Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for August, 2009

Judges—A Christian anarchist Bible study

The Bible records a time after Moses and then Joshua and before Israel forsook Theocracy for Monarchy: The period of the judges. Christians commonly view the period as one of darkness, chaos, and anarchy. The last verse in the Book of Judges duly notes that “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Some have taken this as a divine criticism of the period. Somehow, they think that in the Bible God must be speaking of the organization of His people during that time as being deficient. However, it would be well for many of us to reconsider the notion—and especially not to move too fast through Judges chapter two!

First, to recapitulate:

Israel was under a Theocracy. What did this mean? Quite simply, that God, not man, was Israel’s King (1 Samuel 8:20; 10:19; 12:12). Gideon understood:

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.’ Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you’ (Judges 8:22, 23).

Theocracy was the rule of God over men—that is, the granting of supremacy by creature to an unselfish Creator, a being whom absolute power cannot corrupt, indeed, who will only govern us nonimpositionally and voluntarily.

The Period of Judges

The period of the judges is difficult to place if the late date (c. 1200 BCE) for the Exodus is chosen. Kevin P. Edgecomb argues convincingly for the early Exodus date (c. 1440 BCE) and places the time of the judges approximately from 1350 BCE to 1108 BCE. The reign of the different judges is divided into eastern and western areas (“Chronology of the Judges Period,” Kevin P. Edgecomb, 2004. http://www.bombaxo.com/jgschron.html, accessed 2009-03-02 21:15Z).

The Coming of the Monarchy

The transition to Israelite monarchy is especially outlined in 1 Samuel 8-12. The prophet Samuel had appointed his children to follow him in the office as Israel’s judge / deliverer (1 Samuel 8:1). Sadly, their immoral behavior was not known to Samuel (1 Samuel 8:3, 5). Under their administration the nation was chafing, and began looking to neighboring nations for models of governance.

At last, they appealed to Samuel to provide them a king (1 Samuel 8:5). They desired to defer the responsibility that the Theocracy had enjoined upon them. Their rejection of leadership by judges was actually a rejection of God as their king. “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). At God’s command, Samuel dutifully outlined to them the depredations that would result to the people by changing to a system of human monarchy (1 Samuel 8:9-18). The people rejected the warning, of course. They said,

Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles (1 Samuel 8:20).

When, in the first ceremony of renewal, the first king is crowned, God’s prophet proclaims, “Ye have this day rejected your God” (1 Samuel 10:19). In the second ceremony of renewal, Samuel pointed out again,

When ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your king (1 Samuel 12:12).

At last, Samuel declares thus:

Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the Lord, and He shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king (1 Samuel 12:16-19).

Hosea makes clear that the transition from Theocracy to Monarchy was more punishment than endorsement: “Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities? Where are all your rulers—those of whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’? I gave you a king in My anger” (Hosea 13:10, 11).

Judges Chapter Two Clarifies

The statement at the end of Judges, that “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” should be read in light of Judges chapter two. Verses 1-5 of that chapter outline how God delivered Israel and was faithful to His covenant, but that Israel was disobedient. In response to their unfaithfulness, God warned them that He would would no longer drive out the inhabitants of the land.

Verses 2-6 tell of the death of Joshua and the rise of a generation having no memory of God’s deliverances of Israel. Verses 11-15 speak of the spiritual degeneration of Israel, God’s anger, and how He gave them over to plunderers.

The next section of the narrative is particularly insightful:

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and He saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways (Judges 2:16-19).

The judge was a deliverer. He was raised up by God from among the common people. He (and sometimes she) led the nation and brought freedom from oppression. The judge led temporarily. After the deliverance he returned to life among the people. There was no development of bureaucracy or state machinery and mechanisms.

The judge was raised up by God and in his delivering activities, “The Lord was with the judge.” No provision was made to elect rulers or to continue any royal lineage among the judges descendants. And yet, judge after judge and generation after generation, when the judge died, the people returned to the very behaviors that had led to the withdrawal of divine protection. Time and again the people abandoned God.

The conclusion that some have drawn—that every person doing what they thought was right in their own eyes is a condemnation of the lack of centralized state power—is not sustained by the text. In fact, the centralization of power in a king or a state is corrupting in its influence. As has been observed,

God desired His people to look to Him alone as their Law-giver and their Source of strength. Feeling their dependence upon God, they would be constantly drawn nearer to Him. They would become elevated and ennobled, fitted for the high destiny to which He had called them as His chosen people. But when a man was placed upon the throne, it would tend to turn the minds of the people from God. They would trust more to human strength, and less to divine power, and the errors of their king would lead them into sin and separate the nation from God (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 606).

