Conclusion: Inalienable Rights and Subsidiarity (Part V of V)

By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.
Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA

Stephen King Ph.D.

(Part five of a series of five articles)





Principle 6: Civil government is to protect man’s inalienable rights, which are equality (James 2:1-9), liberty (Lev. 25:10), life (Ps. 139:13), and property (Ps. 8:6).

Inalienable rights are inherent rights, or rights that are granted to man directly by God. Civil rights are granted to citizens of a country by the ruling authorities, such as the legislative body. Civil rights can and often are revoked, changed, or even discarded. Sometimes they are replaced. Inalienable rights are as unchanging as is God (Mal. 3:6). All humans have these rights—among them equality, liberty, life, and property—because we are created in God’s image and likeness. First, equality is the right of all humans to be recognized as creation of God. Second, liberty is to grant to all men the ability and opportunity to make choices regarding his own existence. Third, life is the most precious of all. It is the power of man to honor and revere the concept and institution of life. Why? Because life is made in the “image of God.” Without life man ceases to exist, but he also ceases to manifest the image of God to a spiritually lifeless world. Fourth, property is the right to own or have the ability to own, enjoy, possess, and dispose of something valuable.

God provided us with these inherent rights, and it is the government’s responsibility to protect these rights. Civil governments should not revoke, alter, or attempt to disband them. We will see in the following chapters that when civil government does so, such as in the protection of abortion rights for women, severe consequences result, such as the abortive destruction of over 57 million children in the United States since 1974.

Principle 7: Mankind is to operate in local institutions, such as marriage (Eph. 5:23-24), family (Eph. 6:1-4), and the local church (Acts 2:42), to form cohesive and evangelistic (or “reaching out”) relationships.

Finally, the seventh principle of good government is that the basic operating and learning unit in society is locally based.[i] God did not create tribes, nations, or global institutions first; they evolved later. These national and even supranational organizations and institutions were not God’s first creation. When he created man, he created a single individual, and later he added a helpmate. The two, Adam and Eve, formed the first one flesh relationship. They tended the Garden of Eden, named the plants and animals, and generally cared for all of God’s creation. Thus, they exhibited all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage—the first local institution—and family, which is the second local institution.

The function of these locally based institutions is twofold. First, it is to form cohesion. Cohesion is the social and spiritual cement that maintains integrity to the relationship, and ultimately gives the necessary longevity needed to be effective witnesses of God’s glory. Second, these local institutions are evangelistic, particularly in the broad sense of the term. It includes the common spiritual meaning, while also reaching out to others in practical and even policy-related ways within the local communities. Families, neighbors, neighborhoods, local schools, voluntary associations, and others form interrelationships based upon common purpose to meet the needs of those who live in the community. However, to be effective nationally, regionally, and even internationally these same local organizations and institutions must be networked.

When this principle is overlooked or denied its rightful place in society, culture, and civil government—as has been the case over much of the last 60 plus years in the United States—then the personal and community linkages necessary to meet critical human needs go without. The school shooting disasters of the 1990 and beyond, the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the September 11 tragedy are all excellent examples of how local communities, organizations, churches, and individuals came together for a common cause. Of course, in all of these instances, government agencies, or other governmental entity, led the way. But their job could not have been accomplished without the valuable input of individuals in local communities.


These principles discussed—self-determination, jurisdiction, written constitution, delegated sovereignty, justice, inalienable rights, and local institutions—provide the direction for the development and implementation of public policies. In a postmodern world, though, principles, particularly biblical, are anathema to the undefined collage of ideas and concepts found in the reconstruction and deconstruction of truth. Understanding, most importantly, the application of the biblical principles for civil government provide guidance, direction, and wisdom for the orderly and just distribution of goods and services. The application of biblical principles to civil government does not at all constitute a theocracy. It simply defines what is rational and just from God’s perspective and oversight.

Each of these principles is revealed throughout the discussion of the policy areas of life, family, education, and welfare reform. The policies, as I mentioned earlier, are chosen because, among other substantive reasons, they clearly reveal God’s principle of self-government, the principle that directs and supports the remaining six principles. In addition, each of these four policy areas—sanctity of life, family and marriage, education, and welfare reform—are closely associated, either biblically or historically or both to the moral and doctrinal principles of biblical Christianity. For this reason alone, biblical Christians should directly heed to the development and impact, both politically and socially, of these public policy areas, and where possible activate community action on behalf of these policy areas.

God’s life in the structure and process of civil government, which is revealed through these principles, is critical for the continued life and prosperity of the United States. Deviation from or discontinuance of these principles, and the underlying premises that support each, will ultimately lead to civil and societal destruction. Preservation and promulgation of these principles is critical to the renewal of ourselves, community, and nation.


