A student from a Florida university asked to interview me for her environmental science class. She needed a religious figure to interview. Here is my response to her interview questions. Its a small book.:
Greetings in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
My name is Pastor Joseph Spurgeon. I am the head pastor of Sovereign King Church in Sellersburg, Indiana. We are a reformed, protestant and evangelical church. Our church is a part of Clearnote Fellowship, a small conservative Presbyterian denomination.
Question 1: How does your faith and philosophy view the relation between humans and the natural world? Where do we fit in and why?
We believe that the 66 books of the Bible are God inspired, holy, inerrant and infallible. This means that there are no errors in what that the Bible teaches on any subject matter. The Bible is absolute truth. Therefore, it is our highest authority on every aspect of life including the view between humans and the natural world. The Bible opens with the words “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." The triune God is the one who created all the we see. There is not one molecule in the universe that He did not create. Nor is there one molecule outside of his control. We believe that God sustains the natural world every second of every day. If God were to remove his sustaining hand (not as if God has a hand but we speak about God sometimes in anthropomorphic terms to better understand him), the world would cease to be.
The Bible also says that God made man in his image. Unlike the rest of creation, man is created in the image of God. Man is meant to represent God on earth, to be his viceroy over the earth. Genesis (the first book in the bible) says man is to “rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Man is created to rule over the natural world as a faithful steward of God’s creation. A steward is someone who has limited authority over the property of another to oversee it and care for it. Man is meant to exercise authority and care over the world. Man is meant to use the natural world to glorify God, to provide for his family and to care for others.
Genesis says that "God made man, both male and female in his image." There are two and only two human sexes and they are different. The man was created first and was meant to go forth, tilling the earth, that is to use the natural resources to improve himself and his family. He was given authority to do so over God’s creation and this means that man is to exercise that authority for the benefit of those under his care and to the specifications of the one over him, God. Woman was created for man, not the man for the woman. The man needed a helper, one who could care for the part of the world that the man had already subdued. By design, the woman is to be geared toward the home. Since she is a helper, she is to submit to the authority of the man in her task. If man is the viceregent of God, then woman is in a sense the viceregent of the man. And together, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
God has never rescinded these commands and therefore mankind is still set over creation. We are still meant to be fruitful, that is both to have children to populate the earth and to make use of the natural resources God has provided to create, to build, to provide, and to care for others to the glory of God. Humans are not just animals. We are image bearers of God. We are made male and female and God creates each person specifically either male or female. Man and woman are not interchangeable, nor do they have the same roles, tasks, responsibilities, talents, and skills. Furthermore; the world was created for mankind and not necessarily the other way around.
Finally, mankind in the Garden rebelled against God. They stepped outside of the bounds of the authority God gave them and ate the fruit of a tree that was forbidden to them. They were tempted to this rebellion by the enemy of mankind, Satan. This rebellion of man, led to what theologians call “the fall.” That is man fell into sin (evil) and more rebellion. Each person inherits from the first father, Adam the first man, a nature corrupted by sin and bent towards sin. The creation itself was placed under a curse as the result of this fall. The work to subdue the earth would become much more difficult. Death entered the world along with decay. Disease, natural disasters, birth defects, and other harmful things entered the world as a result of this rebellion of man.
Also, as a result of this fall and the sinful nature passed on to each person by their parents, other evils such as murder, adultery, theft, rape, idolatry, sexual perversions such as homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia, and even neglect and abuse entered the world. Women began to be eager to usurp the authority of the man, longing to rule over him. Man was bent towards either an abuse of his authority or an abdication of his authority. Rather than faithfully subduing the earth and caring for it as a faithful steward, mankind also abrogated that responsibility. They either use the natural world with no care for others or they seek to worship the creation. Some become so concerned with the environment that they end up placing it over mankind. They begin to idolize nature so much that they hate humanity. They despise the call to subdue the earth and take dominion. They begin to despise the command to be fruitful. They see children as a curse upon the earth, rather than a blessing from God. Women reject their God-given femininity and ability to have children. Rather than being caretakers of the home and raising up godly children, they come up with creative ways to prevent conception or to kill the child that is conceived before it is born.
