Government may be defined as control, guidance, direction by a set of rules or laws. This tends to be a more generic definition and so we will define Government more clearly by dividing it into two main areas, physical government and moral government. All government is either moral or physical and in that perspective it exercises control in either a physical or moral way. Physical government is control exercised by a law of necessity or force. It is in direct conflict with free will or liberty. Physical government is the administration of physical law or the law of force.
On the other hand moral government consists in the administration and declaration of moral law. It is the government of free will that is controlled by motives rather than a government of substance that is controlled by force. To say that God uses irresistible grace and predestines a person to be saved fits more accurately into the definition of physical law than into that of moral law. There must be a choice or there is no virtue or morals. If, as some propose, God makes all the choices, then man is not a moral being and therefore not guilty of his own sins. Moral law is the administration of moral principles as opposed to physical principles or laws.
Why do we need something called moral government? No one has the right to make rules and to make an attempt to control another being unless there is a very good reason for doing such a thing. If there is no necessity for moral government, then anyone who tries to make moral laws and then to govern by them is practicing tyranny. So what could be the reason why moral government is a necessity? It is the nature and relations of moral beings that makes holiness or virtue indispensable to happiness. It also gives them glory as it gives God glory. When people are moral, they are happy, and God and they share with God in receiving glory as persons indwelt by the Spirit of God. When people follow after holiness without which no man may see the Lord, they are happy, they receive glory. When people live more and more like Jesus Christ and the Father up in heaven every day, they are happy, God gets glory. This all happens when people come to know God and then grow in that knowledge every day. Knowing God is also what makes us holy. So we see that holiness or virtue makes us happy, gives both God and us glory and holiness cannot exist without moral law and moral government; holiness cannot exist without knowing God. The reason is that holiness is nothing more than conformity to the moral law. Moral government, then, is what makes moral agents keep the moral law and it is therefore necessary. The whole universe depends upon moral government to secure the highest good of the whole universe which is the glory of God and the imparting of the uncreated life of God into mortal beings.
Next, we may ask, who has the right to govern, since moral agents depend on someone to do so? We may say that just the bare need to be governed does not make one moral agent qualified to be the moral governor over other moral agents. The one that has a right to govern must be someone that as a result of this need to be governed can only fulfill the moral needs of the governed by being the moral governor of these moral agents. The right to govern implies a duty to govern. The right to govern implies the fulfilling to the dependent party the duties of love or benevolence. The right to govern, in the strictest sense, is founded in the intrinsic value of the interests secured by this government and also it is conditioned upon the necessity of this government to secure these interests. So, to discuss moral government in detail let’s look at certain main points:
- It is impossible to exist without government of some kind.
- Everything is governed by laws that suit the nature of that thing or being.
- Matter is governed by physical laws and is not something that can be governed by motive.
- Free actions and free will must be governed by motives; moral beings are governed by moral considerations because if they are governed by force, then there is no free will. If it is not free will, then it is not moral since morals require choices.
- Moral beings are conscious of moral agency and can only be governed by moral government since it fits their nature and relations as moral agents.
- Our circumstances and our natural moral nature demand that we be placed under moral government because:
- Moral happiness depends upon moral order.
- Moral order depends on the interactivity of the moral powers of moral agents in harmony with one another as members of society.
- No community can harmonize their views and feelings without a perfect knowledge of everything necessary to make their actions in the areas that they are called upon to act, the proper actions, thus the need of a moral governor.
- No community ever existed in which everyone possessed the same degree of knowledge and therefore all the members of that community agree perfectly with everyone on every issue.
- If it is true that they don’t all harmonize perfectly on every opinion, then they won’t agree as to a course or direction to take in every situation.
- Because of these commonly know facts, there must be some form of standard or rule of duty to which every member of the community has agreed to be bound and to conform themselves voluntarily.
- This means that no matter how diverse their opinions are, they must all agree that the will of the lawgiver is right and his will thus becomes the universal rule of duty.
