God, Government, the Economy, and Godliness
Is God interested in government? Does God’s word have anything to say to us today about godly governance? Does character matter when it comes to running a nation? Are economic issues related to moral issues? Does the strength of a nation rest only in political and economic matters? These and related questions are certainly very timely, and Christians of all people should address them carefully.
Given what looks like another global financial crisis, tied in with economic meltdown in Europe and the debt crisis and downgrading of the credit rating in the US, along with Britain in flames, we certainly need to think through these matters.
Indeed, given how many people who call themselves Christians were happy to vote for atheists, homosexuals, pro-abortionists, and so on at the last Federal election, it seems that some believers have not been thinking carefully about these matters at all.
When we think about the various leaders running Australia, America, and other Western nations today, and assess them in the light of Scripture, we would appear to be in a very precarious place. Simply consider Australia. Our two leaders, Gillard and Brown, are both hostile to Christianity. Indeed they revel in their atheism and ungodliness.
She is a pro-abortion socialist who is shacking up with her boyfriend. He is a pro-abortion socialist who is shacking up with his boyfriend. Both are living lives far from what Scripture upholds as leadership material. And today we read of another high-ranking government minister who is also publicly flaunting her ungodly lifestyle.
Finance Minister Penny Wong and her female lover have just announced that they are expecting a baby through IVF. This is another nail in the coffin of marriage and family, and is another blow to the well-being of children. All children have a fundamental right to be born into and raised by their own biological mother and father. To deliberately deprive them of this is a form of child neglect, if not abuse.
But this is typical of the leadership we have in this nation. And many other Western nations would also have such political figures running their countries. In the US we have the most militantly pro-abortion and pro-homosexual President ever to hold office.
And of course these nations are now in a real mess. Australia might think it can escape the economic collapse taking place in Europe (especially the PIGS: Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) and America, but in a global economy this will be unlikely. We will all be impacted by the global financial meltdown.
We clearly need to recall the strong connection made in Scripture between the state and fate of a nation and its spiritual and moral condition. The Bible of course speaks to this time and time again. Let me offer just a few passages here:
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.
Proverbs 11:14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls.
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”.
When we take passages like this and put them together, we get a pretty good explanation as to why Australia, America and the West is in such a mess today. When we – and especially our leaders – abandon God, indeed, shake our fists at God, we are asking for trouble.
Solzhenitsyn said this decades ago when he looked at the disaster which had befallen the former Soviet Union: “It is because we have forgotten God. That is why all this is happening to us.” Or as Yahweh put it when his covenant people asked why great disaster had befallen them: “All this happened because you people sinned against the LORD and did not obey him” (Jeremiah 40:3).
One American commentator has just penned a piece which also deals with these matters. Michael Brown entitles his piece, “It’s the Morality, Stupid!” He says, “Could it be that there’s more to the story? Could it be that we make a serious and fundamental mistake when we separate economic issues from moral issues? Could it be that we are often treating the symptoms rather than the cause? There was bipartisan disgust as the nation watched the president and both political parties wrangling over a solution to the current financial crisis, and in the end, all we got was a very small, largely ineffective band aid. As one political cartoonist depicted it, the congressional ‘solution’ was like slowing down the speed with which the Titanic was sinking.
“Across party lines, there was a feeling that we were not really getting to the root of the problem, but few, if any were suggesting that it is impossible to separate economics from morality. Eventually, our moral choices will have a definite and direct impact on the money (or lack thereof) in our pockets.”
He mentions four root areas which are having a decided impact on the nation and the economy: “1) Instant gratification. 2) We have become consumers rather than producers. 3) The breakdown of the family. 4) Abortion.”
Consider the last one: “With all the concerns about Social Security defaulting, very few leaders are talking about the 800 pound gorilla missing from the room, namely, multiplied millions of working Americans who are not here to pay into the system and contribute to the economy because their lives were cut short in the womb. Yes, there is an economic consequence to abortion as well.
