Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

Leapfrog the West

by Michael S. Rozeff

Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Omanians, Libyans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and all the other many peoples of the world who are striving for better forms of government that will lead to real improvements in your lives, I wish you well. You are engaged in a difficult enterprise. Many of you are risking much to achieve it. May God be with you.

If I were to sit down with one of you in your country as your guest, after the exchanges and pleasantries of friendship, the conversation might turn to the ways of life that you wish to bring into being. That is my subject.

Your desire to imagine and create new ways of life, to cause to be where nothing was before, is the central human capacity, one that is given by God and one that is shared by all human beings. This creative power is freedom.

To love God I take to be man’s mission and God’s desire. We are in this together. To love God is to love his creation, which includes other people. To love one’s neighbor implies, at a minimum, tolerance of his freedom and the ways of life that he creates. Be slow in judging him. Be slower still in using force to hinder and dominate him. If, in your eyes, his ways are strange or evil, tolerate them. I am not speaking of the crimes such as murder, theft, arson, and rape of which we all know, but of the myriad of other behaviors on which human beings are prone to disagree.

If you desire a good society, you should not pursue it as an abstract goal, nor should you pursue it as a general goal obtained by the State’s uniform laws or by customs dictated to all or enforced on all by social means as supposed ways to make people good. Focus instead on the person, on each and every person. Each person has the highest value, over society and over state. These are not persons. They are merely organizations and tools to achieve other purposes and they are always seriously flawed. The good society is good when its people are able to be persons, which means they are in possession of the unhampered freedom to create.

My advice to you who are now involved in various revolutions and protests is something like the following, in very brief outline.

Leapfrog the West. Learn from the mistakes of the West. Don’t imitate the West blindly in the heat of the moment of attaining new governments. Opportunities like this do not arise often. Make the most of them.

Do not immediately or quickly fasten upon some more or less standard political agenda. They are all deeply flawed. They reflect the sins and mistakes of the West, which the West has not overcome. Seek instead to understand the fundamentals of human life and the human being as a basic guide to social, ethical, and political life.

If your educated class is promoting grandiose social schemes and promising grand results, don’t believe them and don’t approve their agenda. Such promises have been made in the West for several generations. These social engineering and wealth redistribution schemes all are coming to a bad end here. Don’t be enticed into repeating the Western follies.

My view is that the essence of the human being while on this earth is the free human personality. Our being is tied up with freedom at its very root. Every sacrifice of freedom that arises from the pressures, domination, and coercions of family, friends, business, church, society, and state, or from our own personal sacrifice and enslavement by ourselves, destroys a portion of that being or suppresses it, thereby causing a degree of non-being. As I understand the human condition, God created us as free persons. We are free to choose good or evil. Non-being is evil. Being, which presumes freedom and actualizes freedom, is good. The free human personality, as God’s creation, is good. It is a value that is above family, friends, society, organizations, and states. Its worth is above any of these.

Therefore, nurture freedom of the person. Nurture freedom of conscience. Nurture freedom of creativity. Nurture freedom of thought, expression, speech, and action. Nurture all of these at the level of each single person. Do not nurture domination by society, religion, state, family, business, or any other institutions. That which is good is the free spirit in each person.

Make no attempt whatsoever to create the “good life” or happiness or welfare of citizens (or subjects or individuals or voters) by means of the state or any institution or association that dominates and suppresses the person. That approach is godless and wrong. It invariably leads to a confusion of means and ends. The state uses violence as a means. If you allow the state to use violent means in the hope of achieving the ends of happiness or general welfare, you will destroy the freedom of the person. But freedom of the person is the good. It is what God brought into being.

Do away with notions of sovereignty by any person or group or institution. The U.S. Constitution is deeply flawed from the outset in its assumption that We the People are sovereign. Sovereignty is a godless concept. It is entirely at odds with the idea of a free person. God is not sovereign over human beings either. He does not determine what we do with our freedom. Even being sovereign over oneself distorts the idea of a free and creative spirit. In the same vein, the libertarian notion of “owning oneself,” although consistent with and correctly emphasizing the idea of freedom, is essentially a cold and bloodless view of a human being. The human being has a more fiery, passionate, hotter, and loving core in its free and creative spirit. The attempt to justify freedom by beginning with a natural right or self-ownership derives from an agnostic or atheistic view of human life. It doesn’t ground freedom in God and his creation. It treats the human being as matter or as a socially-derived institution of property. It doesn’t make us all brothers and children of God. It isolates the personality and thrusts the human being toward egoistic individualism. This is not an entirely false depiction of fallen human nature, of course. And yet the human spirit naturally reaches out to other similar spirits and to God. It reaches backward to creation and forward to the last days and the Kingdom of God. Purely rationalistic concepts of the human being that were born in the Enlightenment and have carried through in different forms to modern day democratic, social-democratic, socialist, and communist governments are insufficient to understand human nature and insufficient to move firmly away from the many varieties of slavery, overt and covert, and toward freedom. These old Western ideas have resulted in Western governments that suffocate and suppress persons. They culminate in efforts to spread the same kind of governments worldwide and to have one worldwide government.

