A Primer On Christian Government | Theonomy – Part 5 of 6

In by Joel Webbon

  1. What is the sphere and assignment given by God to the civil government?

The sphere and assignment given by God to civil government is punishing criminals, establishing good order and justice in society through equal weights and measures, and praising the righteous.

  1. Does the Bible require a particular form of civil government?

The Bible allows for some flexibility and freedom in form of government, but it clearly teaches a constitutional and representative form of government, governed by Scripture, common law, and natural law, prioritizing personal, local, and covenantal relationships and loyalties, with multiple checks and balances, given the natural tendency of sinful men to abuse power. A Christian civil order requires a limited government.

  1. How is civil government to be limited?

Civil government is to be limited by honoring the assignments given to the governments of the family and the church, not meddling in or taking to itself those assignments, and remaining steadfast in the sphere and assignment given to it by God: punishing criminals and upholding justice.

  1. Who are the officers of civil government?

Following the pattern of Scripture, the officers in civil government are ordinarily qualified men who are judges, legislators, and executives, beginning with local magistrates in the city gates.

  1. What are the sanctions granted to the civil government?

God has granted the civil magistrate the sword with which to execute God’s vengeance on criminals. The basic principle is the lex talionis “eye for eye” which requires strict punitive or retributive justice and biblical restitution in cases of theft, property damage, or divorce, but may also include stripes, banishment, exile, or the death penalty. Incarceration is not an ordinary tool given to civil government.

  1. What is the difference between a sin and a crime?

Not all sins are crimes, but all crimes, if defined by the Bible, are sins. However, sins are the jurisdiction and ministry of individuals, families, and churches. Crimes are the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate and do objective, public harm to life, liberty, or property. The Bible identifies crimes as those actions which require restitution or penalty by civil magistrates. For example, in the Bible, drunkenness and ethnic animosity are sins but not crimes, while adultery is a sin and a crime.

  1. Are the civil laws of ancient Israel binding on all civil governments for all time?

No. The specific laws of ancient Israel have expired with that nation state. However, those laws were based on the general equity of moral justice based on the eternal character of God. Since that eternal character cannot change, those common law principles are still binding on all nations for all time.

  1. What does natural law teach and require?

Natural law is the revelation of the eternal character and attributes of the Triune God found in all of His creation, including His image found in all human beings in their conscience, customs, creativity, and cultures, and it teaches and requires all men to acknowledge Him as Creator and praise and obey Him in all things. Because of sin, natural law must be interpreted and checked by Scripture.

  1. What is the difference between “preventative” and “punitive” justice?

Preventative justice is the attempt by humanists to prevent crimes by limiting liberty through endless regulations, fines, and inspections, whereas biblical punitive justice leaves men free and only punishes where actual crimes have occurred.

  1. What is necessary for a civil magistrate to administer just punishment?

Civil magistrates administer just punishment when crimes are clearly identified in the Bible, confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses, when the accused have the right to answer their accuser and cross examine any witnesses, and when the penalty is commensurate with the crime. In short, the Bible requires fixed, equal weights and measures, due process, presumption of innocence, and convictions based on established facts, evidence, and testimony.

  1. Does the Bible require the execution of rebellious children, adulterers, or homosexuals?

No. The Bible allows the death penalty as a maximum sentence for such crimes, but only requires execution for intentional murder.

  1. Since God establishes the authority of civil magistrates, must they always be obeyed?

No. Jesus says that we must only render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we must always render unto God what belongs to God.

You can find the full catechism on Toby’s blog here: https://www.tobyjsumpter.com/a-catechism-on-the-governments-50-questions-answers/