Fear is a powerful motivator and detractor.  Fear can distort our perception of reality and cause us to see situations, circumstances, people in a completely different light.  Fear will cause us to project an undesirable outcome upon those situations and imagine endless detrimental possibilities.

So often in Scripture, we are told not to fear.  Jesus tells His disciples on many occasions not to fear since He is there.  After His earthly departure, He would send a comforter to allay fears.  Paul tells Timothy, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but love, power and a sound mind.  John writes in his epistle, that there is no fear in love, for perfect love (meaning Christ) casts out fear because fear involves torment.  Yet, the believer can allow fear to seep in and distract from the peace that Christ brings and even justify fear in the face of alarming circumstances that stand counter-opposed to the Christian values we are striving to uphold.

It seems to me, and I could be wrong, there seems to be a vapor of fear circulating among evangelical circles these days.  I believe that several factors are motivating this fear but the chief instigator seems to be the current political administration.  Let’s face it, there are policies and practices being proposed that undercut and undermine a politically conservative platform, the same platform that most evangelicals share due to closest alignment of values based on a Biblical worldview.

Whether it be universal health care, internet policies, taxation of business or a presidential speech made to school children, the actions of the current administration are alarming many.  Not to mention, the administration’s pro-abortion stance.  So much so, I believe that there is a perception of detriment that I wonder is not being amplified because of fear.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there is no cause for concern, especially if you are a politically conservative evangelical.  But I do get the sense that we are allowing that fear to draw unmitigated and slightly irrational conclusions about things that on face value, do not warrant the kind of response that some actions have drawn, such as delivering a motivational speech to school age children.  Al Mohler has written a very insightful piece concerning this (here).

I agree with Dr. Mohler concerning what the Christian response should be according to Scripture.  For I find the average evangelical response interesting in contrast to Biblical prescription and practices in the early church.  Paul encourages a response to government that I think is most intriguing considering the atheist, plurastic and hedonistic Roman government ruled during that time.  If we think our’s is immoral, it is saintly in comparison.  He writes in Romans 13:1-3,to submit to governing authorities for by doing so you are subjecting to God.  Moreover, he indicates that the authorities are not a cause for fear.  Even then, with what Christians faced the rule was to pray for government and submit to it.  Why?  Because God is the ultimate authority and it is God who is ultimately in control.

I further get the sense that  fear is causing us to want a government response to our concerns because American Christians Evangelicals have developed an expectation that government should align with a Biblical worldview and we should have no participation with one that doesn’t.  I suspect this is why there has been so much evangelical entwinement with the political process in order to control outcomes.  Perhaps it was the foundation of religious freedom that the country was founded on or maybe the fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century that sought to impose a Christian standard on society.  I think fear played a significant factor in these efforts since a “godless” society would inevitably be much more difficult to live in than one displaying the same moralistic values that should so distinguish the proper Christian.

I do find the contrast of political affiliation during the early church in contrast to today interesting.  There were no protests from Christians for the government to align with their values.  Even Paul, a Roman citizen, did not seek to gain political clout for the sake of Christianity.  In fact, it were the Jewish rulers who sought political good will in order to enhance their agenda.

Fear of any type of government misalignment with Christian values should not be a cause for concern for the believer.  It is not that we are not concerned about the current political direction of this country but a non-conformity to this world (Romans 12:2) means we don’t put our trust in the system.  A believer’s trust is in God because He is the one ultimately in control.  A believer  can submit to government because our trust is not in government but in God.  We don’t have to overreact to every move the current administration makes.  We can allow our children to be encouraged to take responsibility for their education by a government official opposed to a Biblical worldview because hopefully at home, we are instructing our children what one is.  I also think we can dispense from comparing our commander in chief to Hitler or Stalin because that does much to instigate fear that stands in opposition to position we should be taking according to Scripture.

If we belong to Christ, we are His and that should comfort us in spite of present and perceptions of pending circumstances.

    74 replies to "A Theology of Fear and Government Mistrust"

    • Xulon

      I think the questions are good ones, but they can be asked without the labeling that American Conservatism as “Christian” (or at least so intertwined with “christian values” as to be indistinguishable) and the current administration is not (and so the fringe’s blind hatred is legitimatized). These are serious misrepresentations of both Christianity and the politics of our day for the sake of scoring political points. It is polarizing rhetoric and not “engaging the culture”.

    • Xulon


      By not buying the “Conservativism=Christianity” equation I’ve lost credibility with this crowd.

      In any case, you ask all the liberals that have been thrown under the bus by Obama’s compromises with the anti-reform people about how “scary, radically Liberal” Obama is. “Liberal” is most often used in political debate as a label to scare people. It is not used as an accurate description. Obama is somewhat left of center, no doubt left of you, but there is nothing radical scary about him.

    • Marvin the Martian


      I would like to know what compromises with anti-reform people Obama has made.

      I will grant that Obama has been surprisingly strong on the Afghan war front. I will also grant that inspite of all the “get out of Iraq now” campaign talk, more than likely, the course of action Obama has taken there mirrors what McCain would have done had he won.

      But on the domestic policy front, I can’t see a single thing that could not be classified as an attempt to pull the country in a very left direction.

      He is certianly the most radical abortion supporter that has been in the Oval Office. He issued an Executive order declaring the month of June the country’s official Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, and Transgendered pride month. He has quadrupled government spending (which doesn’t include healthcare reform spending). I could go on but you get the point. I think it is clear that Obama views his presidency as a transformative one. And in my opinion, it isn’t a transformation to a “center-left” country, but a left/far left one.

      I am curious, just what more would you personally like Obama to be doing to “reform” the country.

    • Xulon

      Yes, War is one of those Conservatism=Christian issues. Glad you like him there. If only he can find some country he can lie our country into invading, maybe there is hope that he’s a Christian.

      I wonder if your saying Obama was all “get out of Iraq now” reflects what Obama really said or are you depending on somebody’s partisan hackery. Okay, I really don’t wonder. It’s partisan hackery and not what Obama said.

    • Marvin the Martian


      OK. Now that you were able to get some snarky shots in, would you please answer my questions?

      Namely where has comprosied with “anti-reform” people and what more would you like to see Obama doing to reform the country? Who are the liberals he has thrown under the bus?

    • Xulon

      Well, you did misrepresent Obama’s campaign in your “Obama is scary radical” pique. You bought into labels and did not even listen.

      Compromises: Single payer (medicare for everyone). Off the table without a whimper. The whole summer has been the white house conceding to the anti-reform people (who still hate him, will still lie about him and will not vote for the bill) hoping for “bipartisanship”. Why is it that the public option, which is favored by over 70% of the people, is constantly being offered up for jettison? Over70% of the people are being treated like a fringe while screechers “making stuff up” and companies pouring millions of dollars into Washington are openly at the table dictating the debate. Go to progressive sites and see how upset they are about what very much feels like a sell-out.

      I favor medicare for everyone. Canada is hardly “socialist” and the “horror stories” about their health system are stories. One Canadian wrote that it is more likely for a Canadian to be struck by lightening than for him to go to US for healthcare. Canadians (and British) are disgusted about the lies the anti-reform people have spread about their systems. The US is 37th in the WHO ranking of healthcare systems. Add to that the open collusion between insurance companies to raise prices and lower benefits. Plus the insurance companies really do have death panels.

      I want more transparency from the government. We had none for the last 8 years, Obama has given some, but there needs to be more.

      I want torture investigations and prosecutions. Not for the Lynde Englunds but for the architects who gave the orders and the justifications all the way up to Cheney/Bush (you know, the “Christians”). If laws were broken, they are not above the law.

      So, I’ve given you some meat. Enjoy.

    • Michael

      I’m trying to understand your view and having difficulty understanding where you are coming from. You talk about the spread of Christian ideals eliminating the need for government. Now I agree that there will obviously come a day when peace with reign and there will not be such a need. However, I don’t see such a day coming till Christ returns. In the mean time the world is not Christian and is not becoming more Christian. In fact it is becoming less Christian. I don’t think that the horribleness of human depravity can be overstated in the present age. Even among Christians how many do you know that are perfectly sanctified and perfectly Christlike?? I’ve been a Christian for 20 years and as time passes I realize more and more how un-Christlike I am. In the absence of a coercive force which threatens people with violence should they misbehave the depravity of humanity will come out and we will end up with survival of the fittest, not some Christian utopia.

      Also I think Cheryl’s point about Romans 13 is very valid. There are verses in the Bible which have obvious cultural applications (for instance the “holy kiss” was a cultural greeting – perhaps today we should greet each other with a hug). However, Romans 13 doesn’t seem to have anything which would allow us to assert that Paul was only talking about the Roman government or only talking about oppressive governments. It seems to me Paul was talking about “all” governments including those in existence today.

    • Joe

      To the Martian who doesn’t want to pay taxes to the government:

      Romans 13.5 ff NIV:

      “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

      This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.

      Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

    • cheryl u


      Did you maybe miss that Marvin said he dutifully pays his taxes?

      And you know what, these posts could be a lot more enjoyable if you didn’t insist on being so snarky about his name.

    • Joe

      Mr. Martian:

      I’ve worked for both private non-profit charities, and government (state, local, and federal). And honestly, the most waste I ever saw, was in non-profit charities.

      Non-profit charities are extremely poorly administered; or top-heavy with administration salaries and profits. Related to this: they have extremely high overhead/administrative/”program” costs.

      And unfortunately, it is legal. By some state’s laws, to qualify as a private charity, you only have to deliver as little as 4% or less of total contributions, as care, service, goods, to those you “help.”

      If you are helping the poor: thank you. But in my own experience, government has done a better job at that, believe it or not.

      If you give money, that’s good. But just citing money amounts is misleading: consider the many liberals, who do not give money … but who give their time. Indeed, their entire lives. There are many extremely capable people who could be working at jobs that could make them a lot more money … but who prefer to work at jobs that don’t pay much, but help other people: social work, etc..

      For that reason, I’d rather support government- based charity. Through taxes.

      See by the way, Romans 13.5 NIV, on the importance of paying your – explicitly – “taxes.”

    • Marvin the Martian

      “I’ve worked for both private non-profit charities, and government (state, local, and federal). And honestly, the most waste I ever saw, was in non-profit charities.

      Non-profit charities are extremely poorly administered; or top-heavy with administration salaries and profits. Related to this: they have extremely high overhead/administrative/”program” costs.

      If you are helping the poor: thank you. But in my own experience, government has done a better job at that, believe it or not. ”


      I can assure you that the charities I give to do NOT waste money. The charities I choose to give to have annual audits performed by independent firms that demonstrate roughly 90% of my money goes directly to those I am intending to help.

      I don’t doubt that there are in fact many charities that are wasteful or have exhorbitant “overhead” costs. All that means is that the donor should do some investigation before writing out that check. I do. If the charity doesn’t have financial statements for public review (I am an accountant), then they wont see a dime from me. I also work for a government agency and I see the waste first hand. I don’t think that preferring to give my hard earned money to charities to help the poor as opposed to government programs via taxation makes me a bad guy. However, just about everyone from your side of the ideological spectrum thinks that I am (and judging from the tenor of your posts directed towards me, that would include you).

      You do not own the morality argument when it comes to this topic (taxes for government programs) and I am frankly tired of your side prattling on as if you do. Your notion that because I don’t agree with your idea of charity through government aid means I “hate humans” is sophomoric and insulting to me. As I mentioned before, I DUTIFULLY PAY MY TAXES, but I also choose to give to charity (in fact I gave as much to charity as I paid in taxes last year) for the simple fact that I believe the charities I give to are vastly more efficient in providing for the needy than the government is.

    • Michael

      You are right that there are some non-profit organizations out there that are poorly run and do pay their upper echelon managers obscene salaries, however this is not the general rule. Every statistic I have ever seen indicates that most respected charities are far more efficient then the government. I have given to Samaritan’s Purse in the past and last year 89% of their funds taken in went directly to ministry, 6% was spent on fundraising, and only 5% went to administrative expenses. The American Red Cross is slightly over 90% in their efficiency.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Joe, you said

      “Non-profit charities are extremely poorly administered; or top-heavy with administration salaries and profits. Related to this: they have extremely high overhead/administrative/”program” costs.”

      Are you aware that any non-profit organization that receives $300,000 or more MUST complete an independent financial audit, detailing the accounting of their revenues and expenses?

      Also, are you aware that all non-profit organizations MUST complete an IRS tax return (form 990) disclosing their revenues, expenses and sources of major donations? This is public information and accessible to everyone.

      Also, are you aware that the primary sources of funding for non-profit organizations are government funds (federal, state, local) and large non-profit institutions, such as United Way? These funders, most of whom I have worked with, hold their funded agencies to accountability standards that ensure they AREN’T being wasteful or have excessive administrative costs.

      I would be interested to see how the accounting of organization that have to comply with these standards compares to the government spreadsheet. I say this in way of defense of the non-profit organizations who based their efforts on mission rather than profit but must do so responsibly with the funding they receive.

      Also, I want to encourage you to adopt or more civil tone when discussing differences. We will all not agree but dissents should be handled as graciously as possible. Thanks.

    • J.R.

      I’m sorry it took so long to thank you for your response Lisa.

      For some people, Evangelical Christianity is there justification for the American Revolution. Many feel America was born out of a revolution which was justified for the sake of our religious freedom. But in truth, the American Revolution was contrary to the teachings in Romans 13:1-7.

      Thankfully, God has blessed this country even though it was born out of defiance to His word.