The U.S. Constitution gets off on the wrong foot by making the general welfare an end. This leads only to the sacrifice of the person. Utilitarianism, which is the philosophy that sets happiness as the ultimate human value, is deeply flawed. It is basically another godless concept and one that leads to the adoption of violent means to create the end of happiness, thereby sacrificing the free person, which is the actual value.

Do not attempt to eliminate the everyday human failings and limitations by using force or the powers of society and state. Human beings must be free to choose between good and evil things. They must be free to make mistakes. Human beings cannot be moral beings without making choices for and by themselves. They cannot share in God’s grace without such freedom. Do not be legislating personal morals. Do not be imposing societal sanctions on beliefs, speech, clothing, art, sexual behavior, and discovery. Do not be attempting with such broad powers to create earthly utopias. This is not only impossible, but attempts to accomplish this go directly against the free and creative human personality, which is God’s creation.

Don’t bother catching up to the flawed Western ideas of politics. Surpass these ideas. They are not rooted in God, despite the rhetoric to that effect that attempts to fuse God, country, nation, and State. As such, the Western ideas lead to godless behavior. This was evident early on in America and is becoming increasingly marked over time.

Do not create theocratic states, however. They too are inimical to human freedom of thought, conscience and action. Power over the human person cannot be turned over to priests, clerics, and ayatollahs any more than to secular politicians. The combination of a powerful church and a powerful state is a recipe for suppression of the person.

Separation of church and state is a good idea. In practice, however, the State makes itself the new God. It tries to surround its immoral activities with an aura of high morality. In the U.S., there are many religious denominations. Somehow, though, the churches either make very little noise about the welfare-warfare State or else support it outright. The State has managed to get organized religion on its side, by and large.

Revolutions usually go about constructing a new State that is in no essential way much different from the old one. Avoid this at all costs. Otherwise, the people are doomed to another 50 or 60 years until the next revolution breaks out.

You simply must understand the nature of the State if you are to leapfrog the Western political structures. If you understand it thoroughly, then you will wish to minimize the State.

The State is the sword, that is, power. Its essence is power: holding power, increasing power, and administering power. This has been evident for several thousand years if one examines the rise and fall of empires throughout the entire world as well as their conquests, wars, and legalities. The state has no central interest in justice, righteousness, rights, or the freedom of people, its own or others. It would just as soon enslave everyone if people did not resist. It would make war continually against others or against its own citizens if it could. It makes war to prevent peaceful secessions. It claims territory through war and dictate, through ruse and stratagem, through conquest, blood and violence. It claims all within its boundaries.

The totalitarian states of the twentieth century provide clear examples of the demonic nature of the State. The worst of them under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot butchered untold millions of persons. They sought meticulous control over economy, press, thought, money, and travel. The Western social democracies are not far behind in these respects, and they are already past masters at making war. Reject them as a model of government. Jesus rejected “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Follow his example.

If it were not for man’s craving for a universal kingdom, his craving for power, his fears and desire for security, and his susceptibility to the hypnotic temptations that the State generates, this evil institution would not exist. It exists now only to be overcome and bypassed by humanity. Do your part in this endeavor.

The State promises order. Its order is a superficial pastiche of arbitrary laws and measures that typically discriminate unjustly while also imposing uniformity on those affected. The State promises to remedy chaos, but it creates chaos and non-being by suppressing the creative spirit of persons.

The idea of the State as a thing to win is an incentive to warfare and chaos. When a state loses control over the people, warfare often erupts among groups that cannot tolerate one another as all strive to gain control over a new state and impose their agenda on everyone.

One of the worst features of the State is that whatever is immoral for a person is made out to be moral for the State. The State uses its people to kill and maim, to torture and spy, to inform and rat on others, and to assault and destroy, and all of this is approved of and applauded as if nothing were wrong. Brutality becomes something that wins medals and is glorified in motion pictures. The most corrupt and lying politicians gain the most respect.

Putting in place a Western-style democracy is not going to create prosperity. It only introduces a source of friction at the heart of a society. It will be an institution that endangers property rights, seeks greater power, won’t allow secession, won’t tolerate any serious challenge, manipulates the public, caters to special interests, wastes resources, taxes onerously, corrupts the money, and takes every opportunity to control the people.

