Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for July, 2009

Feds resist Montana gun law

Just to keep things interesting, there may be a post or two during our “hiatus.” Try this one.

The Federal Government is disregarding a Montana law which says the Feds have no jurisdiction over firearms that remain within Montana. See here:

http://www.examiner.com/x-1417-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2009m7d19-ATF-to-Montana-You-will-respect-our-authoritah

(Thanks to lewrockwell.com blog.)

May the locals press on!

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C&S summer hiatus

As last year, so this year. Christian and State will not be updated during our summer hiatus. From July 20 – August 9 there will be no updates here, although from time to time blog comments will doubtless be posted. Do yourself a favor, and while we are on hiatus, get yourself a copy of Jacques Ellul’s short book Anarchy and Christianity and read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Christian anarchist adventure

Here I am, a few years in. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and I am a Christian anarchist. Like many bloggers, my first energies go to my family and my profession. In between, I seek to offer multiple blog entries during the week, and, on occasion, work on my larger projects which I always intend to publish. Once in awhile I publish one, even when I am not satisfied with it, when the hungry belly of the blog begins to rumble.

So here is yet another flow-of-consciousness entry. Today, a few notes about my journey.

When every election time rolled around I would search among the political-party options, ever dissatisfied. A long term feature of my thinking was fiscal conservatism. I have long thought that state spending was thoroughly out of control. As time went on I eventually found the libertarian option via someone over at National Review online. I bought a book, a “primer” on libertarianism. It all seemed to make a great deal of sense. At last I was on my way. I joined the Libertarian party.

Along the way came Ron Paul. In the first Republican presidential debate in the 2008 election cycle, I saw, considered, and appreciated. Ron was a fresh window. Somewhere along the way I found Lewrockwell.com and Mises.org. I downloaded an audio book by Murray Rothbard. I was on my way! Soon I was an anarcho-capitalist. And I was not alone. I began to discover other Christian libertarian and anarchist blogs. It means a lot to know you are not (humanly speaking) alone. I rejoice to see that others see what I see.

But I am a Christian and as I had always wanted but had never been able to reconcile my religious and political views, I began to explore Christian anarchism. Enter Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller. I have read several of their books by now, and have found in them some powerful insights, even while I recognize that all of our theological points do not fit together.

I am continuing to read and learn, as time permits. I feel that the next two or three decades (if it takes that long) here in America, will see—at the minimum—the total collapse of the dollar. As for the nation, it seems to me that it has crossed the point of no return. I look for a collapse of the United State. When the debt load becomes not only unbearable, but widely acknowledged as unbearable, the states will mutually secede one from another and repudiate the debt. In short, I anticipate a time of turmoil unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, perhaps unlike anything anyone in the West has faced for centuries. It is not that I wish it, but that I anticipate it. It is not that I see it in Bible prophecy, but that I see it in the way the world is.

I have already accomplished a harmonization between my anarchism and my Christianity. This offers me a benchmark from which to proceed. I no longer look to the state as solution, but recognize it as machinery that is inevitably wielded for injustice by fallen humans.

I look to a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness reigns. On the way to that, I will not build my hopes here, but I will seek in my own tiny corner of planet earth, to live out with increasing clarity the biblical vision of justice and mercy and reliance upon God. The state is an idol—a big, fat one, squatting in obscenity in the middle of the human room. It offers—for a price—a refuge from personal responsibility or morality. It is a cold monster, a dehumanizing venus flytrap for people, a baited hook. I realize that to become a true man, I must carry on, shedding illusions one by one. I rejoice that I am part way there, or at least that I have started the journey and passed the first few mile markers. I am embarked on the Christian anarchy adventure.

No doubt there are horrors along the way, and all this path offers is “the truth, nothing more.” But that will be enough. Anarchism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive; far from it. They fit together very closely. Jesus is THE ARCHE, the true One, one who entered the experience of the creatures He Himself made and walked beside us, sweating and abused by those who would impose themselves upon others. The seekers of power crucified Him. He had set aside the glory that He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5). But He took it up again and rose from the dead (John 10:18; Revelation 1:18). He brings to an end all human arkys (Daniel 2:34, 35, 44). I am preparing for the new earth in which righteousness dwells, and certainly no human state. Then men will be true men; all illusions will be done. Perhaps some reader will join me on the journey.

