There are five basic spheres of authority (this understanding was developed by Jean Calvin and Abraham Kuyper). They are:
- civil government
The Kingdom of God becomes a reality when the institutions and individuals in each sphere of authority are submitted to God.
Each sphere of authority has responsibility.
- The individual has responsibility for fulfilling his calling.
- The family has responsibility for provision and education
- The church is responsible for teaching the word and preaching the gospel.
- The civil government is responsible for justice and defence.
- A business has responsibility to use the resources that it owns as a good steward.
Each sphere of responsibility has authority, but it is limited to what is appropriate for the sphere.
- The individual has freedom (under the law).
- The family can discipline children.
- The business management has authority over its activities (Matt 20:1-13).
- The civil government has the power of the sword (Rom 13:1-7 Matt 22:22).
- The church has authority to interpret and preach the Word.
The yellow arrow represents Authority to God. The blue arrow represents authority exercised in opposition to God. Sometimes the authority (arrow) is mixed,
The relationships between the spheres of authority must also be governed by the word of God. The church has a prophetic role. It can teach, but it must not control other spheres. The civil government can only intervene in other spheres, if a crime occurs.
The Kingdom of Darkness
When people reject the Kingdom of God one of the spheres always dominates the others.
Tribalism occurs when the family dominates all other spheres. Everyone is a slave to the Chief of the Tribe, who is the head of the most powerful family. Success depends on relationship to the key family leaders. Tribalism is common in many parts of the world.
2. Religious Imperialism
Religious imperialism occurs when the church controls every sphere of authority. For much of western history, the church was in this position. Prior to the reformation the church appointed kings, set the price of bread and determined careers for many people. This is one reason why the church is hated so much today. We must be careful that we are not seen as advocated religious imperialism, when proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The two are quite different.
When the individual dominates every area of authority, anarchy prevails. Everyone does what the choose, without any regard for others. People just do what they like. The result is chaos. Anarchy can never last for long as people prefer peace. They will generally give authority to a strong man in return for peace.
When business dominates everything, the result is corporatism. In the modern world, businesses sometimes control a nation, e.g. Panama.
5. The State as Saviour
In the modern world the state tends to dominate every area of authority. It has absolute authority, and there are almost no limits to what it can do. That is why we call it "the government".
The government has taken the role of provider and educator from families. The government owns banks, airlines and steel mills and regulates all other business. The government now claims the right to regulate and tax the church. At the same time the church has withdrawn from caring for the poor.
The state develops this role when people are unwilling to take responsibility for their lives. They want the state to solve all problems. The common refrain is, "The government should do something about it". This statement is an expression of lack of faith in God and is a denial of the Government of God.
Return to the Kingdom of God.