Now, the good news is that God is a graceful and merciful God. He could have wiped out the entire creation including all of mankind. Our rebellion against God is deserving of his wrath and judgment. But God with great patience has borne with fallen humanity. After the first humans fell into sin and he cursed the earth, God gave them a promise. He promised them that one day, one would rise from the seed of the woman to destroy the enemy of mankind and restore mankind along with all of creation. As history unfolded, God made covenant (a vow or contract between two or more persons) with his chosen people. This covenant was a promise to them and their descendants that he would save them from sin and his wrath by sending one who would atone (to make amends) for their sin.
God kept his promise and 2000 years ago sent Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin named Mary. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He lived perfectly obedient to the law of God. He healed the sick, he raised the dead to life, he exercised authority over the creation by walking on water, calming storms, cursing trees, multiplying food, and other miracles. He traveled proclaiming the good news that there was a new kingdom which he was establishing. He called all people to repent (turn from their sins) and to trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
He was hated. Evil always hates good. Because Christ Jesus exposed the evil of the people, they hated him. People in our day often think of Jesus as a hippie that got along with everyone. This could not be further from the truth. Jesus was full of love and compassion, but he did speak to the sins of people. He did call them to forsake their evil ways and desires. He also professed to be God. The leaders of his day hated him. They plotted and unjustly arrested him. They had him flogged and mocked. They nailed him to a cross. It was a painful, humiliating and shameful death. Earlier, I had written that not a molecule of the universe was outside the control of God. This is true of the cross. God controls even the willful decisions of man. What these evil people intended for evil, God had predestined to be used for good. The cross was God’s wrath being placed on Jesus Christ. The judgement that the sin of God’s people deserve was placed on Christ.
There was a great exchange that happened on the cross. The dark, dirty, nasty, shameful, wicked and evil deeds of sinners like you and I were placed on Christ as if he had committed them. And the righteous, holy, godly, and miraculous deeds of Christ Jesus were given to sinners like myself as if I had done them. Christ was buried but because his death had atoned for the sin placed on him, Christ was declared righteous. He could not be held in the grave because death was meant for sinners. Christ rose from the dead. He was seen by up to 500 eye witnesses alive and proclaiming forgiveness for sins. He then ascended into heaven where he climbed the throne room steps of God and sat down at the right hand of God.
He now reigns over the earth as King and he commands people everywhere to repent. Those who repent that is turn from trusting in their own understanding and turn to him as Lord are given right to be children of God. Their sins were paid for on the cross. The Holy Spirit is given to those people to change their hearts and given them a new nature different from their sinful one inherited by birth. This new nature wars against the old and causes them to begin to be obedient to God. These believers return by faith to the original command to take dominion over the earth. They begin the process of fighting evil and growing toward the good. They see their sexuality as something to be obedient to God with. They embrace their masculinity or femininity as God intended. They leave behind sexual perversions such as homosexuality. They see creation as something to use for God’s glory and to care for as God intended. They also proclaim the good news of this new king, Jesus Christ to others.
As people repent and trust in Christ, the kingdom grows pushing back the curse and restoring the creation but this task will not be complete fully until Christ returns. He will return defeating death once and for all. He will restore the creation to paradise. There will be no more death and no more sin. He will judge those who have committed evil. Those who have not trusted in him, will be sent to hell where they will pay for their sins for eternity. Those who have trusted in Christ Jesus will inherit a kingdom that will never end. They will reign with him as fully restored image bearers.
Question 2: What duties, or obligations, if any, do humans have toward the natural world? How are these justified or explained?
Having laid the foundation in the answer to the first question, this question will be easier to answer. Mankind has the duty to subdue the earth. That is mankind has been given the responsibility and authority to use the natural resources of this world to glorify God by building, creating, and making products for the betterment of mankind and the world. Mankind gets food, water, and shelter from the natural world.