- This lawgiver must have authoritative power, not just be an advisory.
- This, then, means that for the lawgiver to have power there must be a penalty attached to or incurred by any and all acts of disobedience from a moral agent in this community.
- If disobedience persists, the lowest penalty that can be inflicted is for the moral agent to be denied the benefits and privileges of government that would normally exist had he not disobeyed.
- We could thus imply from a series of logical conclusions that the good of the universe requires the existence of a moral governor.
The next question that we might ask is who has a right to govern moral agents? Since the necessity of a moral governor is a condition of the right to govern and since the highest good of all moral agents and even of the universe is the end of moral government, then the only one that has a right to govern must be someone whose moral and physical attributes make him qualified to secure the end, or the good of the universe. Every eye should be directed to One who has the ability to govern, to exercise control, to bring the very best end to the entire universe and of moral agents in particular. He must be capable of administering just rewards and punishments to moral agents. Only One that can do what we have here described has the right to govern.
The only possible conclusion that we can come to is that God has the right to govern. What brings us to this conclusion?
- Our consciousness brings us to this conclusion. All living moral beings have an inner belief in a God that created them, unless taught differently by some form of higher intellectualism. Since God created them, all moral beings feel a moral responsibility to God, their creator. We feel responsible to Him for the correct exercise of our rights and powers. Since our good and God’s glory both depend upon the conformity of all moral agents to holiness as God is holy, he could not be a good moral governor unless he required all to be Holy as God is Holy. This happens when a moral being comes to know God. This is the same standard by which He conforms his whole existence and being.
- God has the natural attributes (as does no other) to be the supreme moral governor of the universe.
- God’s moral character qualifies him to be a moral governor.
- His relationship to the universe in being the one that creates and preserves, and because of these attributes makes him the one with a right to govern.
- His relationship to the universe and our relations with each other demand that he be the moral governor of the universe.
- God’s own honor demands that he should be the one with a right to govern.
- God’s conscience demands that he govern. He could not create a universe of moral agents with the nature and relations that require them to depend upon Him for government and then not be willing to take that responsibility upon Himself. He created them, they depend upon him, only He can govern them, they would have no moral government without Him.
- God’s glory demands it. God could not receive glory unless he acted in accordance with His own conscience to be the governor of the universe.
- God must be the moral governor or God is not wise. Wisdom means choosing the best result and also the best way to achieve that result or end. God would not be wise unless he were the one that was governor to obtain the best end for all moral agents.
- God’s very conduct indicates that He designs to be a moral influence on moral beings.
- The good judgment and management of God shows that the universe of the mind is best governed by laws that are suited to the nature of moral beings.
- Every moral being has an inward law, a conscience, which gives us a sense of the moral quality of our actions. This was given to us by God.
- This inward conscience, an unspoken rule of duty that is part of all of us and to which we feel a strong obligation, implies through our spirit that God is the supreme Moral Governor, and even though we can’t give any logical explanation, yet we all know deep down inside that it is true.
- God must be a moral governor or our very nature which demands Him to be our governor has deceived us. An atheist is deceived and wants to live without conscience.
- If God is not a moral governor, then the whole universe of knowledge has deceived every living being who all expect to be governed by such a moral governor. An atheist must take the position that only he has the correct knowledge and every other being in the universe, even God, is wrong in their belief in a moral governor.
- If there is no moral government and no moral governor, then there is no such thing as moral character. However, we are all conscious of moral character as strongly as we are certain that we even exist. This is because we have that inner affirmation that God is a moral governor and we are moral beings subject to his moral standard.
- All nations of the world have a perception of a “god” as a moral governor. The perceptions may not match, but they exist, none-the-less. This shows that the concept of God fits the very nature and relations of all moral beings, whether they have had the revelation of Jesus Christ or not. The atheist must deny the basis of all human sociology found in the concept of a moral governor, namely God. An atheist is truly one in complete denial of what all cultures accept as fact.