“Perhaps, then, it would be wise for political candidates who really care about what’s best for America to change their slogan to, ‘It’s the morality, stupid.’ Or is this slogan too true to be good?”
Yes moral, spiritual and cultural issues need to be looked at as closely as we looked at the trade balance or fiscal policy. But most leaders today are secularists living immoral lifestyles, so those are the last sorts of things they wish to consider. They think that tinkering around the edges of the economy, or making crafty political moves will somehow fix everything up.
Sorry, they are deluded, and are deluding the nations they lead. Our problems are far deeper than what these leaders imagine. Until we get our priorities right, and stop leaving God out of the picture, the West will continue to head down the gurgler.
It is time for a massive rethink – and real soon.
21 Replies to “God, Government, the Economy, and Godliness”
The ! has unincluded itself from the URL to “It’s the Morality, Stupid!”
But otherwise, this is an excellent article. It’s definitely time for a massive rethink!
Any thoughts on the London burnings Bill? the MSM is giving us nothing on what the cause may be. An article in the Australian hinted at ‘ethical integration’ – could this be code language for Islamic Communities? I don’t know of course, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why they’re dodging discussing the cause.
Sorry, bit of a red herring there in light of the topic of the article!
It really comes down to Blessings and Cursing in terms of obedience to God doesn’t it? Centrally of course, this is the command to repent and believe – but the scope of obedience is as broad as all of life, and the destruction in our wake from the disobedience of western civilisation in every area is becoming more and more obvious.
Isaac Overton, ACT
Well said Bill.
We have people in positions of leadership who have belief structures that don’t stand up under pressure. Just as Communism was seen to have clay feet we are now finding that the beliefs these people have also have fragile foundation.
I believe we have leaders who don’t know what to do except give us spin eg, Wayne Swan yesterday talking about the Australian economy being safe.
On the other hand we have populations living in fear for their futures and feeling increasingly disenfranchised as unnamed people like the IMF etc and government set up bodies of unelected people make decisions that affect all of us. If we keep going like this is will collapse.
Bonhoeffer, in an officially Christian state (fast becoming a Nazi state) said that the role of the church in response to Government is three things.
1/ Challenge and help the state to be the state God intended it to be.
2/ When the state fails to heed the church, to help the victims of the state’s actions.
3/ If the state ceases to be a state according to God, then to take action against the state
I believe Australia is transitioning from being a Christian state and society to an agnostic one, if it hasn’t done so already.
We have to use wisdom with this transition; we must change our approach to society as it changes, without changing the message of the gospel.
Do we drive more people away from God by enforcing laws intended for Christian communities on society? In the early church, Roman society was morally repulsive, whilst the church addressed issues of morality inside it’s own walls through letters of apostles. The church was not supposed to force the community to stop sinning – but to show them Jesus. “It is God’s goodness that draws us to repentance”
Christ confronted the most heinous sinners with love and mercy, not judgement and certainly not forcing them to change through legislation! Only after they encountered Christ and his love did they very often choose repentance, and choose internal moral reform.
As Bonhoeffer said, we still need to care for the victims of the state and fight it if necessary, but our influence on the state is changing and must decrease proportionately. I do not envy those Christians in prominent positions today – it is a difficult scenario to be in.
This is a good place to start on the London riots: http://melaniephillips.com/london-descends-into-anarchy
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I think it would be a mistake to confuse the OT language surrounding the king with our current world. Although the character of a leader has an impact on outcomes, the kings in the OT had a particular place in God’s revelation of the kingdom of God. Could we say of John Howard that he lost the 2007 election because God took away his Holy Spirit (given in the OT to anoint kings; see Ps 51)? Of course not! The contrast we are to draw the language of the kings and ruling in the OT is with Christ, as the geopolitical kingdom of Israel parallels the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The best description I can find of the character of government in the Last Days is in Revelation. Government in this world has more in common with the beast – power derived from a system that ignores God. The image of Babylon throughout Revelation is a description of Washington, Beijing, London, Paris and Canberra. Wherever there is a system of government that ignores God, there we find Babylon. Even where there have been godly Christians serving in places of political power, they are still captive to a system which centres on the mirage of the self-rule of humanity.