In addition, mankind makes culture from the things around us. Culture is a word that comes from the same root as cultivate. We create culture by cultivating the things of the world God has placed here. We create music, art, literature, and industry. Learning and developing disciplines such as mechanics, chemistry, biology, aeronautics, and physics are all ways that God intended for mankind to glorify him. Humans have the obligation to continue to develop these disciplines and skills using ingenuity and hard work. Furthermore, mankind is to use all of this for the glory of God. We glorify God by loving him and our neighbor. These disciplines are not meant to be used to lord over our neighbors or to harm our neighbors but rather to benefit our families, neighbors, and communities.
Mankind is given the inherit right to private property. When someone takes the natural resources of the earth and improves them by labor and ingenuity, they are given the right to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Private property is protected in 2 of the 10 commandments. Stealing and coveting another's property are forbidden by God. Mankind has the authority to do with their property as they see fit, free from government interference unless they use it to harm the life or property of another. A person may hire others to help them with their own property. One of the natural rights we have is to our own labor and skills that God has given us. Each person has skills and talents given to them by God. No two people are alike in this. Some people are more talented and skilled. There is no natural equality of talent and skills among people. Yet, all are called to use what they have to glorify God and to help others. Therefore, a person has the right to hire out themselves and their skills to another who is willing to pay what is agreed upon.
Mankind also has the responsibility to be wise in how they use their talents, skills, and property. Proverbs 12:10 & 11 says "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense." These verses are very instructive. A righteous man will care for life. He uses the things God has given him to care for others and that includes even taking care of his livestock. A righteous man uses the natural resources and isn’t lazy. He isn’t afraid to use the creation, but he also cares for it. He doesn’t treat his property as a garbage heap. He doesn’t poison himself or his neighbor by carelessness of creation. He sees the world as something to be cared for wisely. The wicked man on the other hand even misuses compassion. His compassion is cruel. Here are two examples of this:
1. The wicked begin to worship the earth and as they do, they begin to hate mankind. They see men using natural resources as an attack on the earth. Now to be fair, they often rightfully point to real abuses. There are real ways that people abuse the world. The wicked person, however, turns this justified concern into more wickedness. They seek to get civil government to interfere in ways it has not be designed to do so. They seek to heap up regulations that will have the effect of harming the innocent. Large corporations, for example, love government eco-friendly regulations. Large corporations have the resources to do all the paper work and hire the right people to ensure they meet the regulations. Large corporations often are able to hire lobbyists to help write the regulations in a way that help them the most. In the meantime, the competition is snuffed out. Startup businesses are unable to complete regulation costs to get going. Small-time businesses do not have the manpower or finances to deal with the regulations, so they go out of business. The large corporations can tout their going green as being merciful, all the while giving kickbacks to politicians who write the regulations. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
2. Another lie that is being propagated, especially in college environmental classes, is the myth of overpopulation. This myth going back to the eugenics movement in the late 1800s was that the reason there is poverty is because there are too many people to feed. Therefore, the merciful thing for them was to work to curb the population. The eugenics movement saw itself as helping “evolution” along. They saw eugenics as a way to remove “human weeds” as Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood called them. They would encourage breeding in the upper classes but work hard to control the births of the lower classes. They thought that if the wealthy and naturally skilled would give birth and the ignorant and poor were prevented from giving birth, poverty would be eliminated. Overpopulation and a lack of food is a myth and was then as well. With ingenuity and creativity given by God, we can feed the world several times over now. Yet it is still used as an argument for supporting birth control and in particular abortion. Planned Parenthood in its mercy still targets minorities and poor people with abortion, the murder of innocent children. The mercy of the wicked is cruel.
To summarize, man does have the obligation to take dominion over the earth. He is to do this to the glory of God in a way that cares for his neighbor. God has not left us to our own devices either in this. His word, the Bible, tells us how to love our neighbor and how to care for others. His word tells us what is good and what is evil. We cannot claim to be merciful while violating his commands.
Question 3: How is your faith responding through action and practical programs to the environmental crisis, from local issues to global warming?
The first two questions are really instrumental in answering the third. When you say environmental crisis, we need more information. There are many myths that float around. Furthermore, anything that is contrary to the word of God is incorrect. So, when we say environmental crisis, we need to think through what is being said. Is there a particular crisis like a local oil spill or chemical spill that needs to be taken care of or are we speaking in a larger generic term that is ultimately pretty nebulous and unhelpful? We must realize that we have a duty to care for the world, but this does not mean that we resort to fear mongering.
