State – Chapter 12: The Biblical State Covenant

Ray Sutton

Narrated By: Devan Lindsey
Book: That You May Prosper


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Chapter Text

Everything belongs to Christ and should be governed by His Word. The State is no exception, for it is one of God’s three institutional monopolies, governed by covenant. To modern ears, this may sound like a strange note. We should keep in mind at the outset of this chapter, however, one very fundamental presupposition of the Bible. There is no freedom apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “The Son shall make you free” (John 8:36). There is no freedom in the family apart from Christ. There is no freedom in the Church apart from Christ. There is no freedom in the State apart from Christ. If we believe in Christ, this must be our basic presupposition. There cannot be freedom outside of the Lord of lords. Unless there is a Christocracy, society ends up in some kind of bondage.

Modern man, to the contrary, has attempted to define liberty without the Son of God. Secularized freedom has become the grand political delusion, foisted on the people of the West by a demonized public educational system. This has become the system’s overarching (should I say, “under-arching”) purpose: to indoctrinate a civilization founded on a sacred view of liberty to believe the lie that a secular view has been the key to its success. This is a great deception. This will be the ruin of every liberty as we know it. Why? Freedom apart from Christ is impossible.

Beginning with this presupposition, so basic to the Christian faith, let us turn our attention to the final sphere of society, and examine how to take dominion. Again we shall see that the State belongs to God, and it too is a covenant.

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Rom. 13:1-7).

True Transcendence

Paul argues that magistrates are “ministers of God” (Rom. 13:4). In the realm of the State, we find the same emphasis that we did in the Church. The transcendent character of the covenant in the civil realm is God, not the State itself. The State is created by God; it is a “Divine” institution. But, it is carefully distinguished from God by the designation, “minister.” If one ignores either, he falls off a dangerous precipice on the right or left side of the truth.

The State should not be allowed to become “divinized” or a new “god.” The Puritans believed that if transcendence is placed in the State, then this sphere becomes “absolutized”: the new “priesthood.” All through history, pagan cultures have tended to be statist, believing in some kind of political salvation. One of many examples in the Bible is Darius, King of Babylon. He set up “Emperor worship,” asking everyone in the land to bow down and worship him (Dan. 6:7). Daniel would not, and was thrown into the “lion’s den” (Dan. 6:16-24).

On the other hand, the State is created by God, and thus, as an “institution,” cannot be the enemy of the Church (Rom. 13:1). Does this contradict what I just said? No. We should be careful to distinguish “evil men” who hold office from the “institution” itself. Paul was reminding Christians of this fact at a time when Nero was Caesar of Rome. If Christians think the enemy is the State, they end up involved in “anarchical” activity that is thwarted by God, because they are opposing the institution that He made.

The anarchist argues along the lines of nominalism. He says that the State does not really exist; what we call the State is simply groups of people acting as individuals for certain purposes. It is not responsible to God as a collective entity, for it has no separate reality. It is not a true representative of the citizens; rather, certain people speak on behalf of the citizens, despite the fact that citizens cannot delegate power to any independent organization.

The statist argues along the lines of realism. He says the State has an existence totally independent of the people who participate in it. No one has individual rights (legal immunities) from the State, for the State is all-encompassing.

The Biblical answer is the only alternative to both nominalism (anarchism) and realism (statism). The State is a representative collective that can and is judged by God in history. The kingdoms of this world are judged by God throughout history. Kings are responsible before God, not just as individuals, but as lawful civil representatives of whole populations.

Thus, the State is not a “deity” but a “Divine institution” set up by God. The Lord’s transcendence makes magistrates His “ministers” of justice. If they do not act as His representatives, then He will bring them down.


Paul says, “He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:2). The original Greek has an interesting play on words. The words for “resist” and “ordinance” have the same Greek root word (tasso), meaning “order.” So, we could paraphrase the verse: “The one who stands against the order of authority has opposed the order of God.” The State is therefore part of God~ hierarchy, and is not a “social contract” formulated by men.