[i] Evangelical Christianity should not embrace the concept of communitarianism. Communitarianism is a response to the dominant theme of individualism, arguing that unless a balance is achieved between the promulgation of individual rights and social responsibility society will continue on a path of “normlessness and self-centeredness” (See “Communitarianism,” Even though communitarians say they wish to put the “we” back into society, they are opposed to the traditional family unit and community as defined and described in this book. This is not in line with a biblical understanding of spiritual male headship in the home and the emphasis on promoting self-government. See Amitai Etzioni, The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society (New York: Touchstone, 1993); Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: Free Press, 1991); and Robert Bellah, Richard Madsen, et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985).

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God’s Sovereignty and God’s Justice (Part IV of V)

By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.
Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA

Stephen King Ph.D.

(Part four of a series of five articles)





Principle 4: God alone is the sovereign ruler (Col. 1:16); however, he has granted to man the freedom and authority to rule over men righteously (Prov. 16:12).

Secular humanism declares that only man is sovereign. Secular humanism does not recognize sovereignty outside man himself. Bolstered by the Enlightenment Period thinkers, such as John Locke, David Hume, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and many others, political sovereignty is relegated to the empirical world of rationalism, and is devoid the metaphysical reality of religious faith, for example. This position, of course, is antithetical to the truth of God’s Word. In John 19:11, in response to Pilate’s question of who has power over who, Jesus quietly, but firmly, corrected the Roman ruler. Psalms 62:2 declares that God is the source of all power. Proverbs 21:1 states that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” God rules over his creation, including mankind.

We also know, though, that God has granted authority to man to rule over man in a righteous manner. Proverbs 16:12 reads that “Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.” Further in Proverbs 29:2 the writer states that “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Therefore, God expects his ruling authorities to rule according to the law, even the spirit of the law. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 summarizes this mandate:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

Colossians 1:16 states clearly that God and God alone is the supreme ruler, and that from him all power is given. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

People must recognize and abide by God’s divine sovereignty–divine in that it originates from God, but human in that it is apportioned to man (i.e., sovereignty) to rule wisely over his fellow man. More times than not this challenge is unsuccessful.

Principle 5: Civil government is to apply both justice and judgment to policy issues (Amos 5:24).

According to Plato, justice is the primary function of civil government. Many times, though, the meaning and application of biblical justice is elusive. There are several important meanings. First, it means to be equitable or fair in the application of the law. Deuteronomy 33:21 denotes that Gad “carried out the Lord’s righteous will, and his judgments concerning Israel.” The phrase “righteous will” suggests a process that is done fairly, and that is evenhanded so that no one party is disadvantaged. This is called procedural due process, as described by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

However, there is a second meaning, and that is judgment or retribution. Retributive justice carries with it a penalty that corresponds to a resulting decision or verdict by the judge. In Deuteronomy 33, the judge is God and the recipient of his retribution is Israel. In Deuteronomy 18:19, the prophet is the mouthpiece of God, and the person who experiences the wrath of God is the one who does not listen to the prophet’s words.

So, the first use of the word deals with how the law is applied (process), and the second is concerned with the end result (or punishment). Some, such as Charles Colson, for Nixon Whitehouse aid, and later Christian apologist, argued in favor of restorative justice; justice that compensates the victim and restores the perpetrator to right relationship with the State, and more importantly with God. Restorative justice is not applicable for all types of crimes, in particular, violent felonies; however, for misdemeanors and other non-felonies it may prove far more effective than various forms and application of retributive justice.[i]

Our justice system is largely ineffective today because it fails to find the proper balance between retributive and restorative justice. Our jails and prisons are full because we do not have an answer. God’s answer is to deal with the human heart first; and then second, use government as a means to deal with the unacceptable behavior that results from a heart that remains distant from his loving grace.


[i] See Charles Colson’s Justice That Restores (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001). For a secular examination on the effect of restorative justice of victims, see Ruth Ann Strickland’s, “Restorative Justice: Its Effects on Victims and Victims’ Rights,” paper prepared for presentation at the Annual North Carolina Political Science Association Meeting in Salisbury, N.C., Catawba College, 5 April 2002.

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“Self-Determination, Jurisdiction & Written Constitution” (Part III of V)

By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.
Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA

Stephen King Ph.D.

(Part three of a series of five articles)





Principle 1: Civil government promotes the right of self-determination (Exodus 24:3).

The first of our seven principles is “self-determination.” Self-determination is the ability to obey or disobey; it is the power to control one’s actions.[i] George Orwell’s famous book, 1984, depicted a life devoid of the principle of self-determination. All non-democratic-republican government systems, such as communism and socialism, do not require, and in fact dissuade, their citizens from engaging in self-determination. Self-determination connotes civil and spiritual freedom, which means the right to disagree with the ruling authorities.

