Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Scripturalist Critique of Political Libertarianism


"The sovereignty of God is the key to the basic problem of ethics. Why is anything good, right, or obligatory? Neither utilitarianism, nor pragmatism, nor emotionalism can give a rational answer. Calvin has given the answer in very precise language: 'the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it.' God establishes moral norms by sovereign decree."  Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  "Ethics".  The Gordon H. Clark Foundation.


"….And as for the "inviolability of personality," man has no "rights" that are inviolable by God. God is the creator; man is a creature. "Who are you that replies against God?" Just return to chapter one on creation. Omnipotence settles the argument. …."  Predestination.  Dr. Gordon H. Clark

WCF 23.3  The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:1 yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemes and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.2 For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.3  (WCF 23:3 WCS)  [Westminster  Confession of Faith.]


"Thus the first understanding and use of the Law is to restrain the wicked. For the devil reigns in the whole world and drives men to all sorts of shameful deeds. This is why God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances, so that, if they cannot do any more, they will at least bind the hands of the devil and keep him from raging at will."  Martin Luther

[I wrote this article awhile ago and never published it.  But I stand by what I have said here and I am willing to be corrected in regards to Brandon Adams's New Covenant Theology if I have said anything that is inaccurate here.  I have observed that many of those who advocate for Adams on Facebook take an antinomian approach to sanctification as it is taught in Scripture and in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Charlie J. Ray.]


A Scripturalist Critique of Political Libertarianism


In an email exchange with another blogger who self identifies as a Clarkian Scripturalist I was informed that libertarianism in his opinion is the best system of political philosophy in regards to government.  Moreover, the American system of government is subject to a right or proper interpretation of the founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Liberals and progressives interpret the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as changing with time and open to new interpretations and applications in regards to changes in culture and the United States's changing values and mores.  More conservative pundits interpret the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as a matter of immutable principles that anchor the government to certain and absolute values that cannot change with time, culture or revisionary historical interpretations.  What ultimately matters is what was intended by the founding fathers who wrote and signed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  But in regards to Clarkian Scripturalism the founding document for any political system or philosophy must be Scripture.  According to the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark, the basis for all knowledge is the beginning axiom of Holy Scripture.  Knowledge does not begin with human reason, empiricism, or solipsistic opinions of individual persons but with the truth of God as He has logically revealed Himself and His preceptive will in the propositional revelation of Holy Scripture.  (2 Timothy 3:16; John 10:35; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 4:4; Romans 13:1-5).


In this paper I intend to examine the beginning axiom of the secular philosophy of libertarianism as that has been adopted and revised by Reformed or Calvinistic libertarians and compare and contrast that dogmatic political philosophy with the Calvinism which is deduced from Scripture and which is summarized by the system of theology in the Westminster Confession of Faith.  (See WCF 1:6).  Before I do that, however, I want to discuss Gordon H. Clark's theology and philosophy of knowledge. 


I.                 Scripturalism and Epistemological Systems of Thought.


According to Dr. Clark, all knowledge must be propositional.  This sounds puzzling to those who are unfamiliar with Dr. Clark's writings.  However, John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning the second Person of the Godhead, the Word, was with God and the Word was God. Most readers of the Scriptures understand that this is the pre-incarnate Christ.  The Koine Greek word used for the Word in the text is Logos.  This word can also be translated as rationality, intellectual thought, reason, or logic.  From this verse Dr. Clark deduced the proposition that God is Logic.  In other words, logic is how God thinks.  It should be noted clearly there that logic is not subject to temporality or the passing of one thought to the next in God's eternally immutable mind because God knows all the propositions that can possibly be known and He knows them all at once.  Furthermore, since propositions can be arranged in systematic form, God knows every possible proposition in every possible combination as these can be arranged into an immeasurable system of knowledge.  God is absolutely omniscient.  The human creature, on the other hand, can only think discursively and sequentially in time.  That is, man thinks one thought after another while God thinks the whole system as one comprehensive whole.  From the human perspective this is immeasurable and incomprehensible but not absolutely beyond understanding since man can know certain propositions that God knows at single points of coincidence, if not exhaustively and comprehensively.  Only God is absolutely omniscient and never learns anything new.  He knows the end from the beginning in every single detail.  (Isaiah 46:9-11; Ephesians 1:11). 


