July 30, 2007

Van Til on the Basis of Constitutional Government

Henry R. Van Til, not Cornelius.....Cornelius was Henry's uncle. I've been reading (and rereading) Henry's book The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. If you haven't read it, get it. But first, take a look at this:
Augustine rejects the idea that a universal law of nature, which is binding upon all intelligent beings, is the basis of constitutional government. Since man is a sinner, the true basis of the state is the character of its citizens as regenerated sons of God, who embrace the sovereignty of God over their being, whereby they are made willing servants in the external realization of his will, by obeying governments. Consequently, the bearers of authority must know themselves to be bound by the law of God, and the ideal is that they should be pious Christians themselves. 'It is here that the safety of an admirable state resides; for a society can neither be ideally founded nor maintained unless upon the basis and by the bond of faith and strong concord, when the object of love is universal good which in its highest and truest character is God Himself, and when men love one another with complete sincerity in Him, and the ground of their love for one another is the love of Him from whose eyes they cannot conceal the spirit of their love.'
Ok, maybe wishful thinking and entirely untenable, but I can only embrace this perspective. What strikes me about this is Henry Van Til's statment that "...the true basis of the state is the character of its citizens as regenerated sons of God..." If this is true, and I believe that it is, then the ills that exist in our society today are not because of anything our political leadership has done to make it so, rather our political landscape is a reflection of the the character of our citizens. Even in typing this, I'm reminded of a conversation Nancy Pearcey had with a political figure that she makes mention of in Total Truth. In essence, if you want to shape culture, it doesn't happen from Washington D.C. because what happens there is only a reflection of society. I haven't got the book in front of me, so hopefully my memory serves me right.

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