Purpose of This Blog

The Final Goal of this Blog is to work towards the unification of the seceding denominations (and the one true original denomination) into a unified and public body of believers so as to properly fight the False Presbyterian Church (better known as the PC (USA)) and to subdue it from preaching a false gospel.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Civil Government

A question has come up concerning the role of Civil authority in the nature of the Sabbath and I wanted to highlight a post made by the Rev. Brian Carpenter quoting John Calvin on the nature of the civil magistracy and its relation to the Christian person. Also I will post Westminster's view on Civil Government:

Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

Here it is necessary to state in a brief manner the nature of the office of magistracy, as described in the word of God, and wherein it consists. If the Scripture did not teach that this office extends to both tables of the law, we might learn it from heathen writers; for not one of them has treated of the office of magistrates, of legislation, and civil government, without beginning with religion and Divine worship. And thus they have all confessed that no government can be happily constituted, unless its first object be the promotion of piety, and that all laws are preposterous which neglect the claims of God, and merely provide for the interests of men. Therefore, as religion holds the first place among all the philosophers, and as this has always been regarded by the universal consent of all nations, Christian princes and magistrates ought to be ashamed of their indolence, if they do not make it the object of their most serious care. We have already shown that this duty is particularly enjoined upon them by God; for it is reasonable that they should employ their utmost efforts in assertion and defending the honour of him, whose viceregents they are, and by whose favour they govern. And the principal commendations given in the Scripture to the good kings are for having restored the worship of God when it had been corrupted or abolished, or for having devoted their attention to religion, that it might flourish in purity and safety under their reigns. On the contrary, the sacred history represents it as one of the evils arising from anarchy, or a want of good government, that when "there was no king in Israel, every man did that which was right in his own eyes." These things evince the folly of those who would wish magistrates to neglect all thoughts of God, and to confine themselves entirely to the administration of justice among men; as though God appointed governors in his name to decide secular controversies, and disregarded that which is of far greater importance—the pure worship of himself according to the rule of his law. But a rage of universal innovation, and a desire to escape with impunity, instigate men of turbulent spirits to wish that all the avengers of violated piety were removed out of the world. . ."



Westminster Confession of Faith

CHAPTER XXIII.

Of the Civil Magistrate.

I. God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good; and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil-doers.

II. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate when called thereunto; in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth, so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.

III. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.

IV. It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted; much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

22 comments:

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I think this one is a non-starter, Dub.

At this stage in history few would desire a Christian government, and it's probably a moot point because we are moving away from that goal, not towards it. In a Republic such as ours and a quasi-Constitutional Monarchy such as yours, we will not have a Christian government until most of the citizens of a given country are Christians and desire one. That won't happen until we get busy in evangelism or the Lord sends true revival.

Anyhow, it's only very tangential to the stated purpose of your blog.

I am interested in discussing the TR/PR issue, however. I think that's really the core of the difficulties with reunion.

Ebenezer Erskine said...

Rev. Carpenter,

I was not speaking in theocratical way but more wanting to flush out the disagreement between Gary and yourself, both PCA's, on this issue. However it seems Gary has run off so I'll try and cajole him back into the fold.

Anonymous said...

What role did Samuel Rutherford have in the formation of chapter 23? Anyone know?

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I cheated and have this quote from Wikipedia:

Rutherford's Writings

Rutherford's political book, Lex, Rex, presented a theory of limited government and constitutionalism. It laid the foundation for later political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and thus for modern political systems such as that of the United States. After the Restoration, English authorities burned Lex, Rex and cited the author for high treason, which his death prevented from taking effect.

Rutherford supported the rule by law rather than rule by men, based on such concepts as the separation of powers and the covenant, a precursor to the social contract. His was also known for his spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself and his Letters. Rutherford was a strong supporter of the divine right of Presbytery, the principle that the Bible calls for Presbyterian church government. Among his polemical works are Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), Lex, Rex (1644), and Free Disputation against Pretended Liberty of Conscience.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

As I recall my history, Rutherford did not make a huge contribution to this chapter. He was mostly opposed to the King ("God's Silly Vassal" he called King James) meddling in the affairs of the church except to call counsels to decide major disputes that threatened public peace and good order.

He laid the groundwork for the Covenanting movement. When Charles I (and Charles II) both tried to install bishops and a new, more anglican prayer book into the Scottish Presbyterian church in direct violation of promises made to the church, he fomented a rebellion.

I don't think Rutherford would have been opposed to anything Calvin wrote, but rather sought to refine and develop it to his specific situation.

Certainly Rutherford would have been in favor of the King and Parliament passing laws concerning the upholding of the Sabbath Day. Certainly the nature of the relationship between church and state was "up in the air" at this time.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I find that I'm in error. It was Melville who called James "God's Silly Vassal." They say the memory is the second thing to go. I forget what the first one is.

B

Alan said...

I read this post as EE trying to help Gary understand the error in his thinking, and a fine job he has done. But it appears Gary is not interested in being confused with facts.