Furthermore, since man is created in God's image and the image of God is spiritual (John 4:24), it follows that the image of God is rationality and the ability to think intelligibly.  (John 1:9).  Even the unbelieving reprobate person has the ability to think despite the noetic effects of total depravity.  The fall of Adam means that mankind thinks irrational and sinful thoughts instead of thinking pure and holy and logical thoughts.  (Philippians 4:8-9; 2 Corinthians 10:5).  In fact, it is the inborn depravity of the soul inherited by natural generation that predetermines fallen mankind to a sinful corruption and disposition from birth.  (Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-23; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; Psalm 11:5).


Furthermore, mankind in general is held accountable both as individual men and as collective groups of men in regards to nations and other organizations.  In other words, the propositional system of knowledge which is deduced from Scripture applies everywhere as a total Christian worldview, rather than simply applying biblical ethics in individual circumstances.  This would make ethics relativistic rather than deontological or teleological from a biblical perspective.  

Moreover, the idea that Adam acted solely for himself is the heresy of Pelagianism.  The Bible does not teach that everyone is a sinner because of their own decisions to sin, whereby they become sinners by following Adam's bad example.  Rather the Bible teaches that Adam is our federal representative because original sin is imputed to all of Adam's progeny.  Scripture additionally teaches that a real corruption of the human soul is spiritually inherited by natural generation from Adam and that same corruption is passed on to each successive generation by the same means.  (Psalm 51:5; 58:5).  In the same way, sin affects not only individuals who are held accountable to God but nations and churches are also held accountable for their collective sins as a corporate group.  (Westminster Larger Catechism 35, 53; Judges 11:27; Ezekiel 11:8-13).  God judges nations and the Bible overwhelmingly upholds this in both the Old and New Testaments.  (Psalm 67:4; Psalm 82:8; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3).  In other words, God controls not just individuals but entire nations through His providential governance of all things.  (Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 5).  


II.               Definition of Libertarianism.


There are likely to be different particular definitions of Libertarianism.  However, for the purposes of this paper I will focus on the definition given by Christians who support the political philosophy of libertarianism which ends up in practical libertine antinomianism.  I will also speculate on their motivations for taking this position and whether or not their reasons accomplish the goals they think Christian libertarianism will accomplish in regards to peace among competing worldviews in the political and civil realm.

In regards to the economic issues, capitalism, free enterprise, and private ownership of property I fully agree with the biblical implications of limited government and the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It should be noted that much of the founding documents were deduced from the Bible and its influence through the Magna Carta and, in the United States, the Westminster Standards.  The real issue for me here is the alleged "rights" of the wicked to live as they please under the auspices of a secular humanist philosophy of morality and values.  I will further elaborate on this in later sections of this paper.  (See:  "Humanism and Its Aspirations: Humanist Manifesto III, a Successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933".)

For now, I will try to give an accurate explanation of the Christian libertarian philosophy of political science as that is espoused by certain Christians who profess to follow the Scripturalism of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  One of the founders of this point of view was the late Dr. John W. Robbins, who was at one time a theonomist himself but later adopted the political libertarianism of Ron Paul.  Robbins also served as one of Ron Paul's advisors during Paul's presidential campaign.  Other advocates of this point of view are C. J. Engel, and Sean Gerety. 

