, ,

The previous post on this book by Kuypermay be found here:

Chapter 11 concerns the basis for the institution of government.  It is Kuyper’s contention that Genesis 9:6 forms the basis for the institution of government among human beings:

Genesis 9:6 (ESV)

          “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

The argument proceeds as follows. First, Kuyper disposes of the three common theories for the institution of government. In this, he is looking for a moral justification, a moral legitimacy for government.

He begins with the age-old government by conquest: someone uses forces to kill and steal and by violence controls some territory and human beings. For as long as the conqueror maintains power, he maintains his position. After many years, the conquest becomes tradition and the murder is crowned with legitimacy. He notes the irony of giving a reward for murder for the sake of theft.  This is not real justice but rather a reward for sin.  And so, this cannot be a firm basis for true legitimacy in power.

Second, he considers the “social contract” theory: a group of free individuals contract with one another for the creation of the government. The sovereignty resides in the “people” who freely enter into a new arrangement. This runs into two problems: One, the initial social contracting event never took place. Two, even if such did happen, the contract has no power bind the children of these people who will then their own sovereign right to reject their parents’ decisions.

Third, there is the possibility of spontaneous design: governments just happen. And while this does take, it is an immoral pantheistic understanding of moral order. It is irrelevant how the government comes to be; only, it just does come to be.

None of these theories meet the moral case. Rather, Kuyper roots the fact of government in the common grace of God.

His construction of this argument is based upon the principle that authority derives solely from God:

We urgently request our readers to place all the requisite emphasis on this. The one true position that Scripture points out to us is that as people we by nature have authority over nothing. All authority belongs to God and God alone. All things belong to him and nothing to you. You have no authority over anything, no matter what it might be, unless God grants you this authority. (98)

Using the chapters of Genesis, he then lays out places were God grants authority to human beings: authority over the animals, authority to eat plants and later to eat animals, and so forth. He contrasts this with God’s withholding of authority to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The fact that there are any government lies in the delegation of God’s authority in some measure to human beings. Governments are things ultimately appointed by God:

Romans 13:1 (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.

This does not mean that all authorities in existence are good, moral or right. But it does mean that as part of God’s common grace he has bestowed government into the world as a thing which can come into existence.

There are other questions, not addressed by Kuyper at this point, concerning the right use of that authority.

He then lays the original institution of the fact of human government into the world at Genesis 9:6.

There are two ways to understand God’s grant of authority in these instances. First, a grant of authority could merely be a matter of permission. For example God tells Adam that you may eat from this tree but not that tree. Adam has the physical ability to defy the law and to exceed the grant of authority. Whether Adam abides by the grant of authority.

A second way to understand the grant of authority to understand it as not merely permission but also possibility. When God grants dominion to Adam and Eve in creation, he did not merely grant permission but in the grant made the matter so.

Kuyper confesses the possibility that some sort of government may have existed prior to the Flood; but if it did so, it did so without a basis in a grant from God. The exercise of such authority would be similar to the rebellion in the Garden.