Why does the church follow the doctrine of the divine right of kings, in this country (USA) ?   The founding fathers established a government based on limited government and a free market economy.   Did the first century church believe in no king but king Jesus ?

[editor’s note: This question included a long list of sources on the topic, but these are below my answer for the sake of readability]


By “our church” I assume you are referring to the ICOC.  The ICOC does not have a doctrine or even an accepted teaching on the divine right of kings.  I have no idea why you believe that “we” believe in the divine right of kings.  Perhaps you can explain to me why you feel the ICOC accepts this doctrine.

In fact, as a fellowship we have generally avoided taking political stances on such debatable topics for good reason.  Churches which take strong political stances tend to be divisive and tend to exclude certain people from their fellowship.  Politics is one of the “weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4) and we, as disciples of Jesus, should not rely on politics to bring glory to God.  Jesus did not take political stands even when he was asked to do so.  For example, on the question of the Roman government he said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).  Jesus pointedly refused to disrespect the Roman government, even though this would have been a very popular thing to do.  To Jesus, the issue was not who is our king on earth but who is our king in heaven.

As for the teaching if the divine right of kings, this was a teaching of the Catholic Church which was adopted by many Protestants in the early phase of the Reformation, including the Anglican Church in England, as you point out.  The separation of church and state was not accepted by most Christian groups before the eighteenth century.  Important philosophers, most notably John Locke, rejected this teaching for very good reason.  There is no reason to believe that God chooses one political system over another.  It is unlikely that God prefers government by kings or dictators over government by “the people” as was supported by John Locke.  For myself, personally, I would prefer to live in a democracy.  Kings/dictators tend to become autocratic and to rule by force, which tends to limit personal freedom, including religious freedom.

Having said that, it is not obvious that Christianity does better under democracy.  The church in the first three centuries did pretty well, despite being under a “king” who hated the Church.  There is no Christian doctrine of what is the best form of government.

Bear in mind, that under the Old Covenant, God ruled his people through a king.  It is possible to defend the idea that God saw David or Josiah or Hezekiah as kings who ruled by “divine right.”  On the other side, the story of rule of God’s people by kings is dubious at best.  Nearly all the kings of Israel and Judah were unrighteous and kingship as a form of government was disastrous to the Jews. Samuel warned Israel against seeking a king (1 Samuel 8)

Bottom line, the ICOC does NOT support the doctrine of divine right of kings.  Neither does virtually any Christian group today, so I am not sure where you got this idea.  God does not have an official doctrinally correct form of government for the world.  God’s government is in the Kingdom of God, with God as king.  The Kingdom of God is definitely an example of “the divine right of kings” and God is the only truly legitimate king of his people, although God tells us to respect whatever ruler the world puts us under, whether it is a king, a dictator, a president or a prime minister (1 Peter 2:17). Our kings do not rule by divine right but we, as disciples of Jesus, should show proper respect and honor to whoever God allows to be over us, even if we do not agree with his/her politics.

John Oakes

Other material sent by the one who asked this question:

Here is another title page of a Leveller tract by John Lilburne, “Regall Tyrannie Discovered” (London, 1647). The Levellers were the first group to argue for the natural rights of individuals (especially property), religious toleration, and elected parliaments which were responsible to the people. They briefly challenged the divine right of kings to rule before they were crushed by Oliver Cromwell, but their political theory lived on to influence later generations leading up to the American Revolution 140 years later. The title page is an excellent counterpoise to the Hobbes’ title page because it literally rejects every principle advocated by Hobbes. Like many of the pamphlets produced during the revolution it was hastily composed and cheaply printed, often under cover to prevent the censors from seizing the copies before they were distributed. The author and printers had neither the money nor the skill to create well-designed title pages for their works. The best they could do was to use some inventive typesetting to arrange the paragraphs on the front page in interesting and artistic shapes. The tract is over 200 pages in length and Lilburne wanted to give a summary of his main arguments on the title page – hence the very lengthy “sub-title” (if you can call it that) in which he calls the king and parliament “delinquents”, “ruffians,” “invaders,” “rotten” members, and “tyrants.” He had in mind exactly the kind of monarch which Hobbes had on his title page. Here is a transcription:

Regall Tyrannie discovered:


A Discourse, shewing that all lawfull (approbational) instituted power by God amongst men, is by common agreement, and mutual consent. Which power (in the hands of whomsoever) ought alwayes to be exercised for the good, benefit, and welfare of the Trusters, and never ought other wise to be administered: Which, whensoever it is, it is justly resistable and revokeable; It being against the light of Nature and reason, and the end wherefore God endowed Man with understanding, for any sort or generation of men to give so much power into the hands of any man or men whatsoever, as to enable them to destroy them, or to suffer such a kind of power to be excercised over them, by any man or men, that shal assume it unto himself, either by the sword, or any other kind of way.

In which is also punctually declared,

The Tyrannie of the Kings of England, from the dayes of William the Invader and Robber, and Tyrant, alias the Conqueror, to this present King Charles, Who is plainly proved to be worse, and more tyrannicall then any of his Predecessors, and deserves a more severe punishment from the hands of this present Parliament, then either of the dethroned Kings, Edw. 2. or Rich. 2. had from former Parliaments; which they are bound by duty and oath, without equivocation or colusion to inflict upon him, He being the greatest Delinquent in the three Kingdoms, and the head of all the rest.

Out of which is drawn a Discourse, occasioned by the Tyrannie and Injustice inflicted by the Lords, upon that stout-faithful-lover of his Country, and constant Sufferer for the Liberties thereof, Lieut. Col. John Lilburn, now prisoner in the Tower.

In which these 4. following Positions are punctually handled.

1. That if it were granted that the Lords were a legall jurisdiction, and had a judicative power over the Commons; yet the manner of their dealing with Mr. Lilburn, was, and is illegall and unjust. 2. That the Lords by right are no Judicature at all. 3. That by Law and Right they are no Law makers. 4. That by Law and Right it is not in the power of the king, nor in the power of the House of Commons it selfe, to delegate the legislative power, either to the Lords divided, or conjoyned; no, nor to any other person or persons whatsoever.

Vnto which is annexed a little touch, upon some palbable miscarriages, of some rotten Members of the House of Commons: which House, is the absolute sole lawmaking, and law-binding Interest of England.

LONDON, Printed Anno Dom. 1647.”

Thank you for clearing up this mystery for me.  Just as scriptures are sometimes twisted, so too our constitution can be misapplied, and twisted.
An examole is the seperation between church and state.  The intent was for our government to be limited, and to have no way of instituting a national religion.  It did not intend to build a wall to separate church from state.

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