A human sovereign over the people would turn the minds to human strength and away from divine power. Errors in monarchial leadership would influence the nation to depart from God.

It was the last thing they really needed, when their dangerous motives for desiring a king are considered. Ellen White again:

When the Israelites first settled in Canaan they acknowledged the principles of the theocracy, and the nation prospered under the rule of Joshua. But increase of population and intercourse with other nations brought a change. The people adopted many of the customs of their heathen neighbors and thus sacrificed to a great degree their own peculiar, holy character. Gradually they lost their reverence for God and ceased to prize the honor of being His chosen people. Attracted by the pomp and display of heathen monarchs, they tired of their own simplicity. Jealousy and envy sprang up between the tribes. Internal dissensions made them weak; they were continually exposed to the invasion of their heathen foes, and the people were coming to believe that in order to maintain their standing among the nations, the tribes must be united under a strong central government. As they departed from obedience to God’s law, they desired to be freed from the rule of their divine Sovereign; and thus the demand for a monarchy became widespread throughout Israel (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 603).

Centralization of human power tends ever to corruption and exploitation. It tends to elevate fallible leaders who think to create new rules for the people, new machinery legitimizing their exercise of authority.

The government of Israel was administered in the name and by the authority of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given; they had no authority to legislate for the nation. This was, and continued to be, the condition of Israel’s existence as a nation. From age to age men inspired by God were sent to instruct the people and to direct in the enforcement of the laws (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 603).

Conclusion

The problem in the time of the book of Judges was not that there was not enough government, but that the people were very stubborn. When God removed the power of their oppressors, Israel returned to wicked ways and become yet more wicked. They disregarded God’s plan and followed only their own desires.

Again, the problem was not that there was not enough government; it was rejection of the form social order that God had specified.

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.’ Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you’ (Judges 8:22, 23).

There was a turn from theocracy to monarchy, and it was a turn very much for the worse. But if men insisted on forming a state, God would not force liberty upon them. He would let them go into bondage. For awhile. After 6,000 years we are only starting to get His lesson.

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Still crazy after all these years?

I read a piece by an unidentified blogger at The Economist titled “Still crazy after all these years”
(http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14258768). Mr. blogger called for politicians to tone down the antagonistic rhetoric so as not to stir up the elements in society who they suggest have lost touch with reality. Primary concerns noted involved viewpoints on Barack Obama and the state. For example, Roosevelt’s deliberately permitting the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor is ranked with other “nutty ideas” that are examples of “political paranoia.”

Some of the current visceral anger in America doubtless is rooted in the very real and numerically enormous government excess. I am not so sure about all of the anger though. Some of it, perhaps, does arise more from angst than fact-based concern. Roosevelt’s machinations seem very conclusively proven. The author seems a useful truster, supporter-of-the-establishment.

He seems to think we do best to trust the state and its admittedly inept leaders. There is a whole order built up, and he implies that in his view it would be irresponsible to push so hard that it all toppled over.

As a Christian, I have to say that I am thankful for the “crazies” mentioned by the author. Some of their behavior is surely wrong, if understandable. Unfortunately, the state is ready to swallow and consume whatever is close enough to its maw. It inviegles its way into so many human connections, it is like water that freezes in society and creates cracks in the broader edifice. While Christians are not called to topple the state, neither are they called to support the injustice of the state.

While God uses the state to inflict a certain kind of wrath upon the society, He does not use it to impose His righteousness. Indeed, looking over the history of the “best” of all states, the United States, its depredations are numerous. The Constitution has not effectively limited this government. We are a very long way from 1776 in terms of what the nation has become. The limited state seems a truly failed experiment. I could not help but think that the author’s title, “still crazy after all these years” had more application to himself and his associates who insist on seeing the state in its “righteous” glowing sheen of red, white, and blue. If we look more closely, we will see that these colors are an illusion and the order itself is corrupt (Revelation chs. 13, 17, 18).

I wonder where we will be in ten years (2019)? I hope that by then most of the scales will have come off, and the people can rationally find a way forward, certainly a way that leaves behind leviathan or at least its largest manifestations. It will be interesting to see who has been crazy when the final result of fiat money etcetera is seen. I would rather live a peaceful and quiet life, but I anticipate that Americans may be in for something much more Soviet collapse-like.

