When a senior director of the United Nation’s Millennium Campaign received a copy of Open for Service he was visibly elated as he flicked through the document. “It’s just what we need here,” he said, “but where is the theology?” To be sure Open for Service is littered with biblical references as the basis for our involvement but it was a fair response. Our work does highlight the need for a more robust theology of good governance.
As we develop our focus on this critical issue over the next 5 years we will open up the biblical dialogue and examples of good practice informed by faith. But as a biblical foundation we want to present a biblical rationale based on three biblical themes. God as Creator, God of Justice, and God and Government.
A Creator God committed to justice and government which reflects his now-not-yet rule in our time has left us with little room to avoid his searing passion for government which reflects the justice which is inherent in himself. This is why good governance must be a part of that large equation.
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God as Creator
God’s control over global powers is rooted in his personal care for those made in his image and likeness (Gen 1:26,27) who he made stewards over his created order (Gen 1:28). Openness, transparency and responsibility were the central features of God’s ideal for us (Gen 2:15-17).
God of Justice
After idolatry, justice is the most frequent theme in the Old Testament.
Biblical justice relates to interpersonal relationships as much as it does government.
The Bible has always been diametrically opposed to bribes - Jesus was even betrayed by one (Matt 27:3) - and concerned about improper trading (Proverbs 16:11).
Importantly these injustices are linked to financial dishonesty for self interest; corruption invariably oppresses those who are already poor; and these transactions have little to do with government behaviour.
God of Government
After 2000 years church relations with government still remain a point of dispute!
Our current tensions about political engagement are not new. But we don't have the option of disengagement.
Israel’s theocracy always enshrined good governance. Israel's request for a king (1 Sam 8:6) was directly triggered by Samuel’s sons oppressing bribery (1 Sam 8:1-3).
The New Testament is less critical of monarchs regarding good governance. But there are clear hints at honesty and transparent lifestyles (Matt 5:14; 5:37) and in Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9).
From a biblical perspective the agitation for good governance is not political action; it is written into God’s moral code.
Good governance is good government:
Prov 29:4; Prov 16:11
Bribes cause moral blindness:
Deut 16:19; Exodus 23:8-9
Honest personal lifestyle
Bribery can kill:
Goodness & Good Governance, Joel Edwards, 2010
A brief exploration of biblical justice and governance looking at the themes of God as Creator, God of Justice and God of government.
Gain an in-depth understanding of Good Governance from a theological perspective.
A broader theological perspective on international development.
A theological understanding of the relationship between human flourishing and governance from a UK perspective.
Government, Global Poverty and God's Mission in the World: An Evangelical Declaration Bread for the World, Wheaton College & Micah Challenge, 2010
A declaration booklet which serves as a catalyst for continued dialogue on this important subject.