Taking foreign aid from the West is one of the worst things you can possibly do. You will simply doom yourself to being a satellite of the West and part of its machinations. You may well end up at the mercy of its bankers.

Rather than thinking about a new government, think instead about how to build a vibrant society in which persons can exercise their creative spirits freely, for that is the basis of a good society. Think about generating tolerance. Think about generating trust. Think about well-defined property rights. Think about free markets. Think about incorruptible money. Think about a variety of institutions of justice and defense. Think about justice itself.

The West is strangling in its own debt, its own corruption, its web of lies and deceits, its fearful peoples, and its overly large governments. Why look to the West? Why go backwards when you have a chance to go forwards? In short, leapfrog the West.

March 11, 2011

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Advertisements

Regarding ‘Step Up for Your Country’–Letter from father to son

Dear son,
I read the article that you forwarded to me, “Step Up For Your country,” by General McChrystal. I am pleased that you are experiencing a desire to serve. I want to offer you a different perspective. As a Christian person, how do you pursue this desire to serve? Please listen. See what you think.

I noticed that McChrystal’s article is littered with numerous keywords (“service,” 30 times, “responsibility” 13, “obligation,” 4, relentless “we,” language–more than 30 times throughout). Sacrifice appears repeatedly, too. It sounds noble!

But why serve the nation-state? Do you really have responsibility and obligation to serve it? Is the nation-state you and your neighbors, friends, and relatives? And, from a Christian standpoint, is this biblical?

Let’s start by getting one thing clear: you are to serve God. He is your King. You have chosen fealty to Him. Your choice was voluntary. The second thing, is that you cannot serve two masters without corrupting your character. It just does not work. You may be able to serve one master with undivided loyalty and then interact thoughtfully with other agents, but you cannot successfully serve two masters.

Thirdly, it needs to be remembered that the nation-state is not God’s agent. It is not neutral toward God. It stands in direct opposition to Him.

When, in the time of Jesus and the apostles they were persecuted by the nation-state and then released, the prayer went up after:

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:24-27).

This arrangement of “church and state” was foretold in Psalm two. Human rulers set themselves up as kings and oppose their Maker. God says He will destroy them and their kingdoms–completely.

”As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. . . And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold” (Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45a).

If These kings/kingdoms/nation-states are actually in rebellion against God, and willfully resist Him, and if He foretells His destruction of them so that no trace of them will remain, and so that the place they occupied is filled with a kingdom encompassing the whole earth–then it is clear that these kingdoms do not represent God. They actually represent rebellion against Him.

But Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. It sounds like there is a space there for Caesar, that something dos, in fact, belong to Caesar. And yet, biblically, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He made them and all that is in them (Exodus 20:11). He is the rightful owner of all creation (Psalm 50:11). We can give to Him only that which is already His own, which He has permitted us to borrow (“for all things come from you, and of your own have we given you,” 1 Chronicles 29:14).

Caesar’s kingdom is temporary, and God has scheduled it for destruction. In the time of Ceasar, coins bore the image of the emperor’s likeness; the money was truly considered to be his money. Jesus is only saying, “Go ahead; give him back what is his.”

But, back to the question about the nations: they stand in opposition to God. This is true all the way back. In 1 Samuel 8-12, God warns the Hebrews pointedly how choosing a human king comes with all manor of negatives. He even declares that in doing so, they have rejected Him (God) from being king over them. Very strong stuff, eh? And the testimony of Scripture stays on the same line all the way through the Bible. Looking through God’s Word, passage by passage, text by text, the story is clear: God has nothing good to say about human government. The Bible as a whole is decidedly anti-state.

That said, there is one passage consistently quoted by those who make the Bible justify the nation-state: Romans 13:1-7. Much is claimed for this passage, and doubtless, those who advocate “national service,” if they are Christians, would point to this text for justification of their program. What can we say about it?

First, we look at the whole testimony of Scripture, and as already pointed out, it is recognizably anti-state. Thus, one or two verses that don’t seem to fit, we should anticipate, read with care and researched with caution, should find a harmony with everything else in the Bible.

Second, these seven verses do not stand alone; they are part of a longer section, stretching from 12:1 to 13:14. The thrust of the larger message of these two chapters is, do not be conformed to the world, but be changed and exhibit Christian behavior. The believer is to serve God (Romans 12:11). He is to abhor that which is evil wherever it is found, and endorse the good wherever it is found. More than endorsing good, he is to overcome evil.

The message of 13:1-7 is far from an endorsement of all that a nation-state does, or call to serve it, or to make oneself its agent. We are to serve God first. As far as the nation-state goes, we are to be in subjection to it as far as we can do so ethically. This does not mean unqualified cooperation.

