When I was young, I was very interested in politics and economics. Many of the problems in the world are caused by politics. It seemed like solutions would be political.

When I went to university, I studied political science for a couple of years, but I found it was a dry well. There are a huge variety of political systems, but none seem to work well. The common answer was that we should persist with the government we have, because anything else would be worst. This was disappointing.

Once I became a Christian, I realised that the solution had to involve Jesus. Every society needs laws, so I spent a long time thinking about how a parliament could produce laws that were consistent with God's will. The only way that seemed possible, if most of the members of the parliament were followers of Jesus. If that did happen, and it is not common, the people who were not Christians would hate having Christian laws imposes upon them. That did not sound like Jesus.

I committed to solving this conundrum. I went to theological college for three years to get a sound understanding of theology. I learned NT Greek. I read several histories of political thought to understand how we had got to where we are today. I worked for thirty years of the edge of the political system; close enough to see how it worked, but not close enough to be distracted by power. Later, I did a three-year course in Hebrew to understand the Old Testament better.

Over several decades God showed me the answers to the questions that were bugging me. I was totally surprised by where he led me. I will describe what I found I found in the next few posts.


Jesus made some political statements, but the gospels do not contain a well-developed political theory. The good news is that Jesus is the king is a political message, and the gospels explain that his kingdom will be totally different (no coercion), but they don't describe how it will be structured. For someone who is interested in political theory and government this is a problem.

People looking for a well-developed Christian political theory will not get much from the New Testament epistles. Romans 13 does not help much on its own, as it has been used to justify political dictators like Adolf Hitler.

Going back to the Old Testament prophets does not give much more. The prophets critiqued kings and rulers but they did lay out their ideal form of government.

Christians who are looking for a well-developed political theory and system of government will have to go back to the Torah to find it. It took me twenty years of study before the penny dropped, but one day I woke up and realised that God had given his chosen people a system of laws and government when they entered the promised land. This was God's system of government, so it must be the best that is possible. We don't need to develop a modern system of government, because God has already given us his ideal system of government.


If you want a political theology you need to go back to the Torah in Exodus and Deuteronomy. If we want God's political theology, we have to study his law, because that is where he sets it out clearly.

Unfortunately, there was a big problem, like most Christians, I needed a change in attitude to the Torah. I had read it, but I was quite ambivalent about it, because I assumed that Jesus had made it redundant. One time when I was reading Psalm 119, the penny dropped. I always understood it as applying to the whole of scripture, but I suddenly realised it was a Psalm in honour of God's law.

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me (Psalm 119:57-102).
These verses stunned me. I wanted to be wise in the political space. This Psalm explained that I would only get wisdom if I loved God's law.

I resolved that I would love God's law. I understand the love is not a feeling, but a decision, so I decided I would love God's law and look for the good in it. I put all the laws into a spreadsheet, so that I could sort them by topic and theme to see how they fitted together and when they applied.

I would seek for the precious insights it contains. I believed that everything that had been put in the Torah by the Holy Spirit for a purpose. If I found something, I did not like, I would ask the Holy Spirit to show me what he was saying when he put the passage in the Torah. Over time, I began to understand God's law in a totally different way. Loving it became natural. More important, the Holy Spirit gave me some amazing new insight.

No Parliament

My next big insight was that there is no parliament or congress in the Torah. This dramatically changes political theology. God does not want parliaments writing laws, even if the parliamentarians are believers trying to seek God's will. Law is such an important issue that God decided to cut out the middle man. When Israel was becoming a nation in the new land they needed a set of laws, so they could live together in peace.

God revealed his Laws for Society directly to his people through Moses. He spoke to Moses on the mountain and he wrote down God's laws. God is perfectly wise, so the laws that he gives will be the best possible laws that could exist. Because we have his laws, we do not need any other laws. We do not need a parliament or congress to make up new laws.

The laws were applied by local judges who emerged within their communities. They were not appointed by someone from outside. Their wisdom was recognised in their community, so people would ask them to apply God's law to their disagreement.

The judging processes were voluntary. Judges could not enforce their decisions. There was no process for that in the Torah. People would accept a judge's decision because they accepted their wisdom. If they rejected the judge's verdict, the judge could not make them comply with it.

Discerning the law was important. We need to know which parts of God's law are universal and permanent, and which were just for the children of Israel. The key is a set of laws in Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 22:15 which are addressed to every person. I call these the Laws for Society, as they provide a basis for people to live together in relative harmony. All societies need these laws.