- Our own nature requires that we believe in God as moral governor. No matter how hard we try to deny it, we cannot escape from the truth that speaks to our spirit in words that we hear as a still small voice in our most inner being. Even the most scientific minds, when confronted with the complexities of the universe can find no better logical explanation than that of a supreme creator who is also a governor of the universe. This voice is crying out for us to know God.
- We could never have confidence in the very moral Character of God if He could possibly ever create a universe of moral agents and then not be willing to be a moral governor over them or to know them.
- We can’t help but make a connection between lack of morals and suffering in order to know that a moral governor does exist. Again, the very nature and relations of moral beings and the results of lack of morals that leads to suffering and distress is a strong argument for a moral governor. We can also see societies that have had no God as we know God and were in this state of suffering, but when they changed their perspective of God, a totally new society emerged; they came to know God in a real way.
- The Bible, the most scientific proof of the existence of God and of all moral values, contains a most simple and still comprehensive system of moral government. The Bible is the greatest book that will help one to know God. No other book in history has continued to be a best seller and has had such a profound influence on society as does the Bible in every period of history. The Bible is the strongest proponent of God the moral governor of all moral agents in the universe and is meant to help them all come to know God.
- If we are not sure that we are the subjects of moral government and that we are moral beings, then we are sure of nothing in this universe. To deny that we are moral beings with a moral government and moral laws is to deny that we exist as human beings. All of these things are a priori truths that cannot be denied by any rational living being.
What do we mean by right to govern?
- It implies, as noted above, that moral government is a necessity. It means arriving at and securing the very best end for all concerned.
- The right to govern also implies the obligation or duty of the governor to govern. The right and the obligation go together. He would have no right did He not equally have the obligation to govern.
- The right to govern implies the duty of the subject of the moral government to obey. It would not be someone’s right to govern unless it were also the duty of the ones being governed to obey the governor. Those being governed have an equal obligation to obey the governor. They must seek to be governed and be willing to obey the governor. It becomes a reciprocal obligation, the one to govern and the other to obey or be governed. It means that the governed have a right to know the governor.
- The right to govern implies that the governor has a right and even a duty to dispense the proper rewards and punishments directly suited to the nature of the disobedience or obedience. Punishment is given when public interests demand such punishment for the good of all.
- The right to govern implies the use of all the possible means necessary and available in order to govern properly.
- The right to govern implies the duty of the governed to be willing to cheerfully submit to any measure necessary and even comply with the punishment or be willing to inflict punishment if necessary.
- The right to govern implies on behalf of the governor and the governed the need to concentrate themselves both to the end of that moral government which means the best ends for the entire universe.
- The right to govern implies that the governor and the governed be both willing to make any sacrifices necessary to promote the higher public good, to meet emergencies and practice self-denial as necessary to promote the good of the general public to a greater degree than the sacrifice that was made and to expect a corresponding reward for such a sacrifice.
- The right to govern implies the use of any degree of force to maintain order, to execute wholesome laws, to hinder insurrection, to punish rebels and insurgents, and to maintain the supremacy of moral law. If the right to govern does not include this principle, then there is no right to govern. If it were possible for anything to come up such as an emergency where the means to maintain order could not be used, then it would automatically cancel the right to govern since the right to govern must include the right to use and means necessary in order to do what is necessary to govern no matter what are the circumstances.
With all this in mind, one might ask, what are the limits of the right to govern? The right to govern works together in unison to the necessity for such a government. This means that the greatest good can only be achieved by having this system of government and this one who is governing. When we speak of first truths, it is obvious to all moral agents that the highest good of the universe should be the main end to which all strive merely for the intrinsic value of the good that is done to benefit the whole universe, which includes the Glory of God. If, for any reason, the intrinsic value is not the foundation of the right to govern, then there must be some boundary that governs the right to govern. What does not make up the foundation of the right to govern? To this we state as follows:
- It is not because God is creator of the universe by itself. Sure he may be the creator, but unless some good comes of it or unless there is a necessity that he be the governor, then just being the creator would not be enough as a ground for the right to govern standing by itself.