Paul argues that God has ordered the world this way. He has permitted these entities to exist, just as He permits thieves, sexual immorality, and drug lords to exist. But what is permitted is not endorsed, for He has made clear His law: no killing, no stealing, no adultery are permissable. But the nation-state in our day endorses all of these, encouraging poor health practices, licensing sexual immorality (endorsing immoral “marriages” of those who “divorce” their spouse without biblical grounds and who “remarry” (commiting adultery, violating the covenant with the original wife), and taking means and imposing fees by force.

The believer is not called to resist the order that God has permitted, nor is he instructed to cooperate with it. He is to be subject to it. This falls far short of unequivicol endorsement. The rulers are appointed by God to do His will, through them he sometimes takes down or raises up other nation-states. Particularly, they serve as instruments of wrath against those whom God chooses to judge.

But, very often, their behavior goes too far. Was it really God’s will for the nation of Israel to kill Isaiah the prophet? And for Rome to kill Jesus and Paul also–all of whom functioned in direct service to God? The leaders of a nation often bring collateral benefit to the believer, even if it is mostly incidental and unintended on their part.

We are subject to them because it is not God’s purpose for us that we invest our energies in attacking them. He sets up and removes kings, and vengeance is His, not ours. He will deal with them in His time and His way. Our part is to pray for divine intervention so that we may live quiet and peaceful, non-violent lives with as little interaction with the national machinery as possible. Our part is to do good quietly and stay out of their way. We should give Caesar the respect that he requires, but not to the point of crossing over into serving him. We have exacly one Master, God. The human nation is godless and temporary.

Love does no wrong to others. It serves neither self, nor Caesar. We are called to cast off the works of darkness and to live upright lives, and to seek out no excuses for satisfying our baser inclinations.

How odd it would be for Paul to begin his argument by asking us not to conform to the world (and by extension, the nations of the present order), and yet, to turn around and suddenly call us to conform to them! On the contrary, John the Baptist told soldiers to refuse to commit acts of violence, and God time and again breaks His followers out of prisons and intended executions–against the express wishes of the authorities, religious and national.

But what about these assertions that we have responsibilities, obligations, owe service and even sacrifice to the nation? It is always interesting to go back, and look again at the Ten Commandments and see which things God says actually are transcendant. What do we find there?

As far as obligation and responsibility goes, the story looks like this.

First Commandment: Our primary obligation is to God; all other obligations are secondary.
Second Commandment: We must worship God and avoid the worship of all idols and secondary commitments.
Third Commandment: God says that we may not empty the worship of God of meaning.
Fourth Commandment: God has made a day of worship for us to spend with Him; we must keep it. We must not cause others to work on this day.
Fifth commandment: God says that we have an obligation to our immediate family.
Sixth Commandment: God says that we have a commitment to our fellow men not to kill them.
Seventh Commandment: God says that we have a definite commitment to our spouse and to other married couples.
Eighth Commandment: God says that we have an obligation to respect the property rights of others.
Ninth Commandment: God says that we have an obligation to deal with other people truthfully and to guard their reputations.
Tenth Commandment: God says that we are not to desire the spouses or possessions of others.

And so, a look at the Ten Commandments reveals three circles of commitments:
(1) To God first.
(2) To our spouse and other couples, and to our immediate familiy.
(3) To our fellow man, in not killing him, telling untruths about him, stealing from him, or causing him to work on Sabbath.

Commitment to national units is nowhere to be found: not in the Ten Commandments; not in the teachings of Jesus; not in the teachings of Paul, or anywhere else in the New Testament.

Very simply, these are good values (responsibility, fulfilling true obligations, service). But anyone asking that you engage in them on behalf of their favorite nation-state, or any nation-state, is pressing upon you obligations not found in the Word of God.

Consider my words, my son, and avoid lying Generals.
Your Father.

A Case for Christian Anarchy, pt. 7

Davies argues that Christians actively support the institution of government and therefore Christian anarchism is not really fairly described as anarchist. It must be admitted that many Christians do support the state, and that, often somewhat blindly. But is this really a surprise? The vast majority of non-Christians also support the state. The Christian, at least, has a basis for opposing the state from the context of his belief system.

The Christian understands that men have a distorted, dangerous nature because of the Fall of the race in the garden of Eden. Just as this nature makes it impossible to rule men, so it also makes it impossible for him safely to rule. Secular views have no comparable problem native to the race.

What’s more, Christianity is a canon-based religion, with a set of holy writings. These writings overwhelmingly present what is in essence the endorsement of an anarchic pattern, from beginning to end. The few texts which historically have been presented as teaching the support of the state have to be interpreted in a manner that throws them sharply out of harmony with the broader testimony of the Bible in order to make such a case. The larger thrust of scripture is decidedly weighted in the support of the anarchic approach.