“Governments lie or they wouldn’t last long”

Howard Zinn (a raging socialist as I recall) is at least quite right about the state and self-interest…

(via lewrockwell.com blog.)

As an aside, I saw a bumper sticker today on a vehicle ahead of me that said “Socialism is great—until you run out of other people’s money.” There was also a “Ron Paul was right” sticker on the car.

Colossians—a Christian anarchist Bible study

[With this first installment, we begin a series of Bible studies of Books and passages of Scripture with special interest to the Christian anarchist. Neither exhaustive nor comprehensive, these provide a starting place for study and discussion. They will appear in no particular order and at no set time. NL]

Two passages in Paul’s book of Colossians have our attention in this study: 1:9-23; 2:8-15.

Kingdom transference

First, Colossians 1:9-23 ESV:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.

Delivered from the power of darkness

In verse 13 we see that Jesus has delivered the believer from the exousia—the authority— of the domain of darkness. There is a domain of darkness. All who do not belong to the domain of light belong to the domain of darkness. The ruler of the domain of darkness is Satan. Before choosing Christ, one had been subject to that domain, but no longer. With the choice of Christ, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

As the Hebrews were delivered from Egypt, the believer is delivered from the domain of darkness. In Egypt, pharaoh had sway over the slaving Hebrews. When delivered, they were made free. Still, it remained for them to depart Egypt. God did not whisk them away and deposit them in Canaan; A journey lay ahead.

While enslaved in Egypt they had not been free to undertake the journey; having been delivered, they stood at the edge of the city. They must put one footstep in front of another, step by step, and make their departure. God changed their situation. Now they were free. That is, now their freedom could be wrought out.

Our passage in Colossians makes no particular reference to the Exodus, yet still offers a helpful illustration. As the road to Canaan beckoned, so in the believer’s case. He is not delivered to inactivity or passivity; he is delivered in that he is no longer imprisoned in the domain of darkness. Now he may walk out. The door is opened, the pathway stands before him. Freedom is there for the taking.

Translated into the kingdom of Jesus

Verse 13 says that we are delivered from the power of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus. The underlying Greek means a change in where we are standing, a change in our place. The new Christian may still be standing on the edge of “Egypt” but he is a new Christian nonetheless. He is free. He is part of a different, non-coercive kingdom now. He has changed countries, situations, and lords. He has become an ambassador from a different land (we’ll explore the ambassador aspect in a different study).

In real life terms, what does this mean? I was born in a nation called the United States of America (today very much a single, centralized state). When I became a Christian, I was translated to the kingdom of Jesus. I remain physically present here, but I am now under a different lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my King.

Here in the United State, the theory is that the people are sovereign, the citizens themselves are actually lord. Even if this were true, it is not right for us to be under the lordship of other created beings; this was Satan’s schema. The Creator is to be Lord, none else.

Jesus created all thrones, dominions, principalities, powers?

Our text says that Jesus created all thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, and that these all were created by Him and for Him (1:16). Is it intended that we understand by this that Jesus created all the nations? That Babylon was made by Him and for Him? Nazi Germany? Were the gas chambers of Auschwitz in which Jews were slaughtered Jesus’ gas chambers, made by Him and for Him?

There is a sense in which He created all kingdoms, for He made humankind in the beginning, and humankind chose to bind itself up into city-states and nations. At Babylon God scrambled a rebellion and human language, scattering men who went out to found the many nations.

If we are not careful, we will abuse this text and take it to mean that even Satan’s dominion, throne, kingdom, nation, were made by Jesus and for Him. God and Satan do nothing in partnership. A main point in this passage is that Jesus is first; He is before all things. As Eller has put it so well,

Precisely because Jesus is THE ARKY, the Prime of Creation, the Principle of All Good, the Prince of Peace and Everything Else, Christians dare never grant a human arky the primacy it claims for itself (Vernard Eller, Christian anarchy, p. 2, emphasis Eller).