Biblical hierarchy draws the connection between God’s judgment and history. In Deuteronomy and the other covenants, God sets up human authorities to represent Himself. The Lord mediates His judgment through these appointed officers. Romans 13 clearly establishes the same relationship. The civil “ministers of God” wield His “sword”; His judgment is carried out through them. They are not to act on their own. Moreover, because magistrates minister God’s judgment, society sees visible Divine consequences to evil acts when the civil servants carry out the Lord’s justice. Thus, civil magistrates are “authorities” set up by God. To oppose them is to oppose God!

Does this mean, however, that there is never a place for opposing evil and corruption in the State? No. Paul says, “Submit to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). Notice that the “authorities” are plural, meaning there is always more than one lawful authority in the State, and more than one lawful civil government in society as a whole. There are also rival governments: Family and Church. This opens the possibility that when one State authority does wrong, a person should be able to appeal this decision, thereby gaining lawful support in opposing him, and still be in submission to other State authorities, thereby enabling him to “resist” the State without “resisting” God’s authority.

Historically, this has been called the doctrine of the “lesser magistrate.”[1] It is also sometimes called the doctrine of interposition. George Washington was a good example. He was troubled over the Romans 13:1ff. passage, when asked to lead the army of the Continental Congress against England. How could he have been involved in a “revolution” and still obey Romans 13? The first American Revolution was not a revolt of “individuals.” “Lesser magistrates” (Continental Congress) were raised up, asserting that they were the true representatives of God and the people. So, when Washington accepted the call, he was not opposing the State so much as he was obeying the true State.

This view of hierarchy avoids rebellion, yet it protects the hierarchy of God’s chain of command, thereby allowing God’s people to oppose wickedness among its leaders without becoming rebellious in heart. The State is not absolutized, nor is it undermined. It can be called into question for unrighteousness.


The ethics section of the covenant speaks of the fulfillment of righteousness. How is righteousness fulfilled in the State? What is its standard? I have already hinted at several points that natural law is the unbiblical statist measure of righteousness. We shall consider this standard in greater detail in a moment. But Paul says that “magistrates” are “ministers of God,” “avenging” Him (Rom. 13:4).

Magistrates are to rule by “God’s Law.” If they are to “avenge” His wrath, by what other law could they rule? But Paul’s use in Romans of the “wrath of God” (orge theou) makes a key connection between the Deuteronomic “ethics” section and New Testament civil law. Since this is what the magistrate “avenges” (13:4), by studying it in Romans we can arrive at an answer to the question, “By what law should the magistrates rule?”

Early in the book, Paul says, “For the wrath of God (orge theou) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). Paul then proceeds to elaborate on what the “wrath of God is revealed against.” He concludes the passage, lest there be any doubt in the reader’s mind, that “those who practice such things [homosexuality, murder, etc., 1:21ff.] are worthy of death” (Rom. 1:32). Paul’s use of “worthy of death” is helpful because this is an identical phrase that comes out of the Hebrew and Septuagint translations of Deuteronomy (Deut. 17:6, 19:6, 21:22, 22:23). Here is the vital connection between the phrase “avenger of God’s wrath” and the Law of God. All magistrates’ standards should be God’s law.

What about unbelieving magistrates over unbelieving nations? Should they rule and be ruled by God’s law? Yes, they should. Nero was Caesar at the time of the writing of Romans – as evil a ruler who ever lived, at least until the twentieth century’s totalitarian tyrants. Furthermore, Paul does not make the believing – non-believing distinction in Romans 13. He says, “There is no authority except from God” (Rom. 13:1). All men are bound by God’s covenantal standard. Is not this Paul’s point in Romans 1:18ff.?

His argument is simple. All men have sinned before God’s righteous standard. Since all men are accountable, all need a Savior. If they are not accountable, then they don’t need a Savior! Someone who wants to argue that the “unbeliever” is not bound by God’s covenantal standard ultimately has no basis for presenting the Gospel to the unbeliever. If he is not accountable in the area of civil rule, then he has found a loophole in the gospel, an area of neutrality, a “King’s X” from God. He therefore does not need the Christ of the Bible.

The New Testament clearly teaches that civil authorities are supposed to rule by the Bible. Their purpose is ethical. If their function is not ethical, then it becomes manipulative. For example, the Bible makes no provision for “prisons,” with the exception of holding cells and cities of refuge for cases of manslaughter (Nu. 35:9-15). In modern society, many of those who would be put to death under Biblical law not only go unpunished but are fed and housed by the taxes of those on the “outside.” The innocent pay for the crimes of the guilty.