- It is not because God is the owner and sole proprietor of the universe alone that gives God the right to govern. If there were no good to the universe or to God himself, just being the owner would not be enough ground for the right to govern. There is no being in the universe, not even God, which can claim that their right to govern is based solely upon the fact that they are owned by that being. If the government is unnecessary or possibly harmful to those governed or even to the universe as a whole, then there is no ground for the right to govern. This type of thinking is what makes false gods and despotic governments arbitrary and unreasonable to the point that they become a tyrannical and wicked act. This is why despotic dictators and false gods like “Allah” are wrong. They think that they have a right to govern based solely on their proprietorship and yet they place no intrinsic value on their subjects or of any other moral being in the universe.
- The right to govern does not rest solely in the fact that God has all the attributes, both natural and moral, that give him the ability to govern, though this may be a condition of his right. However, if there is no necessity for his government, then the fact that he has the attributes would not make it his right to govern. In other words, unless having God as the governor of moral agents would secure the highest good of both the moral agents and even of God himself, he still would not have the right to govern since no possible good would come of it. It is more important that the intrinsic value of the ends and of the fact that this moral governor is necessary in order to meet these ends that gives him the right to govern.
- Conversely, the right to govern could not be based merely on the intrinsic value and of the necessity of the Governor to govern the moral agents if God did not have both the natural and moral ability to govern. They both need to be equally present or there is no right to govern.
- The right to govern cannot be based upon the fact that there is no reason other than that God is God. One cannot say that God has a right because it is right. If that were the case then Allah would be “god” and could rule by doing things that human conscience does not condone such as murdering innocent women and children. This would make God’s arbitrary will into law and would make God into a tyrant that does what he wills with no interest in the intrinsic value of his subjects of or the universe in general or of all moral agents. This is no doubt what some people think of God and perhaps why they recoil from any notion of God or of any desire to get close to God or to accept any testimony regarding God. If God’s right to govern were based upon a fact with no assignable reason, then God has a right to legislate as arbitrarily, as unnecessarily, as absurdly or as injuriously as possible, and He can do no injustice or wrong no matter what evils he wills because and only because he has the right to do such things and for no other reason, then God can do what he wills with no cause or reason, with no foundation and no intrinsic value on the interests secured or the value of the subjects. This may be the greatest truth in the universe because if there is a “god” that makes this type of claim you can know either that his followers are lying about what he claims or that this god is not a true god after all since he has claimed as his right to govern only his name and nothing else and he places no intrinsic value on any subject, on the universe as a whole but only on himself alone. This type of “god” also shows no proof that by governing his subjects that he is the only being that has this ability and that his being their governor benefits the whole universe of moral beings. This “god” shows that he places no intrinsic value in the ultimate end of the good of all moral beings in his universe. The truth is that unless there is a need in behalf of moral agents and also that this moral governor has the qualifications to bring the highest good to ALL moral agents and that this good cannot be achieved unless he were the moral governor, for this moral governor to have the right to govern, then just saying that he is God or of having no reason at all cannot give him the right to govern. Unnecessary legislation is useless legislation and unnecessary government is tyranny. Some of the religions of the world are filled with both useless legislation and unnecessary government of their moral subjects. Again, this type of religion is, by its very nature and relations, proven to be false and ineffective.
So what is implied in moral government?
- Moral Government implies a moral governor.
- Moral Government implies moral law.
- Moral Government implies the existence of moral agents as the subjects of moral government.
- Moral Government implies the existence of moral obligation to obey moral law.
- Moral government implies moral character or a sense of praise or blame-worthiness in the subjects of the moral government.
What is moral obligation?
