Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Civil government isn't our highest authority


June 19, 2019

One sticking point I encounter when seeking to apply Christian principles outside the walls of the church building is a prominent confusion over terms and definitions. The one I’ll tackle today is the term, “legal.”

Christians have been wrongly trained to believe that the civil government has the ultimate right to define what is legal. Then, their own pulpits have taught them to equate legal with “moral.”

Government declares something illegal, and whatever it is, apparently, God ratifies it. It becomes evil for you to do anything that is officially outlawed.

In this way, going 55 mph in a 45-mph zone not only puts you in danger of a ticket, but also of hell itself.

You become a moral abomination for illegally removing the tag on your mattress.

Just before I wrote this, I saw someone saying that it’s wrong to call abortion murder. It wasn’t because abortion is anything other than the unjust taking of human life, but because the government has not defined it as murder.

There is a technical, theological word for this sort of thinking: Foolishness.

We got to this point by collectively agreeing that the commandments of God do not represent binding, moral instruction. We got here by passively accepting the idea that it’s OK for governments to do what individuals can’t.

God says we can’t steal from, kidnap, lie about, or murder our neighbors. It’s OK, however, for government to do all that in the cause of keeping us safe.

Everything the Nazis did to their own people was “legal” under their system. Everything the thug in North Korea does is “legal,” because he declares the law.

This nation, however, was founded on a different idea. We used to accept a concept called Lex Rex (roughly, the law is king.) Even the most powerful human was under law. Now we’ve slipped back into the more prevalent, more pagan option: Rex Lex. The king/government is the law.

Around the world, Christians are the most persecuted religious group. In many cases, this is state sponsored.

I’m convinced the reason boils down to this: In the revelation contained in the Bible, Christians possess an unchanging, transcendent moral standard by which to critically evaluate the actions of their governments. This is intolerable.

As Greg Bahnsen said so clearly, “The civil magistrate cannot function without some ethical guidance, without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not to be the revealed law of God, then what will it be? It will have to be the law of man … simply the brute force of some men’s will against other men.”

No one gets this. Pulpits have fallen silent. So we come to the place where Christians are outraged about police shutting down a child’s lemonade stand for the lack of a business license; but, they agree with putting people on trial for leaving food and water for migrants in the desert. Those people, you see, are “illegal.”

What will believers like this do when their own faith is made illegal?

Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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