RELIGION AND LIBERTY ARE THE MEAT AND DRINK OF THE BODY POLITIC. WITHDRAW ONE OF THEM AND IT LANGUISHES, CONSUMES, AND DIES. IF INDIFFERENCE TO EITHER, AT ANY TIME, BECOMES THE PREVAILING CHARACTER OF A PEOPLE, ONE-HALF OF THEIR MOTIVES TO VIGOROUS DEFENSE IS LOST, AND THE HOPES OF THEIR ENEMIES ARE PROPORTIONALLY INCREASED. HERE, EMINENTLY, THEY ARE INSEPARABLE.
WITHOUT RELIGION WE MAY POSSIBLY RETAIN THE FREEDOM OF SAVAGES, BEARS, AND WOLVES, BUT NOT THE FREEDOM OF NEW ENGLAND. IF OUR RELIGION WERE GONE, OUR STATE OF SOCIETY WOULD PERISH WITH IT AND NOTHING WOULD BE LEFT WHICH WOULD BE WORTH DEFENDING. OUR CHILDREN, OF COURSE, IF NOT OURSELVES, WOULD BE PREPARED, AS THE OX FOR SLAUGHTER TO BECOME THE VICTIMS OF CONQUEST, TYRANNY, AND ATHEISM…. ((PRESIDENT AND PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY OF YALE COLLEGE FROM 1795 TO HIS DEATH IN 1817. A SERMON DELIVERED ON JULY 4, 1797.))
The made-for-TV film Brian’s Song (1971), starring James Caan as Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as Sayers, was loosely based on Gale Sayer’s autobiography I Am Third (1970). Sayers was a star running back in the NCAA and for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. Brian’s Song is the story of his friendship with his teammate Brian Piccolo who succumbed to cancer at 26 years of age. The title of Sayers’ book is based on Sayers’ credo, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.”
Sayers’ credo has relevance to a lot in life, including the basic order of governmental hierarchy: God is first, and politics is fifth. A case could be made politics it’s farther down on the list than fifth if it’s done right.
Most people, when they hear the word “government,” think that civil government has the exclusive right to the term. In terms of the Bible, the word “government” includes: (1) God as the original and ongoing Governor of all things (Gen. 1:1), (2) the individual in self-government (a person who governs his own behavior without the need of external restraints). The positive: the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23, especially “self-control”) and the negative: the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:2-7); (3) the husband, wife, and children in family government (“if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God,” 1 Tim. 3:5); (4) ecclesiastical officers in church government (“tell it to the church,” Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 6); (5) civil rulers in civil government (who are described by Paul as ministers “of God to you for good,” Rom. 13:4).
My book God and Government deals with the biblical view of governments in all their manifestations.
Notice the use of the plural in Romans 13:1: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.” There is more than a single all-embracing civil authority. Civil government in the Bible is limited and decentralized. If Paul has “authorities” in general in mind, then he is referring to multiple family, church, and civil authorities (governments).
The rejection of God as the original and ongoing Governor leads people to look for a substitute god to rule over them. There is no neutrality. The domino effect of poor self-government leads to the corruption of the family and church and capitulation to the messianic State (Judges 17:6; 21:25; Deut. 12:8 and 1 Sam. 2:12, 22, 13; 1 Sam. 8; also see Judges 9).
In terms of history, the word “government” was never limited to civil affairs, the realm of politics and bureaucracies. This is evident in early dictionary definitions, for example, Noah Webster’s 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language.
“GOVERNMENT, n. 1. Direction; regulation. ‘These precepts will serve for the government of our conduct.’ 2. Control; restraint. ‘Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.’ 3. The exercise of authority; direction and restraint exercised over the actions of men in communities, societies or states; the administration of public affairs, according to the established constitution, laws and usages, or by arbitrary edict. ‘Prussia rose to importance under the government of Frederick II.’ 4. The exercise of authority by a parent or householder. Children are often ruined by a neglect of government in parents. ‘Let family government be like that of our heavenly Father, mild, gentle and affectionate.’ Kollock. 5. The system of polity in a state; that form of fundamental rules and principles by which a nation or state is governed, or by which individual members of a body politic are to regulate their social actions; a constitution, either written or unwritten, by which the rights and duties of citizens and public officers are prescribed and defined; as a monarchial government, or a republican government. ‘Thirteen governments thus founded on the national authority of the people alone, are a great point gained in favor the rights of mankind.’ J. Adams.”