This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
The rise of government Kuyper has discussed in previous chapters does not equal the abrogation of all the rights of he people. We see this in both the Bible (the elders of Israel retain rights over against the government) and in Dutch history. God gave Israel what they needed for “natural social life” (94-95). Yet sin remained and as a result God took away Israel’s national institutions. In both Israel having a nation and Israel not having a nation, if we account for the Ancient Near Eastern setting we see some general truths.
In Israel, government was limited, organized, and allied with a pre-existing population. That is, government did not happen in a vacuum and did not absorb all of human existence into itself. Even David, directly anointed by God, gets the people’s approval before taking office as King. In all this what we see is that government must respect the rights of the people. This is shown in the covenant David makes with the tribes and the elders at Hebron. In that covenant, we see the king and the people both take on obligations. Those in authority would “prefer to leave this sort of event in the shadows.” (97) Yet we also see that this passage has been an inspiration to Protestants historically.
A warning is necessary here: these republican thoughts are not akin to the thought of the French Revolution. Providence, not the popular will, is the basis of our thought. We must not reject authority as inherently bad, but must rather honor it as it is in God and should be on earth. Resistance to bad authority in the name of God’s authority is our duty. Just as authority should defend itself rightly when appropriate. The Dutch revolution was about the restoration of rights and authority in proper balance.
Today of course we don’t operate by tribe or genealogy–though Israel did bring family into politics as well. This provided a sort of “organic representation” and helped Israel to survive in exile.
Now, we see common grace developing different forms of solidarity. Organic life together over time began to be the basis and “distinct spheres for the future” began to develop. (101) These spheres are governed by reality, and government must keep them from intruding on each other. So the Calvinist values family not in order to go back to tribal Israel, but to protect it in its own sphere. Consequently elections are how we choose our governments these days–which even in Calvin’s time was in use (albeit in an early form).