    • Lisa Robinson

      J.R., yes I agree with you. In reality, the government of this country was founded by rationalist deists who sought freedom of religion. That is really not too far a stretch from freedom from religion. We shouldn’t be surprised at the leap.

      Yes, God truly has blessed America.

    • Stephen

      This is a topic which has come up between me and my fellow disciples. I believe that it is true that God puts in place all governments. I think its true that God created satan (job 41) and that satan is king over all men of pride (job 41:34, John 8:34 and 41). I believe people who are not ruled over by God who IS the Love that Jesus teaches is going to be living though pride and ruled over by satan’s world. Do I believe that makes God evil? Of course not, because like scripture shows he can not tempt us because he has no evil in Him, He merely pours out onto mankind their own iniquities…satan being the overseer of that.

      When it comes to governments look at the OT. As the people would become ungodly/unLoveing/fleshly and selfish they would become ruled over. A perfect example is in 1 Samuel starting in chapter 8. Samuel is the judge who gives God’s judgments of righteousness to the people. As they become less godly people no longer want Godlines ruling over them. They now want a king like all the other nations. Selfish people can’t accept righteous judgment, they don’t understand it. The people ask for a king and God tells Samuel, its not you they reject, its Me. And so He gives them king Saul.

      We don’t have a big government because God wanted it for us; we have it because as a nation we have left Godliness. We are a prideful and selfish nation who will be ruled over accordingly. We will have our own iniquities poured out on our heads.

      In this situation we can see in the OT that the only thing that changes the situations is the people on an individual basis turning back to Godliness and tearing down their idols.

      If you want to fight big government and eventual communism you don’t do so by fighting the government. You do so by teaching the people about pure and Holy Love just as Jesus did in order to turn them away for selfishness and toward living in God’s Love. A body of people who are ruled over by Love don’t need to be ruled over by Satan and his version of government.

      This it’s a Truth that can be seen on a national level, organizational level, and personal level. The more evil I became the more of satan’s bondage and control I was under. The iniquity I poured out was always the iniquity that was poured onto my head.

      There is a difference between God controlling people with their own iniquity/nature and God controlling people with His own nature of Love….people have to be willing to accept the latter.

      with His Love in me,

    • Del


      I don’t know if the world will get better (more Christ-like) or worse before the coming of Christ. I guess it depends upon your eschatological views. I believe that Christ came at a time when humanity was most ready to receive the Good News and a time that would most ensure its successful propagation.

      I believe that God expects us to spread the Word and I assume that we will be successful at reaching most of the world. So, I also assume that we will be successful at bringing about a certain level of peace in the world closer to the conditions that will exist during His reign. Is this a non-sequitur? Is the purpose of spreading the gospel world-wide so that we can see what a failure the church has been at it? Maybe. I hope not.

      I think it’s clear that the world is becoming less Christ-like, at least in the short term, but I don’t necessarily believe that Christ will come in our lifetimes either. Most generations (including the first generation) thought He would return in their lifetimes so I’m not really concerned that there has been a setback. The Dark Ages were a bit of a setback too.

      I don’t think it’s necessary for Christians to become super sanctified or even a little bit sanctified for that matter to live peacefully with our fellow man. It really comes down to the most basic teachings of Christ. Love the Lord. Love your fellow man.

      As for the need for coercive force. Do you need coercive force from the government to keep you in line? Of course not! I don’t either. In fact I don’t know anyone else that would start robbing banks in the absence of coercive force. There will alway be people that will. There are even ways to deal with violent people that doesn’t require a government to keep them in line.

      I know this doesn’t seem possible because it’s something we’re not used to considering (just like it was ridiculous at one time to imagine the industrialized world without slavery). The more we spread the simple Good News the sooner we can do away with our coercive governments. There’s actually a lot of literature about non-coercive options to government. I believe it’s a future in line with Christ’s teaching, worth pursuing, and available to us in anticipation of Christ’s coming. Will it be perfect? Of course not. Christ is coming to set all things right after all. But it will be an improvement.

      I don’t have any real problem applying Romans 13 to today’s government for the reasons I’ve stated in previous blog comments. Do I pay taxes? Yes. Do I like it? No. While we’re on Romans 13 can you explain to me verse 3? Does the NIV translate this right? I seriously want to know. It’s almost as though Paul is saying that government abuse doesn’t exist.

    • Ray D


      I am not sure I can agree with your statement,”In reality, the government of this country was founded by rationalist deists who sought freedom of religion. That is really not too far a stretch from freedom from religion. We shouldn’t be surprised at the leap.”

      Some were definitely deists but most were very devout Christians. All were theists, which I would think is far from atheists as you suggest. Even Jefferson and Franklin agreed that it would require people with Christian morals for the government they designed to survive.

