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The Competing Kingdoms School of Public Policy Theology

This entry is part 16 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. It is the sixth installment of a seven part series dealing with Christians and rebellion against the civil authority, originally titled “Christian Views on Rebellion.”

In my previous two columns, I outlined the two historical schools of Evangelical thought regarding the nature of the state and public policy: (A) the Integrated Authority School and (B) the Competing Kingdom School. In this column, I pick up that discussion by delineating in greater depth the principles of Competing Kingdom School, and the two views associated with it.

The competing kingdom school views the state as an entity entirely distinct from the church and family insofar as promotion of the Kingdom of God is concerned. Some proponents of this school would see the state as benign, although it often rears up its ugly side to assail the church of God. Others would view it as significantly aligned with Satan’s kingdom and his efforts in the world. Either way, the state is not a special sphere of authority along with the family and the local church.

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Is it time to resist tyranny?

This entry is part 17 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. It is the final installment of a seven part series dealing with Christians and rebellion against the civil authority, originally titled “Christian Views on Rebellion.”

Not only are the great majority of rulers recorded in the Scriptures wicked, they also share certain common immoral character traits. And such bad behavior even arose in otherwise good theocratic rulers. While it is said that “anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9), it also seems to rest in the bosom of kings and other civil authorities. Pharaoh got “angry” (Genesis 40:2; 41:10) and King Saul became both “angry” and “displeased” (1 Samuel 18:8), as did King David (2 Samuel 13:21) and the princes of the Philistines (1 Samuel 29:4). Good King Asa was likewise affected, being enraged with a seer and oppressing some of God’s people (2 Chronicles 16:10), and King Uzziah was angry with the priests over the divine technicalities of a ritual (2 Chronicles 26:19). Nebuchadnezzar responded “in rage and fury” to the faithful Jews (Daniel 3:13). King Ahasuerus’s “anger burned in him” after Queen Vashti refused to obey him (Esther 1:12). Sanballat was angered by the Jews’ rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls “and took great indignation” (Nehemiah 4:1, 7). The “princes” were angry with the Prophet Jeremiah, beat him, and cast him into prison (Jeremiah 37:15). Herod was “exceedingly angry” with the Magi (Matthew 2:16). Herod had also been “very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon” (Acts 12:20a). Herod hated Jesus too and desired “to kill” Him (Luke 13:31). Perhaps political power tends to promote the sin of anger? Or is this tyrannical anger induced from within a ruler by the hateful adversary of good, viz. the devil?

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When should a Christian defend himself?

This entry is part 19 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy.

imageIn his famous work The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer commended Christian suffering under tyranny and oppression as a means of demonstrating Christian faith and commitment. “It would be equally wrong to suppose that St Paul imagines that the fulfillment of our secular calling is itself the living of the Christian life. No, his real meaning is that to renounce rebellion and revolution is the most appropriate way of expressing our conviction that the Christian hope is not set on this world, but on Christ and his kingdom. And so—let the slave remain a slave! It is not reform that the world needs, for it is already ripe for destruction. And so—let the slave remain a slave! [Christ took on the form of a slave too (Philippians 2:7)]…The Christian must not be drawn to the bearers of high office: his calling is to stay below” (1995, Touchstone, p. 260). Is Bonhoeffer right? Should American Christians not run for “high office”? Should they be content with their “slavery” imposed upon them by a tyrannical state that confiscates more than half of their earnings in taxes, proactively regulates their behavior as a big brother would, and maintains a threat against their homes for nonpayment of property taxes?

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Economic Theory, Self-Interest, and the Bible

This entry is part 20 of 42 in the series Christian Theology of Public Policy Course

This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy.

Economic theory tells us a lot about the nature of political actors along with the inadequacy of their knowledge in regulating society to bring about the common good. All rational men act purposefully to remove uneasiness from their lives. They try to maximize those things in life that give them the greatest satisfaction (e.g., money, love, power, influence, charity, altruism, holiness, etc.). However, they also act in such a way that engenders cooperation with others, facilitating and exploiting mutually beneficial gains from trade. Peaceful cooperation is the result of the operation of the market economy. People pursuing their own self-interest voluntarily cooperate to provide the needs and wants demanded in society.

We must be careful to not equate self-interested motives with selfish ones. The former describes one’s economic motivation while the latter deals with one’s character. For example, a person might have altruism or to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2) as his highest goal. He would thus pursue the self-interested agenda that he believes has the highest probability of attaining that goal. He might also pursue other things along with this objective, such as owning his home debt-free, raising four children, and taking his wife on an annual skiing trip. But all these elements (and others we might think of) mix together into concerted, purposeful, self-interested action to attain the conglomerate goal.

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