Neutral Natural Law

The concept of natural law was first developed by the Stoic philosophers of the late classical Greek period. The Greek city-states had collapsed. Alexander the Great had created an empire, but in 322 B.C., he died. His empire then fragmented into four sections shortly thereafter. What was to become of Greek culture? It was a State-worshipping culture. Salvation and social order were exclusively political. But without a coherent political order, what would become of classical culture?

The Stoics created an answer: the doctrine of natural law. They argued that there is a universal law structure, and that all rational men can apprehend it. This universal law was said to be the basis of universal humanity, and therefore the basis of a universal culture. The only trouble was (and is), they could provide no evidence that such a universal legal order exists, or that rational minds will universally agree about what this legal order is. In fact, self-proclaimed rational men have argued ever since about reason, “right” reason, and natural law “properly understood.” Roman philosophers later adopted Stoic philosophy and used the idea of natural law to justify the Roman Empire.

What was fundamental to Stoic theology was its denial of the Creator/creature distinction. The Stoics held to a humanistic theory of a common ground between man and God. The Roman philosopher Epictetus had been a student of Seneca’s, who also taught the Emperor Nero. Nero rewarded Seneca by having him executed in A .D. 65. Epictetus wrote:

When a man has learnt to understand the government of the universe and has realized that there is nothing so great or sovereign or all-inclusive as this frame of things wherein man and God are united… why should he not call himself a citizen of the universe and a son of God?[2]

It was the collapse of classical religion, and the attendant collapse of classical philosophy, which led to the collapse of the Roman Empire, which in turn opened the door historically to the triumph of Christian religion and philosophy.[3] Any attempt to save Western civilization by means of a revival of classical philosophy is suicidal. It is interesting that the last great Stoic philosopher, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, was a persecutor of the Church. Justin Martyr died under his reign.

The Bible denies the theological foundation of Stoicism. God and man are distinct, for God is transcendent. Men are created, and they share a common humanity, but they do not share common ethical principles after the Fall of man. The Bible teaches that all men know the work of God’s law, but not the law itself. Paul, a contemporary of Seneca and Epictetus, writes to the Church at Rome:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternatively accusing or else defending them (Rom. 2:14-15).

The problem for a theory of universal natural law is this: there is no assurance that unbelievers will obey the work of the law written in their hearts. Paul had just argued that all men have the testimony of nature before them that God created it, yet they refuse to worship God, but instead worship creeping things. Covenant-breakers “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18b). Therefore, God gives them over to the lusts of their hearts (Rom. 1:24). They become perverse (Rom. 1:26-28). They are then

filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:29-32).

In short, the work of the law in their hearts only serves to condemn them. It cannot be relied on as a way to save them socially or politically. Classical Greek philosophers believed a lie: that man’s ethical problem is essentially a lack of knowledge. Paul’s warning is clear: evil men know what is morally right, and they deliberately commit evil. God then takes away their understanding. So, the fact that men have the work of the law in their hearts guarantees nothing socially, politically, or any other way. Reason does not save men; God saves men. Reason does not heal a political order; God heals it. Natural law theory serves temporarily as a believable political philosophy only when there is a common religious agreement beforehand. Shatter that religious agreement, and natural law theory becomes useless. Thus, it never served as an agreed-upon philosophy in politically disintegrating Greece and religiously polytheistic Rome; it began to be taken seriously only after Rome had fallen to Christ, when Christianity provided religious order to Western culture. But the amalgamation between ‘Jerusalem” and ”Athens” has never successfully overcome the inherent errors of natural law theory, and in the late-eighteenth century the alliance began to disintegrate, and after Darwin, natural law theory collapsed,[4] never to be taken seriously again except by a handful of conservative humanists and a few Christian intellectuals.