The remainder of the Torah is cases illustrating the application of the Laws for Society, or laws that were specific to the children of Israel. I doubt that I would have discovered the Laws for Society if I had not committed to loving God's law, as Psalm 119 suggests.

Spiritual Powers of Evil

My next big step was understanding that the spiritual powers of evil have used politics to leverage their power on earth. Although they were defeated by the cross, they have maintained their authority on earth by using spiritual principalities and powers (government-spirits) to control political power and empires on earth. Every town, city, nation and region on earth is controlled by a principality or power in the spiritual realms.

Their authority on earth is perpetuated by a hierarchy of authority.

This hierarchy of authority allows the spiritual powers of evil to exercise authority on earth, despite their defeat by the cross. The principalities and powers have authority over all the spirits living in the nation or region they control. These follower spirits listen and obey their commands.

Christians frequently talk about principalities and powers, but they have not understood the implications of their power. Most kings and political leaders can easily be dominated by a government-spirit because they are vulnerable to pride and control. This makes it easy for the spiritual powers of evil to control a nation. make it easy for the spiritual powers of evil to control a nation.

Many Christians assume that other nations are controlled by principalities and powers (Iran and North Korea), but they have no understanding that a principality or power (government-spirits) controls their own nation by manipulating political power. That is why political action always disappoints.

No Executive

My next big shock was realising that there is no Executive in the Torah. There was no one appointed to implement government programs. There was no bureaucracy to carry out political programs.

One reason why there is no Executive is that there is no compulsory taxation in the Torah. All giving to the community was voluntary. There was an expectation that people would be generous to the poor and needy, but there was no agency to enforce that.

This means that two of the three standard arms of government in most political theologies, the legislative body and the executive, are missing from God system of government.

An important step was realising that God does not want kings. He allowed Samuel to appoint a king for Israel, but he was clear that they were copying the surrounding nations, not doing something that God commanded (1 Samuel 8). Samuel warned that the king would do harm and the people would suffer.

I discovered that Moses' role, apart from being a prophet, was to be a temporary military leader. When the nation was attacked and the people gathered to defend it, they would agree on a person to lead them. That was a temporary role. When the enemy was defeated, the military leader would go back to their home and become an ordinary person.

Kings are really permanent military leaders. They tend to become dangerous, because they are tainted by war, but gain lots of power.

Best Law

God created humans and all the world. He knows and understands us perfectly. This puts him in the best place to design laws that work well.

For the LORD is our judge,
The LORD is our lawgiver,
The LORD is our king;
It is he who will save us (Isaiah 33:22).
God has infinite wisdom, so his laws will be perfect for us.

Paul understood that the law is a tool for dealing with people who disrupt the peace of society. This is a crucial verse.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers (1 Tim 1:7-9).
The law is used properly when it is used to restrain the evil that harms society. The law is not for the righteous. It is not for Christians. We must understand that the law is for thieves, murderers, adulterer and perjurers who would disrupt the peace and harmony of society. The righteousness of Jesus cannot deal with these people, while they are hostile to him. Until they are transformed by the love of Jesus, laws restrain their evil and prevent them from harming other people.

God's law provides a way of restraining the harm that is caused by people who are willing to harm others. His law is the best for every human society. What could be better for the functioning of society than a set of laws that are holy, just and good (Rom 7:12)? Any other laws will be suboptimal. They will be partly unjust and not always good. Why would any society want to have suboptimal laws? God's law is the best, because he is God.

God's law is good. He is just and good, so his law is the best basis for a harmonious society. God has provided the law that every society needs.


Going into the land, the people need to know how to live together in close proximity with each other. They did not need guidance for living while they were slaves in Egypt, because Pharaoh's taskmasters controlled every aspect of life. The situation would be different once they had a land of their own, with no emperor to control them. Several things should be noted about the guidance that God gave them.

Universal Laws

A problem with studying the Torah is that it is full of a lot of different stuff mixed up together: history, laws, sacrifices, tabernacle design, covenants, infection control, genealogies, priesthood rules. We need a principle to identify the laws that judges are required to enforce in every society.

After looking for a long time without success, I found the key I have been looking for. That key is a phrase in the book of Exodus. Whereas most laws in Exodus are addressed to Israel, I noticed that a section of laws in the middle of the book seem to be addressed to a universal man. They all begin with the expression, "If a man" (kiy ish). These laws are not addressed to Israel, but to all people. This set of universal laws begins at Exodus 21:12 and ends at Exodus 22:17.

