Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

American Self-Government: Example #1

They were called Separatists in their native England. They got this name because they couldn’t abide being part of a state church where the government controlled the worship and doctrine. So they set up their own churches based on their understanding of how God wanted His church to work, following what they perceived to be the model in the New Testament.

When they set up these churches, they had to start from scratch with church government. Consequently, they relied on covenants, where each member voluntarily joined together with others to agree on the rules by which they would be governed. No authority from above told them what to do; they simply did it.

They were persecuted and had to leave their homeland. Holland allowed them to worship as they pleased, but they longed for a country of their own. That’s when the decided to sail for the New World.

They were blown off course and were unable to land where the charter under which they sailed had authority. That led some of the hired men to talk of the “liberty” they would have once they got off the ship. The covenanted settlers knew they would have a problem on their hands with a group of people who were eager to be in a place without established government. That is why they wrote up their own covenant for civil government.

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

We now call those early settlers “The Pilgrims.” The document they wrote is the Mayflower Compact. It’s not a long document. It merely says that they will obey whatever government is set up. But that was enough. It was the beginning of true self-government in America, from people who already were used to governing themselves in their churches. We continue to look back on that model of self-government today (at least where anything about the Pilgrims may still be taught). A group of dedicated Christians showed the way.

How are we handling self-government in our day? Do we really believe in it anymore? When we look to Washington, DC, to provide for us and to take care of all our problems, what is left of the spirit of self-government?

I hope it’s not too late to revive this principle.

The Greatest of All Self-Government Quotes

 

Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations
Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch Christian who became famous for his writings on how nations should relate to one another. There is a quote attributed to him that spells out how self-government works better than any other explanation I have ever read. Now, I haven’t been able to document when or where Grotius said this; that’s why I stated only that it is attributed to him. However, as I tell my students, if I ever find out for sure that he didn’t say it, I will continue to use it because it is such a wonderful quote, and then claim it for myself. Here’s that very insightful statement:

 He knows not how to rule a kingdom that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province that cannot order a city; nor he order a city that knows not how to regulate a village; nor he a village that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.

 Read through that carefully again. How might this nation function if we took this to heart? If we never gave anyone civil authority until he or she has shown the ability to handle smaller responsibilities first? If we checked to find out if that person is first of all obedient to God? What a difference it could make.

Principle: Self-Government

In an age when we look to Washington, DC, for everything we need, we have forgotten one basic Biblical principle that was part of the foundation of this country. It is a principle simply called self-government.

It’s not hard to explain. God has created each of us with the ability to make decisions. That is part of His image that He placed within us. Government, by definition, is “control and direction.” Whenever anything is governed, that means it is controlled and directed. The issue comes down to who or what is doing the controlling and directing.

Self-government begins with the individual. We are to learn how to control and direct our own lives under God. This is not meant to be an old 1960s refrain–“do your own thing.” Rather, it is a growth in maturity as we come to understand more and more just what God wants us to do–and then we do it. We don’t do it because someone is standing over us making us do it; instead, we do it because we acknowledge that it is the right thing to do and we make that decision ourselves.

We used to teach this to our children. We sought to help them grow up and make wise decisions based on eternal standards of right and wrong. Nowadays, we tell them to make their own decisions but we disconnect that decisionmaking from God’s standards. That’s when it becomes a purely personal preference unrelated to what is right.

So each individual is govern himself. But there are other applications. Each family is to be self-governing, each church, each voluntary organization, each locality, each state, each nation.

One more application: you should never give a higher level of responsibilty to anyone who has not shown the proper self-government of a lesser responsibilty. The apostle Paul was following this principle when he cautioned his disciple Timothy on the procedure for choosing elders and deacons in the church. They had to be proven at a lower level before being elevated in rank or responsibility.

I’ll continue with this concept in my next post.

Principle: Made in God's Image

In early America, there was little debate about who man was. Nearly everyone agreed man was a being made in the image of God. What did that mean?

First, it meant that God had transferred many of His attributes to his creation: man was given intellect, emotions, and the power to choose good and evil. He also had a spirit. Just as God is a spirit, so man was more than a material being. He also would live forever, the destination predicated on his choice.