What’s more, this same book prophesies and condemns an illicit union of church and state (Revelation chs. 13, 17, 18 cf. Daniel chs. 1-6).

(For a review of the question concerning Romans chs. 12 and 13, see our part 3 of this series.)

But we ought to remember also that historically, there have been many examples from within Christianity of those who resisted the state. Anabaptists, Mennonites, and others have long been in direct opposition to the state. Many of these who were killed for their faith, historically, were killed, not by religious authorities, but by state authorities because they refused to take up the sword to fight for the state. Just about any 16 pages from the book Martyr’s Mirror will make this clear. These Christians, and many other groups, see the blending of Christianity with Constantine in the forth century in the most negative light.

When it comes to individual Christians, there are the unambiguously anarchist theologians like Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller, and in recent time, Greg Boyd.

Leading anarchist theorists coming from the economic angle of anarcho-capitalism, including Lew Rockwell Thomas Woods, and others, are Christian. Other less well known names are found too. In even more recent time, there is a steadily growing contemporary interest in Christian anarchism.

It is simply wrong to see Christianity as a united force massed on the side of the state. It is embarrassing how many have supported the state, but it is heartening that many do not.

Next: part 8: Our concluding summary of our response to Jim Davies, Christianity and Anarchism: Oxymoron? and a look to the future.

A Case for Christian Anarchy, pt. 6

Davies’ article suggesting that Christianity and anarchism are irreconcilable includes several arguments in support of his assertion. One is that anarchism is based on selfishness and Christianity is based upon sacrifice, and that these opposing principles demonstrate this incompatibility.

Davies has Christianity wrong here, at least in part. Christianity is actually based on agape love—unselfish love—which is the outgrowth of being created by and worshiping God who is love (1 John 4:8). Christianity says that man is made in the image of this God, that is, in many respects, what God is like is in a lesser way what man is like. Thus, man has an innate attraction to the same.

However, mankind was tested, and failed by choosing to obey Satan rather than God. His nature was bent, and on account of this, all men are born having distortion within. As a result, they choose self first. This is unnatural. Man is born with this unnatural orientation, although it seems normal to him. What else would it seem?

This is a very destructive reality, and explains man’s relentless inclination to coerce and force others—a reality that standard anarchism has little explanation for. We outline this here in order to give some necessary background and expand the idea of self-sacrifice. The goal of Christianity is not self-sacrifice, but restoration of the original, selfless nature. When we look at what the Bible says, Christianity as represented in its primary and prototypical source, contemplates this very change.

In the end, all who freely choose to be, will be changed. That is, healed. The selfishness nature that had been developed is eliminated. During the present, the Christian is engaged in the struggle between the old nature and the new. The end product of this struggle will be a universe filled with unselfish, non-coercive, gentle people.

How can this be? And what about the fate of those who reject this restoration? Those who choose selfishness as their life stance are conforming themselves in a nature that is inevitably unsatisfying and as inevitably irreconcilable with life. We can draw an (admittedly imperfect) analogy to a child who is born with a fatal disease. Without treatment he must die.

The difference is that while we all come into existence with an unnatural “nature,” we also come into existence with the capacity to choose to change it. That is, pursuing the disease analogy, every human’s beginning is as a creature born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil, and in every case this becomes a conscious choice to be a rebel against God. But God makes available a solution. It is as if there is a medicine one may take in order to be cured.

Alas, true Christianity requires much more than the mere taking of a pill. Because of his distorted nature, the Christian faces a continuing daily battle with this inclination, which he must keep subdued in strength provided by God. Over time, this choice for unselfishness becomes ingrained in him. He uses the liberty that God has granted him to be restored to unselfishness. One could say, he chooses the battle for self-mastery and becomes a living, breathing example of the non-aggression axiom.

The person who rejects all the divine initiatives that invite him to be changed, is choosing to forgo the healing, to remain in the unnatural situation of his birth, and to reject the gift of life. He is choosing to become a confirmed aggressor.

Since he has not within himself the power of endless life, he must die. It is as a starving person to whom food is offered but he rejects it. By his own choice, he dies. Perhaps he would be willing to eat the food were it only provided on his own terms. But good is good and evil is evil, and God only offers eternal life to those who choose the good. What we are saying here is that those who die are choosing self-destruction. And, be assured, the Bible does not teach a forever burning torturous existence in hell; rather, those who die are burned up and their suffering and existence is ended (this is another topic).

The point is, God is not arbitrary to give life to those who accept the principle of life, and permit to die those who choose to reject it. But this is the final fate; what about the here and now?