Our faith respects science. In fact, we argue that apart from the biblical God, there can be no foundation for science. Modern science arises from the Christian worldview historically. Famous scientists like Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Boyle, Bacon, and Pasteur among others were all believers in Christ and saw that science arose from their biblical worldview. Because the universe is created by a God of reason and order, the universe is orderly and can be discovered. The Christian faith and only the Christian faith can provide the necessarily preconditions for science to work. An atheist worldview with an uncreated world cannot provide a foundation for science. Why would there be order in an uncreated world formed by random processes? How can we have induction a necessary component of science in an atheist worldview?
Our faith accounts for and respects science. Yet, we do not consider natural science to be the ultimate arbitrator of what is true. In particular, we know that scientists can and do err. We know that they have a sinful nature that they inherit from birth. We also know that there are people who seek to use science for their own gain to the detriment of others. I say all of that to say that when it comes to issues like global warming, now called climate change, we don’t want to fall into a ditch one way or the other. We are skeptical of scientists who work for civil government constantly speaking about crisis all the while the crisis keeps changing. First, it was global cooling back in the 1970’s and 80’s. Then it became Global warming in the 90’s and earlier 2000’s. Now, we are talking about climate change. We are very hesitant to trust the constant warnings of crises especially when many people stand to benefit from such crises. Many scientists rely on government funding for their research and in order to get the funding they must find ways to push the importance of their research. Furthermore, as we mentioned in the second question, there are groups who stand to gain financially while knocking out their competitors with such crises.
Does this mean that we do not take any concern with the environment? No. We preach and teach the commands of God which require faithful stewardship of the earth. We educate our congregations on the call to subdue the earth and care for it. Many Christian churches adopt regions of highways or other areas to pick up trash and keep clean. Many Christians have been embracing permaculture and other ways to provide natural and wholefoods. We also know that there are Christians who are serving in the different scientific fields and are working on ways to produce renewable resources. Finally, our church in particular seeks to help orphans and widows. These are two groups of people who have been the victims of the cruel mercy of the wicked. We work to protect the preborn children from murder. We visit those in nursing homes who are often neglected for the same reason, the myth of overpopulation. We also have many large families in our church. The birth-rate in our country is far below the replacement rate. It is the lowest it has ever been. If it continues, this will become a very large environmental and humanitarian crisis. We are doing our part to instruct on the beauty and value of human life and to encourage men to be men and women to be women.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with you and its ramifications for the environment. I apologize if this was too long. I hope it is helpful and that you get a good grade on your assignment. Can I get a copy of your final report? I would love to share it with our church. Thank you.
The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Proverbs 26: 1-12 Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, So a curse without cause does not alight. A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes. He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence Who sends a message by the hand of a fool. Like the legs which are useless to the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by. Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
If you have read John Bunyan’s book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, you are surely familiar with the character named “Worldly Wiseman”. Christian, on his way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, had just been helped out of the Slough of Despond when he encounters Mr. Worldly Wiseman, from the town of Carnal Policy. Mr. Worldly Wiseman was familiar with Christian, and seemed very concerned with Christian’s burden. He became incensed upon hearing that it was due to the book Christian had been reading that led to the great burden being placed upon his back. So, as was his nature, Mr. Worldly Wiseman gave Christian some counsel: Go to yonder village named Morality and meet there with a man named Legality; he hath skill to “cure those who are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens”. He goes on to say that if Legality isn’t home, his son Civility can remove the burden as surely as the old man. Carnal policy, Morality, Legality, and Civility: these terms paint a picture of how the one wise in their own eyes seeks to have a right standing before God. How many times at various evangelism outings, in the workplace, or in the quiet of our own hearts, do we hear that rules, good morals, law keeping, and being a good person will be permitted as evidence in response to the question “ Why should I allow you into my Kingdom?” on the day of judgement? As Mr. Worldly Wiseman pointed out, the way to the Celestial city is fraught with danger, and like everyone who desires ease and comfort, don’t we often find it simpler to try to quietly follow the rules, be nice to everyone, and just be a good person? That way is so much more pleasant, isn’t it? And since God does want us to have joy and be satisfied in life, isn’t the path of the Worldly Wiseman a much better option for those seeking to have their burden removed and enter the Celestial City? I mean, if the goal is to have the burden lifted, why add to it by seeking to enter through the wicket gate, a path that is filled with additional burdens and dangers? The Proverb today says this: Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. God, in His divine providence, has declared that we are saved by grace through faith, it is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. When we seek to be right in God’s eyes by works of the flesh, law keeping, good morals, and being a good person: the bible teaches that we are ACCURSED! We become the worldly wiseman when we exalt our own pathetic wisdom above God, thinking that we can have the burden of our sins removed by some other means than the blood of Jesus Christ. For the good, moral, lawkeeper that believes their good deeds will gain them access to the Kingdom of God, scripture has a stern warning for you: your works are like filthy rags, your sin remains, and your pride will drag you to hell, with no hope, lest you repent and trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation.