It shouldn’t surprise us that we have atheist PMs living with their boyfriend – that is the nature of living in this world (Julia is positively ascetic compared to the decadent standards of rulers, even ‘Christian’ ones, of times gone by). Nothing we can do, not even a concerted effort by Christians through voting, will change the essential nature of government in this world. It will still be a human-centric, human-deifying institution. Only the return of Christ will change the nature of government in this world.
I did not intend this article to be a detailed blueprint of how biblical principles of government might be applied today, and I of course did not suggest in my article that we simply drag holus bolus everything we find in the OT into contemporary government today. The general principles found there was all I was appealing to here. Thus I was not confusing the two.
And I am not as pessimistic as you are about us having zippo influence of governments today, and that nothing will change till Christ returns. Sure, his return will change everything, but that does not mean we just sit back now with our arms in the air saying, “Oh well, what do you expect of governments before Christ returns?” Fortunately many others did not take that rather unhelpful sort of advice. Wilberforce for example would likely have left Parliament altogether, and we still might be fighting slavery in the West today, if he had followed that line.
So while Christians are not to think that governments can solve all our problems, or save anyone, on the other hand, we are called to be involved and be salt and light in all areas of life, including politics. Thus we can pray and work toward having godly leadership, and seek to get committed Christians into politics and other areas of life. It won’t result in bringing heaven to earth, but it will hold in check to a significant degree the powers of darkness. But I have written about this countless times before, so no need to repeat myself here.
But thanks for your thoughts.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I agree with everything in your comment. I didn’t mean to imply that Christians do nothing and throw up their hands – quite the opposite. As you rightly point out, we are to be salt and light in a fallen world. We are to stand for justice for the helpless.
I guess where I would want to different from the article is the nature of the system itself. I could be wrong but the vibe I got from your article is that we are in our current mess as a result of a decline of moral standards in our society.
My answer to that is that the moral character of the world and of government is unchanging. Government is as immoral now as it was 50/100/250/1000/3000 years ago. Even if we were to stack the system with Christians, it would still be a corrupt system and would still inevitably deliver outcomes that are wrong.
There are some bright spots but they are always few and far between. God willing, we might be a part of those bright spots but essentially, Christians always go against a tide of immorality and evil when trying to advocate for outcomes that would please God and will probably lose out even then. As you rightly point out, we only hold in check the power of evil.
If there is a cycle to be descerned, I suspect it is tied to gospel revival amongst the masses. From my understanding of British/American society prior to the Great Awakening (which could be quite wrong), it wasn’t too dissimilar to where things are today. The Great Awakening radically changed that but of course, like Israel, things quickly are forgotten and the tide of darkness marches inexorably onwards and outwards until the next revival.
I don’t mean to belabour this here, but in short, yes I think we have every reason to recongise that a nation’s moral and spiritual condition will determine – at least in part – how it fares in other aspects. So yes, I am not averse to agreeing with Jeremiah and Solzhenitsyn here.
You seem unduly negative about governments in general. But bear in mind of course that government is God’s idea. So like everything he has ordained, we can seek to make it as close to conformity with God’s values and ideals as is possible in a fallen world.
Why do you single out government when you say “Government is as immoral now as it was 50/100/250/1000/3000 years ago”. That is true of everything in this life, including you and me. So why bother seeking to change anything, including yourself?
You still seem to have a ‘government is the pits and always will be” mentality. I prefer to see the lordship of Christ extended to every area of life. That of course does not make me a theocrat, simply a Christian who sees every area of life able to be transformed by Christ through his people, even if to a limited and never perfect degree. Yes sin will always be found in government, because sin will always be found in people. But I am not defeatist here about how God’s Spirit, working through his people, can make real and substantial change, as we saw with the Great Awakening for example, which you mention.