Exodus 21:12-22:7 has two other distinguishing features that confirm my understanding that it is different from other parts of the law.

The use of the third person and "man" or "men" as the subject of the command marks off a set of laws that apply to all people in all societies everywhere. These laws are not just for Israel. The penalties for failure to comply with these laws are specified in a timeless way. I refer to them as the Laws for Society, as God intends them to be applied by judges in every society and culture.

The Laws for Society cover two areas of life.

Biblical justice is limited to: These two types of offence are the only ones specified in the Judicial Laws of Moses. There is nothing else. This makes God's Judicial Law very simple and easy for everyone to understand. It means that we do not need a Congress or Parliament turn out hundreds of new laws every year. We do not need laws books with hundreds of pages of detailed legislation. All we need is wise judges, who can decide in any situation, whether a victim was harmed by assault, or if their property was harmed or stolen.

Two Standards

I discovered that a Kingdom Community will have two different standards.

  1. Citizens of the Kingdom will be expected to live by the gospel standards, because they have received the Spirit. Their law is Jesus' new commandment.

    Love one another, as I have loved you.
    Turn the other cheek
    Give to those who ask for help.
    This type of behaviour should be normal for Christians, but it will not be expected from those who have not chosen to follow Jesus.

  2. Residents within a Kingdom Community who have not chosen to follow Jesus will be expected to live according to God's Laws for Society.

    No stealing or theft.
    No assault or murder.
    If they want the benefits of living among a Kingdom Community, they will have to accept God's law. (The same law will apply to citizens who have fallen away from their faith.) They will often benefit from Christian love, but they will not be expected to live by Christian standards.

The leaders of the community will say to the people living among them something like this. We do not expect you to live according to the standards of Jesus, but you will recognise the need for good law. We are offering you the best set of laws possible. We will apply them, if you are willing to accept them. That is all that you need to do to have a part in this community.

That is an offer that would be hard to refuse, as this standard will not be too hard for most people.

The Laws for Society in the Torah were designed to be rolled out to the world (but Israel failed to demonstrate their efficacious. These laws were God's perfect standard for the people of the world, and for the children of Israel before they received the fullness of the Spirit at Pentecost.

The Sermon of the Mount is God's perfect standard for people who have chosen to follow Jesus and receive the fulness of the Holy Spirit. This standard is only for the church, not for the world.

Judges Emerge

In a free society, people will be free to choose a judge to decide their case. They will choose judges whose wisdom and skill is recognised by other people that they know. If people have the freedom to choose their judges, they will always go to people that they trust. In a community of trust, people can talk to someone who knows about the record of the judge. Wise judges will be trusted because they have a good reputation in their community.

Judges will not need to be appointed. They will emerge as wise people in their local communities. They will become judges when people start going to them for guidance in dealing with difficult situations. The title judge will be recognition of what they are already doing. Judges that make good decisions will get more cases to decide. Those that make bad decisions will get fewer cases. Those who make good decisions would become widely known in society.

As a person's reputation for wise judging spreads, people will start referring to them as a judge. The title does not change a wise person into a judge. It is just a recognition of what they are already doing. The reality is that a judge will only be as successful as their last few cases. If they start making bad decisions, people will stop bringing them cases, and they will cease being a judge.

A judge has no permanent authority. Their authority is limited and temporary, because it is gained through voluntary submission. When people take a dispute to a judge, they delegate authority to judge. This authority of a judge is limited to the situation that is submitted to them. The judge has no authority over any other aspect of their litigant's lives. The judge's authority is temporary. It ends when the case has been decided and any required restitution paid. When the case that has been submitted to the judge is complete, the authority that has been delegated is gone.

The people in a community will influence the choice of judge, by supporting the implementation of a judge's decision. If they undermine the decisions of a particular judge, by supporting a person who refuses to make restitution, people with disputes will avoid that judge.

Powers that Be

After many years pondering the meaning Romans 13:1, I discovered that Paul was actually affirming the system of excellent judges interpreting the law of God established up in the Torah.