Time will show at last who was crazy, and who prescient. For my part, I do not think I have lost my sanity. I have gained it.

Why we couldn’t abolish slavery then and can’t abolish government now

Magnificent article! To the point, full of punch, easy to understand, makes you think. thank you, Robert Higgs.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2589.

(Hat tip to strike-the-root.com.)

The state as superman

A very strong bit of cynicism runs through our world. A primary source is the state and its pretensions.

Presenting itself as necessary, impartial, essential arbiter of justice, protector of the peace, and faithful and unfailing defender of freedom—as superman robed in white—the image clashes sharply with the reality as experienced by many who are watching and thinking. In a world that does not come short of severe challenges, the state and pretension perpetuated in its name are precisely this distraction. As the ancient had recourse to idols made of wood, the modern makes statist ideas his bank of last resort. And does this surprise? After all, he was shaped in state schools from kindergarten upwards.

Could it be that the actual source of much of the sourness and anger seen in the daily news is the state itself? A state means power exercised over one’s fellow man, and, given time, this power inevitably corrupts. This is a phenomenon which cannot be fixed. So long as human nature remains as it is, the state will remain as it is.

But if the state is superman, reality is its kryptonite. At this stage of its inevitable totalitarian development, providence has given us also the cell phone and the internet and youtube. We will in a window of opportunity, when reality is exposing the state for what it is.

Whether o not we come to the place where the modern nation-state is peeled away, molted off, and left in the dust, and where men find their future as true men seeking a gracious God, and the way is opened for the realization of the potential inwoven in man, none can at present say. But this I know. There are at least some situations in which kryptonite comes in very handy. Thus, we may welcome the economic problems that are making the state tremble. At the end of the day, the state is the most inefficient means of accomplishing anything of substance for the world. Superman and his fiction must go their way, turn the corner, and fade into history side-by-side with Cinderella. I’ll take the kryptonite. And on the other side of the collapse, we will live as true men.

British thought police: proposed ban on under-18s watching films with smokers

Insane. Of course, there is an exception for statist figures like WInston Churchill and FDR.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1206119/Council-impose-18-certificate-films-smoking.html

(Courtesy lewrockwell.com blog.)

Book review: Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1995, 848 pp.

This lengthy volume will not be for every reader. However, if you want to understand how the decision to nuke Japan was made, who influenced whom, whether the Japanese were already trying to surrender, and whether the war was already won before the United State used two nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945, this is your book.

Alperovitz has exhaustively documented these questions, and—surprise—the answers are damning. Truman was influenced by Secretary of State James F. Byrnes. Among factors in the bombing were that an enormous amount of money had been spent in secret to develop these weapons and it seemed important to some to “have something to show for it all” in the end. But the saddest point is that scores of thousands of Japanese civilians were incinerated by the United State in a special attempt to impress the Soviet Union. They were impressed—they accelerated their own program developing the same kind of weapon.

Most of the top military figures advising the president did not want to use the bomb, or at least wanted to arrange a demonstration of the weapon for the Japanese. Initiatives were coming from the Emperor himself for ending the war, but surrender terms were left unclarified, although virtually everyone advising Truman sought for such a clarification.

This matter as outlined in the book raises the question of granting one man or a small group of men power to kill civilians. The myth that dropping the bomb saved hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives is also addressed. This myth was developed after the war when the use of the bomb generated a considerable outcry of disagreement. This book is almost two books in one, and the material about the myth and its development as worthy as the first part. First estimates were that the casualties that might accrue in the first month of an invasion of the Japanese mainland could go as high as 7,000. This number kept ratcheting up as pressure against what had been done mounted.

This book is a worthy read, quite detailed. This brief review does little justice to it. Since I have chosen to personally pursue more detail about the WWII / Cold War period, this book was one of real interest. Read Stinnett Day of Deceit,) first. You will have to set aside some time for Decision, although when you get down to the main text, you will only be reading some 670 pp. Helps one understand that the state is immoral, is run by incompetents who murder, and that there is grave danger in merely following orders. Nuking Japan adds a permanent tarnish against the record of the United State. No doubt, many good men fought in the war and did bad things as ordered, not understanding the import of their actions. However, the information is ready for you to chase it and you will see that what was done was a crime. Truman, Byrnes, and others will face their actions under the searching scrutiny of the Judge of all the Earth.

