Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tough Topic Tuesday: God, Government, and Gospel

This is Pt. 3 of our posts working through this work by Pastor Wayne Grudem.  The purpose of the series is to explore the relationship between God, the Government and the Gospel.

Pt. 1 is here.  Pt. 2 is here.


C. Wrong view #3: All Government Is Evil and Demonic 

According to this third view, all use of government power is deeply infected by evil, demonic forces. The realm of government power is the realm of Satan and his forces, and therefore all governmental use of “power over” someone is worldly and not the way of life that Jesus taught.

1. Support from Luke 4:6 

This viewpoint has been strongly promoted by Minnesota pastor Greg Boyd in his influential book The Myth of a Christian Nation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Boyd’s views in this book have had a large impact in the United States, especially on younger evangelical voters.

Boyd says that all civil government is “demonic” (p. 21). His primary evidence is Satan’s statement to Jesus in Luke 4:

"And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5–7).

Boyd emphasizes Satan’s claim that all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world “has been delivered to me” and then says that Jesus “doesn’t dispute the Devil’s claim to own them. Apparently, the authority of all the kingdoms of the world has been given to Satan.”

Boyd goes on to say, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly governments” (p. 22). This is indeed a thoroughgoing claim!

2. The mistake of depending on Luke 4:6 

Greg Boyd is clearly wrong at this point. Jesus tells us how to evaluate Satan’s claims, for he says,

When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist the temptation itself, and this he did with the decisive words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8).

And so we have a choice: Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies? The answer is easy: Satan wanted Jesus to believe a lie, just as he wanted Eve to believe a lie (Gen. 3:4), and he wants us to believe a lie as well, that he is the ruler of earthly governments.

By contrast, there are verses in the Bible that tell us how we should think of civil governments. These verses do not agree with Satan’s claim in Luke 4:6 or with Boyd’s claim about Satan’s authority over all earthly governments. Rather, these verses where God is speaking (not Satan) portray civil government as a gift from God, something that is subject to God’s rule and used by God for his purposes. Here are some of those passages:

The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men (Dan. 4:17).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. . . . For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good . . . the authorities are the ministers of God (Rom. 13:1-6).

Peter sees civil government as doing the opposite of what Satan does: civil governments are established by God “to punish those who do evil,” but Satan encourages those who do evil!  Civil governments are established by God “to praise those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14), but Satan discourages and attacks those who do good.

The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his control, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. The only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “government is demonic.”

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
2. For example, echoes of Boyd’s writing can be seen at various places in Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008).

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