At this time, let us kneel and confess how we often seek to have our sins removed by means other than the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Heavenly Father, in our finite minds we often fail to remember that our sin before You is so great, so abominable, so damning, that we actually believe we can do something to remove them from Your sight. Father, we are like dumb sheep who think they know where the best pasture is, who believe they are able to discern the freshest watering holes, yet cannot even remove the thistles from their fleece, or pick themselves up when they fall. Father, in seeking freedom from our burden, we often pile up additional burdens in the way of man made laws and morals, instead of trusting Your Son, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Father, please be merciful towards us sinners, please create within us a clean heart and steadfast spirit. Help us to be humble, exalting Christ, and recognizing our utter hopelessness apart from Him. It’s in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Listen now to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. | 1 Peter 2:24-2
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Daniel and his friends made up their minds not to eat the King’s food. They had their faces set like flint and they were not going to give in. They were self-controlled and disciplined to do what they knew was right. They were not going to take the cheese and fall into the trap. They were not going to allow their identity to be taken away with wine and meat. While they would serve and submit to the Babylonian king because they knew that God required them to serve and submit to those in authority, they were going to do so as free men not as those who loved their chains. They were not going to fall for bread and circuses.
We are at that time of the year where there are signs all over creation, ads on every television and radio station, and now even text messages coming to your phone with politicians making you promise after promise if you will support them. In AD 140, a man named Juvenal wrote of the corrupt Roman populace this way:
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
He was referring to laws passed around 140 AD by Roman politicians giving out a grain dole to poorer people in order to capture their vote. They provided free wheat and put on costly circuses and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power. It was a promise of food and drink in order to cultivate loyalty and lull one into a superficial contentment while one’s liberties were taken away just as King Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to do with the young men of Judah.
And now everywhere we turn we have politicians making the same offers. Vote for me and I will give you free healthcare. Vote for me and we will give you free college. Vote for me and you will get free birth control. Vote for me and we will take money away from the mean rich and give it to you. Vote for me and you will get free Netflix. Well, I made that part about Netflix up but I am sure someone will take my suggestion and run for office. If the ads are not offering you something, they are warning you that the other person wants to take away your free something. Don’t vote for Mark Cox because he wants to take away your right to free Taco Bell. Forget JFK’s don’t ask what your country can do for you. You don't have to ask because we will tell you exactly what we can do for you. You have a problem, the government has got to do something about that. Have no fear, there will be a politician ready to do that something if you will just give her the chance.
I want to compare this mindset with a message from one of the pastors of the pilgrims inviting young men to come with them on their journey to North America. This is an invitation from Robert Cushman. He writes:
"That for men which have a large heart, and look after great riches, ease, pleasures, dainties, and jollity in this world...I would not advise them to come there, for as yet the country will afford no such matters: but if there be any who are content to lay out their estates, spend their time, labors, and endeavors, for the benefit of them that shall come after, and in desire to further the gospel among those poor heathens, quietly contenting themselves with such hardship and difficulties, as by God’s Providence shall fall upon them, being yet young, and in their strength, such men I would advise and encourage to go, for their ends cannot fail them."
