ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(Its Application to American Government)
by Kerry Lee Morgan*
AMERICAN GOVERNMENT According To The Bible, The Declaration Of Independence and The Constitution
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” 2 Chronicle 20:6.
“When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.” Declaration of Independence, 1776.
The Laws of Nature: An Articulation Of The Laws Of God Written in Creation and Revelation
Let us transition from our examination of the Scripture to the American experience with civil government. The forgoing chapters are universal for all nations so the principles can be applied to any constitution or civil government or form of government. But our immediate focus is on tracing our understanding of God’s view of civil government, when instituted by the consent of the people, in the American experience. Did the ideas identified in the first 4,000 years of human history about the creation, equality, the family and marriage find their way into American law. How about the predisposition of mankind to violence, murder, polygamy practiced in the pre-flood world? Or did the limitations on human punishment of murder, the lawless rule of pharaohs, judges, and kings influence the founders or framers in limiting the national government? Did the principles of freedom enjoyed by human beings under the law of nature, or the doctrines of practical submission to, or resistance of tyrants, or the grace of God throughout it all, find their way into the Declaration of Independence? How about the constitutions of the states and of the subsequent national government?
Let us first examine what the Declaration of Independence actually says. After that we can determine if any of its propositions or ideas have Biblical roots. The first and foremost place to understand the Declaration is with an examination of what it claims to be its foundation. Does it say that “We the people have power” to make a government? Does it say that government is divine and comes from God? Does it say that since government is a man-made institution, we can make any government we want with or without limits?
No, it says none of these things. The Declaration of Independence creates no civil government at all. Instead, it declares the principles by which every civil government can be judged according to law. It declares the reasons which justify a People in separating from a civil government. It declares the principles upon which every new civil government is to be bound. It says that Americans are justified in separating from their government under an English king.
The framers tell us they are claiming that a specific law articulates all these principles. They call it the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” They wrote: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The Laws Of Nature
What are the laws of nature? The laws of nature are those laws laid down by God at the creation of the world. They are the laws He embedded in His creation. His creation consists of the natural and physical world. It consists of the environment. It consists of human beings. It consists of the plant and animal world. It consists of the oceans and the heavens. It consists of all that He has made. He also established rules concerning their purpose and use. He established His expectations concerning each and all of these matters and the rules or standards by which they should be governed.
We have examined key aspects of the law of nature in prior chapters. We have seen that God has never relinquished His authority to govern humans by His laws He laid down contemporaneously with the creation of the heavens and earth. The “law of nature” declared God’s decree and punishment for a variety of offenses that no human court has authority or jurisdiction to judge or punish: unnatural sexual relations, greed, depravity, envy, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slanderer, God-hating, insolence, arrogance and boastfulness, disobedience to parents; a lack of understanding, fidelity, love, or mercy. Romans 1:26-32. Murder was also stated as a matter which God retained the authority to judge, but he later authorized human beings to punish murders. See Genesis 9:6.
Likewise the law of nature affirms that what a person chooses to eat or drink is between that person and the Creator. The same applies to the choice to accept or refuse medical care or treatment including vaccinations. These things God has never surrendered to any person except the one exercising the choice, and no civil government. That decision or choice is not given to any other person, employer or civil government. The decision as to what a person shall eat or drink or the choice to accept or reject drugs and medical care including masking and vaccinations lies solely between the individual’s own conscience and God. It is to God alone that the individual must account, not the civil government, employer or any brother, sister or church. Parents are empowered to decide these matters for their children during their season of infancy and youth. The authority to judge how or when a person celebrates or declines to celebrate certain days or how or when they celebrate or observe the Sabbath is reserved exclusively to God. Any human being or government which claims such an authority is usurping God’s authority and that usurpation is lawless and need not be obeyed. The same rule governs a persons decision to use or decline drugs or medical treatment. This authority is by the law of nature retained exclusively by God and is not within any human authority to decree, impair or punish. Colossians 2:16.
God declared that the seventh day was a holy day because on that day he rested. “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2. As a consequence God expects mankind will also rest on the seventh day and observe it as a holy day. This principle of one day of rest in seven is part of the law of nature. It was established at the creation of the world by the Creator and it is the Creator which has the exclusive jurisdiction to enforce it according to His will as He and He alone, shall see fit. Civil government lacks the jurisdiction under the laws of nature to dictate what commercial activity anyone may or may not do on any specific day. So-called “blue laws” are contrary to the law of nature.