Gary said...

Alan,

I said I'd shut up. I didn't say I wouldn't read.

So where does it say in the Bible to mock me? Does that in some way glorify the Lord? You know what everyone is supposed to do in all that they do.

Alan said...

Gary,
You are correct and I regretted posting that as soon as I did. I am sorry please forgive me. Sometimes my desire to be humorous overrides my desire to be loving.

In Christ
Alan

Gary said...

I accept your apology.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Mine too?

Gary said...

Yes I accept your apology.

Gary said...

BTW, the 1789 WCF which the PCA uses is different in chapter 23

III. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments (2 Chron. xxvi. 18); or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. xvi. 19; 1 Cor. iv. 1, 2); or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith (John xviii. 36; Mal. ii. 7; Acts v. 29). Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever 654shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger (Isa. xlix. 23). And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief (Psa. cv. 15; Acts xviii. 14–16). It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance (2 Sam. xxiii. 3; 1 Tim. ii. 1; Rom. xiii. 4).]

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Yup. That one originated in Ireland and made its way over to America after the Revolution.

B

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

See Morton Smith's "History of Confessional Subscription" for all the details.

B

Gary said...

So I'm still a postmodernist heretict even though our denomination's confession argues the same exact argument that I was giving? That the civil government stay out of the church's role completely and not interfere in the religion of its citizens.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

You're doing it again Gary.

I never said you were a heretic. Heretics go to hell. I certainly do not believe you are hell bound. What I said was that several of your positions were out of accord with the Standards. And they are. That's simply a fact.

Read it again carefully. In the words of Inigo Montoya, "I do not think that word means what you think it means." (Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!)

Ask yourself, once again, how did the Blue Laws come into existence and continue in existence with the support of the Presbyterian (and all the other Protestant) churches given this statement?

Gary said...

Civil magistrates may not interfere in matters of faith

is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or infidelity

that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I don't understand how what you wrote answered my question, Gary.

Gary said...

Fine. They aren't there now for a reason. They were declared unconstitutional. I don't care why they came into existence before or how they remained for so long. Most likely it was because there was a whole lot more Christians here before. And Christians aren't immune to hypocricy. I know I'm not.

And it is irrelevant. They are not Constitutional as far as the Supreme Court of the United States is concerned today. Until that changes, it is a mistake to keep making this a public goal.

In other words, I'm more concerned with the church surviving in this hostile nation then I am debating this ideal ad naseum that you invision and claim in the first post that can't be done today. Which was my originally %^&* point.

Gary said...

And finally... I have brought your concerns about me to the attention of my church. Let them do as they will.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

Right, and hypocrisy is where I figured you'd go. It's your only framework for discussion. If somebody disagrees with your libertarian outlook, it's where you automatically go... legalism, hypocrisy, and people who just want to control other people.

But I think there's another option, as well as another way to understand what these words in the Confession mean:

"Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger"

As in this case:

Published on: 1/6/2008 Last Visited: 4/27/2006

Meijer's stores has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Debra Kerkstra, a member of the Christian Reformed Church who was fired for refusing to work on Sundays. Kerkstra, who worked as a cake decorator, said she lined up a replacement but the store would not allow the switch. She says, "I was forced to choose between my job and my religion.
...
Debra Kerkstra of Allegan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church. Her case is pending in federal court in Kalamazoo.
...
Kerkstra, 37, admits she worked a Sunday shortly after she was hired, but she said she is "ashamed and embarrassed" about that decision.

Laws closing unnecessary businesses on the Sabbath will protect Christians from economic discrimination and allow them the free and full exercise of their religion. That's why these words are not at odds with what I am advocating. Actually, they tend to support civic sabbatarianism.

All they say is that the government should not attempt to control the doctrine of the church, and should not prefer the doctrinal nuances of one church over another. But the Blue Laws concerning businesses on a Sunday were a universal understanding 100 years ago, even among Catholics and those Protestants who didn't take a Puritan view of the Sabbath.

Now, on to other things:

"Until that changes, it is a mistake to keep making this a public goal."

How will things change UNLESS we make it a public goal? I think they won't. For instance, our ministerial alliance here in Sturgis will soon petition the schools and sports leagues not to schedule events on Sunday morning in conflict with church. It's not much, but it's a start.

"In other words, I'm more concerned with the church surviving in this hostile nation...."

I'm not. I'm more concerned about the church being pure and standing up for the full-orbed message of the gospel in this watered down age.

And lastly,

"And finally... I have brought your concerns about me to the attention of my church. Let them do as they will."

Good for you, Gary. That shows integrity. I'm not and never had suggested that anyone put you under discipline for your views. But the fact of the matter is, you will be getting an advanced degree and teaching religion. It's entirely probable that you will be teaching Sunday School or even will become a Ruling Elder one day. That demands a closer degree of scrutiny than simple membership. I think you ought to consider carefully what integrity would demand of you if you continue to hold your views, and if you are offered those opportunities.