Separation of Theology and State?

Who Is Final Authority?

Who Is Final Authority?

April 5, 2018

I have been thinking lately about this subject published nearly four years ago. It has more relevance than ever. Therefore, here it is again. Let me know what you think.

Who conceived, originated and established the idea of government?

I can tell you this: it came from a more intelligent mind than the mind of man.

God instituted government, and he gave men specific purposes for its existence. Everyone who is involved in government – who is an authority – has a specific call from God. This is no less a call than that of any other person.

The Bible says that God sets up rulers. He is the one who delegates authority. There is no autonomous authority. All authority is derived from the Supreme Authority. One day all government will be upon the shoulders of the Messiah.

Nations were established in the days of the Tower of Babel, when God supernaturally scattered the peoples, diversified their languages, and broke down the central authority of the day. Why did He do this? They saw themselves as gods, with supreme power and authority. This was a direct rebellion against God’s authority. Such aspirations were rebellion then; they are rebellion now.

file000725593295Government authorities are called to provide justice and mercy. They are called to commend those who do right and punish those who do wrong. (As I wrote here, some leaders in our own government rebel against the authority that has been established for our nation, which makes them subject to judgment.)

And what is the standard for determining what is right and what is wrong? The Founder of government and the Source of all authority is the One who determines that. Government authorities are directly instructed by God, in Psalm 2, to “be wise, receive instruction, and serve the Lord with reverential awe”. That is a fundamental assignment to every government authority, regardless of the nation or the political system.

Think of the difference in the lives of the people if every government authority obeyed this commission. Think of the difference in your life. It is reasonable to assume that some political systems would cease to exist in current form. When the wicked rule, the people groan. When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.

Is there more rejoicing or groaning today in your nation?

Who would say that God intends rulers to distress, harm, hurt, and steal from their own people? Who? Their calling and commission are clear. God raises up authorities in the nations to extend His dominion. He raises up authorities to extend His rule. Their authority is delegated. Many of these authorities disobey or disregard His commission for them, which means they are not carrying out the ultimate Authority’s purposes.

Let’s look at a calling that many would more readily recognize as a calling from God: that of an elder of a congregation. God has specific callings for that person. What of those elders who turn down a wrong pathway? What of those elders who lord it over people, abuse their authority, create harm or division in the church, or lead the church into false teaching or immoral practices? God placed that elder in that position. Would we then say we have no means or right to take action to remove that person from office? Would we say we simply submit because God put him in that position?

The person who is called into service as an authority in the civic affairs of his country, or his state, is called as much that elder is. His calling is a sacred assignment from God.

There is no possibility of separation of theology and state.

There will always be an appeal to ultimate authority. There will always be a moral code. A government authority may resist or reject God’s authority. He may see himself as the supreme authority. He may see another set of teachings as the basis of government. However, this does not change the fact that his authority is delegated, and his calling is very specifically described in Scripture.

Authority Delegated

Authority Delegated

A government leader can be disobedient to his calling, creating destruction and distress. Are there no means then of changing this? Are we to assume that any governmental authority is justified in anything he does simply because he is in that position? I think not.

Jesus created much angst with the civil rulers of His day, when He declared that He was a king. He called people to a different kingdom than the ones which the rulers oversaw, and they were agitated by that. Some say Jesus didn’t address the politics of His day. Actually, He did. The religious leaders were bought and paid for Roman puppets. They were in politics up to their frontlets.  Jesus strongly condemned their practices. Often.

You might respond that not all government leaders are required to follow the will of God. Your reason would probably be that some people claim no allegiance to Christ. They live by other standards. This does not negate what He has called them to do. God’s commands extend to everyone. If a person is to take on the heavy responsibility of governing the people, there is a clear calling outlined for him. Trouble and heartache will follow in any nation whose leaders ignore that calling. You cannot step into a delegated role and presume to do whatever you want with it. Accountability beckons.

Augustine said that those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man. I stand with him on that.

Many have heard the statement that “religion and politics don’t mix”. That is a well-known statement.

It is not found in the Scriptures. It is not found in real life. It is impossible to unmix them.

Photos via: MorgueFile, Stockvault, Andrew Roebert

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