The Christian, aided by a strength outside of himself that comes to him from God, maintains self-control, or denies self. That is, he refuses to give free reign to selfishness. No, denial of self is not the denial of who one is; it is the suppression of what one used to be and what one chooses now not to be. It is the exercise of true liberty.

Davies’ reduction to the absurd argument is indeed absurd. To suggest that the result of Christianity, if taken to its conclusion, could leave us with 50 percent of the people being sacrificed for the other 50 percent is very strange.

Davies says that selfishness can be practiced without limits; the opposite is true. Selfishness has no effective braking system. Rather, the one who seeks power over others is never satisfied; he cannot rest until he seeks more power, and more, and more. But the end result of the gospel will be the twofold demonstration that unselfishness works and selfishness does not.

Moreover, it is a mistake to equate anarchism with selfishness. Christian anarchism does differ from some conceptions of anarchism, in that it has no problem with men being led by the principles of the infinite God. But it does reject, as do anarchists, the rule of mere man over man.

We see the state for what it is, a false legitimization for one group of men to coerce others. The removal of the state is the removal of that which is antithetical to us, which stands in opposition to the government of God, the only way to true freedom for man. There is nothing of coercion in God’s government. Actually, it is seen by Christians to be the one means of true self-mastery available to man. It is the way to actual and ultimate liberty.

Removing the state and all state-like systems of coercion would leave fallen man fallen man still. He would remain as dangerous, as prone to the use of force, to untrammeled imposition over others, as before. But the Bible promises the removal of the human nation-state system and its replacement by God’s reign which guarantees liberty for all who embrace unselfishness, the original, intended design for man.

Next time: Part 7 responds to Davies assertion that the Christian supports the state.

A Case for Christian anarchy, pt. 5

In the second point Davies gives claiming the irreconcilability between Christianity and anarchism, he complains that God demands our worship. But our worship is not needed by God. Read the Bible. You will see God as a self-confident Being. He has no insecurities. He is complete in Himself and does not need any to fall on their knees in worship of Him. That being said, it seems to be that deep within man, innate to him, is a tendency to worship.

How regrettable that Davies replaces the worship of God with the worship of man, for here is where the state steps in and takes advantage. It creates its own alleged center to reality—focused on presidents, kings, and other leaders in centralized involuntary authority structures. Think of all the mischief that has arisen over the centuries, not because of what the Bible says, but because of coercive authority structures set up by men who, in the final analysis, worship men. And yes, sometimes by religious authorities, only let’s be clear—their authority is not sustained as being God’s will in Scripture.

Davies asks if I can imagine the proud John Galt bowing before God. Knowing Ayn Rand was the author, no. However, Davies is being a bit quick off the line even here. Galt is portrayed as enough of a free spirit and eclectic that there is no reason whatsoever to think that if he came to conviction that mankind was the product of a personal, creator God, that he would refuse to bow down to Him. There is a great difference between bowing before finite man and infinite Creator, and no shame in bowing in awe before our Maker.

Davies third argument is that anarchism is based on reason but Christianity based on faith. He sees no reconciliation between these positions.

Alas, he suffers from a false dichotomy. Both, secular anarchism and Christian anarchism use reason and faith. First, let’s think about reason and Christianity. As Davies notes, Christianity works from a standpoint of accepting the validity of the phenomenon of revelation. The Christian anarchist understands via Scripture that when created, the earth testified of God’s goodness. It was entirely the handiwork of God.

When humans sinned, the creation was impacted. Some plants grew thorns or became poisonous, and animals were subdivided between predator and prey. Death had entered the creation. The graffiti of sin now defaced the divined handiwork; creation now gave mixed testimony. What’s more, man’s very nature was impacted. His capacity to reason, to use emotion, to exercise his capacity to choose rationally, was affected. Because of this, God gave direct revelation to help man better understand His situation and the divine plan to restore it.

Thus, the Christian sees the testimony of nature as unreliable in part. It is only reasonable for him then to look to revelation as given in the Bible. As for faith, its exercise is not a question of proof as much as of evidence and trust. Has God given sufficient pertinent evidence to support a system of belief? The Christian anarchist says yes.

The unbelieving anarchist looks at the natural world that surrounds him and does not anticipate revelation; his conclusions are based solely on his use of reason. He, too, deals not so much with proofs as with evidences. He trusts, exercises faith, in his own reason. Looking around him, he does not anticipate that the creation tells a mixed story; he does not operate from the assumption that his own capacity to reason may be diminished. Like the drunk who gets into his automobile uttering that he is perfectly able to drive it safely home, he takes his journey alone. He is unaware that he is weaving back and forth across the road. Unfortunately for him, he has no compelling answer for why the world is the way that it is.

