Toward a Theology of the State -- By: John M. Frame

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 51:2 (Fall 1989)
Article: Toward a Theology of the State
Author: John M. Frame


Toward a Theology of the State*

John M. Frame

There has been much discussion recently among evangelical Christians about the biblical view of civil government. Several events have encouraged us to pursue this topic: (1) the remarkable recent change in American fundamentalism from an apolitical stance to strong political involvement, (2) evidence from elections and polls that evangelicals do have the power to influence government policy, (3) the advancement and vigorous promulgation within evangelicalism of various incompatible views of the role of government: traditional Anabaptism,1 traditional Lutheranism,2 the “intrusion ethic” of Meredith G. Kline,3 “theonomy” or “Christian reconstruction,”4 and “principled pluralism.”5 Clearly this is a time of political opportunity for Christians, but also a time of challenge. We need to determine from the word of God what we should seek to achieve in the political arena, and we need the grace of God to obtain the courage and the love to do what is right.

* Part of this article was presented as a lecture at my inauguration to the rank of Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Oct. 14, 1988. An earlier version of the paper was also presented to the Consultation on a Biblical View of Civil Government, which met at Geneva College, Jan. 5-7, 1989.

I will not be able in this paper to discuss all the pros and cons of the various views. I shall, rather, first tell you some of the conclusions I have reached from past studies, so that you will know “where I am coming from.” To save time, I shall present these conclusions with little or no argument. Then I shall seek to build upon the conclusions in hope of making some progress toward a biblical view of the state.

I. Hermeneutical Prolegomena

First, then, my starting points:

(1) God’s word in Scripture is the supreme authority for all areas of human life, and therefore must be confessed as infallible and inerrant.

(2) Everything God says in Scripture applies to us today (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 9:10; 2 Tim 3:16f.).

(3) Scripture is sufficient as a transcript of God’s will for all areas of human life (2 Tim 3:16f...

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