Second, it meant that man was God’s highest creation and that the life He breathed into him was the greatest gift that could possibly be given. It was a gift that was to be honored and protected. It meant that life was sacred. We know that’s how God viewed it when He declared that anyone who would take away the life of another would suffer the same penalty, thereby sanctioning capital punishment.

There is a difference between taking the life of a murderer (a task given to civil society) and taking the life of an innocent person. The ultimate innocent person is one who has never chosen right from wrong because he or she is still inside the womb.

The Ultimate Innocent Person

The Ultimate Innocent Person

When we later adopted the view that man simply evolved from lower life forms, we discarded the idea that man is a special creation of God. We reduced him to a mass of chemicals or a blob of tissue. That’s why it is so much easier now to discard unwanted human life, either in the womb or when a person is no longer considered “useful” to society.

A society that can allow this type of behavior is a society in rebellion against its Creator. It will pay a penalty. Our mission is to trumpet the message that man IS made in God’s own image, as we seek to reverse policies that destroy innocent life.

Principle: God the Creator

Continuing with a review of Biblical principles, I want to focus now on the truth that God is the creator of all things. If God “is,” then it is not a great logical leap to conclude that He also “does.” We don’t really grasp the concept of how astonishingly creative He is. All that we see around us began with an image in His own mind. He then transformed that image into something tangible. The universe sprang from His creativity; all the features of this earth are the result of His desire to create; the material and animal creations manifest His imagination.

Then came man. This was a unique part of His creation. Man is separated from all other created things by one key ingredient. Within man was planted the image of God. Nothing else in creation has this gift. God reasons; man can reason. God displays emotions; man possesses identical emotions. God chooses; man has a will. God knows the difference between right and wrong; man is endowed with a conscience. God is a spirit who is from everlasting to everlasting. Although man has a starting point, he also is more than a physical being; he has a spirit, and he will live forever as well. The only difference is that there are two eternal locations for that spirit, and only one is in the presence of his Creator.

Perhaps Michaelangelo expressed it best in his painting of the Sistine Chapel.

How are we handling this most wonderful creation of God? Do we reason as God reasons? Feel what He feels? Choose as He would choose? Is our conscience informed by His truth or have we instead seared our conscience to avoid the truth? This is not a game; it determines where our spirit will spend eternity.

And do we attempt to influence our culture by speaking clearly regarding this truth? Or do we hide the truth in order to be accepted by the culture? The future of the nation depends on the answer to that question.

Principle: I Am Who I Am

As noted in the previous post, a foundational principle is that God actually exists. At one point, in Hebrew history, a man named Moses, a shepherd without any real status in society, saw a most unusual sight: a bush that burned but wasn’t consumed. Out of the midst of the bush, he heard the voice of God telling him to embark on a mission to free his people from Egypt. When Moses asks the name of the voice, he is told,

I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I Am has sent me to you.”

When Jesus later spoke to the Pharisees, and they demanded to know who He claimed to be, He responded, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” The connection was clear–so clear that they immediately tried to stone Him to death. They understood He was claiming to be God.

Not only does God actually exist, but He has made Himself known.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is another foundational principle, the truth that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. It is a truth denied by most of the world, but only through this truth do we find out what life is really all about. And it is a truth that needs to permeate our culture.

Principle: The God Who Is There

Christian Apologist Francis Schaeffer
Christian Apologist Francis Schaeffer

A few postings ago, I started writing about principles and how they should be the basis for everything we do. Principles are general truths, and they come from God.

And that should be the first principle we consider: the fact of God’s very being. One of the most influential writers in the Christian world, who speaks to us even after his death, was Francis Schaeffer. I’m reminded of the title of one of his books–The God Who Is There. Schaeffer stressed that God was a distinct being to whom we are all accountable, and in his books he continually argued that there is such a thing as objective truth, which has its origin in the being of God.

The Psalmist has told us, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” The Apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, spends a considerable amount of time in the first two chapters setting out this one salient fact: we all know He exists; we are all accountable to Him, yet we try to suppress the evidence; we have no excuse for our disobedience. His words are strong:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

No matter how many doctorates one may possess, no matter how many books and articles one has written, no matter how many appearance on TV programs as an “expert,” if any person denies the existence of God, he or she is a fool. God’s existence is one of those general truths; it is foundational for comprehending the meaning of the world in which we live.