More Resources on the Divine Institutions

Once again I have been struggling with getting a post pulled together for this week. I had been planning on continuing my series on the commandments in the Mosaic Law regarding treatment of the poor and unfortunate. But I have been busy enough that I just haven’t taken the time to pull together a post on that topic.

That being said I have found some information on the Divine Institutions that I want to pull together and post. This is a topic that I have always been interested in and there is precious little on it available on the internet or anywhere else. Whenever I find new information on the topic I try to document it on my blog for my own use and, hopefully, the interest of those who find my blog.

The Divine Institutions are a part of a larger body of doctrine called the Laws of Divine Establishment which are designed by God for the “protection, perpetuation, orderly function, survival and blessing of the human race.” I live in the United States of America and we, as a nation, used to be very strong on these principles but not any more. As our society moves away from these concepts our social problems become worse and worse. My sister works in an elementary school as a teacher’s aide and the problems she sees every day were very rare when we were kids. The breakdown of marriage and the family, both of which are Divine Institutions, lead to many problems for the children. Neglect of children is now so common that it breaks my heart.

At any rate, I have found some new resources on the topic and what to document them before I forget. Entire books could, and should, be written on the topic. However, for the time being this will have to do.

First off I want to reproduce the Doctrine of the Divine Institutions by Dr. Robert Dean. This is from the transcript from lesson 26 of his study on the Book of Genesis.

Doctrine of Divine Institutions

1)      The laws of divine establishment are principles ordained by God for the protection, perpetuation, orderly function, survival and blessing of the human race. In His omniscience God knew the limitations of mankind. He also knew that man would sin, so He is establishing certain institutions from the very beginning. These we call the laws of divine establishment and they are covered under five divine institutions. These are for everyone, not just for believers.

2)      The term “divine institutions” has been used by Christians to speak of the absolute social structures that have been instituted by God for the entire human race—for believers and unbelievers alike. The term “divine” emphasizes the fact that they have their origin in God. These are social structures that have been built into creation and into the nature of man by God.

3)      There is a conflict between the divine viewpoint which says that there are absolute social structures established by God, and human viewpoint which teaches that these are simply social customs or conventions that have been developed pragmatically through human history and are different in every culture. Postmodernism would say that the various expressions of these customs are all equally valid. So human viewpoint sees these as purely relative, something that man just developed over time to pragmatically handle the situation.

4)      These divine institutions represent absolute structures which God has built into the social constitution of man. If these institutions are violated then something fundamental falls apart, and there are serious long-term consequences in human society.

5)      There are five divine institutions: a) Human responsibility or individual responsibility; b) Marriage; c) Family; d) Human government; e) Individual nations. Each of these are established over the course of human history. The first three were established pre-fall because the command was to be fruitful and multiply and that envisions family even though there are no offspring until after the fall. Human government and individual nations doesn’t come in until after the flood. Government institutions are introduced to restrain sin and to control unrighteousness.

6)      The first divine institution, human responsibility, or sometimes individual responsibility. Sometimes it is labeled simply volition, emphasizing individual human choice. Sometimes it has been called personal responsibility, responsible dominion, responsible labor. The issue is responsibility. Genesis 1:26-30; 2:15-17; Psalm 8:3-8. The main idea here is that man has been placed on the earth and given responsibility. He is answerable to God and he is to manage the earth under God’s authority.

7)      The very concept of being responsible for something includes the idea of volition. A person makes a choice as to whether they will be responsible or be irresponsible, whether they will fulfill the obligation or not. So the issue: Will man fulfill the responsibility that God gives him in the garden in perfect environment?

8)      As we look at each divine institution each has an authority with it. In human responsibility the authority is God. Adam is responsible and accountable to God for his actions. In human responsibility man is ultimately accountable to God at the judgment seat of Christ for believers and at the great white throne judgment for unbelievers. In marriage the authority is the husband. The wife is under his authority, under his leadership, and she is responsible to the husband. 1 Corinthians 11:3. It is the man Adam who is the federal head, the representative head of the human race. When Eve sinned nothing really happened, but it is Adam’s sin that causes the human race to fall. It is in Adam all die, not in Eve. So man is the head. In the family it is the parents who are the authority and who are accountable for the welfare of that family. They are responsible to God for what happens in the family. Children are to be obedient to their parents. That is where they learn authority orientation. If they don’t learn authority orientation in the family, then when they become adults they are going to have major problems handling any other situation where they have to face authority. Then we come to human government, and whether that government is a monarchy, a some form of totalitarian government, a dictatorship, an empire, whether a democracy or a republic, there is always an individual or a group of individuals who are the final authority. Then the individual nations are accountable once again to God. And the nations will be held accountable and there will be a judgment of the nations at the great white throne judgment. So each divine institution has embedded within it an authority structure.

9)      Accountability has to do with either cursing or blessing. This is a major theme in Genesis, that if man is responsible then he will be blessed—if he is obedient to God—and if he disobeys God with reference to the mandate in Genesis 2:17 then there will be cursing and spiritual death which will hinder man in fulfilling his responsibilities.

Gary Kukis has also done some detailed work on the Laws of Divine Establishment (link here). He provides a lot of detail on the Divine Institutions as part of that study (link here). Gary always does a thorough job on topics he writes about but the writing tends to be dense. This is a good reference for those who would like to would like to spend some time doing in-depth self study.

I have also found transcripts for an eighteen lesson series that Charles Clough did on the Divine Institutions in the 1970s. There used to be a website where these were made available but it went away over a year ago so I lost the resource. Earlier this week I stumbled upon them again (in a different place of course!) so I decided to document their location as soon as possible. Of course they may disappear again one day so I make no promises that the links below will always work.

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