By Stephen M. King, Ph.D.
Professor, Taylor University, Upland, IN, USA
(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,” www.cpn.org/cpn/sections/tools/models/communitarianism.html). 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).