I started to read over the weekend a new book by Dr. Wayne Grudem, professor of systematic theology at Phoenix Seminary called Politics According to the Bible. In the first chapter entitled “Five Wrong Views About Christians and Government” he takes on the claim that Dr. Greg Boyd made in his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, that all government is evil and demonic.
In Boyd’s book (having read that as well some time ago) he references Luke 4:6 as support for his position. In this verse Satan is tempting Jesus, and makes a statement to Jesus claiming authority over civil governments. Below is the verse in context.
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours, (Luke 4:5-7, ESV).
Since Satan claims that the authority of the kingdoms of the world “have been delivered” to him and that Jesus doesn’t dispute Satan’s claims then Boyd contends that the authority of the kingdoms have been given to Satan. Boyd then says, “Functionally, Satan is the acting CEO of all earthly government.”
The problem with referencing Luke 4:6 is that Satan has nothing to do with the truth. Grudem notes, John 8:44 which reads, “
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (ESV, emphasis mine).
Grudem asks, “Do we believe Satan’s words that he has the authority of all earthly kingdoms, or do we believe Jesus’ words that Satan is a liar and the father of lies?” (pg. 37).
Grudem also notes that “Jesus didn’t need to respond to every false word Satan said, for his purpose was to resist temptation itself.”
Grudem says that Boyd ignores passages that tell us how we should view civil governments
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men, (Daniel 4:17, ESV).
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing, (Romans 13:1-6, ESV).
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good, (1 Peter 2:13-14).
Grudem goes on to challenge Boyd’s assertion:
The point is that Satan wants us to believe that all civil government is under his control, but that is not taught anywhere in the Bible. (Of course, Satan can influence come individuals in government, but he is not in control.) the only verse in the whole Bible that says Satan has authority over all governments is spoken by the father of lies, and we should not believe it. Greg Boyd is simply wrong in his defense of the view that “all government is demonic,” (pg. 38).
Boyd’s position has some immediate and potential implications according to Grudem:
- Absolute and total pacifism saying that Christians shouldn’t serve in the military in combat situations to not even being willing to fight to defend their wives and children. Grudem notes, "at the heart of Boyd’s teaching is a fundamental opposition to the use of superior force to restrain evil,” (pg. 41)
- His view also leads to a moral equivalence between good and evil governments – for instance “the motivating factors of the governments on the two different sides in war are both demonic,” (pg. 39). Boyd applies this to the war on terror between American forces and the terrorists in Iraq. He specifically notes the beheading of Nicholas Berg who was an American civilian contractor. Grudem responds:
How could Boyd come to the point where he sees Islamic beheading of innocent civilians as morally equivalent to America defending itself against terrorist attacks? How could he believe that a nation that never intentionally targets innocent civilians is morally the same as as terrorist movement that makes it a conscious policy to target, torture, and kill innocent civilians?
Boyd reaches this conclusion because he follows this wrongful “all government is demonic” view, (pg. 39).
- There is a rejection of all governmental “power over” as “worldly” contrasted with “power under” of the Kingdom of God.
- This position tends to persuade Christians to oppose all governmental power over evil.
- It could “mean less and less support for a strong military and more and more insistence on endless conversations with aggressive nations who would attack us and our allies,” (pg. 43).
- “At the local level, this rejection of all governmental “power over” evil would mean more and more opposition to the use of superior force by local police,” (pg. 43).
Another problem that Boyd’s view according to Grudem is that “he fails to distinguish the task of evangelism from the task of civil government.”
Of course God has not told us to spread the Gospel of Christ by using the “power of the sword” or the power of government. We spread the Gospel by the proclamation of the Word of God (see Romans 10:17). But God has told us that we should restrain evil by the power of the sword and by the power of civil government, (pg. 43).
At the end of his book, Boyd responds to the objections that war was necessary to end slavery in the United States and to stop Hitler from conquering Europe (and murdering even more innocent people). The use of military force seem to have brought about good in those cases. Grudem notes:
Boyd’s response is to say that if Christians had been better pacifists, history would have been different: “Had professing Christians been remotely like Jesus in the first place, there would have been no slavery or war for us to wonder about what would have happened had Christians loved their enemies and turned the other cheek” With regard to the US Civil War, Boyd says, “A kingdom person should rather wonder what might have happened had more kingdom people been willing to live out the call of the radical kingdom.”
But this is just an elegant way of saying, “If history was different, it would prove my case.” And that is another way of saying, “If the facts were different, they would prove my case.” That is not a valid argument. It is appealing to wishful thinking rather than facts. Boyd is simply saying that if the world were different, the world world would be different. But that proves nothing. History is what it is, and history shows that both the evil of American slavery and the evil of Adolf Hitler were only stopped by the power of superior military force. That is the task that God had assigned to governments when they “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4), (pg. 42-43).
Grudem sums up by saying “at the heart of Greg Boyd’s position is an exact role reversal of the role of God and Satan with regard to civil government,” (pg. 44).