Monday, February 9, 2015

The Actual Origin of Goverment

It's a very popular opinion, and one that I have held for a considerable point of time, that ultimately governments get their just powers from the consent of the governed. It is an idea called the social contract theory, and remarkably, it is actually wrong. 

Yes, it sounds nice when we say it. Men live in a state of nature, free men, but they find that their freedom is not protected from stronger, less moral men, who like to prey on the weak. Thus, these men come together and form a government, delegating some of their power, so that their rights can be protected from brute force. 

But I don't know about you, but I've never seen a government that has been formed in that manner. Indeed, all governments that we seem to see formed are simply transferring from one government to another. We have never actually examined a government being formed from a state of nature.

That isn't necessarily a problem for social contract theorists because simply because we wouldn't know how the first government started, doesn't mean that it didn't start out as a social contract. 

No, the problem instead begins with the fact that we actually kinda have seen the first government being created, and it wasn't made by man, but by God. 

The very first government was put in place by God before the fall! Adam and Eve were given dominion over all animals when they were placed in the Garden of Eden. the Lord gave them a sceptre and used them to rule over creation. Welcome to government. 

Then of course, we sinned, and government's purpose was slightly corrupted, but God still ordained it as a good force. Romans 13 explains, 

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

Indeed, the social contract theorists' favorite points about how government is a necessary evil or necessary because of evil are kinda both wrong from a biblical perspective. Now don't get me wrong, there are definitely things done by government that are not good, and this verse does not prevent those from being a thing, but government as an institution is a "minister unto us for good." 

The fact that government is not actually evil is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that there will be a government in heaven. The Kingdom of God is just maybe a bit of a thing that comes up in Scriptures here and there. Probably not a big deal though. 

My essential arguments about the principles of government remain unchanged, but now it's not because there's a contract that men have signed with government that limits what they are to do, but because God ordained the government for a specific purpose, and they probably ought to fulfill that purpose. 

Yes, I actually think I have a more compelling case now. Following God's ordinance is more important than following man's ordinance, after all. 


  1. Thanks for your blog. I appreciate your thoughts. What about the Mayflower Compact? You will probably say it was a historical anomaly. Nevertheless, I agree with your point.

    1. Yes, it is a historical anomaly, but I also doubt whether it is truly an example of a group of people going from no government to a governmental body. The colonists were given permission to settle in Virginia by the government, and ultimately, they didn't quite make it to Virginia. So they wrote the Mayflower Compact as a temporary form of government while they waited for permission from the appropriate governing authorities to settle in New England, rather than Virginia. Thus, they were really creating a temporary state to help them transition themselves from one colony to another under the same government. At no point did they actually leave British rule though.

      I appreciate your comment. It forced me to think about my argument a bit and find further development.