Let us not be misled: natural law theory rests on a self-conscious belief in the possibility of judicial neutrality. Civil law must be neutral-ethically, politically, and religiously. Civil law must permit equal time for Satan. There are Christians who believe in neutrality; they send their children to public schools that rest legally on a doctrine of educational neutrality. There are also Christians who think abortion should be legal. This belief rests on the belief that killing a baby and not killing a baby are morally equivalent acts; God is neutral regarding the killing of babies. That such Christians should also adopt a theory of judicial and political neutrality is understandable. But what is not easily understandable is that Christians who recognize the absurdity of the myth of neutrality in education and abortion cling to just this doctrine in the area of civil law and politics. This is a form of what Rushdoony calls intellectual schizophrenia.

It is only the Christian who has the law of God itself written in his heart, what the author of Hebrews calls a new covenant – the internalization of the old covenant (Heb. 8:7-13). For a Christian to appeal to a hypothetical universally shared reason with fallen humanity is to argue that the Fall of man did not radically affect man’s mind, including his logic. It is to argue that this unaffected common logic can overcome the effects of sin. Anyone who believes this needs to read the works of Cornelius Van Til and R. J. Rushdoony.

The appeal to natural law theory is pagan to the core. It is in some cases a self-conscious revival of pagan Greek philosophy.[5] Natural law theory is totally opposed to God’s law.[6] Sadly, we find throughout Western history that compromised though well-intentioned Christian philosophers have appealed to this Stoic concept of natural law in support of some “neutral” system of social and political order. Thomas Aquinas is the most famous of these scholars, but the same mistake is common today. Roger Williams appealed to natural law as the basis of the creation of a supposedly religiously neutral civil government in the 1630s in New England. This is the appeal of just about every Christian who refuses to accept Biblical law as the legal foundation of political order and civil righteousness. The only alternative to “one law” – whether “natural” or Biblical – is judicial pluralism, a constant shifting from principle to principle, the rule of expediency. It is the political theory of polytheism.


When I speak of the Biblical principle of plural authorities, meaning plural governments, I am not speaking of what the modern world calls pluralism. What the modern world calls pluralism is anti-nomianism and relativism: marry moralities. This ultimately means: marry gods. The Bible calls such a view polytheism or idolatry.

First, the effects of pluralism have been devastating to the Christian faith. Man is a religious creature, meaning he is covenantal. The word “religion” comes from the Latin “religo,” meaning “to bind.” This implies the idea of “covenant.” Nigel Lee says, “Religion is the binding tendency in every man to dedicate himself with his whole heart either to the true God or to an idol. In this sense all men are religious, for every man dedicates his powers to some or other object of worship, either consciously or unconsciously.”[7] Technically speaking, “religion” is a covenantal “bond”! Man is a “religious” creature in that he is made of a “covenantal” fabric (Gen. 1:1ff.). Everything he attempts – spending money, doing scientific research, writing a book, as well as going to church – is religious in nature. As a matter of fact, if a person is a non-Christian, his so-called “secular” activity is just as religious as going to church, because he worships another “god” through his endeavors, and thereby rejects the Christian Faith. There is no “neutral” zone.

Thus, “pluralism” is a misnomer and a myth. Pluralism allows all positions except the Biblical one. This is what we see in our society today. In the name of pluralism, the Church is being suppressed. Advocates of pluralism know continuity of Christian faith will destroy their idolatrous society. So they have implemented a humanistic “theocracy” in the name of pluralism.

Theocracy is inescapable (theos = God; kratos = rule). All men have a view of God and their view always determines how they run society. As David Chilton says,

The fact is that all law is “religious.” All law is based on some ultimate standard of morality and ethics. Every system is founded on the ultimate value of that system, and that ultimate value is the god of that system. The source of law for society is the god of that society. This means that a theocracy is inescapable. All societies are theocracies. The difference is that a society that is not explicitly Christian is a theocracy of a false god.[8]

Consider the ramifications of this one failure to comply with the “ethics” section of the Biblical covenant. In the non-Biblical society there is more incentive to be a criminal. There are no real visible consequences to breaking God’s revealed law. Moreover, those who commit crime are rewarded, being subsidized by the innocent. So, the victims have to pay higher and higher taxes as the entire society steadily becomes a civilization of criminals. Eventually, everyone is on the dole: virtually the situation in every modern society. Biblical law, however, determines the specific guide for civil authorities: even the penal sanctions.