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel demanded that an earthly king rule over them. They wanted a king like the other nations had, so that they would be a symbol of national power and unity, and have safety and security. Thus, they executed their right to determine for themselves what type of executive they wanted. Through Samuel, God granted their request (1 Samuel 8:7-9), but not without a prophetic and stern warning:

And the Lord told him: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.

The people decided. They rejected Samuel, his sons, and God. Samuel was distraught and saddened by the people’s decision, but he obeyed both God and the people. He told the people what God told him to say, and he anointed Saul as their first king. The principle of self-determination carries a burden of responsibility, while enabling individuals the power and self-evident right to govern themselves accordingly.

Principle 2: Civil government abides by proper jurisdiction between institutions and powers (Matt. 22:21).

A second principle of good government is the proper balance of jurisdiction between institutions and political powers. One Christian legal scholar writes that principle of jurisdiction raises two critical questions:

  • What authority (may) a civil government rightfully exercise?
  • Who determines a civil government’s lawful authority?[ii]

The answer to both questions, of course, is God and godly ordained authority (Romans 13; 2 Peter 2), respectively, such as a constitution or the proper delegation of political power. The overriding concern surrounding each question is the principle of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction, which is defined as the official power to pronounce what is legal or not, is a critical variable surrounding today’s political and policy disputes.

Let’s look again at the Matthew 22 incident, but this time with the emphasis on jurisdiction. Jesus encounters two powerful religious ruling groups. The Pharisees were strong nationalists, opposed to any kind of Roman rule, and desired that Israel return to its glory days under the monarchs. The Herodians supported the Roman rule. In this case, though, the Pharisees enlisted the services of their mortal enemy, the Herodians, to deal with an even more hated enemy, Jesus. After failing to flatter him, they endeavored to trick him into giving the wrong answer to their jurisdictional question. He frustrated their efforts in a decisive manner.

Jesus knew the dilemma his accusers were trying to force him into. If he were to say, “No, I do not have to pay taxes to Caesar,” then the Herodians would arrest him for treason, and he would be executed. If he said, “Yes, I should pay taxes to Caesar,” then the Pharisees would report him to the people as being disloyal to his nation. Jesus, of course, recognized their plot against him, and he refused to allow himself to be cornered. He responded simply and profoundly to each authority—God and Caesar—what is their rightful sphere of authority and power. This is proper jurisdiction, and the proper application of jurisdiction.

Later in John 19:10-11, as he was being sentenced by Pontus Pilate for execution, in response to Pilate’s question, “Don’t you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus responded “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” He informs the ruling authority that God is ultimately supreme, and is even the creator of civil government. Yet, because of the power of the principle of jurisdiction, God recognized and honored Pilate’s position, and thus his authority to mete out punishment, despite the fact it was not justified.

Principle 3: Civil government is to be governed by a written constitution (Exodus 20).

A third principle of good government is governance by a written constitution. A constitution can be either written or unwritten, however, the Founding Fathers chose a written document because it clarified the enumeration and limitation of political powers, while at the same time examining the working relationship between government agencies and institutions (e.g. intergovernmental relationships), and units of government (e.g. unitary, federal, and confederal). The bible itself does not outline the use of a written constitution per se, however, it does identify other examples of written contracts, compacts, or even covenants, such as treaties and alliances that did place in writing the responsibilities of both the governed and the governor.

Exodus 20, for example, describes the Ten Commandments. It is exemplary of ancient Near East treaties or Decalogue among other functions, resembles a constitution. A Decalogue contains three main components of any constitution: 1) a preamble; 2) a historical prologue; and 3) the treaty or covenant stipulations.[iii] The preamble for the Ten Commandments is evident with the self-identification of the monarch, or in this case God himself (“I am the Lord your God”). The historical prologue displays previous actions (“who brought you out…). The treaty or covenant stipulations are stated and expected to be obeyed (these, of course, being the Ten Commandments themselves).

This pattern is similar for the U. S. Constitution, where, for example, the preamble sets forth the functions or purposes of the new government. The historical prologue is really in a second document: the Declaration of Independence. And the third component is the stipulations, which are found in the seven articles and 26 amendments. The U.S. Constitution is only about 7,400 words long. Many U.S. state constitutions are much longer documents. Alabama’s is over 170,000 words long! The U.S. Constitution is a governance document, not a political and policy document. It is designed to provide structure, order, and freedom for citizens, primarily by limiting the powers of various branches of government.

Self-determination, balanced jurisdiction, and a written constitution form the basis for a well-ordered democratic-republican form of government.


[i] See Dr. John Munday, unpublished Sunday school lessons titled “God and Government and Responsibilities for Christians” (Chesapeake, VA: Episcopal Church of the Messiah, 14 March 1998).