Reality distortion field failure pt. 2

Will there be a just ordering of the world? And is “representative democracy” the way to do it?

Yes, there will be a just ordering of the world—when Jesus returns and after the thousand years Satan will be destroyed (Revelation 20). And before that? Probably not. But as Jacques Ellul says,

I believe that the anarchist fight, the struggle for an anarchist society, is essential, but I also think that the realizing of such a society is impossible (Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, p. 19).

He further elaborates,

The more the power of the state and bureaucracy grows, the more the affirmation of anarchy is necessary as the sole and last defense of the individual, that is, of humanity (Ibid., p. 23).

Ellul sees anarchy as the only serious challenge to the abuse of power.

We can denounce not merely the abuses of power but power itself. But only anarchy says this and wants it (Ibid.).

Any other solution involves the power of some people over others. And no basis for elevating some into power over others exists. Now Rothbard:

Suppose, for example, that there are many competing cantaloupe stores in a particular neighborhood. One of the cantaloupe dealers, Smith, then uses violence to drive all of his competitors out of the neighborhood; he has thereby employed violence to establish a coerced monopoly over the sale of cantaloupes in a given territorial area. Does that mean that Smith’s use of violence to establish and maintain his monopoly was essential to the provision of cantaloupes in the neighborhood? Certainy not, for there were existing competitors as well as potential rivals should Smith ever relax his and threat of violence; moreover, economics demonstrates that Smith, as a coercive monopolist will tend to perform his service badly and inefficiently. protected from competition by the use of force, Smith can afford to provide his service in a costly and inefficient manner, since the consumers are deprived of any possible range of alternative choice. Furthermore, should a group arise to call for the abolition of Smith’s coercive monopoly, there would be very few protestors with the temerity to accuse these “abolitionists” of wishing to deprive the consumers of their much desired cantaloupes.

And yet, the State is only our hypothetical Smith on a gigantic and all-encompassing scale (Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, p. 161).

The state, of course, arrogates to itself a monopoly over a variety of services, including police and military services, law, money, and more. The state is, therefore, as a starting-point, a most inefficient arrangement, for competition between providers is prevented.

Because resources are limited, inefficiency itself serves as a tax upon those most in need. To pay for a state is to impose inefficiency and scarcity upon society. A current example of the insanity of government is the “cash for clunkers” program. This sounds more like a plot off of a science fiction television series where starship Explorer comes upon a planet that produces and immediately destroys goods. There would surely be an hour or so of story line that could be wrung out of such an absurd imaginary culture. But we needn’t find a screenwriter to provide the story; it is current in the United State today. My children and grandchildren are paying for the intentional destruction of wealth in order to “reduce pollution” and to “stimulate” the economy. My children will be poor tomorrow so that your children can live off of their blood today. The state is vampiric and parasitical.

But there is the goodness that is the Constitution. Only one problem: The state interprets the rules that govern itself. In the end there is no way that an objective, just source of coercive fallen human over fallen human lordship is obtainable. Put simply, we may place overlords over ourselves who are as fallen as we are, or we may live in a society so ordered that the distortions of arbitrary rules and schemes like “cash for clunkers” have been discontinued, and men relate to each other on the basis of their own direct action. In the end, we “reap what we sow” (Galatians 6:7). And the world will be a more just place if in the present also we “reap what we sow.”

Our real options are (A) variations on totalitarianism, or (B) anarchism. That is all. Either some lording it over others, or no one lording it over others. The minarchist (minimum state) Constitutional route, as in the USA, is shown to be a mirage. The USA has become the most vast and invasive force for distortion, imposition, and expropriation that the earth has yet seen.

To return to the theme of the collapse of reality distortion, it is good to see that there is an enormous increase in skepticism about the state. But unless at least some people begin to understand the root cause of distortion (choosing option A), any relief, perhaps after a wrenching period of turmoil, will be short-lived, and will be replaced again, with another statist world regime. Time will tell.

In the meantime, an opportunity could be placed before us that has not been seen for hundreds of years: the opportunity for a newly relevant Christianity. If Christians can see through, and realize that “the state is the permanent enemy of mankind” (Rothbard, Ethics, p. 262), something different is possible. The alternative could be one of the greatest setbacks Christianity would ever face: To align itself with the nation-state just as the domination of the nation-state has run its course and it is in rapid decline. The state is not of Christianity, is not even “just” in potential.

May the distortion field continue to come off!

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