The flavor, the very ideas in Eller, are the same as this passage in Colossians. If the Colossian believers were predisposed to see the universe as ruled under a hierarchy of angelic beings or echelons of greater and lesser gods, Paul wanted them to know that Jesus was before all else; nothing exists without His consent. Even Satan’s existence is only possible because God has delayed the final execution of his judgment upon him. Satan and his rebel angels are reserved for judgment (2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Jude 6; Matthew 25:41).

God works via earthly kingdoms, but he does not endorse them. He will use an Assyria or a Babylon to judge, but when they exceed His wishes, He will punish those who have voided His purpose (e.g. Isaiah 13:3-5; 10:5-7, 12, 13; 41:2-4, 45:1, 4, 13). God used Babylon to execute judgment upon the Hebrew people, but He never endorsed Bel or any of the Babylonian gods. He brings good out of evil, and the actions of men and their kingdoms are overturned to the victory of the divine purpose—all unforeseen, no doubt, by the earthly rulers!

God created a setting in which men would be free to choose good or evil. The rebellion of the inhabitants of planet earth was an unavoidable risk God took. Robots would have been easy pets to keep; but men granted their own wills might rebel out of malice or even the exercise of a mere superficial choice. Surely that describes Adam’s rebellion: superficial, minimally thought-through, but sufficiently thought-through to be open rebellion.

The result? A weakened race, and men now degenerated so that a perverse will would have its way. And still, man in all his corrupt designs, his madness even (Ecclesiastes 9:3; Jeremiah 51:7), is still within reach of God’s redemption. There is still that in him which can be corrected, restored, bought back, repaired.

In any case, Adam’s rebellion threw the earth into a complicated state. Given dominion over earth, Adam and Eve now had forsaken it. Earth remained God’s planet, but now the manager had hired himself out to Satan (Romans 6:16). As such, Adam forsook his dominion, but Satan could not legitimately acquire it. He is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), not by right, but rather by being a squatter. He is a philosophical punk whom God has not yet forced off of His land. And Satan has gone on to set up kingdoms, dominions, thrones. Each one under his sway.

This may seem hard to buy into. After all, there are “good” nations, like the United States, right? We’ll return to that assertion at another time. For now, it helps us to remember Psalm 2 and Acts 4:25, 26. There we find that the nations of earth gathered themselves together to fight God; they opposed Jesus. Revelation 12-14, 17-18 shows the same (more on that in a future study!).

Indirectly then, Jesus created all thrones, if we want to push it that far. He is above all creation, including all governments and spiritual forces. He is superior, indeed, He is the sole agency that keeps them going, even temporarily. All things are made by Jesus and for Him. All thrones, kingdoms, etc., are intended to serve Him. After Adam’s sin, however, as seen in Psalm 2 and Acts 4:25, 26, the kingdoms rather are gathered against Him. They are in rebellion. And yet, God will, ultimately, bring good out of their evil.

He gives life to rabbit and fox, prey and predator, not to endorse predation, but incidental to the great controversy, the great conflict between good and evil. God is using this once-for-all-time occasion to grant us an under-the-microscope look, not only at good, but also at evil.

Through Jesus’ cross, all things reconciled to Him

These persistent rebellions will not be permitted to continue. Daniel shows us that in the end, God gathers all power back to Himself. Every human kingdom is destroyed, and God’s kingdom fills the earth (Daniel 2:31-45). This reconciliation is accomplished through Jesus’ death on the cross, but will see its full consummation only at the very end of time. Every power in rebellion against God will be brought down.

Rulers disarmed

Here, we consider 2:8-15 ESV:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The rudiments of the world

The rudiments of the world include the basic societal expectations that we have all been persuaded are intrinsically the way that things are supposed to work. Today, that means the way of living as popularized in a world of “representative democracies.” But the way the structures of our world have been set up is not neutral. Things have been arranged in favor of expropriation, Church and state are closely united in exploitative structures (Revelation 18:3, 15, 19, 23). Through these arrangements, all are subject to a sort of structural evil, a built-in distortion in the world used to exploit.

