Civil Governance

A Reformed Christian View of Civil Governance

Civil governance is the administration of civil justice, that is, the adjudication of disputes over ‘civil’/political rights according to the God-given norms of civil justice, with the rules and enforcement that accompany it. Civil (or political) justice and rights concern legitimately coercively-enforceable normative claims on one’s person or property. In this sense, civil justice (concerning civil rights and obligations) is distinguished from the sense of what is due to others regarding properly non-civil/non-political claims. For example, that which is properly moral concerns what is loving. Violations of civil justice may always be immoral, but not vice versa. Lying and coveting are immoral, but do not necessarily involve ‘crime’, that is, the violation of civil/political right.

Podcast Episodes on a Reformed View of Civil Governance

Ever Thus to Magistrates (Presbycast w/ Gregory Baus)

A Reformed View of Romans 13 & Civil Governance

4 Common Objections to Reformed Libertarianism & Anarchism

Gregory Baus on Sphere Sovereignty (Daniel 3 Podcast)

Christian libertarians, both anarchist and minarchist, hold to the necessity of civil law and order in a free society. Those who would violate the rights of others will always exist. These injustices require recompense through the administration of civil justice. This is the task of civil governance. A state is an organization that coercively maintains a monopoly of civil governance in a territory. The key question, and the principal disagreement between minarchism and anarchism, is whether the state is a legitimate means to accomplish civil governance?

In Federalist 51, Madison wrote that if men were angels (i.e., sinless) then no government would be necessary. And if angels were to govern, then no limitations on government would be necessary. This seems to be an irrefutable case for minarchism.

As Christians, we know that we are sinners living in a fallen world. There are evil people who do evil things. Sure, there are people who are relatively good to each other, but it’s the bad people we need protection from. By having a limited state, Madison thought that everyone could benefit from the resulting protections. 

Would a state inevitably emerge (economically) as a practical monopoly in an otherwise free market. Such a view is posited by Robert Nozick in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Another assumption made by some advocates of minarchism concerning the state’s supposed inevitability is based upon what I’ll refer to as “social hierarchy.” This view is expressed by Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles” in his book The Politics of Prudence. Do either economic or social considerations entail the inevitability of the state? 

There are also what some have called “plausibility structures.” These are simply realities of our social environment (communities or customs) that help make certain beliefs seem true. Those beliefs may, in fact, be true, like the belief that Scripture is God’s Word and faith in Christ alone as the Messiah. And participation in a local church of loving fellow-believers can certainly help our Christian beliefs seem true.

However, some social realities can help make false beliefs “seem” true. The ever-increasing prominence of the state in our lives can make life without it seem entirely implausible, even to libertarians.

Civil Governance Archive

Resources, external links

"Meddling In Other Men’s Affairs: The Case For Anarchy"

Meddling In Other Men’s Affairs: The Case For Anarchy

Helpful articles on “Render Unto Caesar”

Jeff Barr Render Unto Caesar: A Most Misunderstood New Testament Passage

Rocco Stanzione, Render Unto Caesar

The error of Theonomy

Theonomy’s Dispensational Hermeneutic by Lee Irons

The Eschatology of Hebrews 2:1-4: A Critical Appraisal of the Thermionic Thesis by Lane Tipton

Critique of Theonomy; a Taxonomy by T. David Gordon

Useful books describing this view of Romans 13 (which we hold without establishmentarianism)

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