Bill Collier- It has been treated with scant attention among most Christians in modern times, but the Christian’s role within, responsibility toward, and relationship with the political state must be explored. And this “theology of the state” must be as faithful to the Bible as it is to history, logic, science, and experience. Aphorism and assumption, bias and partisanship, and both ideology and parochialism have taken over the debate, while for most people simple apathy or a post-modernist skeptical cynicism have replaced reflection and reason.
But we need a theology of the political state by which we might answer both the critics who deny the very validity of the state and those for whom the powers of the political state are limited only by their ferverant imaginations. Call it a spiritual constitution which at least lays down the Biblical mandates, if they exist at all, for the state, as well any limitations or proscriptions described in Scripture. Upon such basis we can infer further wisdom by consulting history, logic, science, and experience to discern a better understanding of the proper role and limits of the state.
There are those, as noted, for whom the political state has no role. There are those for whom it has no practical limits, at least limits they can define in terms of inviolate standards. The assumptions that man was born either needing the power of political organization or that he is naturally disposed against it are argued, but rarely from the basis of Scripture. In general people adopt these assumptions in blind faith never asking why they are true.
What then is the theology of the state, or is there no theology of the state because the state itself is not really meant to exist?
One thing we cannot escape is the realpolitik of our age: states do exist and prospects for their termination from existence in our lifetimes are fanciful daydreams. In short, states exist and they are a fact of life. Just as theology proscribes sinful lusts, sinful lusts exist and control a large portion of human action and interaction and we must contend with this reality. But the theology of the state must itself be unlimbered from realpolitik. Realpolitik does change, sometimes very quickly.
If one discovered that the state as such is an artificial construct not in any way favored or prescribed by God this would inform our attitude but it won’t change the realpolitik with which we must contend. The same holds true if one discerns an “ideal” state according to a Biblical model that reflects the eternal reality of the Kingdom of God- such a state could never perfectly exist but understanding it would inform our response to the states that do exist today.
My call, my hope, and my challenge is to focus as many Christians as possible on this subject, to debate and discuss and argue if need be what a theology of the state ought to be. This would be invaluable to a generation struggling not only with the current reality of existing states but with upheavels of culture and technology that are challenging the 20th century concept of the state in bold and unpredictable ways. We, the Body of Christ, are adrift and have left the entire field of statecraft to worldlings whose motives and desires cannot produce good fruit for any of us.
We need to work on and develop our own modern theology of the state. When need to also compare that understanding rooted in Scripture to history, logic, science, and experience. Thereby we can affirm the best ideas and standards and equip people to better address and be a witness to the modern state and those who are impacted by the state.