrow asked, how could there be morning and evening during the first three days of biblical creation if the sun was not formed until the fourth? Bryan responded to this and similar questions in different ways. Often, he defended the biblical account in question as the literal truth. On other occasions, however, he admitted that parts of the Bible might need to be interpreted in order to be fully understood. Scopes was convicted of violating the anti-evolution law and fined, although his conviction was later overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court on a technicality. But the verdict was largely irrelevant to the broader debate.

At the same time, this post-Scopes momentum did not destroy the anti-evolution movement. Other states, particularly in the South and Midwest, passed resolutions condemning the inclusion of material on evolution in biology textbooks.

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These actions, along with a patchwork of restrictions from local school boards, prompted most publishers to remove references to Darwin from their science textbooks. Efforts to make evolution the standard in all biology classes stalled, due largely to the fact that the government prohibition on religious establishment or favoritism, found in the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.

Constitution, applied at the time only to federal and not state actions. State governments could set their own policies on church-state issues. Board of Education, did the constitutional prohibition on religious establishment begin to apply to state as well as federal actions. Evolution proponents also received a boost a decade after Everson, in , when the Soviet launch of the first satellite, Sputnik I, prompted the United States to make science education a national priority.

Meanwhile, beginning in the late s, the U. For medieval thinkers, not even the king himself could violate certain rights of the subject, because the idea of law was attached to the Bible-based concept of Christian justice. The notion that law and liberty are inseparable is another legacy of Christianity. St Augustine of Hippo once wrote that an unjust law is a contradiction in terms. In The City of God , St Augustine explains that a civil authority that has no regard for justice cannot be distinguished from a band of robbers.

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  • For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? In declaring the equality of all human souls in the sight of God, Christianity compelled the kings of England to recognize the supremacy of the divine law over their arbitrary will.

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    At the time of Magna Carta , a royal judge called Henry de Bracton d. For there is no king where will rules rather then the law. With their conversion to Christianity, the kings of England would no longer possess an arbitrary power over the life and property of individuals, changing the basic laws of the kingdom at pleasure. In fact, the Bible contains many passages condemning the perversion of justice by them Prov , ; Exo ; Deut ; Hab ; Isa ; Lam In explaining why the citizens of England had much more freedom than their French counterparts, Charles Spurgeon — declared:.

    The first reference to civil government in the Holy Scriptures is found in chapter 9 of the book of Genesis. In this chapter, God commands capital punishment for those who take the life of human beings, who are always created in the image of God. In this sense, the right to execute murderers does not belong to government officials themselves, but to God who is the author of life and commands the death penalty for murder in several passages of the Holy Scriptures e. Exod ; Num As John Stott explains:. After sin entered in the world, it became necessary to establish the civil government in order to curb violence Gen At the beginning of the creation, however, Genesis tells us that man and woman lived in close fellowship with God, under His direct and sole authority.

    The understanding of civil government as a result of our sinful condition justifies the doctrine of limitation of the state powers.

    Early Christian Schisms - Before Imperium - Extra History - #1

    It inspired, in both Britain and America, the establishment of a constitutional order based on checks and balances between the branches of government—namely legislative, executive and judicial. Such division obeys the biblical revelation of God as our supreme Judge, Lawgiver and King Isa Since all human beings are born of a sinful nature, the functions of the state ought to be legally checked, because no human being can be trusted with too much power.

    As Fortescue put it, the law of England provided freedom to the people only because it was fully indebted to the Holy Scriptures.


    Thus, he quoted from Mark to proclaim that the kings are called to govern for the sake of the kingdom, not the opposite. In this sense, he also remarked:. Then he went on to declare that no statute enacted by the Parliament is valid if it does not respect God and the law. Finally, Lord Coke wisely pointed out:.

    Thus, legal positivists decided to regard the positive law of the state as a mere result of sheer force and social struggle. In brief, a product of human will. Then the very idea of government under law loses its philosophical foundations, and, as a result, societies start to lack a moral condition of legal culture that allows them to effectively restrain the emergence of an all-powerful state.

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    Rushdoony pointed out:. Behind every legal order there is always a god, be it God Himself or those who have control over the state machinery.

    The evolution debate in the United States

    Whenever the law of the state is regarded as the only source of legality, civil rulers become all-powerful authorities over the life and liberties of the individual. In this way, Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, has correctly remarked:. The complexity of things that are held together in the universe indicates the existence of a Supreme Lawmaker. As we see the world as it really is, we must concede that its motions are directed by invariable and fixed rules of law.

    If there are laws sustaining the world, then who has created these laws? In this regard, as Montesquieu commented:.

    Paul and Civil Obedience in Romans 13:1-7

    The human intellect should not be our basic reference in terms of legality because everyone is affected by a sinful nature. Then, our basic legal rights should be considered the ones revealed by God Himself through the Holy Scriptures. They may be slaves of sin and rebels against God, although citizens who elect sinful people and obey their wicked rulings are slaves of sin as well. A basic question of the rule of law is to know which sort of authority we want as the ultimate source of power over ourselves: the authority of a loving God or the authority of a sinful human ruler.

    If we decide for the sinful ruler, then, as R. When God delegates His supreme authority to human rulers, they have no liberty to use it in order to justify tyranny. In fact, there are quite remarkable examples in the Holy Scriptures where God explicitly commands civil disobedience against the state. Daniel also refused to obey a decree enacted by King Darius, which forced everyone not to pray to any god or men except to himself. The council ordered them not to preach in the name of Christ Jesus. To be obeyed, therefore, civil authorities have firstly to obey God and the law.

    As John Stott has pointed out:. When it does the reverse, it has not proper authority. It is then a usurped authority and as such it becomes lawless and is tyranny. God has established the state as delegated authority, not an autonomous power above the law. When we obey the state it is not that we obey individuals who are in charge of the state machinery, but it is rather for obedience to a God-given authority who is commanded by God to promote natural principles of liberty and justice.

    Because Paul also says that the Word of God is not to be bound 2 Tim NIV , the right of resistance against tyranny is an important element of the rule-of-law system ordained by Him. According to Rutherford, if people wish to effectively stay free from such tyranny, then they will have to preserve their inalienable right to eventually disobey unjust legislation.