InterVarsity’s Undergraduate Ministry at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) sponsored an Election Day panel on Religious and Secular Authority at Election Times. What an excellent idea! Why? Because the panel, which included myself and a CMU History faculty, provided an opportunity to publicly present and wrestle with difficult culture-making concerns in real time. I came away with the impression that some students, who wouldn’t let us go, couldn’t wait to field test some of the material in the midst of election coverage conversations. …
In my opening remarks, I briefly explored whether government would exist even without the fall, see below. Have you given consideration to this topic? If so, please comment. If you have resource recommendations, please pass them along. Seems like an important question for political scientists in particular, but of interest to many others as it informs our regular interaction with the state.
Would government exist even without the brokenness caused by Adam and Eve’s choice of willful disobedience? Now this is controversial, but my answer is Yes. Why? Government provides structure for the creative and healthy interaction of the various spheres of the Creation, e.g., creation care (remember naming of the animals in Genesis 2:19), marriage, family, school, business, guilds, arts parties. … But without the fall? As we live in the reality of the fall, it is difficult to envision how this would look except to say that God would rule over the structures as they serve Him to the blessing of all of creation. In addition, no use of force to suppress evil in the process of culture formation would not be necessary, except in restraining or resisting external evil influences/beings. So I’m asserting that government is not optional, even in the Garden of Eden at the beginning and the end of time. The various Utopian visions, both within and outside of the Church, fail to take into account the deep brokenness caused by the fall and the presence of evil across the layers of being, identity, and reality. My development of this perspective has been encouraged by The Basic Ideas of Calvinism (H. Henry Meeter, revised by Paul A. Marshall. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990, pp. 77-90) and C.S. Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy, referred to some as The Space Trilogy. This requires more thought. …
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!
Interesting idea. Luther would argue that government is a result of the fall. It’s not always just, but it’s existence is God-ordained because it helps provide order in what would otherwise be a chaotic soceity.
My hunch is that the difference lies in your conception of government as a “structure for the creative and healthy interaction fo the varous spheres of the Creation.” But how is this different from the church or a large corporation, other than scope of influence. What makes government teh government is the use of force. Violence. Hopefully legitimate violence, but violence nonetheless. Would that be necessary? So maybe there would be organization, even bureaucracy, but not government in any sense like we have it.
But I could be completely wrong.
Tom Grosh says
Thanks Tobin. Wayne Grudem articulates a similar idea in his “Systematic Theology” (p.661). He argues human government is a result of common grace instituted in principle by God after the flood (Genesis 9:6) as a gift to restrain evil in the world (Romans 13:1ff), even though it is corruptible.
What do you think of the below explanation given by Abraham Kuyper in “Calvinism and Politics” (Third Lecture on Calvinism)?
“For, indeed, without sin there would have been neither magistrate nor state-order; but political life, in its entirety, would have evolved itself, after a patriarchal fashion, from the life of the family. Neither bar of justice nor police, nor army, nor navy, is conceivable in a world without sin; and thus every rule and ordinance and law would drop away, even as all control and assertion of the power of the magistrate would disappear, were life to develop itself, normally and without hinderance, from its own impulse. … Every State-formation, every assertion of the power of the magistrate, every mechanical means of compelling order and of guaranteering a safe course of life is therefore always something unnatural; something against which the deeper aspirations of our nature rebel; and which, on this very account, may become the source of both a dreadful abuse of power, on the part of those who exercise it, and of a continuous revolt on the part of the multitude.”