Basic Principles for Society
Basic Christian Doctrines
1. All Aspects of Human Society Are to Be Under God.
“One nation under God” is a good Biblical motto. Individuals are under God's rule, and so are all relationships between individuals (families, government, employment, churches, etc). Indeed, all aspects of society are also to be submitted to God's rule, for God's glory. This would include work, entertainment, business, education, art, communication, literature, science, and many others. This is part of the Cultural Mandate God gave to Adam in Gen 1:28. The great Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch Calvinist theologian who became Prime Minister, said: “There is not one square inch in the universe of which Christ does not say, ‘Mine’.”
2. God Commands Man to Work.
Part of this Cultural Mandate is the command to work. Note that God gave this work-order to Adam before the Fall. He was to till the Garden. After the Fall, God did not annul this order, but made it harder. The curse of sin means that we must sweat and toil to do our work. It is a life sentence at hard labor. Eve was to help him, and today both individuals and couples are to work to use the Creation to glorify God. Man's main place is outside the home, the woman's in the home (Tit 2:5). We are to rest I day, but that means we are to work the other 6. Laziness is frequently condemned in Scripture. God blesses us in several ways for good work, such as the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. The early Protestants, especially the Calvinists, developed what is termed the Protestant Work Ethic, which is the basis for the modern Free Enterprise system. It involves the principles of hard work, thrift, re-investment, honest dealings, and generous charity to those in need.
3. God Ordained Private Property.
“Thou shalt not steal” means that some things belong to some people and not to others. All things belong to God, but He has given them to people by way of delegated stewardship. Theft is wrong (robbery, burglary, wrongful lawsuits, deceptive advertising, etc). But extortionate taxation is also a form of stealing, for the Bible teaches Christian capitalism, not Socialism. We are to use our belongings by the rules of the Bible, both individually and collectively in our dealings with others.
4. God Created Human Government.
Just as God ordained the family and the church, so God also ordained the State. Romans 13 is the main passage on this. Rulers are ordained by God. God raises them up and brings them down. He uses even ungodly rulers to carry out His purposes. Government was not Man's idea, and today it is not left to Man to think up what is the best kind of government. God has told us what is the general outline for all governments to follow.
5. Israel Was Meant to Serve as a Model Society.
One of the several reasons God raised up Israel as a nation was for it to serve as a model society. On the one hand, it was given certain laws and blessings that were not applicable to Gentile nations. For instance, Israel alone was given a direct and explicit land grant. On the other hand, in other ways Israel was to be a model society. The ideal was not for a monarchy, but for a theocracy. This applies to Gentiles in that they must submit their government and society to God. Judges, not kings, are closer to the ideal. There is no direct theocracy outside of Israel. But even today, we can learn much from its laws and system - and from its mistakes.
6. Government Should Be Righteous.
God holds all individuals responsible to obey Him - He also holds all governments and persons in authority responsible. God judged Gentile nations in the Old Testament for failure to obey Him, and He still does. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome. The standard of righteousness is not majority opinion, advice from the intellectual elite, whatever is new, or other concoctions of Man. Rather, it is the Bible. Rulers cannot guarantee the salvation of its people, any more than parents can their children. But they can punish evil-doers and reward good-doers, and thus instil a kind of national character. God has two kingdoms, as it were: the State and the Church. Both are under God. One has the sword, the other the sacraments. They are related, but not identical. But both are under God and should follow the Bible.
7. Christians Ought to Be Good Citizens.
Just as Adam was to work in the Garden for God's glory, so Christians are to be involved in all aspects of society to God's glory, including the State. Christians may vote, serve on juries, join the military, serve as elected and appointed officials, etc. They should analyze the nature of their government and compare it to God's ideal in Scripture, then act wisely to help bring it into conformity with God's Word. Naturally this is difficult. We are to be good citizens, and God uses our presence to influence the world, restrain sin, prepare for the spread of the Gospel, bless families, and so forth.
8. God Condemns Both Tyranny and Anarchy.
God's ideal is the “Righteous Republic” of judges, not kings. Democracy is similar, but is rooted in Greek philosophy rather than Biblical revelation. Tyranny is the idea that one man at the top is the law. He himself is above the law. We see this in Nazism, Caesarism, Pharaohism, etc. Even some of Israel's kings became dictators. A monarchy is better, but can be good or bad. Saul was a poor king, David a good one. There is no “divine right of kings” in the Bible. That was invented by medieval kings in cahoots with the Papacy to reinforce their authority. On the other hand, God does not approve of pure democracy, libertarianism, or outright anarchy. In a way, the worst government is better than no government. Israel swung to both extremes in the Book of Judges.
9. God Ordained the Sword.
God gave the sword to the State and in a lesser way to individuals. The Church has the power of the Word to convert, not the sword to punish. The State can and must use force to punish and protect. This principle, among many others, means that the State may wage just war, execute some criminals, arm the police, and so on. Individuals have a limited use of the sword, but this does not allow for vigilantism or personal revenge. God ordained the police and the military, as well as judges and elected officials. They must use the sword as God allows.
10. No Human Government Will Ever Be Perfect.
We should pray for our leaders (1Ti 2), and be like salt and light in society. We can effect much good. We should obey the Cultural Mandate as well as the Great Commission. Yet, for all our efforts, there will never be the perfect society until Christ returns. Men are still sinners. Even on an island populated by Christians, we also still have sin - and a new generation always replaces us. Most societies and governments have been very evil and corrupt, unjust and wicked, adding to Man's sin and misery. This is not an excuse to hide, but an incentive to work, pray and evangelize until Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom.