By J. Parnell McCarter



The political philosophy taught in American public schools, and even most American “Christian” schools, is nothing short of abominable.  It is far more consistent with humanism and paganism than with anything Biblical.   We need schools and curricula which teach consistent with Biblical doctrines so excellently summarized in the original Westminster Standards.  (This is a primary rationale for the creation of Westminster Covenant Academy .)  This would have an impact upon the education in political philosophy, as well as a broad range of other subjects.  We must glorify God by keeping His commandments.  But we cannot keep His commandments unless we are educated in the will of God on the broad range of subjects which He addresses in the Bible.


So what are some of the main principles taught by the Westminster Standards on the subject of political philosophy?    The Westminster Standards teach that it is the duty of the civil magistrate to enforce both tables of the Ten Commandments, while the government yet remains as a separate institution from the church.  As it states: “The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”  Not only are sins like murder and adultery to be suppressed by the state, but also sins like heresy and idolatry.  (To read the defense of John Calvin and Augustine that the magistrate should enforce both tables of the Ten Commandments , read http://www.puritans.net/tracts/bothtables.html .)  As part of enforcing both tables of the Ten Commandments, the magistrate should protect and defend the true church, while suppressing false churches.  This is commonly called the Establishment Principle.  Every nation on earth should have an established church, and that established church should adhere to the doctrines of the Westminster Standards.


The Ten Commandments should serve as the foundation for the laws of all the nations.  All the civil laws should be efforts to apply the principles of the Ten Commandments to the various circumstances that exist in those nations.  As the Westminster Confession so aptly describes it: “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.  This law, after his Fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.”  Circumstances vary from nation to nation, and from era to era, but the principles which guide nations in making civil laws to address those circumstances remain the same.  As anyone will know who has studied the Westminster Larger Catechism, the moral law summarized in the Ten Commandments is very broad and very deep.


There is a half-baked, half-witted theory proposed by some Christians, that argues all nations are bound by the judicial laws given specifically to Israel.  If such a theory were consistently applied, it would mean all nations would be subject to the various dietary laws (like no pork) and clothing ordinances given uniquely to Israel.  But this is an absurd proposition, because Ephesians 2:11-22 (as well as many other passages) teach that God has abolished the requirement of those laws which separated Israel from the Gentile nations, leaving all nations under the obligation of the moral law alone.  As the Westminster Confession points out: “Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.  To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”


History offers us some excellent examples of nations which implemented the political philosophy generally represented in the Westminster Standards.  John Calvin’s Geneva, John Knox’s Scotland, and Scotland during the 1640s  are just some examples.  In each of these states, there was a reformed established church adhering to a reformed confession.  The church government of the established church was Presbyterian.  Only communicant members of the established church were allowed to vote or hold civil office in Parliament or Council.  The magistrate was expected to enforce both tables of the Ten Commandments, yet not to interfere in those activities like the administration of the Word and sacraments and the ordination and election of church officers, which God has reserved as functions and prerogatives of His church.


This is the political philosophy which again needs to be taught to students.