The Divine Right of Kings

The theory of the divine right of kings is based on the idea that God has chosen a particular family to rule and the fact of the birth of a child within that family means that God wants that person to rule. The New Testament does have several passages which support the idea that a person should submit him or herself to the governmental authorities. However, there are no passages that dictate how these authorities should be selected.

The most powerful passage of the Bible for maintaining the status quo is from Romans (13:1-2):

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Many passages exhorting the faithful to obey civil authorities were written in the hopes that if the faithful showed loyalty to the state that they could avoid persecution. The following passage was written with this in mind. From 1Peter (2:13-14):

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

Probably one of the most famous quotes from the Bible is from Luke (20:25). It has to do with paying taxes:

And Jesus said unto them, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's."

Probably the most famous proponent for the divine right of kings theory was Louis XIV in his role as the Sun King supporting French absolutism. James I of England (VI of Scotland) consistently clashed with the English Parliament as he tried to maintain and expand royal authority. He wished to rule as an absolute monarch rather than a constitutional one.

The divine right of kings would be maintained throughout much of Europe with varying degrees of success from the dark ages to the end of the First World War or Great War (1918). The first major western European power to discard it in favor of Locke's idea of the Social Contract was England, although republics had been around since the rise of the ancient Greek city states, and had examples in Venice, Florence, Switzerland, and Holland.

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