David Field gives a fantastic summary of the notion of a confessionally Christian government in his paper, Samuel Rutherford and the Confessionally Christian State (PDF).
Field asserts a postmillennial perspective, then adds a startling historical observation:
It took 1400 years for 1% of the world’s population to become Christians and then another 360 years for that to double to 2%. Another 170 years saw that grow from 2% to 4% and then, between 1960 and 1990 the proportion of the world’s population made up of Bible-believing Christians rose from 4% to 8%. Now, in 2007, one third of the world’s population confesses that Jesus is Lord and 11% of the world’s population are “evangelical” Christians. The evangelical church is growing twice as fast as Islam and three times as fast as the world’s population. South America is turning Protestant faster than Continental Europe did in the sixteenth century. South Koreans reckon that they can evangelize the whole of North Korea within five years once that country opens up. And then there’s the Chinese church consisting of tens of millions of Christians who have learned to pray, who have confidence in Scripture, who know about spiritual warfare, have been schooled in suffering and are qualified to rule. One day in the next century that Church — tens of millions of Christians trained to die — will be released into global mission and our prayers for the fall of Islam will be answered.
Field then lays out Samuel Rutherford’s vision for Christian constitutional government, and defends it against a number of common objections, concluding that:
Given the purpose, origin, nature, and stuff of the human person, it is clear and important that each human being confess the triune God, recognize Jesus as Lord, and live with the Word of God as his or her supreme authority. To Rutherford and the covenanting tradition, it is no less clear and important, given the purpose, origin, nature, and stuff of human government that each human ruler also confess the triune God, recognize Jesus as Lord, and live with the Word of God as his or her supreme authority.
If you find Field’s essay provocative, here’s some additional reading to consider:
- Abraham Kuyper’s Stone lectures on Calvinism were my first introduction to this viewpoint: the insistence that the nations exist for God, and that the magistrate has a duty to God, whether or not he acknowledges it.
- John Frame lays out some helpful principles in his article, Toward a theology of the state
- Peter Leithart discusses many aspects of a Christian attitude towards the state in his books, Against Christianity, Defending Constantine, and Between Babel and Beast.
- Kuyper introduced the notion of sphere sovereignty, which wrestles with the complementary ways that Jesus’s lordship is expressed in different spheres of life such as the church, family and state. David Koyzis describes how this was developed and advanced by students of Kuyper such as Herman Dooyeweerd.
Hat tip: Uri Brito