But given that I have just now found this on your website, it may be time to call a halt to all this. You seem to have tossed out any Christian grace here, and are in fact revealing yourself as someone who just wants to argue.
You said: “In the tradition of the pugnacious Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog, I thought I would record my comments to Bill Meuhlenberg’s CultureWatch, especially given that he believes the only place to disagree is on your own blog, and not on his.”
I expect smart alec, blatantly false and ugly remarks like this from atheists and others, not from those who claim to be brothers in Christ. I have many thousands of critical comments here, including your own, so spare me your nonesense. So I must say adieu. Feel free to build yourself up by dragging me down all you like on your own time, not mine.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
As usual, I’m in complete agreement. Another Australian leader, our Governor-General Quentin Bryce, is anti-life. No wonder our nation is suffering. The following link gives details of the GG’s action against the Osbourne Bill in Canberra back in ’98.
Keep up the good work Bill, your articles are a great blessing.
May God Bless you and your family.
Many thanks Carolyn.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Sorry Bill, of the four root areas which are having a decided impact on the nation and the economy “Abortion” should be No.1 not No.4!!
Of course it was not my list, and I assume his listing did not reflect any order of priority. He would probably fully agree with you in fact.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Right on Bill.
“Do not covet” -God.
The Bible makes some rather strong statements relating to excesses and debt – something the post-Christian west has spent the last 50 years treating as old fashioned restrictiveness.
As they increasingly turned their backs on Christ the blessings began to fade, so a spiralling debt addiction was needed to fake the blessing. But this could only ever be a temporary measure, like propping up a dying king Ahab in battle. (1 Kings 22)
Isn’t it a coincidence that Islam is fueled by oil money which is generated by hedonistic levels of consumerism in once Christian nations? That looks like a God-incidence to me – like Israel being hounded by the Philistines each time they drifted into idolatry.
And as Bill says, the missing generation (GenA = Generation Aborted?) is, well, mostly missing.
So, this isn’t another GFC, it’s the same one continued. The 2008 meltdown was never fixed or fixable, only propped up like Ahab, but the economic engine is dead. No heartbeat. A zombie dressed up with government handouts to look like it’s still alive.
The economy is just the sum of the productivity of the people, but in the last few decades the Christian work ethic has been replaced by “what handout/bailout can I get”?
So we are just getting what was coming.
Love this verse; Duet 8:18
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…
Too many people unproductive + too much debt = day of reckoning.
Such simple economics are easy to understand, but the fancy central bank manipulations are not fixing anything – only obscuring the fact that their meddling is making the outcome considerably worse.
Perhaps we can start hearing sermons about the 10th commandment for the first time in a century or so…
“Remember Lot’s wife”. (Luke 17:32)
Some good reflections in relation to Lee’s comment. I just thought I’d add that he’s really drawing a long bow (and missing the target to boot!) when he claims that governments have been the same immoral entities for the duration of history.
It doesn’t take too much digging to reveal that even our own immediate case of Australia was a far more moral and godly government at it’s inception in 1901. The first few lines of our founding document give the game away (‘Humbly relying on Almighty God’). While still a tainted by sin, as will always be the case until Christ’s return, it is fair to say that Australia was a strong Christian nation with a godly government. Our federal system (however it may have been corrupted since) was founded on the principle of separating the powers as a safeguard against the reality of sin.
A brief look through history at the legal framework of the UK, some historical periods in Scotland, America in it’s earlier days – to claim that you can’t have godly governments is simply not true.
Yes, they weren’t perfect, but they were a lot lot closer than what we witness today. May we pray that the fear of God would fall upon our nation again!
On another note, you also mention in your comment to Lee that the OT laws are applied in principle. Just wondering if you could develop that thought a little more? For example, I would say that the death penalty should be in force, but the cultural methodology (i.e. stoning) is not necessarily to be followed to the letter – it’s the moral principle. Any thoughts?
Thanks again! God bless you.
