Mariano DiGangi is a former minister of Knox (Spadina) Presbyterian Church in Toronto. Dr. DiGangi is retired and lives in Ottawa.
This significant Declaration, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, was inspired by German Christians who were horrified and terrified by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi hordes.
By costly commitment, resisting totalitarianism demands, they expressed their faith in the Barmen Declaration of 1934. Without compromise, they gave their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. The vibrant echoes of that Declaration made its impact on Canadian theologians such as Principal Walter Bryden, and pastors like Gordon Peddie and Stuart B. Coles. In time, an enlarged committee was formed to produce a statement of faith expressive of our Christological concern. It was my privilege to serve as the Committee's sub-convenor for almost four years.
In 1954, after a succession of memorials, overtures, amendments, and amendments to the amendments, the Declaration, whose focal point is the Lordship of Christ, took its final form. We are grateful for the pastors, professors, exegetes, and expositors whose work produced the Declaration. It was finally approved, under the Barrier Act, in 1955.
How shall we celebrate this document? By reading through the quotations here presented, of course. And more than that — to trust and obey the One who is at the heart of it all.
This version is edited slightly. Please go to www.presbyterian.ca/?wpdmdl=340& for the complete Declaration.
The Lordship of Christ in Church and State
The one holy triune God, sovereign Creator and Redeemer, has declared and established his kingdom over all powers in heaven and earth. By the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by his exaltation to the right hand of the Father, all things have been made subject to him, so that even age-long evil is overruled for good. We worship and obey Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings, Judge and Governor among the nations. He is both Head of the Church and Head of the Civil State, although their functions under him are to be differentiated, and their relationships to him are not to be confused.
- Hebrews 1:1-2:10; Isaiah 44:24-28; Acts 4:24-28; cf. Psalm 2; Daniel 7:13-14, 27; Zechariah 9:9-10; Matthew 28:18; Luke 1:31-35; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Romans 14:9-12; Colossians 2:15; Philippians 2:5-11; Acts 2:22-36; I Corinthians 15:24-28; cf. Psalm 100; I Peter 3:21-22; Romans 8:18-23, 31-39; I Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 1:5, 11:15-18; 17:12-14, 19:11-16; Psalm 22:28; Ephesians 1:10-11, 19-23; Colossians 2:10; Matthew 28:19-20; Isaiah 10:5-19, ch. 45; Jeremiah 27:1-11
The Respective Functions of Church and State
Jesus Christ, in the administration of his Father's will, employs all the heavenly and earthly powers he may choose to serve him… He has ordained the Church to serve him in the proclamation of his word, in the administration of his sacraments, and in the life of faith which works by love. He has also in his grace ordained the State to serve him in the administration of his justice and benevolence… and curb license, discord, and destitution.
- John 3:35; I Corinthians 15:20-28; Jeremiah 1:9-10; Deuteronomy 4:32-40; Isaiah 45:1-7; John 19:11, Ezekiel 33:1-9; Matthew 16:18-19, 28:18-20; II Timothy 4:1-5; James 2:14-17; Romans 13:1-7; Luke 3:12-14; Genesis 45:5-8; I Kings 3:3-28; I Timothy 2:1-2; Amos, e.g. 2:6-8, 5:11-12, 24, 8:4-8
The Authority of the State
Christ… commissions the civil authorities with the right and duty of using force under law against internal disorder and external aggression.
- John 1:1ff.; cf. Psalm 33:6; Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17; Ephesians 1:3-14; Genesis 45:5-8; Jeremiah 27:5-11; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:21; Isaiah 10:5ff; 45:1-6; Romans 13:3-4; Nehemiah 4:7-20
The Stewardship of Power
The righteousness of God, which came to decisive triumph in the cross and resurrection of Christ, is the sole foundation of national justice, development, and destiny. Every organ of power in the Nation… is a stewardship under Christ, and can properly function only by obedience to his revealed word. Every abuse of power constitutes a breach of trust, destructive to the abuser and injurious to the glory of God among his creatures.
- Colossians 2:14-15; I John 5:4-5; Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 1:3, 8-9; Psalm 72:1-4; Romans 13:1, 6-7; Nehemiah 5:15; Matthew 24:45-25:30; John 12:35-36; Romans 14:23b; Deuteronomy 28:58-68; Daniel 5:17-28; Deuteronomy 8:11-20; Acts 12:20-23
The Limits of Earthly Authority
It is high treason against the Lord Jesus, and deadly both for the Church and for the Nation, to attribute to any man, group, or institution, the total power that belongs to him. God alone is absolute Lord of the bodies and consciences of men, and he demands that we obey him against all authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, whenever they claim absolute power….
- II Thessalonians 2, esp. vss. 3-4; Acts 4:23-30; cf. Psalm 2; Revelation 13 and 14:9-11, 17:13-14; Romans 14:7-9; I Corinthians 4:1-5; 6:15-20; John 5:22-23; James 4:12; Acts 4:18-20, 5:27-32; Daniel ch. 3; I Kings 22:13-14; Jeremiah ch. 26
The Church and Tyranny
It is the Church's duty to denounce and resist every form of tyranny, political, economic, or ecclesiastical, especially when it becomes totalitarian…. The Church must remember that the weapons of her warfare are finally out of this world. Led by the Holy Spirit she will in any situation bear public witness to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ and to the freedom of all men in him.
