15 July 2009

On earth as it is in heaven

(Razing the Servile State III)

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. ~ Genesis 49.10

In my previous posting on this subject, in which I sought to explain how a Christian's resistance to the state could be consistent with Romans 13, I made much of the notion of the consent of the governed. In other words, in contrast with the Roman Empire, in which not every subject of Rome's rule was a citizen, the Christian in the United Servile States of America has rights. In resisting the state, on the basis of the consent of the governed, the Christian acts in no way differently than Paul did when he objected to being whipped because as a citizen of Rome he had rights, one of which was the right not to be whipped or in any way punished without benefit of trial (see Acts 22.22-29). At the very end of that same posting I said I disagree with Christian Reconstructionist/Dominion theology. More specifically, what I said, in full context, was:

While I affirm the right of rebellion under Anglo-Saxon law tradition, as well as another tradition going back to Juan de Mariana, of regicide, I think we (i.e., Christians) should prefer another route. Bearing in mind, as I said above, that while Paul enjoined obedience to usurpatious, Roman governing authorities, he proclaimed a message which undermined the very state those authorities served. The best approach, it seems to me, is to agitate -- not call, not request, not even beg -- for surrender of illegitimately exercised powers.

Others, of course, would assert another approach. Christians, they would argue, should seek to hold public office, and hold those offices as ministers of God, as Paul calls governing authorities. In those offices, then, they should devolve these illegitimately exercised powers back to the states where they belong. Chief among these are, I think, Christian Reconstructionists or Dominionists, with whom I disagree.
For my purposes here, the Theonomist position will be described as follows. Simply put, despite the claims of dispensationalists and others, God's law has not been set aside; with the exception of the ceremonial laws, it still applies today. It must, because the Law is not arbitrary; it is a reflection of God's own character and cannot any more be set aside than God can deny Himself. Not only that, since the law was the standard applied by the Old Testament prophets against the nations, that law applies to believer and non-believer alike. God does not have one standard for believers and another for non-believers. Neither a Christian nor a non-Christian nation is ethically free to institute whatsoever laws may please it. Finally, despite popular understanding, theonomists do not propose to impose a theocratic dictatorship. Rather they intend changing the political order not by means of revolution (unlike some people we know), but by dependence upon regeneration, education and legal reform. (In my estimation, one of the best explanations of the position is Greg Bahnsen's "The Theonomic Reformed View", in Greg L. Bahnsen, et al, Five Views on Law and Gospel, Zondervan, 1996.)

I describe myself as a qualified theonomist. I agree with everything I just wrote as a description of the theonomic view that the law still applies today. But I take note of the fact that while the prophets do appraise the nations in terms of God's law, the nation of Israel (i.e., believers) are never tasked with applying that law against the nations themselves. Even if change should come by the above-mentioned means, there will still be those who dissent. The system theonomists propose, even if acceptable to a majority, must involve a certain amount of aggression against the property rights of the dissenters, specifically the right of self-ownership. The consent of the governed might be construed as the consent of self-owners to have their self-ownership aggressed against. (Technically, of course, if they consent, then there is no aggression involved. But let's not be technical just yet.) If, on the other hand, one does not consent to government, then government aggresses against self-ownership.

Self-ownership strikes the ear as a secular humanistic conception, and we (especially if we are Reformed) might therefore be inclined to dismiss it. But to my mind self-ownership (albeit a libertarian conception) is at the very least consistent with the fact that humans are responsible to God for their actions. In other words, humans must own their actions. If my actions are mine then so is the self which performs the actions. The non-believer is responsible for -- owns -- his unbelief and all the actions he performs in his unbelief. He owns the ends he selects as well as the means he selects for attaining those ends. Theonomists propose commanding the unbeliever to employ his property in a certain way, even, I'll grant, the right way. They propose aggressing against our neighbors' self-ownership, and this, despite theonomists, as a general rule, being very much free market oriented.

What theonomists, then, have in mind is a notion similar to what both the left and the right have of consent of the governed, which is really, the consent of the majority of the governed. This puts the minority in the position of having their self-ownership aggressed against, which, to them, amounts to government without the consent of the governed. And their property rights in themselves would be aggressed against under a right-leaning theonomic regime no more or less than their other property rights would be, or are, under a left-leaning anthroponomic regime. Why should anyone trade a left-leaning aggressor for a right-leaning aggressor? The only difference is the nature of the property rights being aggressed against. And that is why I believe it can truly be said that the difference between right wing theocrats like Theonomists and left wing theocrats (like those people at Theocracy Watch) is the nature of the regime to be imposed, as Mises explained:

In our time the most powerful theocratic parties are opposed to Christianity and to all other religions which evolved from Jewish monotheism. What characterizes them as theocratic is their craving to organize the earthly affairs of mankind according to the contents of a complex of ideas whose validity cannot be demonstrated by reasoning. They pretend that their leaders are blessed by a knowledge inaccessible to the rest of mankind and contrary to the ideas maintained by those to whom the charisma is denied. The charismatic leaders have been entrusted by a mystical higher power with the office of managing the affairs of erring mankind. They alone are enlightened; all other people are either blind and deaf or malefactors. ~ Ludwig von Mises, Human Action (4th Ed.), p. 156.
Anti-theonomist statists of non-theistic stripe will object to being described as theocrats on the grounds that they don't have a god. But their position is preposterous. It amounts to affirming that we should approve their dictatorship on the ridiculous grounds that their opponents' system posits, as given by a god, a complex of ideas whose validity cannot be demonstrated by reasoning while theirs posits, as given by some other source, a complex of ideas whose validity cannot be demonstrated by reasoning. Big deal. The choice they offer is still between two dictatorships. And to both of them, I say, "No me jodan."

So, in brief, in critiquing the dogmas of the servile state, I include a theonomist state because I don't think it can properly honor the concept of the consent of the governed, a concept which I think is consistent with the notion that, since God holds people responsible for (makes them own) their actions, people have to an extent some ownership of themselves. To govern a man without his consent, even for a theonomist, is to aggress against his property rights in himself. I object to the present non-theonomic, servile state without, at the same time, preferring a theonomic one. And that simply had to be explained because those who love our servile state will have it that all who oppose it (that is, the right wing) wish to impose upon us a theocracy. Thus do they hope to frighten us into their ever loving, protecting fold.

Part IV

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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