What is the most basic axiom of Christian libertarianism?  This is difficult to ascertain but I will attempt to pull together a few stated propositions from Luke Minor's blog and Facebook postings, as he seems to be the most prolific proponent of this position.  However, it should be noted that Minor does not follow the logical implications of the law of contradiction, since he seems to continually use fallacious arguments that contradict both the Bible and the Westminster Confession of Faith.  It should be noted that Dr. Gordon H. Clark was a strict subscriptionist to the WCF and that nowhere does the Bible or the WCF advocate moral libertarianism as it is defined by libertines and antinomians.   The problem is that most often these Christian libertarians conflate the issues of economic liberty, personal property, and free enterprise with the issue of moral anarchy as if the two are two equally ultimate implications of a generic "liberty".  But is it so?

If the so-called Reformed libertarian view was restricted to the economic and capitalist point of view that private property and free enterprise are the foundations of free society I would have no objections.  But the problem is that the Reformed libertarian view is not biblical and it is therefore not Reformed either.  In short, the point of libertarianism in general is not political freedom but moral license and the libertine position of antinomianism and moral relativism.  To each of these points of view and propositions anyone even remotely familiar with Dr. Gordon H. Clark's writings should know that equivocation and dissimulation is being used to justify a point of view that Clark himself would have strongly opposed.  Appealing to Clark as an authority for an antinomian point of view is also a logical fallacy called appealing to authority.  Unfortunately, Clark would have opposed moral anarchy as advocated by all forms of libertarianism.

But to show that my accusation against Reformed libertarianism is accurate I will quote from a primer on Reformed libertarianism.  I do not know who wrote the piece since the author is not named on the page.  But the article flatly states that the government should not enforce any moral point of view whatsoever:


Thus, there is a hard and fast rubric for determining where the libertarian thinker will stand on a variety of so-called "policy issues."  If a given action in society is not a violation of the above principle, then no aggressive force is required to address it.  The "aggressive force" that addresses crimes in society can also be referred to with the phrase "The Sword."  Those who legitimately "wield The Sword" must do so justly, that is, in response to an actual crime or in self-defense.  The sword-bearer has been referred to in history as a "magistrate" or "government," and we think it is monumentally helpful to make a distinction between the just sword-wielder and sword-wielder that thrives in corruption and criminality.  We have explained the logic of this distinction here and here (in which we cite Augustine).


The purpose of "civil law" (as opposed to moral law —which details what is required of man to be right with God) is to make men right with each other by seeking the avoidance of actual conflict in society, given our world of scarce resources and mutually exclusive wants.  We agree with J. Gresham Machen when he wrote:


There are vast departments of life with which they [civil laws] should have nothing whatever to do.  They are exceeding their God-given function when they seek to enforce inward purity or purity of the individual life, since theirs is the business only of enforcing –and that in necessarily imperfect fashion — that part of righteousness which concerns the relations between man and man.


In all this, we understand precisely what is meant when society advocates for something to be "illegal."  And thus we also know what it means when we say something should be "legal."  All we are referring to, once we honestly consider the situation, is that "illegal" means that the use of aggression is justified against a given activity and "legal" means that the use of aggression is not justified to prevent it.  As we have stated before in a review of an essay,


Baptist Isaac Backus who, opposing the  "interrelation of church and state" of a certain paedobaptist, stated: "Therefore the dignity of [Christ's] government is maintained not by carnal but by spiritual weapons….

The rubric by which we determine the legitimacy of punishment against the criminal is the criminal's transgression against the person and property of another individual.  Beyond that, in our estimation, the Christian ought to use all sorts of "spiritual weaponry;" that is, we must use persuasion and instruction to speak truth into the life of those around us, especially those in sin.  To use Backus' vocabulary, "The question between us is not whether it be the duty" to act ethically and obey God's commands, but rather, the question is "whether that duty ought to be enforced by the sword."


This serves to address the concern that, in allowing a variety of immoral deeds to go unpunished, we are in effect refusing to make it plain that these deeds are wrong. But in the same sense that most would agree that lying is both immoral yet should not be illegal, so there are many things which require "spiritual weaponry" and not the sword of the state. God will have his own vengeance in due time.