He is saying if you are the type who is looking out for yourself and your ease and comfort, you need to stay away. But if you are the one who will come and work not for yourself but for the benefit of generations who will be here after you are dead and gone and if you want to see the gospel go forth, then we invite you. I can almost hear the attack ads now.
Robert Cushman doesn’t think you deserve to have enjoyment. He wants you to sacrifice your wealth for people you haven’t even met. Shame on him. I am King George and I approve this message
So what has happened that we went from leaders pushing for self-sacrifice to leaders on all sides offering everything under the sun to stay in power. How did we get here?
There are a few reasons but among them is that the we have lost what the purpose of civil government is supposed to be. We have left behind a biblical view of civil government. This is because many pastors have refused to instruct both the people and the magistrates on their duties. It used to be common practice for the Puritan pastors to preach election day sermons where they instructed the magistrates and the people on their duty. These sermons will filled with practical advice, warning about breaking God's law and even instruction on monetary policies. Because of this instruction, unbelievers feigned allegiance to God and unbelieving civil magistrates were compelled to obey God and work towards enforcing his law. Now we know that this was not a utopian time. They did not always get justice right but there was a great influence of the gospel on the kingdoms of the world. We need pastors who will instruct us in our duty towards civil government and the civil governments duty towards us. In a time, when every politician is setting before you food and wine from their portions, you need to know where those portions come from and why that politician is offering you these choice gifts. You also need to know what the civil government exists for.
The civil government does not exist to provide for your wants, desires, and even your personal needs. Romans 13:3 says:
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; 4 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 on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Civil government exists to serve God through service to public good by punishing evil and protecting the liberties of those under its care. In the beginning, man was a moral agent living freely in a reality that is good, coming from the hand of God: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Man blessed with reason and a moral sense was created in the image of God. He was made a little lower than the angels, and given dominion over the earth. He had the responsibility to take dominion and with that came the liberty to do so. Liberty is God-given. Man’s dominion over the earth and the other creatures, was subject to no restraint but the law of God, the law of liberty. Had he continued in this way there still may have been a civil government. There still would have been a need to rightly order society but with the fall of man into rebellion there became a necessity of government to coerce a degree of right living and justice from a mankind fallen from the high road of willing obedience to the loving Father. Contrary to libertarian anarchist views, civil government does have to power to coerce and should do so. God instituted civil government to protect the lives and property of others. This is the purpose of civil government instituted by God. Since civil government is instituted by God then those who serve in it will answer to the one who ordained it. They will answer to how they rule. And since civil government exists to protect good and punish evil it must know what is good and what is evil. The only one who can authoritatively say what is evil and what is good is God almighty.
Again, those in civil government will answer to God for how they rule. This is why King David in his last words to Israel says 2 Samuel 23:3 "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." God declares what rulers should be and this should guide us as we have been given freedom in this nation to select leaders. Rulers are to be men who are just and rule in the fear of God. Noah Webster, a brilliant man who most know from Webster’s Dictionary wrote an article entitled, “Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education.” In it he said,
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide….It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness. But if we had no divine instruction on the subject, our own interest would demand of us a strict observance of the principle of these injunctions. And it is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breeches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government; and which will tend to reconcile men to monarchs in other countries and even our own…When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor, and he betrays the interest of his country.”
We should be looking for leaders who deal justly. This means that they don’t show partiality to the rich or the poor. They don’t pander to identity politics, making promises to people based upon which group will give them votes. They deal fairly. 2 Samuel 23 says they will rule in the fear of the Lord. It is their duty to uphold the kingdom of Christ. There is a difference and even separation between the church and civil government. The Civil Government has not been given the charge to proclaim the gospel or to exercise authority in religion. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven as the Westminster Confession of Faith rightfully declares. Yet they do have the duty to make sure that the church is protected and that ministers of God are able to do their duty. They also have the responsibility to rule according to the law of God. What God calls a crime they must.