The unbelieving anarchist operates in terms of his own theories and presuppositions. They are just different. Remember, our contention is not that the Christian anarchist holds the same beliefs as the non-Christian anarchist; only that the ideas of anarchism and Christianity are sufficiently compatible that they can comfortably fit together. I am not asking Davies to think or to believe just as I do. I am only hoping that he and others like him will be willing to take those seriously who believe in at least some respects as he does.

And so, Davies is mistaken. Both Christian anarchists and non-Christian anarchists use reason and both use faith. So, if there is a “flimsy foundation” as Davies charges, both groups are guilty.

Next: Part 6, considering Davies’ argument that these groups have opposing ethical standards.

A Case for Christian Anarchy, pt. 4

We here continue our response to Jim Davies article “Christian Anarchist”: An Oxymoron?. Davies contrasts his idea that God has created a divine hierarchy with the idea that in contrast, nobody tells a real anarchist what to do, that the anarchist is his own self-owner.

Actually, God gives to all free choice; He will not force others to live according to His moral code. He sends rain and sunlight, gives air to breath, to the evil and to the righteous. In the end, yes, there is a judgment. And even before the end, bad behavior has its inevitable consequence, much of it in the here and now. Remember too, that as God is the Creator, He has “homesteaded” the earth, and added His labor to it (making it out of nothing). He is within His rights to determine what goes on here. And yet, at present He is permitting the two demonstrations, one of evil and one of righteousness, in order to persuade men that selflessness is superior to selfishness. He has granted time so that we may learn that this is the most just means of ordering the universe so that numerous beings having free will may live side-by-side in liberty in it for eternity.

While God shows us the best way, and even commands it in His Ten Commandment law, He does not loom above us sending instant fatal thunderbolts of wrath. Rather, He gives us space to try the different options and change direction as we grow. No Being is more gentle and gives more liberty than God.

In any case, Davies affirms that the anarchist is a self-owner. Here he is mistaken. From the perspective of the Christian worldview, he is not. Men come into being as an act of creation, and just as a human parent sees her children as her own, God sees the men He has made as His own. What’s more, we belong to God twice over, for not only has He made us, but He has bought us back from the result of our immoral behavior. Jesus not only offered a realistic example of how we are to live in this world, but He died on the cross in a broader-ranging plan to deal with human sin.

An anarchist-ordered world is not a world where immorality is not possible. Theft, violence, and other kinds of crime are just as possible in such a world as they are in the statist variety.

As a result of the Fall of man, each human being begins life with a distorted nature over which he finds it very difficult to exercise proper self-control. He develops in himself a bondage to the lower principles of his nature. God offers him true liberty, strength for self-mastery. God is the source of liberty for damaged man—if he will take Him up on it.

We recognize here that we are talking about CHRISTIAN anarchism, not mere anarchism. Christianity makes certain assertions about human nature which include a mixture of positive and negative elements. Anarchism as some conceive it is seen as naive, in that it takes a too-optimistic view of human nature.

While man is not a self-owner from the Christian perspective, God treats him much as if he were. As for no one telling me what to do, if I were about to eat a poisonous plant, and my neighbor saw what was happening and ran over onto my property yelling, “Don’t eat that!” I would be grateful rather than angry. He is not telling me what to do, he is warning me for my own benefit. Besides, he may appreciate the ordered and friendly, albeit imperfect life of his Christian anarchist neighbor, and would rather not see me replaced with a supporter of state coercion.

God gives excellent advice. There is a way that leads to life and one that leads to death. I am pleased that He loves me enough to tell me and to freely offer help. The Christian anarchist recognizes that it is as if he is free, but he also sees himself, not as an independent atom, but as one person within the broader community of humanity. He treasures the good will of others.

Next, in part 5 we consider Davies’ further argument, that God forces us to worship Him and that anarchism is based on reason while Christianity is based on faith.

A Case for Christian Anarchy, pt. 3

When we left off, Davies was stating the reasons why he felt that anarchism and Christianity are so mutually irreconcilable that it is impossible to do so. One reason he gave was that he thinks that the Bible teaches an unmistakable hierarchy of authority, which must be anathema to the thoroughgoing anarchist. Included among his examples is the idea that the governments of earth, including Rome, are organized as part of a divinely-ordained hierarchy.

Here, however, he mistakes Paul’s purpose in Romans 12 and 13. (Space does not here allow of a larger description of Bible teaching regarding nations and states. Suffice it to say, it is well nigh universally negative with reference to the state.) But back to Romans 12 and 13. Paul does not introduce the governing authorities in order to claim their brutality is part of God’s master plan. Paul is in no way arguing for their legitimacy. Rather, he is using the brutality of Rome as an opportunity to apply the Christian principle of loving all, and not just those we prefer to love.

