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government of god -salvianI downloaded this weeks book from CCEL.org and am greatly blessed by their contributions on the site. It comes from Salvian a fifth century theologian and the title is “The Government of God” which is his magnum opus.

I was very much impressed by this work to be honest because I approached it thinking he will have many mistakes and under developments in his overall theology but was totally wrong! Salvian has nuggets of truth in this work. He is orthodox and quotes Scripture proficiently. I’m quite surprised.

His main topic is as the title says the government of God, specifically over the Roman Empire. Many heresies were arising on the providence of God and His sovereignty over all things; people would be asking “why are we Christians suffering if God is in control?” “Is He really in control?” etc.

When Salvian answered these questions while defending the full sovereignty of God he had opposition saying that if God decrees everything and is fully sovereign then whence comes evil? Salvian answered, “God says that he moves and ordains all things: let that suffice” (pg. 64).

Here are some of the main topics he deals with:
1. The government of God proved by the general conviction of mankind, and by his judgment recounted in the books of Moses
2. The necessity of faith and good works
3. The burdens of taxation
4. Transgressions of the divine law
5. Men’s opposition to the law
6. God’s hatred of theaters
7. Humility and pride
8. The wickedness of Africa
9. Regulation of marriage

and much much more.

Salvian’s theological knowledge is very good. He touches the doctrine of providence but doesn’t limit it to that.

Read some of the interesting quotes I found in his work:

[Can God repent? A Reformed answer from Salvian] “God therefore repented,” says the Holy Scripture, “that he had made man on the earth”; this does not indicate that God is subject to repentance or any other emotion, but rather that the divine word, to further our understanding of the true meaning of the Scriptures, speaks to us in terms of human feeling and shows the force of God’s anger under the name of repentance; moreover, the divine wrath is the punishment of the sinner.” (pg. 51)

[On the Israel of God] “Israel means “Seeing God,” since indeed [it is] Christians who believe faithfully see him with faith in their hearts” (pg. 62)

[Sounding very presuppositional] “One thing, however, I should like to know before I begin—whether I am to address my words to Christians or to pagans. If to Christians, I do not doubt that I shall prove my case. But if I speak to pagans, I should scorn the attempt, not for any lack of proofs, but because I despair of profit from my discourse. Surely it is fruitless and lost labor when a perverse listener is not open to conviction. Yet because I think there is no one belonging to the Christian name who does not at least wish to seem a Christian, I shall address my words to Christians, However many pagans still adhere to their impious unbelief, it is enough for me to prove my contentions to a Christian audience.” (pg. 70)

[Affirming Luther’s simul justus et peccator statement] “…that although we are guilty in every respect, we still believe ourselves to be pure and holy” (pg. 72)

[On the complaints of Christians in the Roman Empire that God is neglecting them] “What right have we to whisper that God does not look upon the earth, when we ourselves do not look up to the heavens?” (pg. 79)

The conclusion of his queries was that God is forsaking His people because they have forsaken him. In fact the barbarians are less guilty than Christians because they have the law written on their hearts while Christians have the law revealed. Obedience to God’s commandments therefore brings blessings upon Christians, their families, churches and societies.

Overall this book was great and an excellent historical resource on the theological and practical position of the 5th century church.

I gave it a 4.5/5!