Isaac Overton, ACT
On government, I probably am a little negative on them. If you look at the sweep of history, there isn’t much to recommend them. The good they do is generally outweighed by all the nonsense/incompetence/corruption. Restraining the state (and I emphasise the restraining part) is about all the average citizen can do, and even then, citizens restraining the state is a relatively modern concept. You’re right in saying God ordained the state but all that means is that pure anarchism is out of the question. Ongoing scepticism of the actions of the state, even cynicism, I think is completely justified in light of history, including biblical history.
My basic point has been that government isn’t any worse now than it ever has been on average. I don’t think there is any slide of degeneracy as a result of Julia Gillard’s atheism or Bob Brown’s homosexuality. Government continues in its lame old ways as it always has, and society follows along the same path.
On my blog, firstly that post was from March so it isn’t in response to anything I have contributed in the last week. Secondly, it was in response to a comment you posted, saying that if I wanted to disagree I should do it on my own blog (I was being a bit of a smart alec in the bit you quoted so guilty as charged on that one).
Admittedly, it came in response to me jumping the gun a little (my bad) in commenting on my blog on what seemed to be your reluctance to post comments that contained some valid disagreement. I have learnt a lesson from that little dust-up (not that I am blogging much at the moment) and I won’t get carried away again in shooting my mouth off like I did.
On being argumentative, even on this entry of yours, I have agreed with substantial parts with what you have said, and quite a number of my comments on your posts have been to agree and hopefully supplement your point with something relevant that I have seen/experienced.
I don’t try to be deliberately contrarian, as I am sure you wouldn’t be either. We have genuine disagreement on the right approach to issues we are essentially in agreement with and discussing that (even vigorously) is a good thing for both of us. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17) explains it very well. The best thing I can do for you is disagree with you in as gracious a way as I can (and if I have been uncharitable, I apologise) and the best thing you can do for me is disagree with me.
By challenging both of our opinions with differing views, God-willing we will actually gain a better insight into ourselves and our ideas. Although you’re right in saying there are many critical comments on your blog, there seem to be few people who would be willing to regularly disagree with you, which I don’t think is healthy for anyone. Certainly, I always find your views stimulating and sometimes challenging to my own stance but I value your insight on these issues, which is why I keep coming back for more.
It’s your call but I would hope I could still contribute to your website through my comments. I would be disappointed if I somehow landed on a black list again.
Bill the other gorilla that is missing in the room, in Britain, is our illustrious, Archbishop of Canterbury. Where is he? Perhaps he is on Sabbatical, or has gone on holiday, or is leafing through some old papers – or elsewhere?
But this is an aside. The idea that if Christians were to simply let God’s grace and love shine in a godless society then this would automatically transform it is not born out in history; otherwise hundreds of thousands of Christians would not have been martyred under the Caesars. They were martyred because in crucial aspects of their lives, relative to the government, there was a line drawn in the sand over which they would not go. As was the case with Daniel.
Daniel and the early Christians, however, were not anarchists who didn’t believe in any form of government for they recognised that all governments are established by God.
Paul says in Romans 13:1-5:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
However, in an age when every other person in the Roman world was deemed to be a slave it seems to me that slavery was never regarded as an acceptable model of labour relationship even by Paul, for though he says in 1 Cor 7:20-22, “Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you,” he also says,” if you can gain your freedom, do so.” In other words if you can, pitch the godless tyrants out, either directly or through underground resistance, as happened in Germany and Romania.
David Skinner, UK
Perhaps the Archbishop couldn’t resist his Marxist inclinations at this time and has gone to partake in a bit of looting! I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s paper shows CCTV footage of him using a crozier to break into his local church supplies shop and filling his mitre with free incense while swigging from a bottle of stolen communion wine. 😉
Thanks Bill. A timely article. In Tasmania we are currently seeing the decimation of the forestry industry because of the ideals of Greens and pro-green public. We also see that the environmentalists would like to see the end of coal mining etc. Private industry, which we have so much to be thankful for, seems to be becoming an unfashionable thing in this new world. At the same time we have become consumers rather than producers per your quote. Thankfully we have a conservative opposition leader willing to stand up against the pressures of this secular age. We need more leaders willing to take a stand and offer an alternative vision for this country, a vision that has God at its centre.
