As our society drifts farther from sound Biblical truths in government, more and more Christians see the need to conform our laws to Biblical standards. This is a difficult task, not only because of the lack of consensus in society, but because even we Christians are often ignorant of the extensive teaching present in the Scripture. Reconstructionists are certainly more knowledgeable than most Christians, but even so, it takes time, effort, and discussion to translate Biblical specifics into practical laws for our day. And often, those who rise to the task find it a lonely one. What is needed is a way to educate larger numbers of Christians in this important area.
In recent years there have been a number of excellent materials published pertaining to the application of Biblical principles to government. Some of these include foundational works such as Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law and other more study-oriented works such as DeMar’s three-volume set on God and Government. I am pleased to report that now The Committee for Biblical Principles in Government has printed several Bible studies which are suitable for Sunday School classes, small groups and individual use. The first of these, The Challenge of Godly Government, includes twelve chapters covering family, church and state, the Constitution, pluralism, education, taxation and others. The second, The Challenge of Godly Justice, includes twelve chapters covering the nature of justice, the purpose of government, ministers of justice, civil disobedience, capital punishment, and ecclesiastical justice. Leaders’ guides are available for each Bible study.
The development of these studies grew from the efforts of a small group of people with a vision. The Committee for Biblical Principles in Government had its roots in The Tualatin Valley Prayer and Information Chain, started by Mrs. Frances Rath in 1986. The prayer chain, involving about 25 churches, focused on issues of the day mostly on a local level. It distributed educational bulletin inserts on the Biblical role of government written by Pastor Dennis Tuuri of Reformation Covenant Church in Portland, Oregon.
Over time, the Lord gave Mrs. Rath a burden to educate legislators in the Biblical principles of government. She approached me, as head elder of our church, Reformation Bible Church, and we began organizing the Committee. In 1993 we incorporated as a non-profit educational organization with the express purpose of producing educational materials promoting the application of Biblical understanding and practice in government. I served as President and Chairman of the Board and reviewer. Mrs. Rath served as secretary, treasurer, author and compiler. Legal work was provided pro-bono by a local Christian lawyer. Mrs. Rath organized a team of reviewers and we went to work.
The same year, 1993, the Committee published “Biblical References for Legislators,” a 500-page, loose-leaf compilation of Scripture, articles and bibliographic references. It included chapters entitled “Capital Punishment,” “Government, Education,” and “Homosexuality and Life Issues.” We distributed 14 manuals to legislators as gifts paid for by donations. Another 20 were purchased by pastors and 41 by Christian activists. Thirteen of these people were educators and lecturers of notable ability. Many of these customers and supporters knew nothing of Christian Reconstruction, but just the same, they believed that God’s word holds the answers, even for government.
A year and a half later, the Committee realized that these books were too big, too expensive and too intimidating. We desired something targeted to a much wider audience. Small booklets could introduce material a step at a time and challenge users to study Reconstruction and other materials on their own. Our vision was growing from one of educating legislators to educating the electorate.
We began field testing The Challenge of Godly Government in 1995. These lessons consist of Scriptures, questions and essays excerpted from Gary DeMar, Charles Colson, John Eidsmoe, David Barton, Robert Dabney and others. In a bold move, Oregon State Representative Charles Starr and unofficial legislative chaplain Pastor Frank Carpenter, both members of our board, began using this study in a class for legislators and capitol staff. With very encouraging results and enthusiasm on the part of those attending, we printed 2,000 copies. They were picked up for distribution by Great Christian Books, the Christian Supply chain of eight stores around Portland, and Westminster Theological Seminary bookstores in Escondido and San Diego, California. Steve Walker, Elder at Immanuel’s Reformed Church, had this to say about the class he field tested:
I used the booklet in an adult Sunday school class of about 30 people at Immanuel in Salem during the year 1995. Even though many were politically active they did not always understand the Biblical rationale for their involvement. These lessons caused the class members to discuss from Scripture God’s approach to economics, taxation, worldviews and much more. A single lesson often went several weeks due to the excellent discussions provoked by these materials. At the end of the series the class had a very good grasp of the difference between conservative and Biblical thinking in government.