- II Samuel 12:1-14; I Kings ch. 21; Amos 7:10-17; Daniel 3:8-18; Exodus 1:17; I Kings 11:26-40; II Kings ch. 9; Acts 4:18-20, 5:25-32; Matthew 4:1-11; 10:16-22, 26:51-54; II Corinthians 4:7-11, 10:3-5; II Kings 6:15-17; Acts 2:32-36, 5:25-32, 7:51-60, ch. 26; James 5:1-11; II Timothy 2:8-9
The Relation of Church and State
The Church and State are intimately related, with manifold overlying concerns and common responsibility to their Lord. Their true relationship derives from the subordination of each to Jesus Christ… We reject any doctrine which misconceives the Church as the religious agent of the State. We reject any doctrine which misconceives the State as the political instrument of the Church. We reject all doctrines which assume, whether on sectarian or on secular grounds that the Church's life should be or can be completely dissociated from the life of the Civil State.
- Amos 7:10-15; Acts 22:22-29; Deuteronomy ch. 8; Malachi 2:10-16; Jeremiah 1, esp. vss. 5, 9-10; Matthew 28:18-20; Daniel 3:16-18; I Timothy 2:1-5; Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 12:13-14; John 18:28-37; Matthew 5:13-16, 17:24-27
The Church's Service to the State
The Church must not merge or confuse her Gospel with any political, economic, cultural, or nationalistic creed. At the same time the Church may not hold aloof from the affairs of the Nation, whether the authorities be of the faith or against it… She offers thanksgiving and supplication to God on behalf of all men, with particular intercession for those in authority, praying that the overruling power of the Holy Spirit may fructify what is good and uproot what is evil in national and international life. In discharging her commission to evangelize she promotes righteousness and peace among men…. In fulfillment of the law of Christ, she engages in special work of Christian love. Her members take full share as their Christian calling in commerce, politics, and other social action.
- Mark 12:28-34; cf. Exodus 20; Matthew 6:24; Daniel chapters. 3, 6; The Prophets, passim, e.g., Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah; Romans 13:1-6; I Peter 2:12ff.; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 13:7-14; Matthew 5:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 3:12-21; I Peter 2:11-12, 4:1-5; I Timothy 2:1-2; Daniel 9:9-19; II Chronicles 6:21-40, 7:14; Amos 5:14-24; II Corinthians 5:14-21; Acts 4:13-20; II Samuel 12:1-15a; II Corinthians 8:1-15; Philippians 4:10-17; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 3:10-14; John 17:15-18; Ephesians 6:5-9
The Christian's Civil Duty
Christians must always do their utmost to honour the civil laws, and to fulfil all statutory obligations… as unto Christ the Head….
- I Peter 2:13-25; Titus 3:1-2; Romans 13:5-10; Mark 12:14-17; Acts 5:27-29; Isaiah 1:17; Amos 5:14-15; Micah 6:6-8; Esther 4:12-14
The Civil Government's Duty Toward the Church
In its ordained service of God, the State has a three-fold duty to the Church. It has the duty of establishing public peace and providing protection, guarding impartially the rights of every citizen. It owes to the Church in all her branches, without partiality, the recognition of her office and of her consequent right to due resources, time and opportunity, for the public worship of God, for the education of her children in his truth, and for the evangelizing of the Nation….
- Acts 19:28-41, 21:30-39, 22:24-29; Exodus 5:1-4; Ezra 7:11-25; Acts chs. 25, 26
Reformation by the Word of God
…While the Lordship of Christ is not yet openly disclosed nor perfectly acknowledged, men are beset by sin in every private and public relation. Our existence in this world is continually threatened by anxiety, covetousness, imperfect justice, and proneness to corruption. The Civil State and the Church are constantly in need of reformation by the Word of God….
- II Thessalonians 2:1-12; Mark 13:21-23; Luke 18:8b; II Corinthians 4:3-18; Romans 1:18-32, 3:9-18, 7:15-25; Jeremiah 17:9; I Kings 12:25-33, 13:33-34; James 4:1-3, 5:1-6; Isaiah chs. 55, 59; Hebrews 4:12-13; John 12:25-26, 35-50
The Final Manifestation of Christ's Dominion
The Lordship of Christ, in the midst of the evil and sorrow of this present world, must be discerned by faith, with the full assurance of our hope in him. He is coming again for the healing of the nations and the perfecting of the Church. In that day when he reveals the New Jerusalem, his sovereign dominion over the universe will be made openly visible to all, causing every knee to bow and every tongue to confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.
- John 5:17-29; I Corinthians 12:26; Hebrews 10:37-12:3; Romans 8:18-25; I John 3:2-3; Colossians 3:3-4; Acts 1:11; II Peter ch. 3; Luke 12:35-40; Revelation 7:9-17, 22:1-2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation ch. 21; Romans 2:11-16; Philippians 2:10-11; Revelation 1:7-8, 5:11-14, 19:11-16; I Corinthians 15:20-28.