At Romans 12:14 he reminds the Christian that he is called to love those who curse him. Then, in 13:1 he gives the governing authorities illustration, and at 13:7 he tells us to fear those whom are to be feared. What we actually owe each other, is love. The “governing authorities” are included here as Paul’s example of those people who are the most difficult to love. How we relate to abusive, violent, corrupt, coercive authorities is a test case for us in terms of how willing we are to apply God’s command to love our enemies. In 13:8 he goes for the overall principle: we are to love all.

Back to 13:1, to “be subject to” Rome does not suggest at all the legitimization of Rome. It is completely consonant with anarchism’s not-doingness and with Jesus’ persistent refusal to take Rome seriously that he gives the instruction to submit. Rome really doesn’t matter; it is here today and gone tomorrow. In the grand scheme of things, earthly governments are transitory. To take take them seriously is to do them the disservice of adding to their self-importance.
As for worldly governments being “instituted” by God, we should recall exactly God’s opinion—which is that earthly government is a rejection of divine government. God warned His people NOT to switch to an earthly king (1 Samuel 8-12), but they insisted anyway. So what did God do? He let them have what they wanted (like the quail in another place).

In that sense—that He let them have what they insisted upon (with its attendant consequences) only, did He “institute” that government. It is the same with all governments. In every case, human government is thoroughly unjust and disastrous. It is a reflection of the satanic plan of the rule-of-the-mightiest, the very example that God is permitting all creation to see and which He is running His counter-demonstration against.

Are these governments servants of God? Sure. In the same sense that the Assyrians who attacked Israel were the servants of God (see Isaiah 10:5-7, 12, 13; 13:3-5; 45, etc.). If we read Romans 13:1-7 right, we will see that it neither legitimizes Rome nor legitimizes resistance against Rome.

Remember, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (John 18, 19). And Paul agrees. Remember, the passage in Romans 13:1-7 is found in the wider setting of Romans chapters 12-14. Recall that in 12:1 Paul has urged the reader to NOT be conformed to the shape of the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of his mind. If his purpose in 13:1-7 is going to be to urge the opposite, that the believer conform to the shape of the world, then how absurd to start by urging him not to conform to it!

The earthly mind would look at the injustices of Rome and be prepared to start a revolution against it; the transformed mind is ready instead to trust in God and to let the significance of the moment fall under a different analysis. He steps back from high time preference attitudes, and in faith trusts God and the longer-term approach, the low time preference viewpoint.

Finally, let us recall that this same Paul tells us that we are to fight against the authorities that are enthroned in heaven (Ephesians 6:12). These are, of course, the fallen authorities, the fallen angels who have rebelled against God. Satan’s claim in Matthew four that he has control over all the nations of the world, and his control over them demonstrated in Revelation 17 and 18, shows that there is a connection between these fallen angel powers and the power held by earthly governments.

But we must hear Paul in one more place. In Colossians 2:13-15 he tells us that Jesus conquers evil and death and that He has stripped the dominions and authorities of earth of their power. Yes, God has permitted these evil powers, for a time, to threaten and do violence and impose upon man; yes, Satan has been permitted to offer a demonstration of what coercive government is like. In the sense that God has allowed this to go on, that He has not—yet—evicted the demonic squatters from the land He has made, in that sense, yes, He has instituted the powers that be.

But all power is relative, and Jesus has triumphed over these very powers openly at the cross and will do so ultimately through His own followers (Genesis 3:15 cf. Romans 16:20). Which brings us at last to the realization that submission to the higher powers rally means submission to the power that is above all other powers—the power of Christ. Paul did not propose that Rome was legitimate in itself. Rather, he insisted that ultimately, God is the believer’s authority. The believer knows that God is in control and that He is using the believer’s consent to powerlessness in demonstration of the persuasive goodness of responsible, non-coercive living.

In the above, I have added little if anything, to the arguments of Vernard Eller, Christian Anarchy, pp. 196-204, and Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, pp. 77-85, from which I have here drawn heavily. Romans 13:1-7 is far from the conclusive argument that Davies thinks. If he has misinterpreted Paul, so have many Christians for many years in the same places. Still, as previously noted, we must be careful not to take as examples of God’s government the very entities which He has warned us are its antithesis. Davies is not the first to fall into this trap. When we let all the Bible inform us, we see an anarchistic river running all through the Bible. Romans 13 does not contradict all the rest, but complements it.

In our next installment, we address the last portion of Davies’ first point, and if space permits, proceed to his second and third points. . .

Tag Cloud