Moreover, only God has authority over the human heart and human mind as referred to in Romans 1. This too is part of the law of nature. God alone has authority to search and probe the “the heart and mind.” Jeremiah 17:10, 20:12; Romans 8:27. It is the peace of God, not government control of education or public schools which guards the heart and mind. Philippians 4:7. These are the laws of nature of which God has never relinquished enforcement to any human government to judge. He has not given them to any other nation or government and God continues to exclusively judge all these to this very hour. Compulsory attendance and education laws are an example of how this law of nature is offended. Compulsory diversity and inclusion training likewise offends the law of nature.
God has also laid down the law of nature regarding marriage that it should exist only between one man and one woman during the lifetime of both. Genesis 2:24. He established the law of nature regarding the authority of the family, of husbands and wives and of mothers and fathers. This includes their duties to each other regarding their children, principally including the exclusive jurisdiction of the family to direct the education and upbringing of their own children, leaving their neighbors’ children to their own parents.
The Supreme Court’s vain effort to redefine marriage rejects the law of nature. Its claim that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right is a rabid departure from the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and antithetical to the Constitution’s legal foundation, the Declarations of Independence’s explicit grounding in the law of nature. Matthew 7:15-20 states, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits.” In other words, the judicial wolves have borne their redefinition of marriage from an unhealthy tree being their own evolutionary understanding of law. God says the thing to do is cut that tree down.
Finally, for our purposes here, God also expressed the law of nature regarding the authority of a man and woman. God said to Adam and Eve that they should have children. God said that they should have many children. God said that they should fill the earth. God said that their children should fill the earth and subdue the earth. In order that Adam and Eve and their children could subdue the earth, He gave to them seed bearing plants. He gave them fruit trees for food. He gave them the animals of the earth, though not to eat at first. He gave them every bird in the air and all the creatures of the earth. He gave them every green plant for food. Though after the flood, He gave them animals for food though this grant of authority was not part of the original law of nature. Whether man and woman obey this law of nature is for God to judge, not any other person or civil government.
When we examine the several principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence in the next chapter found in the law of nature, we will provide an explanation the Biblical support for those principles.
The point of classifying rules or conduct as part of the law of nature is to declare their universal application to all peoples, and all nations, over the globe, at all times, under all circumstances, in all ages. But more important, it is to declare God’s exclusive jurisdiction to punish or discipline people for violating these rules or laws of creation. The reason we take care in identifying the laws of nature is so we can see what power ought not be entrusted to civil government. If a civil government is to be established it must observe the laws of nature. If it fails to observe the laws of nature it is not a lawful civil government. It is a civil government usurping that which God has not actually given to any human institution. It is a civil government purporting to set aside the laws of nature, indeed of creation itself.
Any civil government to be established must observe the limitations imposed by the laws of nature if it is to be considered a lawful government. A lawful civil government may not exercise jurisdiction over any of these objects, nor may it regulate how these objects are effectuated. The law of nature issues a universal decree commanding civil government: “Do Not Enter.” Thus, any civil government established on the basis of and in recognition of the laws of nature ought to not embrace any purpose or jurisdiction retained solely by God. Nor can the people give such an object or purpose to their civil government by consent because the people themselves do not have the authority to declare God’s laws of nature void or inapplicable. The law of nature is by definition universal and applies without regard to the approval or consent of any human being.
Thus, we are free to examine the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation or the National Constitution which followed, or the acts of congress or decisions of the supreme court, or orders of the president. We are free to hold each of these documents, decisions and orders them up to the harsh and searching light of the law of nature. We are free to examine each act undertaken by the government and evaluate whether or not they respect or usurp any authority of God. We can also judge the official conduct of our elected officials in the same harsh light. We can and must shine the spotlight of reproach on their behavior.
Are we saying that each of Declaration of Independence signer’s contemplated the foregoing essence of the law of nature when they wrote this document and invoked the laws of nature as the basis upon which their actions in separating with England were justified? At this point we are simply saying they referenced the law of nature as the foundational law of the nation. The meaning of the law of nature cannot be rationally ignored.