Human government, just as many other occupations such as medical doctors were only required since the fall, as before then, Adam and Eve followed, maybe not for very long, the voice of God through their personal relationship with Him. We do not question our need for medical doctors, though we do not expect them to give us eternal life, only that they might keep us healthy – with our cooperation of course – as long as possible. And of course there are good medical doctors and there are bad ones who don’t care for their patients, but are more interested in their income. Sounds parallel when we perceive politicians? The quality of both professions is either enhanced or diminished through the personal integrity of the people working in them. So, the question is not how great our sin is, but how closely we walk in submission and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, for our sin is a given, our walk is our determination, God is not going to stop us walking closely with Him. It is the degree of our obedience that makes visible the power, greatness and Love of God, not because he is not able to do it otherwise, but because He chooses to give us a part in the affairs of His kingdom.
As Gary North has often stated, “You cannot fight something with nothing.” As long as a majority of Christians pietistically make allegory of the Old Testament Law, at best, and totally ignore it, at worst, they will have nothing to fight the encroachments of sin (which the New Testament calls “transgression of the Law” – I John 3:4) in the political arena.
Onya Bill for calling sinful behaviour, sin. As the Apostle Paul said, “sin is exceeding sinful,” that is, to live lawlessly, in terms of God’s Law, is to evoke from the Lord Jesus a serious rebuke: “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,” (Matthew 7:23).
To be able to compete in the political arena, Christians need to know God’s Law more fully. We are not saved by works of the Law, in the sense of our justification and our acceptance by God. I will fight along side you Bill, any watering down of the grace of God, as revealed in the completed work of God in Christ at Calvary. Praise God for the blood of Jesus that has washed away my stain! Praise God for the boldness that is mine to enter into the Holy of Holies, because of Christ’s atonement and His propitiation; despite my utter helplesses to be able to contribute anything towards my salvation. I was chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
On the other hand, we need to take seriously the promise of the New Covenant: “I will give them a new heart, and write my Law upon their hearts and upon their minds. I will renew their spirit within them, and place my Holy Spirit within them; and He, that is the Holy Spirit, will cause them to walk in My Law.”
As Christians retreat from the political arena, the wicked fill the vacuum and legislate against godliness. There is no neutral ground. Either Christians legislate for godliness in the marketplace, or the enemies of Christ legislate for ungodliness in the marketplace.
“He who hates Me, loves death.” How do we hate the Lord? By serving other gods. How do we serve other gods? By passively submitting to their law-word. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘No God for me!'” And so, the legislation of the godless leads to foolishness in the market place. I have to deal with this foolishness on a daily basis. The Law of God states: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Should I raise a rod against the wilful, foolish, sinful behviour of a child in my school, I would be dragged before the courts quicker than — self-censored. However, when I first began teaching, the law was influenced by the Christians of a former era who understood God’s Law, and i could teach students who understood the consequence of the rod. Now it takes up to six professionals, on salaries of over $100,000 each, to set up support structures to entice, bribe, seduce, and ultimately fail to get the little sinner to sit down in class and do his school work.
I am sure many other readers could cite a myriad of cases where the idiocy of public foolishness has filtered down to the day-to-day lives of us all.
We need evangelists to convert the masses, one by one. We need teachers to teach God’s Law, line upon line and precept upon precept, so that it is inscribed upon the minds and hearts of God’s people. And in time, as the Christian influence gains 51%, then we can begin the task of unwinding foolish legislation, and putting into place legislation that reflects the holiness of God, and the great freedom and liberty His Law, mediated by the Holy Spirit, provides in the market place; theives are required to restore up to seven fold, murderers are permanently removed from society, the family is strengthened and capitalised, and so forth.
Thanks for your article, Bill. God bless you richly.
Lance A Box