[From:  "What Is Reformed Libertarianism?"]


The basic error of this position is that the government is said not to enforce moral values whatsoever and everyone is free to make their own moral decisions without any interference from the government.  But this implies moral relativism at best.  How can the government not enforce values of any kind whatsoever?  One only needs to see the legal imposition of the LGBTQ agenda on the nation as a whole to see that there is no such thing as moral neutrality.  Is abortion a non-issue for Christians since Christians are only morally accountable for their own individual actions?  Does the Christian have a moral obligation to resist the government enforced immorality of laws that encourage and promote licentiousness and immorality?  (Acts 5:29).  According to the premise of the above post, Christians should only be concerned with their own personal morality and leave society to its own amoral, moral or immoral values.  But if the basic principle of libertarianism is do no one no harm, is it harmful to allow a society to self-destruct by defying God's moral law and using widespread propaganda to undermine traditional Christian family values in order to seduce children and family members into immorality and licentiousness?  Should government run education be teaching communism, socialism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and moral relativism at taxpayers' expense?  And further, does propagating gambling and other moral vices undermine the moral fabric of a safe community?   The basic error of libertarianism is its hostility to the Christian worldview.  It is my contention therefore that libertarians are not advocating freedom of conscience but another form of totalitarianism that basically accepts the propaganda of the left that homosexual marriage should be the moral norm of a "free" society.  The subtilty of this deception makes it sound convincing on a superficial examination but the implications of endorsing a society that endorses moral relativism is that it enforces an immoral system of values on the Christian and attempts to undermine the very liberty of conscience that Reformed Libertarians claim to support.


Furthermore, what is the motivation for libertarianism?  Reformed Libertarians seem to think that the secular humanist manifesto is more authoritative than the moral law of God and that following secularist axioms which place the rights of individuals above God's moral law is the way to achieve peace in society.  But it is my contention that both the Bible and the Reformed Confessions deny this. Even worse, the idea that government can be neutral seems to imply the common grace position, not the confessional teaching that all mankind is totally depraved and fallen in Adam.  There is no one who does good, not even one.  (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 3:10-12).  The thoughts of the wicked are continually wicked all the time.  (Genesis 6:5).


To make things even worse, some of those who claim to be confessionally Reformed openly advocate New Covenant Theology, not the confessional and covenantal theology of the Westminster Standards.  One Baptist who advocates for the NCT is Brandon Adams who mistakenly says that the Old Covenant is abolished:


2) The civil penalties that were given to Israel were given as part of the Old Covenant, specifically as covenant curses (Deut 27:26; 21:22-23). Its purpose was to create a holy, earthly kingdom as a type of the holy, heavenly kingdom of Christ. Israelites were given explicit authority to execute God's judgment upon sin with the iron sword in order to purge the physical holy land where God physically dwelt, of evil. They were thus not violating the moral law when they executed adulterers because God is free to judge as He pleases. However, the Old Covenant has been abolished. No one is under it today.   [Stated in the comments under the article, "What Is Reformed Libertarianism?"]


The WCF in contradistinction from Adams's view says that there is one covenant of grace that is revealed under various and sundry dispensations of the one covenant of grace:


WCF 7.6  Under the gospel, when Christ the substance1 was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper,2 which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,3 to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;4 and is called the New Testament.5 There are not therefore two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.6 (WCF 7:6 WCS)

……6.   Gal. 3:14,16; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21,22,23,30; Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:3,6,16,17,23,24; Heb. 13:8.


Adams also avoids the implications of the covenant of works.  The covenant of works, like the covenant of grace, applies to both the Old Testament dispensation and the New Testament dispensation.  The elect believer is no longer under the covenant of works as a means of justification--which would be impossible due to total depravity anyway--but he is under the covenant of works as a rule for living a sanctified life.  (See:  WLC 97; WCF 19:6).