In 1790, Rev Daniel Foster preaching to the civil magistrates in his day said: "If religion is not honored and supported by men in places of public trust, the glory of the Lord will soon depart, and the fire of God be scattered over the city. Rulers are called “the shields of the earth;” they are to protect the people from injuries among men, and likewise from the judgments of God. When God’s wrath was kindled against Israel, for their idolatry at the foot of the mount, we find Moses, that pious ruler, pleading the cause of the people, and he sounds his plea upon God’s covenant, and reminds him of his oath. And David, that man after God’s own heart, when he saw the Angel that smote the people, said, but these sheep, what have they done? “And the Lord said unto the Angel, it is enough, stay now thine hand.” The attention Christian rulers pay to religion in their hearts, and in their government, will be their support when they are called to lay down their commission, and their lives; it will brighten the scene before them, and embalm their memories when they are dead."
We need to be looking for and praying that God will give us civil leaders that do justice and fear him. But if you look around right now, there does not seem to be a lot of these men. We do have what looks like two fundamentally different and opposing sides vying for your vote but yet there seems to be very few if any who are seeking justice and who fear God. What are we to do in this occasion?
I want to point you to Daniel and his friends. They did not take the cheese. They did not take the enticements of the king but they kept their loyalty to the kingdom of God. They served and submitted to the civil government when it did not command contrary to God’s law. But they also withheld themselves from being taken in with the offers from an unjust king who at this point did not fear the Lord. In pointing to them, I am saying when it comes to voting you need to refuse to take the cheese. Ignore all the people offering you different things if only they can have your loyalty. I am not saying don’t vote but I am saying don’t let your vote be swayed by those offering you free healthcare, free college, free anything. Look for those whom you think will best seek justice and fear the Lord. It may be slim pickins but I can tell you right off the bat, those running on a platform that supports and encourages the murder of the preborn are off the list. Those who want to force Christians to celebrate their perversions are off the list. They do not fear the Lord in the least.
Now let me tell you what I am going to do. I know that one party, the democratic party is completely immoral. Almost everything on their platform is an affront to God and an attack on liberty. They have created fictitious rights to sexual perversion, child sacrifice, and other people’s property. In pushing for these faux-rights, they seek to trample under real rights given by God. I also know that they are a party willing throw away due process in order to gain power. They are enemies of Christ. I am going to be voting this week in opposition to this party. However, I am not going to blindly defend the opposition. I am not going to take the cheese of either party and give blind allegiance to the Republicans. When the Republican party acts wickedly and they often do, I will as a pastor remind them of their duty. But I am not going to make worthless unequivocal parallels either. Christians must not be beholden to a party but that does not mean that both parties are equivocal and it doesn't matter which you vote for. The Democratic party platform is wicked and destructive to society. Don't take their cheese. But also don't gorge yourself on the meet and drink of the Republican party either. Don't be those who thoughtlessly defend them at every step. Your allegiance is to Christ Jesus.
As I was preparing this sermon and I was thinking about the principles of civil government and the type of leaders that we should look for and what we have actually before us, I began to mourn. I don’t know if there is another nation in modern history that God has dealt so bountifully with. I can’t think of another country that has been so for a lack of a better word “privileged.” Therefore has there been another nation that has been more ungrateful to him. We have slaughtered millions of preborn while God has provided graciously to us. We have paraded sexual perversion, divorce, and idolatry before him. We have had the gospel go forth across the land and we have seen God deal so kindly to us and yet we have abused that kindness and deserve to be thrust down into the pit of hell. Isaiah’s description of Israel fits us too well: The whole Head is sick, the whole Heart is faint, from the Crown of the Head to the Sole of our Feet, we are full of Wounds and Bruises, and putrifying Sores.
Rather than being obedient to God’s word to not merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, we have looked out only for our own. And then we look for civil leaders who will pander to these perverted desires. Sadly, while this has occurred much of the leaders in the church have been silent. We have been content with the choice food and wine of the world. We have played the harlot against our Lord Jesus, both in regard to principles and practice. If we go on obstinately in our sins despite the warnings God has given us in his word we shall treasure up unto our selves wrath against the day of judgment.
Psalm 10:16 says The Lord is King forever and ever; Nations have perished from His land.
President Donald Trump is not King. Nancy Pelosi is not King. Bernie Sanders is not King. The Lord is King. And if this nation will not repent and turn to God, it will be another nation that perished from King Jesus’s land.