Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Process these thought-seeds from Ellul:

The biblical view is not just apolitical but antipolitical in the sense that it refuses to confer any value on political power, or in the sense that it regards political power as idolatrous, inevitably entailing idolatry. Christianity offers no justification for political power; on the contrary, it radically questions it (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 113, 114).

Ellul holds that the world of the political is inevitably subverting. As soon as we identify with one power block because we are fighting another power block, we are engaging in a battle that is not our battle. Vernard Eller also gets it:

The battle of the arkys—whether it be the “good” ones or the “bad” ones who seem to be carrying the day—has absolutely nothing to do with the coming of the kingdom of God and his redemption of the world (Vernard Eller, Christian Anaarchy, p. 196).

The Christian is free to ignore the arkys that spread across his horizon. He is free to be non-political, to recognize that all these horizontal arkys are in the process of either coming or going, springing onto the scene or departing from it. Jesus neither affirmed the Roman occupiers nor offered His influence to the zealots who fought Rome. He refused to choose arky A or arky B, because He was the true ARKY, God Himself come to live among men. He set up His tabernacle on planet earth and ate with us, sweated with us, hungered with us, and died with us. He identified Himself totally with us—not with our feeble arkys.

The Christian is free to recognize that he is to follow Christ and that the state is of little more substance than a dandelion. The arky that he subscribes to is THE ARKY. It is God who is so ultimately powerful that He need not flaunt it, and rarely does. He is not threatened by us and offers us liberty. He makes men free.

Someone might say, but what about Pharaoh? In the Bible God says that He hardened pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3). The showdown between God and pharaoh was one of those rare situations where God does intervene, ARKY versus arky, and puts the human in its place. The outcome is always the same.

In the case of pharaoh, God did harden his heart, but pharaoh was a man. Pharaoh had free choice. Pharaoh was committed to posing his arky against God’s ARKY. Instead of granting freedom to the Hebrews as God insisted (Exodus 5:1), pharaoh was determined to remain slave-master. God would not have it. Because God insisted on freedom, and pharaoh insisted on bondage, God did harden pharaoh’s heart. He hardened it by insisting on freedom for men, and pharaoh was committed to enslaving them.

That is, God hardened pharaoh’s heart by God refusing to bend. He was relentlessly good, and pharaoh was bent on fighting against that. Pharaoh had free will and he used it to rebel against the ARKY of freedom.

Eller quoting Barth (with Eller in brackets):

There is not a second kingdom of God [namely, one God has appointed to Caesar] outside and alongside the first. There is a human kingdom which is authoritative and can demand obedience only as such [i.e. only as a human arky]. And this kingdom is sharply delimited by the one kingdom of God (Eller, p. 154).

That is, human governments are just that—human governments. The task of the Christian is not to oppose them as much as to ignore them, not to legitimize them but to transcend them. It is most interesting to see the rising interest in the U.S. Constitution, secession, and nullification. But the business of the Christian is to be a living example of THE ARKY, of a government that is maximally moral, and maximally free. Just as God’s commitment to liberty inevitably raised pharaoh’s ire, as His goodness hardened him, so your commitment and mine to the kingdom of God will stir the wrath of others. Because, deep down inside, they are living on the plan of bondage and in subtle justification of self, must make themselves its advocates.


Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: