Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Archive for the ‘jim davies’ Category

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.

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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. 1

I read an article by Jim Davies wherein he stated that Christianity and anarchism were mutually contradictory and irreconcilable. But I have news: They are exceedingly compatible indeed.

The mistakes made by Davies are numerous. O, where to begin!

Davies first problem is his misunderstanding of the interview between Jesus and Pilate (John chapters 18, 19) a few hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate is seeking to evoke an answer from Jesus and tersely reminds Him that he has the power of life or death over Jesus at that time. Finally, Jesus speaks up. He tells Pilate that he could have no power over Jesus unless that power had been given to him (Pilate) from above.

Davies says that Jesus was saying that

if he cared to snap his fingers, the entire Roman Empire would instantly implode–that it derived all its powers from him, as a member of the Trinity, as did every other government. A claim to be absolute monarch over all the governments in the world . . . some anarchist!

All wrong.

Jesus, all-powerful God, in coming to earth that He had made, had laid aside many of His powers of Deity. Again and again through Jesus’ earthly ministry Satan had sought to provoke Jesus to recover these powers. He wanted Jesus to use them, and so destroy the example of right living he was offering men. Jesus refused, of course. He insisted on identifying Himself with everyman, and in living as those who had no divine powers must live. He came not as a powerful One but as One who had laid aside those powers and stood in solidarity with the powerless.

The kingdoms of this world stood universally under the power of Satan, whose philosophy is exactly otherwise that of Jesus: The most powerful shall rule. Jesus came to demonstrate that man need not live in power over other men but that powerlessness is true power.

Jesus’ kingdom was not a set of violent and unjust hierarchies from Rome on down. He told Pilate, and Davies must have read this in the same passage, that His was a kingdom not of this world. That is, Jesus’ kingdom was one of anti-power, exactly opposite to the pro-power kingdoms of earth. In Jesus’ kingdom, one reaps what he sows, one does not exercise coercion over his fellow man. Ever. And so, there is virtually no resemblance between Pilate’s Rome and Jesus’ otherworldly kingdom.

But Jesus’ kingdom of anti-power is rightfully located in heaven and on earth. On earth, Satan has sought to usurp God’s kingdom. Satan lives for the moment like a squatter, on ground that he has no ownership over. He is being given opportunity to show his form of government in action. But the anti-power government that is God’s kingdom is coming. In the end, none will choose Satan’s hierarchical, statist, totalitarian, might-makes-right system. All will choose the liberty of God’s system of individual liberty.

Daniel two shows that God’s kingdom in the end overcomes and destroys all the kingdoms of earth, i.e. of “this world.” And so, Rome is not representative of God’s kingdom in the least—nor does church history between Jesus’ time and our present day fairly represent all that God’s kingdom will be. Indeed, in the Bible God foretells the rise of a church power that is the very antithesis of His kingdom. Perhaps Davies is thinking of the antichrist power rather than the Christ-power.

In any case, returning to the interview between Pilate and Christ, Jesus said that it was within His power to fight, but that His business at that time was not to fight Rome. And yes, Davies is right; one who has the power to create whole planets out of nothing could indeed in one moment cause Rome to implode. But this was not Jesus’ purpose. Jesus had all power, but had laid that power aside.

Pilate had no power but that power which had been given him from above himself. And what power was that? Jesus said that it was a sin for Him to have been handed over to Pilate. Furthermore, the power that Pilate represented was about to crucify a man whom Pilate will say he finds innocent. This was Roman justice, that which Rome especially prided itself on. And yet, the best that it can do is to murder an innocent man.

In any case, the power that stood immediately above Pilate/Rome was not God’s power, but Satan’s. Remember, he had claimed to Jesus that the power of all the kingdoms of the world had been delivered to him. And since it was a sin to hand Jesus over to these powers, we must understand that the power that was given Pilate from above, that Jesus referred to, was not the power of His own kingdom, but the power of Satan.

The kingdoms of this world do not derive their powers from God at all. The Bible actually says that they are gathered together AGAINST God. Davies misreading is a fundamental one. Nor is he alone in this misunderstanding.

There is more to say. And we shall, in the next installment. . .

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