Total Depravity and the Government

Conservatives want a small government. Liberals want a larger government. It seems like every election year the reasons for both sides are brought up, some more valid than others.

But what if (there’s that question) we think about this issue theologically, specifically through the doctrine of total depravity? I don’t know how many times I heard growing up that I should trust in humans to do the right thing. Then again, I grew up in more of an Arminian tradition. But in the Reformed tradition, we hold strongly to total depravity as we see in the Belgic Confession: ” . . . since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is ‘given him from heaven’ . . . For there is not understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement” (Article 14).

The government, in many ways, is there to regulate human behavior (we see this most prominently in the justice system). There is a need for government because given the chance, humans will not act in the best interests of God, but rather on behalf of themselves or their people (which, apart from Christ’s involvement, are not conformed to the will of God). Theologically, I think it is difficult to get around having a large government in place to regulate the actions of sinful human beings. As Christians, I think we should be looking at political issues through a theological lens, even if it means we have to pay higher taxes at the end of the day.

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