Obligations is what binds, it is what one ought to do. It is what God reveals to our spirit that we ought to do, even when sometimes our own reasoning argues against it. Deep down inside, we know what the right choice is and sometimes we argue, not with others but with ourselves. We try to use reasoning of the mind to convince our spirits that something is right but in our spirit we already know the answer, for God has revealed it to us. This is something that you can’t necessarily research; you can’t put it into a test tube or in a bottle. You can make all the arguments in the world against what your inner conscience tells you, but in the end, that moral obligation was right all along. When people debate in the public forum so many times the one with the greatest arguments is the most wrong. The one that is right has a moral compass that may not be easily defined by great reasoning powers. On the other hand, one of the greatest arguments ever was what Satan said to Eve about the fruit in the Garden of Eden. The argument was that they would be as “gods” and know or decide what is good or what is evil. The argument was, in effect, saying that a moral governor was not necessary but that man could be his own moral governor. Satan said that one does not need to know God. However, the beauty of the argument was soon lost when they found out that they were naked, were soon cursed by God and then thrown out of the beautiful Garden to a life of work, pain and hardship; then death resulted as God had said all along. It is the same with debate. Sometimes the simple country answer does not make the literary critics laud the debater with praise, but there is only one right answer. The other one was just a good “reasoning of the mind.” The moral obligation of Adam and Eve to obey God would have benefited them far more than to have taken the course that they did. In fact, just to know God’s view of their choice would have saved all of creation. However, God provided a way in which His justice could still show itself strong and yet His mercy could also prevail. They could once again know God. God offered a sacrifice even for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Now we ask, what are the conditions of moral obligation?
We are not talking about the fundamental reasons, or foundations of moral obligation, but we are talking about what conditions must be present in the moral agent for the obligation to be an obligation to him. There are conditions on which obligation depends and without which no obligation could exist, but these are not the fundamental reasons for moral obligation called the foundations of moral obligation.
- Moral agency or having that which can comprehend what is moral and what is not. The essential part of us that discerns right and wrong is the conscience. The conscience tells the intellect what is and what is not moral in the life of a moral agent. Sin sometimes sears our conscience so we need to come to God and pray, which is communion, and read the Bible which is intuition. When we can cry out to God and have our will submitted to God, then we have fulfilled some of the conditions of moral obligation. The Bible says that the natural man cannot perceive the things of the spirit of God because such things are spiritually discerned. So one of the conditions has to be the conscience and acting upon it by turning the will to God through calling on Jesus for Salvation. It is the spirit that gives us the ability to know God. It is the spirit that gives us the ability to pray. It is the spirit that gives us the ability to read and understand the Bible. Then our will makes a choice which should always to in behalf of obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. While people that do not know God have some moral agency in that they understand that love or benevolence is the only end for moral law and they have a conscience which leads them to seek God, yet their moral agency may be lacking of what will ultimately bring them true happiness since they have never submitted to God as their moral governor. Still they have that ability to submit which leads to the next condition, a free will.
- A Free Will is also a condition of obligation. Unless we have a free will there could be no obligation since having no will would never allow virtue, since virtue is making right choices and without a free will no choices can ever be made. It is a one of the first truths that we mentioned in the first chapter, truths that are like time, space or cause and effect. This is a first truth that a man cannot be held responsible for making choices when it is said that he has no ability to make such a choice. Unfortunately that is the teaching of many in the religious world today and especially those who hold to the hyper-Calvinistic viewpoint. So one of the conditions of moral obligation is that a person must be able to choose or there would be no obligation to do the thing in the first place. God might speak to us and we to Him through the spirit and we may know right or wrong through the spirit, but the will is the part of us which chooses whether to follow that impulse of the spirit as led by the Holy Spirit or not. To say that a person has no power to choose God is to say that a person is not a moral being since one of the conditions of being under moral obligation is the ability to choose or the will. Thus having a free-will would be one of the conditions of moral obligation.