Paul says that the magistrate is given the instrument with which to sanction: the “sword” (Rom. 13:4). But the power of the sword implies a fundamental Deuteronomic element in the application of God’s sanctions: the self-maledictory oath. How? Paul says God’s wrath is to be brought by the sword on the one who “practices evil” (Rom. 13:4). A man’s actions have to be “proven” evil. Hence, he is innocent until proven guilty. What does this process have to do with the self-maledictory oath? Everything.

The self-maledictory oath is the basis of all government. When a person takes the witness stand, he swears by God that he will tell the whole truth. In the United States, he generally swears with his hand on the Bible. In other words, he covenants. If he does not tell the truth, the self-maledictory oath takes effect. He calls the wrath of God down upon his head. In some cases of perjury, the death penalty could be rendered. At any rate, the oath becomes the foundation of all judicial processes. The presumption is that God renders judgment on the witnesses. They are not just testifying before men but the judge of all men. It is not men who even render the judgment but only carry out God’s judgment through these witnesses sworn to His allegiance. Thus, if there is no oath, a conviction becomes merely the “common consent” of a group of individuals who want to do another man in. Atheism leads to chaos in the courts and the worst kinds of injustice.

Christianity has always seen the relationship between oath and judgment. Justice is lost without the Biblical oath. In 1675, John Taylor, yeoman from Guildford in Surrey, uttered these blasphemous words:

Christ is a whore-master, and religion [Christianity] is a cheat, and profession [of Christianity] is a cloak, and they are both cheats, and all the earth is mine, and I am a king’s son, my father sent me hither, and made me a fisherman to take vipers, and I neither fear God, devil, nor man, and I am a younger brother to Christ, an angel of God and no man fears God but an hypocrite, Christ is a bastard, god damn and confound all your gods, Christ is the whore’s master.[9]

He was charged with “blasphemy” and taken to the House of Lords for trial. After considerable deliberation, he was then handed over to the common-law courts. Never before had they been given jurisdiction over blasphemy. In 1676, however, Taytor was taken before the greatest jurist of the day, Chief Justice Matthew Hale. Hale found him guilty and said,

And… such kind of wicked blasphemous words were not only an offence to God and religion, but a crime against the laws, State and Government, and therefore punishable in this Court. For to say, religion is a cheat, is to dissolve all those obligations whereby the civil societies are preserved, and that Christianity is parcel of the laws of England; and therefore to reproach the Christian religion is to speak in subversion of the law.[10]

Abuse of God’s name destroys any notion of true justice. It destroys the whole covenantal fabric of civilization. Here is the importance of the oath. So, without explicitly mentioning the oath, Paul draws greater attention to its necessity. His comments imply the maledictory oath in determining guilt. Then the application of the sword becomes part of the process of creating continuity and discontinuity.

The magistrate is involved in the removal of those who practice evil by means of the sword. The wicked are supposed to experience discontinuity in their lives. The righteous maintain social continuity. But what are the “evil practices” in the New Covenant Age for which a person can receive the sword? The rationale for answering this question is the same as the “ethics” section. By examining what the “wrath of God” is poured out against in Romans 1:18ff., we can begin to see what the magistrate “avenges” in Romans 13:lff.

Paul’s list at the end of Romans 1 is very similar to the capital offenses of the Old Testament. His summary includes idolatry, homosexuality, murder, and teenage incorrigibility to name only a few (Rom. 1:29-31). All of these offenses are capital crimes in the Old Testament. Of course, even in the Old Testament the death penalty is the maximum and not necessarily the mandatory penalty.[11] The exception is murder because the only appropriate restitution would be to render a “life for a life.” The “maximum, not mandatory” principle would also apply in the New Testament.

As we shall see below, Paul includes several “less significant” offenses in the “worthy of death” category: untrustworthy, unloving, deceitful, boastful. Thus, the New Covenant view of the State is not to the end that every nation would become another “Hebrew Republic.” There are New Testament similarities and dissimilarities between Old and New Testament sanctions that should be noted.