To avoid becoming too distracted with other details I will now move on to the next section of this paper and compare and contrast the biblical and confessional view of political philosophy with the secular view that the Reformed libertarians are endorsing.  Although I consider the term Reformed libertarian an oxymoron and an outright contradiction of the Reformed and confessional view of the civil magistrate, I will retain this term for the sake of an easier identification of what I am refuting.


III.              Comparison and Contrast.


How does libertarianism compare to Reformed theology and how do the two differ in regards to a political philosophy of government?  It should first be noted that that the Westminster Confession of Faith was written during a time when there was no secularist attack against the free exercise of religious freedom and no attempt to relegate Christianity to the closet or private practice.  The WCF upholds the civil magistrate as a legitimately appointed authority to prosecute heresies as defined by Scripture and the church:


WCF 23.3  The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:1 yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemes and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.2 For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.3 (WCF 23:3 WCS)  [Edinburgh edition of the WCF].

WCS Notes (WCF 23:3)



1 2 Chron. 26:18

2 Matt. 16:19; 1 Cor. 4:1,2

3 John 18:36; Mal. 2:7; Acts 5:29

4 Isa. 49:23

5 Ps. 105:15; Acts 18:14-16

6 2 Sam. 23:3; 1 Tim. 2:1; Rom. 13:4


It logically follows, therefore, that the Westminster divines were opposed to libertarianism as defined by the so-called Reformed libertarians above.  Even if we concede that the American version of the WCF amended and revised this section, the American version does not advocate an absolute separation of church and state in regards to morality and religious freedom.  In fact, the religious freedom advocated by the American revision only advocates freedom of Christian churches to differ with one another within the framework of a Protestant and Christian denominationalism and the broader Evangelicalism of Protestant denominations.  This would exclude churches like the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, which advocate that there is only one true church or communion of faith.  Even the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects papal supremacy, the main issue underlying the Great Schism of the 11th century.


The American revision of chapter 23 reads:

Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments;1 or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven;2 or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith.3 Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.4 And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.5 It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever; and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.6 (WCF 23:3 WCS)


Notice that the American version does not endorse libertarianism but rather an interdenominational tolerance between Evangelical and Protestant churches.  Nowhere does this revision advocate atheism, secular humanism, or religious pluralism among world religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, or various other religious sects such as Mormonism.  In fact, it is the duty of the civil magistrate to protect the church from society and from the government which would make totalitarian laws that interfere with or suppress the public expression of religious beliefs.

Secular humanism, secular libertarianism and Reformed libertarianism are all agreed that in the public realm the church should not advocate Christian morality or values and that atheist and secular government should be the norm instead.  Reformed libertarians are in full agreement that God should be divorced from a secular government and that the only concern is pragmatic peace between all parties on an amoral and values neutral playing field.

The axiom of secularism is do no harm to others.  The problem with this is who decides what is harmful to others and who enforces these moral norms?  Also, since Scripturalism advocates the view that epistemological knowledge begins with Scripture, why are so-called Scripturalists advocating a form of libertine ethics deduced from a secular political philosophy rather than biblical ethics which are deduced from the propositional revelation in Scripture?




Much more could be said.  However, in regards to the libertarian view that man has certain rights independent of God, it should be pointed out that even Thomas Jefferson rejected this view when he said that men are endowed with certain unalienable rights from their Creator.  The moral law of God is innate in man such that man is without excuse even when he denies God and God's morality.  (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 2:1-16; Romans 3:4-8).  Although it is impossible in such a short paper to give quotes and references to everything Clark said in rejection of licentiousness and libertine philosophy, the fact is that Dr. Clark absolutely rejected libertarianism as it is defined by antinomians.  According to Clark, man has no rights before God; man has no rights that he can demand of his Creator:

Jeremiah 32:17 reads, "Ah, Lord God,…there is nothing too hard for you." Ten verses later the text uses a rhetorical question, "Behold, I am the Lord,… Is there anything too hard for me?" Come to think of it, this sentiment is a familiar one, not original with Jeremiah, for Genesis 18:14 reads, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Now, what does "anything" include? Of course it includes Sarah's bearing a son at an old age. It also includes the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; for these two events are those specified in the contexts. But the principle itself is far wider. When God wanted to convince Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son, he did not say, "I can give you a son"; he said, "I can do anything." Therefore, the general principle applies to anything and everything. It follows, therefore, that God can control the will of man. And as for the "inviolability of personality," man has no "rights" that are inviolable by God. God is the creator; man is a creature. "Who are you that replies against God?" Just return to chapter one on creation. Omnipotence settles the argument. Therefore, God can control man's will, and the examples show that he does.


Gordon H. Clark. Predestination (Kindle Locations 1803-1811). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.


It logically follows that if God cannot do anything that violates man's "rights" as a creature then surely God would not violate man's rights by causing a nation to advocate a system of government that upholds the general principles of Christianity in regards to morality and ethical values.  The idea that the wicked are morally neutral has more in common with atheism or the Arminian doctrine of common grace than with the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty over the nations.  Even Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation and the advocate of justification by faith alone, did not reject the authority of the civil magistrate to enforce the morality of the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments.  Compare Martin Luther's view to the contemporary political views of Marxists whose the political philosophy of intersectionality and the oppression of minorities allows said minorities to commit crimes against law abiding citizens with impunity:


Here one must know that there is a double use of the Law.  One is the civic use. God has ordained civic laws, indeed all laws, to restrain transgressions. Therefore every law was given to hinder sins.  Does this mean that when the Law restrains sins, it justifies? Not at all. When I refrain from killing or from committing adultery or from stealing, or when I abstain from other sins, I do not do this voluntarily or from the love of virtue but because I am afraid of the sword and of the executioner. This prevents me, as the ropes or the chains prevent a lion or a bear from ravaging something that comes along. Therefore restraint from sins is not righteousness but rather an indication of unrighteousness. Therefore just as a rope holds a furious and untamed beast and keeps it from attacking whatever it meets, so the Law constrains an insane and furious man lest he commit further sins. This restraint makes it abundantly clear that those who have need of it—as does everyone who is outside Christ—are not righteous but unrighteous and insane, whom it is necessary to tame with the rope and with prison to keep them from sinning. Therefore the Law does not justify.


"Thus the first understanding and use of the Law is to restrain the wicked. For the devil reigns in the whole world and drives men to all sorts of shameful deeds. This is why God has ordained magistrates, parents, teachers, laws, shackles, and all civic ordinances, so that, if they cannot do any more, they will at least bind the hands of the devil and keep him from raging at will. Therefore just as ropes and chains are bound upon men who are possessed and in whom the devil is ruling powerfully, to keep them from harming someone, so the whole world, which is possessed by the devil and is being led headlong into every crime, has the magistrate with his ropes and chains, that is, his laws, restraining its hands and feet lest it rush headlong into all sorts of evil. If it does not permit itself to be restrained this way, it will pay with the price of its head.


This civic restraint is extremely necessary and was instituted by God, both for the sake of public peace and for the sake of preserving everything, but especially to prevent the course of the Gospel from being hindered by the tumults and seditions of wild people. Paul is not discussing that civic use here (Galatians 3.19); it is indeed very necessary, but it does not justify. For as a possessed person is not free and mentally balanced just because his hands and feet are bound, so when the world is most restrained from external acts of disgrace by the Law, it is not righteous on that account but remains unrighteous. In fact, this very restraint indicates that the world is wicked and insane and that it is driven by its prince, the devil; otherwise there would be no need for it to be kept from sinning by laws.


#MartinLuther LW26:308-309

Quoted in, "Martin Luther:  The Role of the Government in Hindering Sin".


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