Another rudiment of our world is coercion. Representative democracy says that if enough people choose to exploit others, that is morally right. What you need to “legitimize” the matter is a majority vote. After you have that, the state may proceed to expropriate and redistribute wealth. Voting is a satisfactory means of making decisions in a voluntary setting, but in one with no recourse, a setting of force, it is coercion.

These are two examples among others of the rudiments of our world in 2009. Paul’s warning is not to beware lest another person spoil, that is, ruin us, but the meaning of spoil here is as in “make captive.” The warning is not to permit yourself to be made captive by philosophy or empty deceptions. When the Christian lends his assent to a system that is socially unjust, he functions as an enabler, a facilitator of his own and of other people’s bondage.

Complete in Christ

We are not made complete by being conventional, but by trusting in Christ. Jesus makes the Christian complete. Therefore we need not trust in experts and exploitative social conventions. We should feel secure enough in Christ that we are ready, when we come to understand things differently, to throw off old wineskins and move to fresh understandings if they are in harmony with God’s Word.

Jesus is the head of the body, the head of the church. But He is not the head of Satan; Satan has chosen to be “headless.” Satan refuses Christ’s headship. Thus Satan’s developed “self” nature is not subdued, and is neither buried with Christ nor resurrected with Him. Satan refuses Christ’s life. In contrast, the believer chooses to follow Christ, to die with Him and to be raised with Him. He is our ARCHE and our head. Remember, Christian anarchists are so with reference to human arkys, not God. We do have a head, an ARCHE, and that is our Creator.

Jesus’ triumph over the powers

All this brings us at last to this final statement in our study, and it is a significant one. Colossians asserts that Jesus spoiled—took captive—and triumphed over principalities and powers. Neither Satan nor the powers under his control are transformed by Jesus. Rather, they are conquered, spoiled, made captive, defeated.

Satan offered Jesus all the kingdom of the world but Jesus refused to take him up on the terms. There is no room for compromise between coercion and selfless love. The solution to the war between good and evil is not found in harmonization, but, when the timing is right, in Jesus’ triumph over and destruction of those powers which oppose Him.

He came to bring a sword, and to cut down every plant that His heavenly Father had not planted. And principalities and powers not subdued to CHrist are destined to be replaced with God’s kingdom.

Conclusion

The Christian is delivered from the authority of the domain of darkness. God places him where he is enabled to be free. The Auschwitz gas chambers did not belong to Jesus. God reverses all. Although He set up the situation in which rebellion was possible, He is not responsible for it. Principalities and powers that are in rebellion against God’s kingdom are not on JEsus’ side; rather, the kingdoms of earth have arrayed themselves in opposition to God. The Christian is freed from the rudiments of the world. JEsus has conquered and spoiled principalities and powers, and the Christian is under the authority of an altogether different kind of governance.

Obama not the problem

Day by day it seems that the current US president and his administration are generating more and more state control and driving the nation ever more deeply into debt. His approval rating is dropping and there is a steady increase in people who think that Obama is the problem. Actually, “the problem” is not Obama but the tens of millions of American people who elected him. And the particular problem is not their election of him, although that didn’t help matters. The problem is their voting booth affirmation that it is right for one person to exercise an involuntary lordship over another.

With that idea (that it is legitimate to exercise lordship over another if it is done through “legitimate” means), the whole project goes overboard, because all you need at that point is to concoct a means of legitimization. Kings ruled over others and their legitimization was the inheritance of hereditary power and sometimes even an imaginary “divine right.” In the United State, legitimization is on the basis of Constitution and Bill of Rights.

However, no human document can grant one man the right to plunder another. There is something unhealthy, for all parties, about human overlordship. In granting one rights of superiority, one is vacating those same rights in oneself. If you granted all your rights to another, you would have the same amount of rights that a rock has. So, to repeal certain of one’s rights and to grant them to another is to de-animate oneself to that same degree. A man who has stripped all of his people of all of their rights rules over a horde of automatons.

