“As the power of God is infinite, so they [God’s people] conclude that it shall be invincible against all the assaults, outrages, preparations, and forces of the whole world. And, indeed, unless we ascribe this honor to God, our courage shall be always failing us.” -John Calvin, on Psalm 3
“This Divine economy [God’s design for the State], since Christ’s ascension to the right hand of God, is subject to the power of Jesus Christ, the glorified Lord. Through Him, the Father rules all things. His ascension, then, is of decisive historical significance. Though the establishment of the state is not christological but Trinitarian, the victory of Christ becomes a crisis for the state–and an intensification of the call to service. The kingdom of God has come with decision, and in this decision and the authority of Christ implied in it, all attempts by the ‘powers’ to gain autonomy are revealed as senseless. Nothing can triumph over this kingdom; neither the presumptive powers of the earth, who refuse to acknowledge their limitations, nor the powers ‘of the air’–powers concentrated in one power, in the power that fell as lightning from heaven when the kingdom of heaven triumphantly approached (Luk. 10:18). The decision still falls in government decisions for or against service to God.
This is not to say that only a Christian government is a valid government. When the cause of the Christian state is pleaded, it is not meant that only Christian government constitutes true government, nor that the Church should involve herself in government, but simply that, in the light of the Gospel, the state should be understood as servant, and that it should recognize and operate within its Divinely imposed limits. In the service of justice, which is continually menaced by human sin and by demons, the state makes a path through an ordered world. The state is not to be despised as being of trifling and external significance in the rule of God. To despise the state is to despise the state is to despises the Noahic covenant, is to underestimate the cross which restores and reestablishes God’s justice and law in the redemption of the world.” G.C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God, 118-119.
“This suggests, in turn, that obedience to government also has its limits. These limits become evident whenever the Divine authority that rests on human shoulders is misused. (This danger exists not only for government, but also for other bearers of authority, such as parents. Parental authority can also be demonized. Parents can misunderstand their calling and forget that theirs is a given and responsible authority.) The government can throw off its responsibility and became a power without service, a tyranny denying its own boundaries, boundaries to which Paul so clearly points in Romans 13 (cf. vs. 4). This defiance is certainly inspired by demonic influence, but on the human level, it in itself progresses to an exaggerated tension with and opposition to the economy of God.” -G.C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God, pg. 118.
BW COMMENT: Berkouwer’s parenthetical comment about the authority of parents is interesting. How many of us understand that our authority over our kids is God-given and not absolute? At some level, we all do, I suppose. And yet, put it differently, and maybe we realize we can forget that there are boundaries: our authority over our kids is given for a specific purpose. That purpose is to produce responsible (and hopefully, Christian) adult people. Phrased that way, one can see how easily our views of parental authority slip into other modes of power–something more despotic, just like what Berkouwer describes as happening in the State sometimes.
Came across this interesting quote from G.C. Berkouwer regarding the story of Joseph, and his word to his brothers near the end, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Berkouwer says:
“God’s ‘thinking it for good’ makes His enemies accessories to the salvation of His people.” -G.C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God, pg. 93