Old and New Testaments

First, Paul’s Romans 1:18-32 language indicates that New Testament penal sanctions are similar to the Old Testament. The vast majority of Old Testament penalties should still be instituted. As earlier sections of this book indicate, the proper hermeneutic for determining what carries over into the New Testament is the principle: continue what is not changed in the New Testament. This would apply to the penal sanctions of the Old Testament. The death penalty offenses that should be extended into the New Testament are witchcraft (Deut. 18:10-11), idolatry (Deut. 13:10), murder (Gen. 9:6), blasphemy (Lev. 24:11-23), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22-29), bestiality (Lev. 18:23), rape (Deut. 22:25-27), adultery (Lev. 20:10), incest (Lev. 20:14), incorrigibility of teenagers (Deut. 21:18-20), kidnapping (Exod. 21:16), and some instances of perjury (Deut. 19:19-20).

Second, the New Testament penal sanctions are dissimilar to the Old Testament. In some instances they can be more lenient. After the shift from wrath to grace in history, “reformability” has greater possibility. In the Old Covenant, before redemption comes in history, the negative influence of wickedness is so great that it cannot be overcome. It would seem that virtually all of the “bad elements” of society would have had to be killed for this reason. But in the New Covenant, the kingdom of God has a positive effect on wickedness. Some of the wicked – indeed many more than could have been in the Old Covenant – can be restored. We discover that former homosexuals, for example, are in the Church of Corinth (I Cor. 6:11). No death penalty is called for. Thus, we see how Paul can speak of the similarity of Old Testament sanctions in Romans 1, and yet maintain the possibility that not every convicted homosexual would have to be put to death according to I Corinthians 6. In the New Covenant Age, only the “unreformable” element would be put to death.

In some instances, however, the New Covenant sanctions are stricter than the Old Testament. Paul allows in Romans 1:30-31 for other offenses that can draw the death penalty: arrogance, unmerciful, strife and others. Why does the New Testament speak this way? Some of these offenses have historical precedent. For example, God put Korah and family to death because they caused “strife” (cf. Rom. 1:29 & Nu. 16:1-50). But at first glance, it might not seem possible to commit an offense tied to “arrogance” (Rom. 1:30). Modern society, however, presents some situations where the death penalty would be appropriate. For example, as recently as Hitler’s reign of terror, we find people committing horrible atrocities in the name of “Superrace doctrine.” Their racial “arrogance” involved such things as frontal lobotomies on Jews. According to Paul’s language, therefore, a doctor who performs surgery for such purposes could be put to death. Therefore, the New Covenant application of penal sanctions is both similar and dissimilar to the Old Testament. The historic shift from wrath to grace in Jesus Christ allows for a much fuller and powerful application, guaranteeing a truer continuity and discontinuity with the covenant.


Paul argues that continuity in society should be on the basis of God’s law (Rom. 13:3a). What about idolatry? Should the magistrate put idolaters to death? How should this be handled? A variety of explanations have been suggested. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s, Roger Williams proposed that the magistrate should only sanction the last six commandments, avoiding the ones having to do with worship and sabbath keeping.[12] The long-term effect has created a multi-religious society: polytheism. Has this been good, and if it is wrong, how could a Christian civilization be legislated?

To the question, “What have been the long-term effects of Roger Williams’ position?” the answer is not encouraging for those serious about the Christian faith. The modern Church lives in the age of a religious cold war. A State that has not formally declared war on the Church “unofficially” strives to put it to death!

The second question to be considered is: “How could a modern Christian civilization be legislated?” The answer is: Christian civilization cannot be legislated. To argue that it can would be a return to the humanist heresy of salvation by law. A civilization reflects its god; its laws reflect that god. We therefore need to ask: “How should the legislation of a State reflect the requirements of the Bible?” How is the State to serve as God’s covenantal representative? Can it do so, and also serve as the covenantal representative of Satan?

The classic practical problem concerns the issue of cults. They are obviously detrimental to society, but how can the State deal with them? To do so, it would have to define a “church.” To do that would involve distinguishing a true from a false one. To do that would ban whatever has been declared false: hence the end of pluralism. But how could the State even begin to define the true Church? Easy. The Apostles’ Creed to which I referred in the last chapter on the Church already has defined it. Any “church” that denies it is a cult. Any “church” that will not confess it is a cult. Any “church” that violates it has become a cult. The great advantage of the Apostles’ Creed is that it would allow for a multi-denominational society, but not a polytheistic society.