It is not the system even that is the problem. The system is supposedly a mutually agreed upon removal of power from oneself and granting of it to another. Supposedly, we have all agreed that the one who has the most votes counted wins and participates in the state’s looting and redistribution. But remember, it is not that something being legal or accepted makes that something moral. There is often a great difference between the legal and the moral. If the state says you can do X, that does not make X right. Neither, if the state says you cannot do Y does that necessarily make Y wrong. You are a human being, gifted by God, granted free will. You are to decide for yourself and to choose the moral path.

Which brings it all back to the bottom line. It is the people—the voters—that is, the voter—who on the basis of the system choose to plunder others. Obama is not the problem. Neither was W or Clinton etc. It is always the voter, the one who chooses to legitimize the state and to legitimize the exercise of involuntary lordship over others. Wouldn’t it all be easier if this vast mess could be ascribed to one person who lives in a white house. The real problem starts in each of our own hearts. We take up the machinery that awaits our use, and we use it.

To close, we recall the oft quote of Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Time preference, deontology, and teleology

In the field of ethics, two primary approaches have the field. A deontological act is an act that springs from the motivation of duty. A teleological act is one which especially has in view a final goal. Time preference is a term used in Austrian economics in order to indicate that human behavior has to do with long term or short term thinking.

In the Bible, the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15) is presented without particular reference to any time issues. It is simply commanded. We would say that it is presented from a deontological standpoint. We should not steal because it is not the right way to act.

Again, from the Ten Commandments, we have the fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). Honoring father and mother is linked here with a teleological reason. The command to honor them is linked with a promise of longevity. Doubtless honoring one’s father and mother is also right deontologically, but that is not expanded upon in the commandment itself.

People who hold that the end justifies the means are operating out of a teleological ethic. People who say that one should do right simply because it is right are deontological in their outlook. As we can see, there appears to be validity in both perspectives. The teleological outlook contains a substantial pitfall, in that it may follow a chain of reasoning to a future that may not be attained.

Time preference says that all things being equal, economic factors such as scarcity can lead one to consume sooner rather than later. A high time preference is what one has who is focused more on his present well-being; a low time preference is the attitude one has who chooses his path based on longer look. A scrap of food is thrown to or found by pigeon at the beach or a duck in a pond. If he is hungry, he will immediately seek to consume it, because if he does not, it may be wrested from him by another bird.

A man who plants a garden knows that it will take time and careful tending for the vegetables to reach maturity for harvest. He takes this into account and still he invests his energies in maintaining the garden until harvest. At harvest tome he reaps the benefits of his labor. He reaps what he sows.

A thief usually also operates by the principles of time preference. He chooses to take from another rather than to exercise self-control and labor. Put simply, a thief steals an apple, a farmer harvests an apple.

In the Christian walk, one keeps his eye on the gift of eternal life and the rewards that come. He should serve God because it is right, and yet he takes note of the mighty incentive held out to him in the promises of God. He is building not for the moment but for eternity.

We may not all be cultivating gardens, but every one of us is cultivating a character. Our choices are shaping it, our motives are persistent and also are ever being more intentionally shaped. We look to the Second Coming of Jesus aware that when He returns he will give to every person according to their behavior. We are saved by grace and not by our deeds, and yet our deeds shape our heart and refine our character so that it is less Christlike or moreso.

There is a meeting of Christianity and Austrian economics in these points. We should live our lives with reference to the precious things that God will give us in the future, yes, but we should also do right because it is right. God has never suspended His law, and He will not; it offers a thumbnail sketch of His character. A future is coming in which yes, the Ten Commandments will still be there. It will still be right not to steal. Therefore, I am thankful for the lessons taught in Austrian economics, for it echoes the truth that we reap what we sow. To do right because it is right has the lowest time preference of all, for it is not owned by the short term. Persons living according only to the present may sidestep ethical behavior, but their long-term thinking opposites can be good neighbors for eternity. Austrian economics cannot help but make for better Christians.

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