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Home The Light Articles from 2012 Civil Government and Calvinism

Civil Government and Calvinism

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Some believe that Romans 13:1 teaches God ordains government, but does not ordain the governor. The verse reads, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." It is said that to select men for any position must be equated with the doctrine of predestination rooted in Calvinism, and in some cases may involve men's eternal destiny.What Is Calvinism? First, for those of you who may not be familiar with Calvinism...

Calvinism has five major premises upon which it rests, often referred to as TULIP.Total Depravity (Mankind is completely sinful, a result of the inherited "Original sin" of Adam.) Unconditional Election (Nothing can be done to gain salvation.) Limited Atonement (Jesus died only for the "elect.")Irresistible Grace (An internal call from God that an individual cannot resist.)Perseverance of the Saints (Once saved, always saved.)Obviously, when compared with other germane passages, none of the points of Calvinism above relate to the truth found in Romans 13:1, that God is speaking of individuals and not human government generally.Nations In ProphecyThe Bible teaches that God has an agenda for nations: "He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings..." (Dan. 2:21). Jerome observed of "changeth... times... seasons"-"He herein gives a general preparatory intimation, that the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is concerning the changes and successions of kingdoms." Jamieson-Fausset-Brown observe, "The 'times' are the phases and periods of duration of empires (compare Dan. 7:25; 1 Ch. 12:32; 29:30); the 'seasons' the fitting times for their culmination, decline, and fall (Eccl. 3:1; Acts 1:7; 1 Th. 5:1). The [uncertainties] of states, with their times and seasons, are not regulated by chance or fate, as the heathen thought, but by God." Related to this is Proverbs 8:15, "By Me kings reign..." Do we believe that?That God is concerned with the nations and the effect these powers have on their subjects is plainly taught in 1 Tim. 2:1-2: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Notice that God's plan for us is a far far distance from the ideas of modern political involvement. Christians have a part in making a difference in society's direction. We are exhorted to do this in this passage; it is not a mere suggestion. But this difference is to be made through prayer, prayer that may effect a change in governmental leadership and ultimately, even in forthcoming legislation.Any agenda will fail without proper men to fulfil the necessary elements of that agenda, in this study, the direction of a nation. In other words, unless Providence intervenes-i.e., if God must wait until circumstances happen to fall in place -even His omnipotence is inadequate and He has no assurance at all that His purpose will ever be filled. The entire course of human affairs would be left to chance resulting from the societal direction of whimsical humanity -unless He intervenes providentially.Pharaoh and CalvinismIf God had not specifically raised up the particular Pharaoh of Exodus 9:16, who can tell if Moses would have had opportunity to have led the Children of Israel to freedom. Why should there be objection that God would select a man, a specific, well suited individual, to accomplish His ultimate will? That is what the Bible says He does; why should we deny it? Why is it related to Calvinism that God would use a specific personality to accomplish an end? The error of this reasoning, it would seem to me, is confusing God's foreknowledge with the false doctrine of individual foreordination. There is a vast difference. God knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10); the future isas a page in history to His omniscient mind. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).To "foreknow" a matter is to simply know the matter before it comes to pass. To "foreknow" a man includes the man's character, proclivities, susceptibilities, inclinations, etc. It is to know a man in such a full way as to be able to use that man's disposition to accomplish a given end-in this case, God's ultimate purpose for a nation. It is not Calvinism. For God to manipulate a chosen, suited, "qualified" individual, using circumstances, incidents or involvements, to influence this man to act so as to accomplish the Divine plan, certainly does not violate the man's free moral agency. Nor does it violate God's righteousness. But keep in mind we cannot know positively how God works, providentially or otherwise, unless it is revealed in His Word. We can only be positive that He does (Luke 11:1-13, Rom. 13:1, 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Heb. 13:5, et at.). And we can also be positive that it is not Calvinistic for Him to so do.To illustrate, the Scriptures tell us in Exodus 8:15,32,9:34 that Pharaoh "hardened his heart," refusing to let Israel leave Egypt. But in Exodus 10:1,27, 11:10'it is as clearly recorded that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Is this later a contradiction? Or, more closely aligned with this study, is this Calvinism (or a prelude to Calvinism)? How could it be said that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, yet it be also said the Pharaoh himself did the hardening? As stated previously, we cannot know unless the Bible so states, but we can very often easily conjecture how such verses as these Exodus scriptures canbe harmonized. In this case, it is quite possible that God flooded Pharaoh's mind with the consequences of letting this vast slave workforce leave...the economic ramifications of the loss of such a multitude of workers to the Egyptian nation would be staggering. This simple fact alone would be sufficient for a politician as Pharaoh to "Just say, No." With this, the hardening would be attributed to God and His work of influence over Pharaoh. On the other hand, Pharaoh himself was the one who made the negative decision. There may be other providential workings, but suffice it to say, there is no contradiction in who did the hardening-both were involved. Neither is this episode Calvinism.Paul and BarnabasAnother clear illustration is Acts 13:2: "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." Is it Calvinism when God has designed a work for men of such worthy caliber, even calling them by name?Further, a degenerate man's free moral agency is not violated when God, in some providential way, so influences him that His ultimate purpose is accomplished through the man's degeneracy (as in the case of Judas). The same is true of good men used to fill a good end (as in the case of Barnabas and Saul). In either instance, all would be in harmony with the individual's basic character and disposition. And, if it be so that such a man (or men) could be so used, it certainly is not out of line (nor Calvinistic) to suggest that God would ordain a man to the American presidency (the issue giving rise to this study). Nor is it preposterous that He chooses specifically, by name, the exact man He designs, just as he selected Barnabas and Saul yes, and Pharaoh, and other olden kings.Seven Illustrations1.) Consider Pharaoh. "And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee (Pharaoh) up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth" (Exo. 9:16). Here was a case of an explicit man raised up to fill a definite purpose of God. God has an agenda for the nations. It may be for the people's good; it may be for their chastisement or humbling.2.) Consider King Cyrus. Close to two hundred years before he was born, Isaiah actually named Cyrus as the Persian King who would one day fulfill God's purpose. Isaiah's work spanned a period around 760 BC to 698 BC. In Isaiah 44:25-28 we read: "Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer...That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." Years before it came to pass, the very name of the king who would fulfill Isaiah's prophecy was recorded. Scholars tell us that it was this very recording and others similar that, upon being shared with the king, impressed and influenced him to give diligence that all would be fulfilled as prophesied. That God should select a man for His work, and then proceed to clearly name the man, is no small stone in our foundation of faith. It has no marks at all of what we know today as Calvinism. 3.) Consider King Saul.   "Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, tomorrow about this time / will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel...And when Samuel saw Saul, the Lord said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of, this same shall reign over my people" (1 Sam. 9:15,17). The most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men...He selects specific persons, even by name, to fulfill His will. What was God's plan?.. ."to save my people out of the hand of the Philistines" (1 Sam. 9:16). By whom did He propose to do this, what was his name? Saul, the son of Kish. God had a specific agenda for a specific man, and this selection, by name, was not a prelude to Calvinism.4.) Consider King David. "And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons" (1 Sam. 16:1). Here, God had determined to remove from power an unworthy king, but in verse 12, David is named as God's selection to replace Saul as ruler. Note, specifically selected, expressly named! Here again, no Calvinism.5.) Consider King Jeroboam. Of Jeroboam, "...I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel," (1 Kings 14:7). An evil and idolatrous King, a ruler with design to take Judah away from God and His prescribed worship, but elected to rule by God Himself. Again, specifically selected and named, but certainly not a prelude to Calvinism.6.) Consider Judas Iscariot. Referred to as the traitor, Jesus said he "knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him" and that one "was a devil" (John 6:64). Judas didn't just "happen by." It seems unreasonable to say that God did not specifically select Judas with his evil propensities, fulfilling prophecy and thus accomplishing what was essential to bring about the necessary death of His Son. What is Bible prophecy anyway? Surely all would agree that it is far more than foreknowledge-more than the circumstances of chance coming together. In the sense of future things, is not prophecy God sharing His foreknowledge of things that He Himself will most assuredly bring to pass? This has sometimes involved individuals (specifically named individuals) who were to fulfill His purpose. It is unreasonable to catagorize such with the accusation of Calvinism, (cf. Acts 1:16-20.)7.) Consider the apostle Paul. "One called Saul...he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:11,15). ".. .1 have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee" (Acts 26:16). Here is Paul, certainly not a king, but selected by God for a purpose. Is such a selection, by name, Calvinism? In no sense. -Jerry

 

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