Of course, within this discussion, it should be kept in mind that Biblical religion is the only one that truly allows for religious freedom. The reader may think that the position on pluralism that has been taken in this book would not allow for religious diversity. Actually, Biblical Law allows for “private worship,” in this sense a “limited” freedom of religion. The basis is the Old Testament “stranger in the land” concept. As long as he obeys the commandments of God that are legitimately enforceable by civil government, he enjoys the benefits of a Biblical society.

During the Reformation, this concept was used to solve the problem of how Protestant countries should deal with Catholicism. In the Netherlands, for example, post-Reformation Catholics were allowed to continue to hold worship but not to conduct processions down the street. But the Netherlands is one simple example to show how religious diversity could be tolerated. Perhaps in a multi-denominational society, the Apostles’ Creed could be used as a minimum standard of orthodoxy.

If the West does not return to some kind of Christian theocracy, the price will be its very civilization. Already in England there are more members of Islam than the Methodist Church. Already in America, Eastern religions and cults are taking over the thinking of large segments of the public school-educated youth. The outcome will be a complete change of society and governmental structure.

Law as Covenant

As we have seen already in this chapter, oath and covenant form the basis of politics. Civil law reflects civilization, and it can also be used to change people’s actions, thereby influencing their thinking. To change the law in any area of life is a covenantal act. To take away Christian laws of blasphemy is to point to a change in civilization, and to accelerate this change. The whole judicial system changes, reflecting a change in the god of the civilization. Change the judicial system, and the whole civilization experiences parallel changes.

Humanists know this, but very few Christians have even begun to think about it. Rest assured, however, that modern civil government knows it. At present, civil government in the West wants liberty without the Gospel, morality without Christ, affluence without covenant. It is willing to do anything, including the forfeiture of its own lands to Mohammedans, except submit its nation to Christ. Civil leadership is even willing to subsidize polytheism.

False Continuity

More than one scholar has described the American public (government) school system as the nation’s only established church. It has a self-certified priesthood, and graduation from its various hierarchical levels (high school, college, graduate school, professional school) is one of the most important means of an individual’s social and economic advancement.

The humanists have successfully used the public schools to overturn Christian civilization. By establishing a substitute priesthood, which in turn replaces the true family in the field of education, the humanists have been able to reshape the first principles of students, generation after generation. This has all been done in the name of religious neutrality. But public schools are not religiously neutral. Nothing is religiously neutral. People are asked throughout their lives: “Choose this day which God you will serve.”

So, in the name of neutrality, the God-hating humanists have stolen the hearts and minds of generations of public school students. This process of legalized kidnapping has only begun to be recognized by Christian parents since the 1960s. The rise of the Christian school movement has been the product of this new awareness.

But Christian parents need to ask themselves: “If there is no neutrality in the abortion room between life and death, and no neutrality in the classroom between God and humanism, how can there be neutrality in the courtroom or legislature between God and humanism?” This question is only beginning to be asked. When Christian voters at last make the obvious conclusion – “There is no difference; there is no neutrality!” – then a political transformation will take place. The humanist kidnappers will be removed from positions of influence. They will be removed from places where they can tax Christians in order to promote humanist religion.

The Christians’ educational goal is therefore not to recapture the public schools for Jesus. The public schools are innately immoral; they are substitute churches and substitute families. The Christian goal is to replace the public schools with private Christian schools. This will re-establish parental authority over children. If the humanists want humanist schools for their children, let them teach their children at home, as the “strangers within the gates” would have done in the Old Testament. Let no one’s tax money be used to finance public education; there is no religiously neutral curriculum.

As long as any tax-financed school remains open, other than military academies or other schools that train public officials, Christians have not recaptured their children from the kidnappers.[13] They will still be fighting for the future of Christian civilization. There is no neutrality. As long as Christians act as though there is, they will not have taken steps to reclaim the future.


The humanist political leaders know what they are doing. As long as the civil government subsidizes and educates a society toward polytheism in the name of pluralism through its own educational systems, Christianity will not be allowed a free-market opportunity to change the culture. We desperately need a resurgence of covenantally minded Christians to forge the way! Why “covenantally minded Christians”? The covenant is the model to inform the Church how to return to its original mandate: “discipling the nations” (Matt. 28:19). How can a “nation” be discipled if there is confusion over the “master plan”?