It is indisputable that Sir William Blackstone, an English contemporary of the framers had written in volume 1, page 41 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1765 about the laws of nature and of nature’s God and defined those terms for English law. He observed that the laws of nature were those laws God had written at the creation of the world and were now reflected in nature, God’s creation. Likewise he addressed the laws of nature’s God, asserting these laws consisted of those laws God had written through his prophets and recorded in the Scripture throughout history after creation was completed.
The Laws Of Nature’s God
The Declaration of Independence not only refers to the laws of nature, but it refers to the laws of nature’s God. What is the difference, if any? Blackstone says that upon reflection they are both one and the same. This is true in the sense that they have the same author, the Creator. But the laws of nature’s God refer to the laws of God that He laid down after creation at various times throughout human history and that are recorded in the Bible.
These laws may or may not be universal depending on the context of their declaration, and an examination of what Peoples or Nations to whom they were given, and under what conditions or qualifications if any that applied. To discover the laws of nature’s God that are universal requires an examination of the Bible with all these particulars in mind. What is to be avoided is the conclusion that simply because God laid down some rule at some point in history after creation for Israel, that it automatically constitutes a universal rule or universal prohibition.
Genesis 9:6 is an example of the law of nature’s God that is universal. It is a rule which authorized mankind to punish murderers. It was given about 1,650 years after creation and so it is not a law of nature. But a review of the context and wording of Genesis 9:6 indicates that it is of universal application and not limited to merely Noah and his sons.
The specific laws, however, given by God to Moses for the people of Israel under a covenant by which God would govern Israel and by which Israel would be God’s treasured possession as His people, do not by their context and wording apply to all peoples and all nations throughout all time as a matter of law. Many are conditional because they only apply to the Israeli people who actually enter into or resided “in the land” God granted to Abraham. The Sabbath Year and Year of Jubilee are of this nature.
God’s grace in Deuteronomy 17 that civil government should be limited could be a law of nature’s God. It certainly is wise counsel knowing what lies in the heart of human beings and the fact that human beings, as James Madison famously observed, are not angels. He said, “If Men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
In order that our review can be complete we must also discuss natural law. Biblically speaking, Romans 1:18 discusses natural law. It states, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Paul is stating that people know about God from the creation of the world based on what has been made by God. He is saying you and I know about God’s eternal power and divine nature. He is saying that all mankind knows this. He is not saying we know this because it is written in the Scripture. He is not saying we know this because someone told us about God in a conversation. He is saying we know this because the heavens and the earth declare it the heavens and earth God made. We can use our reason and see that God made the heavens and the earth and we can deduce the existence of a great Creator with power and divinity.
According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the natural law is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.” (Summa Theologica, I-II.91.2). The eternal law is God’s wisdom, because it is the directive norm of all movement and action.
The Greeks and Stoics also articulated their understanding of natural law. Aristotle (BC 384 322) is considered by many to be the father of “natural law.” In Rhetoric, he argues that aside from “particular” laws that each people have set up for themselves, there is a “common law” or “higher law” that is according to nature (Rhetoric 1373b2 8). Natural law is “discovered” by humans through reason and choosing between good and evil. Therefore, natural law seeks to discover certain universal standards in morality and ethics. The Stoics which followed adopted a similar method of discovery but saw no need for higher law.
What each of these have in common is there is a belief that certain laws transcend time, culture, and civil institutions. The concept of natural law indicates there are universal standards that apply to all mankind throughout all time. These universal moral standards are inherent in and discoverable by the use of reason and may be established to form a just society and a lawful civil government. The law of nature and of nature’s God, however, differs from natural law in the sense that under the former, God himself is the Creator and thereby holds the prominent place of the lawgiver rather than an indistinct concept of nature or use of reason alone. But more importantly since God is a personal God, He continues to exercise His authority which He has not given to any other to perform. By this rule, people and the civil governments they establish lack jurisdiction to impair His laws. He remains the King and will judge nations in the here and now and in the age to come.
All we have said has nothing to do with establishing a national or state church, or legislating doctrinal propositions. It is simply the defaulting legal paradigm that universally applies to all nations on the earth. It is also the actual legal foundation articulated by the Declaration of Independence and our governments have no choice but to follow it.