Next, the Committee began work on The Challenge of Godly Justice. Representative Starr again field tested with another class in the 1997 session. Two study groups evolved and Pastor Mike O’Brien joined as the second moderator. These classes were visited off and on by as many as 50 leaders and activists in positions of influence. They finished the session in six months with 8 legislators, 6 legislative assistants, 11 lobbyists, the Oregon Director of the AFL-CIO and a local pastor. Representative Lynn Snodgrass, House Majority Leader commented:
The study prompted good participation and communication. It was a great resource and strong reinforcement for Biblical principles in government.
Jim Lockwood, Legislative Liaison to the Oregon Department of Corrections, a regular attendee, said of the study booklet:
Have you prayerfully considered how the law of the Old Testament and the grace of the New Testament meld to give God’s direction on such tough issues as capital punishment, restitution to crime victims and qualifications for the elections of leaders? Is current practice in opposition to the foundations of America’s original justice system? The Challenge of Godly Justice will serve as your guide to these and many other issues. It will help you be a better citizen not only of this great country, but of His Kingdom as well!
Representative Starr noted that the section on the Biblical approach to crime and punishment provoked considerable discussion and led to a much deeper understanding of the problems of our justice system today. Students were visibly distressed over how far America has strayed from Cod’s intentions. (One legislative student attended a Reconstruction conference and “loaded up” with Rushdoony, and other greats—obviously determined to re-educate herself.) Another tremendous benefit was the resulting prayer support among legislators. Prayer for issues arising during the week became a regular part of the class meetings, a new development observed by Starr.
The Committee is currently working on The Challenge of Godly Citizenship, which should be in field testing by the end of this year.
The development of these studies continues to be a team effort. Presently a dozen committed volunteers from as many different churches, including four pastors, are donating many hours to reviewing lessons with Mr. and Mrs. Rath. It is a great blessing to all of us to see a project of this sort bring together Christians from such diverse backgrounds. In a very real sense, we are able to repeat with the Psalmist “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).
We have garnered endorsements from several nationally known individuals including former U. S. Congressman William Dannemeyer, Rev. Peter J . Marshall, Rev. Marshall Foster and Rosalie Slater of the Foundation for American Christian Education. We are most grateful for their support and their promotion of these publications.
Determined to avoid any debt, the Committee has operated from its inception without any paid staff or board members, and no rented office space. Each publication has started with seed money from small donations, and then paid for itself in sales. This has enabled us to keep costs low and to remain debt free. As with any small non-profit organization, we are always looking for a benefactor, but we continue to fulfill our calling with the resources Cod has provided.
It is difficult to evaluate the impact of our ministry. Fortunately, Cod is in charge and oversees the whole program. We have seen this clearly as we work with other individuals, groups and ministries. God is at work in our land, including our government. By his grace, one day Christian principles shall again prevail across the face of America. It is our hope and our prayer that we may contribute to this in some small way.
Dr. John Shaw holds a Ph.D. in physics, owns and runs Shaw Technologies, Inc., a business providing digital signal processing consulting expertise to the Portland area, and Is the primary teaching elder at Reformation Bible Church, a small Reconstructionist congregation in Aloha, Oregon. He continues to serve on the board of the Committee.
Representative Charles Starr, another board member, just finished his third term in the Oregon House of Representatives, where he served most recently on the Family Law and Civil Law subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. He owns Starr Boys Garden Center and Charles Starr and Associates Roofing and Contracting.
Chairman of the Board, Pastor Frank Carpenter, is Associate Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hillsboro and has been unofficial chaplain of the Oregon Legislature for ten years.
Board member Frances Rath and her retired husband Dale Rath own a farm west of Portland and have served many years in Republican politics in Washington County.
Rev. Dennis Tuuri, a close associate of the Committee, has given invaluable assistance in the review and promotion of our booklets. He is pastor of Reformation Covenant Church and leads a Reconstructionist congregation of 35 families. He is founder and director of Parent’s Education Association Political Action Committee, a lobbying group focusing primarily on home-schooling. He also directs state wide Reconstruction events called Geneva Conferences.
Other board members are Rev. Mike O’Brien, founder/director of Public Leadership Ministries. He is a member of Rolling Hills Community Church. President Bob Barnett, manager/owner of Beaverton Grocery Outlet and an elder at Reformation Bible Church.