      There idea of separation between church and state was in each ones sphere of responsibility. The government would, under the authority of God, do such things as raise a standing army, levy taxes, and make treaties. The church, under the authority of God, would be responsible for such things as morals, social behavior, and charity.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Ray, no atheism suggested. I don’t know that we can say any of them were. But neither should we pretend that all of our founding fathers were anachronistic evangelicals.

    • Ray D


      After rereading my post I see I didn’t make my point very clear. It seems to me “freedom from religion” is by it’s very nature atheistic. If there is no religion there can be no God. I think our founders were closer to establishing a Christian nation than they were to a “freedom from religion”/atheistic nation than modern history portrays.

      Our founders were trying to prevent a state religion supported by government taxes. Their intention was not to remove God from His place as the ultimate authority of all creation.

      The leap from freedom of religion the founders intended to the freedom from religion advocated today is a Grand Canyon of a leap.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Ray, I see your point but that is not what I meant. I think maybe the more appropriate wording would be freedom from religious control. And I am not suggesting that that was their intention as I don’t believe it was. I do understand the premise that our founding fathers were seeking to avoid government interference in worship and wanted to avoid a state run religion. I concur that they did not seek to “remove” God. But it seems to me that the very same principles that create the ability to worship free from government interference can be flipped to have a government free of religious expression. This was not the platform of the founders but it created the loophole, nonetheless. This works fine as long as the nation, as a whole, embraces theism but not so much when it doesn’t.

      But that was really a tangential point and not pertinent to the discussion, so I don’t want to hijack my own post 😀

    • Joe

      Having worked for several charities, I know that there are a few things that you need to look out for, even in cases where it appears that a high percentage of the money you give them gets to the target population.

      First 1) it doesn’t take much in many cases, to satisfy government regulations; all too little in fact. Even to pass a government audit. Many charities deliver 4% or less in real services, to the target population. And that’s legal; that passes government inspection.

      And 2) examine those figures and categories carefully. Even if 87% of your dollar goes to a “ministry” … that might just mean, your dollars are paying to keep your own church running; supporting your ministers, their salaries, and so forth. But if you are supporting the church that you attend, then in effect, you are really giving money to … yourself. That’s not really charity; that fee for service.

      Then too 3) I’ve seen private charities that are very, very undiscerning in documenting whether client needs are genuine, or feigned.

      To be sure, there are some people who claim to be poor but aren’t, on government programs; there are many fakers, “malingerers, slackers, shirkers,” as they are called. But the government has access to many records; which means that this is harder for people to do to the government itself. So Social Security is much better administered than even “private” charities that take government money.

      4) For these and many other reasons, I very firmly believe that the major, fully governmental charities – Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid – are far, far, far better run than all but the very most efficient private charities.

      6) And therefore, ironically, paying your taxes, is the best way to support charity; so long as the government continues to take care of its people.

      7) If you want to do BOTH, fine. But my first priority is paying taxes … cheerfully in fact.

      8) Then too, finding out which private charities are the really good ones, is extremely difficult. The only way to do that, is probably to look at their books … and also, sit down with the people receiving the charity. See how many benefits, actually make it all the way to the ground.

      I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor by the way: on the giving and receiving end, both. And if you really want to understand charity, that’s the perspective you need.

      Give up money for a while; then you’ll know.

      “Take up the cross and follow me.”

    • Ray D

      It has been an interesting rabbit trail, however it does lead back to the main path of your post. Just as our founders realized that in order to live in a civilized society there were certain areas of responsibility for the government, the church also had certain responsibilities. Chief among those was education. First and foremost spiritual and moral education, but it was not uncommon for the local pastor to be school teacher as well.

      Since we the Church have chosen to abdicate our responsibility to government schools it is no surprise they have used the opportunity to increase their power and control by preaching the importance of the state.
      Even worse it seems churches are no longer willing to teach the deep things of Christ.

      So, yes there is fear, there is anger, there is frustration. It is born out of ignorance and revisionist history. If the Church doesn’t want to address it there is an ism that will.

      Liberation theology is alive and active and the current administration has learned it well.

    • Joe

      In a “theocracy” – like the Jewish theocracy of classic, Davidic Jerusalem – the church IS the state; the state IS the church.

      So: when church and state split, that meant that many things due to the church, are now due to the government.

      Which is not to say they are no longer of God: Paul tells us that ultimately our “authorities” should be obeyed, because they are ultimately from God.

      Indeed, good government is simply one extension, branch, of the Church.

      Note Romans 13.6 ff, telling us to pay our taxes; in much the same way we contribute to churches: to support the poor, etc..

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