Every person should submit to the more excellent judges, because the ones that exist have been established by God (Rom 13:1).
When explaining which authorities are from God, Paul constructs a strange sentence that uses the verb "to be" twice. Translated literally, the verse means "the authorities that are, are from God." This is odd. Paul was saying that "the authorities that are" or "the authorities that be" are from God. This strange expression, "the authorities that be" refers back to where the book of Deuteronomy says that refers to "the judges that are".
You shall come unto the judge that shall be in those days: and you shalt inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment (Deut 17:9).
A literal translation is "the judges that shall be in those days" or "the judges that are in those days". Paul would have been familiar with these texts. When he started thinking about justice, the Holy Spirit brought this expression to his mind.

The Torah introduced a unique system of justice: God's law applied by godly judges. Paul is simply referring back to that and confirming that God's will has not changed. He confirmed that the judges that have emerged in a free society are arranged by God.

More at Understanding Romans.

Voluntary Justice

My last big discovery was that the system of justice established by God in the Torah is voluntary. The judges raised up to apply the law do not have a police force to enforce their decisions. All the judges can do was hear the cased brought before them. They cannot force people to appear before the court. All they can do was hear the testimonies of the people who came before them and announce their verdict. They will specify the amount of restitution that should be made if a crime had occurred, but they have no power to enforce their decisions (more at voluntary justice).

In a voluntary community, the only constraint on behaviour will be peer pressure from within the community. When a judge declares a person guilty, the elders of the community should help the person make restitution (they might even lend them the money). They should do what they can to help the person change their behaviour and live at peace with their neighbours.

If the guilty person rejects the judge's verdict, they are also resisting the wisdom of the people who are trusted by the rest of the people living in the community. They are undermining people who have loved and served them. Their relationship with the community that had sustained them would be dead.

The person rejecting a judge's verdict would be left out of all community activities (Deut 17:12). They will lose all the benefits that come from participating in its activities, including financial support and spiritual protection. Protection from evil (physical and spiritual) comes from belonging to a community. The price of this protection is submission to the justice imposed by the community.

The person who rejects the verdict of the judge respected in their community is rejecting the authority of its elders. This withdrawal of respect eliminates the elder's authority to provide spiritual protection for them. Spiritual protection comes through submission to elders who stand together against enemy attacks. When a person rejects the authority of their elders, their protection evaporates (1 Cor 5:5,13).

People who refuse to comply with the justice imposed by judges recognised within their will lose physical and spiritual protection. This might have more serious long-term consequences than the penalty they are attempting to escape, as those who refuse to submit to judges makes themselves vulnerable to evil.

If a person persists in doing evil, they become a threat to the peace and security of the community. The leaders might need to exclude them from the community to prevent further harm.

Moses' Achievement

I have often wondered why Christians ignore the Old Testament teaching on how to govern a nation.

God gave a complete system of laws and government to Moses. The Israelites did not need a system of government while they were slaves, but once they went into the new land, they did. God gave them what they needed, yet we ignore it. Ok, its hidden amongst some other stuff, but it there for those who look. The only problem is that most don't bother.

It feels like arrogance. We are much smarter than the primitive people that Moses led into the promised land, so we can develop a system of government for ourselves. We don't need the one that God gave them.

I think Moses was amazing. Not only did he defeat the leading world emperor of his time and bring his people into a new land (with God's help), he listened to God and recorded a full description of the tabernacle and its operation, guidance for economic life, as well as a complete system of laws and government. I have been following Jesus for forty years, and during that time I have tried to hear the voice of God, distinguishing his word from my thoughts. It is not easy. So hearing and receiving all this wisdom from God is an amazing achievement.

Moses did not have the Holy Spirit within him, as we do. He seemed to have to go up a mountain or into a tent of meeting to hear God speak. Yet with these disadvantages, he was able to hear God and record a complete set of laws for the functioning of a society and describe a system of judges for applying them. He also developed a system of temporary military leaders to protect the people from external attack. That is an amazing achievement, albeit with help from God.

I am not too proud to learn from all that God taught Moses. Yet many people believe that they can do better without God. They think that they can develop their own system of government and write their own laws. That is arrogance, so it is no wonder these efforts have failed.


In this article, I have outlined the important insights into political theory that I received as I studied the scriptures and pondered the problems faced by modern political systems.

I realise that most people do not understand their significance. That is because they still have strong faith in political power. They believe that the situation in society or the economy will improve, if the right person (or the right political party) is elected to power. Unfortunately, the history of politics shows that this is a false hope.

I am patient. The time is getting closer when human trust in political power will be severely shaken. When that happens, they will begin searching for a form of government that does not rely on human wisdom and power. They will then be ready for the insights that I have shared.