Nothing on earth could limit his will and restrict his power. His word was law and his actions were always just and benevolent. To complain against the authority of the ruler and to characterise his actions as unjust was a sin for which there was divine punishment.
The theory of the Divine Origin of the State is as old as Political Science itself. There is sufficient evidence to prove now that early States were based on this conception and all political authority was connected with certain unseen powers. The earliest ruler was a combination of priest and king or the magic man and king.
The authority and reverence which a ruler commanded depended upon his position as a priest or a magic man. Religion and politics were so inextricably mixed up in the primitive society that not a hazy line of demarcation could be drawn between the two.
Even today, the State of Pakistan does not seem to draw a distinction between religion and politics. Sir Mohammad Zafarullah Khan, the then Pakistan Foreign Minister, while speaking on the Objective Resolution in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly in 1949, said: “Those who sought to draw a distinction between the spheres of religion and politics as being mutually exclusive put too narrow a construction upon the functions of religion.”
The abrogated Constitutions declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic to be governed with the Islamic principles. President Zia-ul-Haq significantly modified the 1973 Constitution to bring it in conformity to the injunctions of Islam.
In addition to Islamic Arab States, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic State of Bangladesh and the Islamic State of Afghanistan are the most recent examples of theocratic States.
The theory that the State and its authority have a Divine Origin and sanction finds unequivdcal support in the scriptures of almost all religions in the world. In the Mahabharata, it is recounted that the people approached God and requested him to grant them a ruler who should save them from the anarchy and chaos prevailing in the state of nature. “Without a Chief, O Lord”, they prayed, “We are perishing. Give us a Chief whom we shall worship in concert and who will protect us.”
The theory of Divine Origin, however, received a new impetus with the advent of Christianity. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” said Jesus Christ, and Paul amplified this in his Epistle to the Romans, which has been quoted by writers time and again in support of the theory of Divine Origin.
We are, thus, told, “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, resisted the power, resisted the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive themselves damnation.”
The theory of Divine Origin so enunciated, believed in and accepted, thus, implied:—
1. That God deliberately created the State and this specific act of His grace was to save mankind from destruction;
2. That God sent his Deputy or Vice-regent to rule over mankind. The ruler was a divinely appointed agent and he was responsible for his actions to God alone whose Deputy the ruler was. All were ordained to submit to his authority and disobedience to his command was a sin for which there was divine punishment.
The Divine Right of Kings:
There were direct and precise instructions to the faithful. Although the Roman Empire was a pagan empire, Paul had ordered Christians to accept its authority as derived from God and thereby admitted that the State, whatever the personal morality of the monarch, was divinely ordained.
During the Middle Ages in Europe the theory of the Divine Origin of the State was transformed into the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. The temporal authority, having emerged victorious over the spiritual authority, claimed that it was a divine favour to the Viceregents of divine authority. Even today the Queen of Great Britain is a Queen “by the Grace of God”.
The Stuarts in England found refuge in the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings and its leading exponent was James I. Sir Robert Filmer was its enthusiastic supporter. Bousset advocated it in France and supported the despotism of Louis XIV. It was claimed that Kings ruled by divine right and the subjects had no recourse against them.
“Kings”, wrote James I, “are breathing images of God upon earth” and disobedience to their commands was disobedience to God. “As it is atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do, so it is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a King can do, or to say that a King cannot do this or that.”
Even rebellion in the cause of religion was deemed a sacrilege because, “the State of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for Kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God himself they are called Gods.”
As men are children of God, so are men children of the King and they owe him an equal obedience, Without a King there could be no civil society, as the people were a mere “heedless multitude” incapable of making laws. All law proceeded from the King as the divinely instituted law-giver of his people.
The only choice for the people was submission to the authority of the King or complete anarchy. The King could not be held answerable for his actions to human judgment. He was responsible to God alone. “A bad King will be judged by God but he must not be judged by his subjects or by any human agency for enforcing the law, such as the estates or the courts.” The law resided ultimately “in the breast of the King.”
The main points in the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings may, thus, be summed up:—
1. Monarchy is divinely ordained and the King draws his authority from God;
2. Monarchy is hereditary and it is the divine right of a King that it should pass from father to son;
3. The King is answerable to God alone; and
4. Resistance to the lawful authority of a King is a sin.
The theory of the Divine Right of Kings, originally used in the Middle Ages to serve as a bulwark against the claims of the Church Fathers, was later used by Kings and their supporters to defend their existence against the political consciousness of the people when the people claimed that ultimately power and sovereign authority rested with them.
Evaluation of the Theory:
That the State is divinely created does not find any place in the present political thought. The State is essentially a human institution, and it comes into existence when a number of people occupying a definite territory organise themselves politically for achieving common ends. The laws of the State are made by men and enforced by them.
The State, therefore, originated in the bare needs of the life of man and continues in existence for the satisfaction of those needs and aspirations for a good life. To accept it as the creation of God is to defy nature itself and to exalt the State to a position above criticism and change.
The Divine Origin theory is dangerous as it justifies the arbitrary exercise of royal authority by holding that authority has a religious sanction and origin, and Kings are the vicars of God. When the ruler is made responsible for his actions to God alone and law is held to reside ultimately “in the breast of the King”, it is tantamount to preaching absolutism and making the King a despot.
Even if it be conceded that the King is the viceregent or deputy of God, then, how can the existence of a bad King be justified? History abounds in examples of bad and vicious Kings. God personifies virtue, grace and benevolence and so should be His deputy.
It is, accordingly, bad logic to accept the dogma of James I that “Kings are breathing images of God upon earth.” Even in the scriptures the theory does not find unequivocal support. The Bible tells us, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” This saying of Christ does not justify the Divine Origin of the State.
Finally, the theory does not consider any other form of government except monarchy and that, too, absolute monarchy. Such a form of government is antagonistic to the democratic ideal which accepts consent as the basis of the State.
The Divine Origin theory is dismissed as an explanation of the origin of the State. At the same time, the theory has a certain value. We cannot ignore the part which religion played in the development of the State. The early rulers combined unto themselves the authority and functions of a king and a priest. Law had a religious sanction and “divine” or religious law appealed to primitive man more than human law.
Obedience to the State was deemed a religious duty and religious worship was supported by government. Belief in a common religion was, thus, a great combining factor which welded the people in the pursuit of common ends. “It taught men to obey” when they were “not yet ready to govern themselves.”
Finally, the theory of Divine Origin adds a moral tone to the functions of the State. “To regard the State as the work of God is to give it a high moral status, to make it something which the citizen may revere and support, something which he may regard as the perfection of human life.”-
The Divine Origin Theory and with that the Divine Right of Kings was discredited in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the West and was replaced by the Social Contract Theory and Rousseau’s concept of popular sovereignty. Thus, the ‘Voice of God’ gave place to ‘the voice of the people.’