on nations and “biblical principles”

I wanted to repost a conversation from Facebook here, since words I said in reply to a friend there have dwelt long on my mind.

“The heart of the problem in the US is not the president. The problem lies in each individual. We have forsaken Him as a nation. Some consequences of that are lower values, morality, Godly education and biblical financial principles. How can you expect the government to live within it’s means when individuals fail to live within their means. Most people buy things thinking they can afford the payment, while never really intending to pay more then the interest/smallest payment. They don’t have a reserve to prevent defaulting on their loan if they lose their job. Each person that thought that way went out and bought homes they could not afford and that led to the housing bubble. When times got hard they lost their home. We each need to fight our own financial battle. We cannot expect the government to pick up the tab when we all make the same mistakes. I hear people saying it’s the bank’s fault….They gave out the loans. It’s like saying the store sold me one million suckers and I enjoyed them all. Now I’m sick, my teeth are a mess and my body is falling apart…but it’s their fault for selling them to me. When will we take responsibility for our own lives?!? If we as individuals would follow biblical principles for handling money our country would be in a lot less mess. We need to stop looking to a president to fix everything. We can’t expect a president to fix our own conduct.”   -R.O.

It’s deeply troubling to stop and consider the reasoning behind this pervasive conservative and/or Evangelical mindset, that America has fallen away from God and that is the source of XYZ problem.  Let’s summarize what my friend wrote:  First, Americans have apparently become more sinful and morally-depraved in recent years, turning further and further away from God.  It follows that the government made up of these increasingly-depraved Americans has become more and more morally-bankrupt over time.  Finally, when the government performs functions which seem analogous to personal financial irresponsibility in some loose way, those things are always ill-advised.

These arguments are neither aligned with Scripture nor based in a reasonably-informed view of the world today.

My reply to her was this:

“We are no more sinful than all other men and women on this planet who stagger under the weight of imputed sin and need a Savior. No more, no less. It’s not as though this is a new problem. This country was founded by men just as sinful as those currently in power. Following Biblical principles is also not a guarantee that we will escape suffering in this life. This is a false dichotomy, and a hopeless way to live.”

It is not possible that people or governments today are more sinful than those of the 18th century.  We are merely less aware of the particular sins that plagued people of that time.  Original sin and God’s common grace were both in full effect then as they are today.  If one desires to be a good Protestant, one also ought to hold to the principle of divine restraint of sin — that God has ordained civil authorities as institutions to maintain order and punish wrongdoing.  The Lord has not abandoned this institution, and so we cannot in good conscience say that all is lost yet in any government.

p.s.  If anyone brings up the Hitler argument again, I might have to sic my hackers on you.

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One thought on “on nations and “biblical principles”

  1. I agree that all people are weighed down not only with imputed sin, but actual transgressions, and the degree of this fallenness is a constant through time. I also would like to believe what the Bible says about Christians, that they are distinct from the world, called as saints, a new creation, transferred from the domain of darkness into the domain of light, in Christ, slaves of righteousness, etc.

    I also think that governments do rise and fall. On the one hand governments are servants of God, “a minister of God to you for good”. Rom 13. Its difficult to determine from the Scripture, for example OT history narratives, and even the prophets, whether the government (kings) went bad because of the people, or the people went bad because of the ungodly leadership, but it can’t be denied that they went bad. I like to take a position that it was both, like a downward spiral where each feeds off of the other. There is no denying that Israel was at one point a strong, godly nation, though with only a remnant who were regenerate, and eventually became degraded, and like the surrounding idolatrous nations. Again, you may blame both the people and the government. Of course, USA is not, nor should it be a theocracy like Israel. This is an interesting discussion. Although sin is a constant with people, a culture or government can rise and fall. To the extent that a culture embraces a biblical world view, whether or not they embrace the gospel, to the same extent the nation will enjoy the blessings of common grace. I think that wrong views on money, on the sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage and other such things degrades and weakens a people. Its interesting to consider in the OT that God does not deal always with individuals, but also with nations. Judgment comes on individuals, and also on wicked nations. It means something to be a citizen. Whether we like it or not, at some level, although citizens of God’s kingdom, we are citizens of the USA. The sin of the others I think will have an effect on the whole even as it can be said of a church that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

    RBM

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