- Light is the third condition of obligation. Again we are talking about our spirit. We must by the light of the spirit see something as being intrinsically valuable, we must then affirm that our obligation to moral values has value for its own sake, and then we must learn to make a choice based upon the light that we have given to us through our spirit. Light has to do with understanding. The part of our spirit which gives illumination or light is the intuition. The Conscience speaks to moral agency and the intuition supports the promptings of conscience. This light can come in the form of reading the Bible, hearing a man of God preach, speaking to another Christian, reading a good Christian book, or in the act of prayer. This light reveals what is intrinsically valuable as the best ends of all involved and to give the highest intrinsic value to God as well. In short, intrinsic value means that we come to know God. We make choices based upon the end and the means that we choose depends upon what the end is. The end is to know God. This light shows us what the ultimate end of the choice is for which we are making a decision of the will. This ultimate end is chosen only for its intrinsic value and nothing more or less. There is nothing that has more intrinsic value in the whole universe than to know God. Thus the whole basis of choice and of right and wrong is based on the end or the intrinsic value of the end chosen for its own value. There is no better end than to know God. No choice is ever made without a value being placed on the end in view. This intrinsic value is what causes the choice of right and wrong. Light can then be defined as an inner knowledge of the intrinsic value of the end that a certain choice will bring which should be the highest good of God and of the universe. That highest good comes when we come to know God and grow in that knowledge every day. When this is the end in view, the choice is a right choice. There are variations of this which include choosing the right means to secure a particular end which has intrinsic value but the ultimate end is always the same, the good of God and of the Universe in general. The end is, simply put, to know God.
- Since God’s government is moral, the beginning of the existence of sin is easy to understand. Adam and Eve were so innocent that they did not fully comprehend the sanctions that God had imposed or the statements that Satan made. They were, however, guilty of failing to choose the best end for God or even to consult with God as to what choice to make though they already knew in their conscience. They were convinced that knowing God was not that important. Had they chosen the “Tree of Life” they would have partaken of the eternal life of God which would have elevated them above even the angels. Then they would have known God in the greatest way possible. Their choice was a selfish choice to make themselves as “gods” doing what is best for them at the expense of all other moral beings in the universe, including God who could not walk and talk with them in the Garden but was required to have them expelled. God could no longer know them or allow them to know him in the same way; that is why the animal was killed to show a way back to knowing God.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see how the development of sin has been for selfish reasons at the expense of God and of the whole universe of moral beings. This proves that the ultimate end chosen was ultimately wrong and the results are now clearly viewed by all moral beings who can view history.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see why the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross was for the purpose of satisfying the Justice of God in the public arena while at the same time showing his mercy. God can execute the law of Public Justice while at the same time showing mercy on the accused. It allows people to know God again.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see how the influence of the Holy Spirit is in the area of helping making ultimate choices based upon our love of God for his great love that he had for us in sending His Son Jesus to die for us. The Holy Spirit never does change our physical nature but rather acts as a moral influence on choices. This also shows how a Christian suddenly begins making the right choices due to the influence of the Holy Spirit living in his mortal flesh and influencing our will by giving light to the end in view for each choice that we make. The reason is that through the Holy Spirit he begins to know God better and better every day.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can understand what faith is all about. It is a confidence in God that is unshaken by influences to the contrary because there is an inner ultimate end in view that the love of God and the good of all moral beings will be accomplished by an act of faith. In short, he comes to know God by faith.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can understand why Christian example is so profound since it sets in the minds of all moral beings a real picture of moral law being enacted on a daily basis. It shows how people live when they know God.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see that no matter what His degree of power (omnipotence) or wisdom (omniscience), yet no one saved without making a moral choice, the choice to know God.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see why it is necessary to be watchful and careful that we have made the choice that we have for the right moral ends, the intrinsic value of God and the universe and not for self. We want to really know God.
- Since God’s government is moral, we can see just how powerfully the influence of the gospel can be on a sinner saved by the power of God and now living and making choices with the end of God’s own good and the good of others rather than that of self as the ultimate end that is now in view. The gospel changes lives because people come to know God.