[ii] Titus, God, Man, and Law (1994), p. 65.

[iii] NIV Study Bible (1984), p. 115, fn. 20: p. 2.

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George Washington on Accepting Refugees

2 December 1783, To Joshua Holmes

To the Members of the volunteer Associations & other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York.


“. . . The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights & previleges, if by decency & propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.”

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Self-Government is the Foundation for Good Government (Part II of V)

By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.
Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA

Stephen King Ph.D.Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him,
because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life
to make up for the help you could not give me.

Philippians 2:29-30

(Part two of a series of five articles)

The Biblical Basis for Self-Government

Good government is based upon self-government. Self-government, which is defined as the “actively ordering (of) one’s life according to the purposes God ordained for man when he created (him) in his own image,”[i] is the first form of government introduced by God.[ii] Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 establishes the creed of self-government, which is obedience to God and his laws, duty to carry to them out, and expectation of consequences.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Jesus spoke of both the rewards and responsibility of self-government. In Luke 12:48, he said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” As human beings, and especially as biblical Christians, we have a responsibility to regulate our behavior, including our mind (2 Cor. 10:3-5), spirit (Prov. 4:20-22), and body (1 Thess. 4:3-5). God has given us the power to control our thoughts, intentions or motives, and actions. Why is this so? Unlike other creatures, we are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-28).

The Creation Mandate confers unto man the image and likeness of the Trinity. “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” We are made in his “representative figure,” and “model his very shape.” Of course, we are not referring to God’s physical presence. However, we are created in the very representation and shape of his spiritual and moral character. He created us out of nothing (ex nihilo), and gave us power over ourselves and the remainder of his creation. Self-government requires us to handle this power and authority responsibly.

However, one of the consequences of the Fall was man’s complete inability and power to rule himself as Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Thus, the need for extra-government or in this case civil government was necessary, as evident in the instruction in Genesis 9:6 to use capital punishment, which was the means to “vindicate the image of God carried by the dead victim.”[iii] Self-government brings with it responsibilities, but it also includes inalienable o natural rights, such as life, liberty, equality, and property. Thomas Jefferson, and the remainder of the committee who helped construct the Declaration of Independence, labeled these rights as self-evident. They are self-evident not simply because they are intuitively and rationally discovered and recognized, but because they are supported by the moral imperative, which is God’s Word.[iv]

Additional forms and processes of government—extra-government that is—are present in society, with each having different spheres of influence, authority, responsibilities, and rights. These governments include family government,[v] church government,[vi]civil government,[vii] and voluntary associations.[viii]

Without the power and authority of self-government, democratic-republican form would not be possible. The power of self-government is required in order for citizens to seek, and be encouraged to seek, the public good or public interest.

[i] Gary Amos, Defending the Declaration (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1989).

[ii] See Genesis: 2-3.

[iii] Herbert W. Titus, God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles (Oak Brook, IL: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 1994), p. 25.

[iv] Each right is amply supported by Scripture, including life (Deuteronomy. 30:15, 16; Job. 10:12; Psalms 133:3), liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17), equality (Genesis 1:26-28; James 2:1-4), and property (Genesis 39:3; Deuteronomy 29:9; Psalms 1:3; 2 Chronicles 26:5).

[v] See 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-25; 6:1-4.

[vi] See Acts 14:23; 16:4; 1 Timothy 3.

[vii] See Genesis 9:6; 1 Samuel 8:5-6; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17.

[viii] See Genesis 11:2-4; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

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Higher Education Policy Brief released at annual TRACS Conference

Director Roy Atwood at the Founders Institute's table at the TRACS Conference 2015 in Dallas, TX.
Director Roy Atwood at the Founders Institute’s table at the TRACS Conference 2015 in Dallas, TX.

The Founders Institute participated in the 2015 TRACS convention in Dallas, TX, released its new public policy brief on higher education, Top Issues to Watch Heading into 2016, for college and university administrators attending the annual accreditation meeting. Dr. Roy Atwood, the Institute’s director and a Morthland College professor, represented the Institute at the conference.

Dr. Tim Morthland, one of the Institute’s Research Fellow, and president , as well as  Executive Vice President Emily Hayes and Registrar Beverlee Atwood from Morthland College also attended the TRACS conference.

The brief highlighted four key issues facing private higher education institutions to watch heading into the new calendar year and the next presidential election cycle. They included:

  • Post-Obergefell Fallout
  • Accreditation
  • HHS Abortifacient Mandate, and
  • Free Junior College & Dual Credit

Access to that policy brief, Top Issues to Watch Heading into 2016, is available to Leaders Roundtable Members and supporting and sustaining members who login at Reports on this website. To join, go to the Membership page and sign up for immediate access!

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