The Planks of the Faith: Remembering for Re-Membering, Part 27

It certainly seems like our Plank of the Faith for today’s feast at the Training Table, Article 36: The Civil Government, is being served up at an opportune time, does it not?

Would you agree that there’s some pretty significant ambivalence (to put it mildly) about the role of government in our day?

Even though the Belgic Confession content below concerning The Civic Government is startlingly plain about some crucial “big ideas” in theological, existential, cultural, governmental (and other) realms, it’s like reading somethingSO TRUE and RIGHT and yet at the same time SO OUT OF SYNCH:

Since the The Belgic Confession was first drafted, we have so thoroughly DEBASED and DISGRACED, a) the Biblical notion of what it means to be a human being, b) what a knowledge of all things historical should consist of, and c) the blessings and ingenuity of what a God-honoring civic government and democracy might look like…

Well, honestly, I don’t have any words better than to carefully read Article 36 and contrast what the assumptions of these sorts of things consisted of for God’s Christ-loving and Spirit-led people when the Belgic Confession’s chief author, Guido de Bräs, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.

As I read and re-read Article 36 below, three ideas bubbled up in my heart as I considered today’s menu item:

a) “Whatever became of sin?” (Karl Menninger, 1988)
When a renowned name and reputation of Menninger’s kind—who had been almost synonymous in America with the science and the practice of psychiatry—sees the bankruptcy of the mental-moral connection having gone so far awry as to force him to ask the question, “Whatever became of sin?”… it’s very telling!

Having become so thoroughly secularized, our once God-honoring nation has reached the point of seeing the opening premise to the confessional statement below, “We believe that because of the depravity of the human race…” as being primeval, intellectually archaic, and irreparably severed from an enlightened view of mankind. And this is a very big problem:

Devoid of the knoweldge of and faith in God’s good creation (Genesis 1,2), mankind’s categorical Fall (Genesis 3), Jesus Christ’s propitiatory intervention (John 3:16), and God’s final consummation (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21)…NOTHING in this life or the next will make any sense or provide any lasting peace whatsoever. And this is a very big problem in many respects, not the least of which is that our government has taken it upon itself to eradicate and repudiate God’s revelation from the public square.

b) “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)
‘Nuf said: Whether its abysmal test scores or standing in the midst of another civilization passing away and not even recognizing it… we stand condemned: Civilizations come and go, but none so predictably as those who so resolutely thumb their nose at God (Jeremiah 2… lots more)!

c) “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” (Winston S. Churchill)
Personally, I love this quote! As but one example, the rise and fall of the good ‘ol U.S. of A. is nothing more than a cultural (voter) shift farther and farther away from God: And those elected into political (and other) offices to further the people’s desires and their predominantly anti-theistic (man-centered) ends.

Whether it’s Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” feature (asking average people questions about most anything… and their having no idea of the correct answer) or the very sad and low numbers of people in our democracy who turn out to vote,“a conversation with America’s average voter” is indeed a very scary thing! And will reflect directly on whether Article 36 below will have any saliency to the voting populace (or even the Western church) or the civic government at all.

The Planks of the Faith: Article 36: The Civil Government
“We believe that because of the depravity of the human race our good God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. He wants the world to be governed by laws and policies so that human lawlessness may be restrained and that everything may be conducted in good order among human beings.

For that purpose He has placed the sword in the hands of the government, to punish evil people and protect the good.

And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel and to every aspect of divine worship.

They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them.

And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as He requires in his Word.

Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives in honor and respect, and obey them in all things that are not in conflict with God’s Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet life in all piety and decency.

And on this matter we denounce the Anabaptists, other anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has established among human beings.” (Article 36, The Belgic Confession of Faith, 1561)

Please take some time to meditate on this amazing articulation The Civil Government and how much it contrasts with how governments of all sorts have moved away from its Bible-based, God-honoring, and people-blessing premises.

Please prayerfully consider how your faith in word and in deed might be the revealing LIGHT of God’s Truth and the SALT of God’s stemming decay of any sort caused by sin… wherever He has planted you to grow.

Look forward to seeing everyone at the table next week! We’re at the point of covering the last Article in the Belgic Confession, Article 37: The Last Judgment the next time we sup’ together. It should be a sumptuous feast of the heart for those running the good race.

Until then,

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