As in the two other institutions of society, the State should be structured according to the Biblical covenant. All five parts of the Deuteronomic covenant are outlined in Romans. The New Testament did not change the standard by which nations are to be ruled.

American society, perhaps more than any other in the history of man, was extremely self-conscious about the Biblical concept of covenant. In its early history, one of the first documents was clearly arranged according to the Deuteronomic covenant. In the next chapter, we shall examine the Mayflower Compact. Was it truly a covenantal document? Aside from the indication in the name, “compact,” it was most definitely a historic covenantal document.

[1] Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex (The Law and The Prince) (Harrisonburg, Virginia: Sprinkle Press, 1980). This valuable reprint of Rutherford’s 1584 “classic” outlines the doctrine of the “lesser magistrate.”

[2] Epictetus, Discourses, I, ix (trans. P. E. Matheson; cited by Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought) (Boston: Little, Brown, 1960), p. 80. Emphasis added.

[3] Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study in Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (New York: Oxford University Press, [1944] 1957).

[4] R. J. Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1969), p. 7. Cf. Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1982), Appendix A.

[5] Archie P. Jones, “Apologists of Classical Tyranny: An Introductory Critique of Straussianism,”Journal of Christian Reconstruction, V (Summer, 1978); Jones, “Natural Law and Christian Resistance to Tyranny,” Christianity and Civilization, 2 (1983).

[6] Rex Downie, “Natural Law and God’s Law: An Antithesis,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, V (Summer, 1978).

[7] The Central Significance of Culture, pp. 121ff. Also, see Henry Van Til, Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1959).

[8] David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1985), p. 219.

[9] Journals of the House of Lords, XII, 688, May 11, 1675; 691, May 14; and 700-1, May 20. Cited in Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God (New York: Schocken, 1981), pp. 312-314.

[10] Ibid., Rex v. Taylor, 3 Keble 607, 621.

[11] Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, pp. 148ff. Rev. Jordan makes the point that adultery did not always require the death penalty by referring to Joseph and Mary. He quotes the Bible text, “Joseph, being a just man… was minded to put her [Mary) away privately” (Matt. 1:19). Joseph could privately put away (divorce) Mary since she was pregnant and “apparently” had committed adultery. Due to the fact that this option was open to Joseph, Jordan concludes that the death penalty was “maximum but not mandatory.” This could also explain why David was not put to death after his sin with Bathsheba.

[12] Henry Martyn Dexter, As to Roger Williams, and his “Banishment” from the Massachusetts Plantation; with a few further words concerning the Baptists, Quakers, and Religious Liberty: A Monograph (Boston: Congregational Publishing Society, 1876). Roger Williams believed the magistrate was only supposed to enforce the last six commandments and not the first four, avoiding the crime of idolatry. For this, he has been recognized in textbooks as the “Father of Religious Liberty.” In Roger Williams and the Massachusetts Magistrates, ed. Theodore Greene (Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Co., 1964), pp. 1-21, however, from many of the actual accounts we see that the Puritans, John Cotton of note, believed that Williams’s views would eventually lead to religious and political chaos, since politics is always an expression of the religion of the land. Furthermore, Romans 13 does not allow for Williams’s position, which allowed some capital offenses and not others. On what basis can such “arbitrary” decisions be made?

For an excellent summary and re-publication of select passages from Dexter, see Failure of the American Baptist Culture, ed. James Jordan (Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1982), pp. 233-243. The reader will discover that Dexter “demythologizes the many fantasies surrounding the relationship between Williams and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay. His 146 pages demonstrate thoroughly, for instance, that Williams was not a Baptist when he was in Massachusetts, and thus was not disciplined for being a Baptist by the Puritans; that Williams’s views concerning religious liberty were not at issue when he was dealt with by the Puritans; and that Williams was never banished into the wintry wilderness, but chose to leave of his own accord rather than accept comfortable accommodations back to England or move to another colony” (p. 233).

[13] Robert L. Thoburn, The Children Trap: The Biblical Blueprint for Education (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986).