Dr. Chad Brand on The Baptist Faith and Message and Limited Government

chad-brandDr. Chad Brand (www.chadowenbrand.com) was kind enough to follow-up with me and provide some clarification from his earlier comments that were summarized in my previous post. Here were his comments that drew my initial interest:

Because Baptists have long held the idea of religious freedom, political freedom, individual freedom and so on, the place where a Baptist political economy most manifests itself is in a kind of republican or libertarian form of economics. “Laissez faire” isn’t in the Baptist Faith and Message, but if you read and believe its statements on government and anthropology, I think you would come to the same conclusion that the government that governs least, governs best.

The followup interview included the following elaborations. First, in the following excerpt, he states that government is a post-lapsarian necessity. While there’s debate about the what constitutes government, it is helpful to point out that anarchy isn’t affirmed as the pre-lapsarian nature of government. Everyone was under the rule of Yahweh, which would have been mediated in some degree through Adam. When most affirm that human government was a necessity post-fall, what is generally being acknowledged is the need for one to administer the sword of justice to punish and deter evil. The civil magistrate as the administrator of justice, then, is what is referred to as being a necessity due to the sinfulness of humanity. Brand replied:

The BFM, following Scripture, teaches that humans are made in the image of God and were intended to be God’s viceroys, to subdue the earth, tend the garden, and to govern the earth as God’s representatives. Of course, they fell into sin. That sin changed the way they would govern the world and it changed the world to make it more difficult to govern, since now they would gain their bread by the sweat of their brow.

Sin also meant that men would now govern other men. Had there been no sin, there would have been no government; all would have been ruled directly by God. Work is natural to the human (unfallen) condition, but government is not. The Fall created the need for politics. All of this is reflected in, if not actually stated as such, in the BFM.

Brand elaborates on the necessity of governance owing to sin, but that sin also cuts both ways and is pervasive even in those who govern, which requires some idea of checks and balances and the consent of the governed:

Men are rational creatures who still retain the image of God in some measure, yet they are sinners, requiring governance. But those who govern are also sinful creatures liable to use their governing position to extort from the governed, and to exercise “will to power” over them, to use Nietzsche’s famous phrase. History is filled with examples of such, including Rome, Egypt, Bourbon France, Stuart England, and so on. One area in which this has been the case is religion. The existence of the “state church” has often been a tool of government to exercise control. Even Calvin could not conceive of a free church in Geneva, though he did believe in small government, a government chosen by the people.

As far as what Baptists uniquely offer by way of political economy, Brand affirms the trajectory of the Reformation through Calvin and the further reforms of the Baptists, especially in relation to the idea of a free church in a free state that democratically elected representatives:

This is where the Baptists came in. They benefited from Calvin’s conception of governing but went further and advocated the notion of free churches in a state where the governors are chosen by people who possess the franchise. Over time the number of those who have the franchise would grow to include women and others.

Brand’s closing words were a summary of his initial statement that the BFM rather clearly articulates the principles of limited government:

The BFM states that a free church In a free state is the ideal. In order for the state to be free, it must be one in which those who are chosen to govern are so chosen by people who are not coerced to do so. No coercion from the state, from overt and one-sided media bias, or from a one sided effort on the part of the wealthy to accomplish their political goals. Note the emphasis on “one-sided.” This is the problem in totalitarian states and even in authoritarian states. In order for the state to be free it must further be restricted in size. This has been recognized by political theorists whose political theology is consistent with Scripture, from Augustine to Thomas, from Calvin to Locke, from Edwards to Madison.

In sum, the BFM’s statements on biblical anthropology, its brief statements on the nature of government, and its fuller affirmation of religious liberty establish the serious importance of limited government.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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One comment on “Dr. Chad Brand on The Baptist Faith and Message and Limited Government
  1. Pingback: Ayn Rand, Money, and the True Materialists

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