Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On the "Theocracy" Question, 1

Some little while ago Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost reposted a post on theocracy. A lively exchange ensued in the comments threads.

I found that the names North and Rushdoony came up as "theocrats" so I decided to take a look. This was also influenced by the frequency with which the names and their claimed views come up for mention and short-shrift dismissal.

Maybe they deserve it, but I am curious, so I took a look.

I found the following and commented as follows:

--> I took some time to look up Mr North, whom I vaguely recalled as a conservative thinker with a bit of a thing for the gold standard, in a version of a Calvinist frame with I think it was some libertarianish leanings.

--> His web site opens up on -- surprise: a financial advice page, with a lot of stress on money and real estate.

--> In the links column, I found some articels on theological stuff, mostly in the genre: When you hear the words Social Gospel, immediately think "Pastors' justification of armed government agents acting on behalf of certain special-interest voting blocs to take wealth away from other groups of citizens in order to benefit these special interests." This is exactly what the Social Gospel has always been. The central moral, judicial, and political issue of the Social Gospel is compulsion.

--> To that, my quiet observation is that the text of Rom 13:1 - 7 points out:

RO 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

RO 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

--> In short, within the limits of confiscation, which is indeed thievery and tyranny, Government has a justification for reasonable taxes and acting for the welfare of the community, especially in the matter of justice.

--> So Mr North has a point but is overboard on the benefis of unfettered capitalism: he needs to re-read Acts 27, to see how capitalists and technocrats can manipulate a public to its detriment.

Rev Rushdoony:

--> Here my memory was of someone who came out of the more or less Orthodox position and has a rather calvinist stance on a lot of issues. A flavour, from a 1971 article -- I think he has passed on:

This morning I stopped at the office of an “underground” leftist newspaper to pick up a back issue I needed for my work and writing. Inside the lobby, two long-haired revolutionaries, both staff members, were busy with a problem. Their coin-operated newspaper racks were regularly being robbed of all their papers . . . . I was amused as I listened because their paper is vitriolic in its attacks on and contempt for Biblical faith and morality. They openly express contempt for God’s law, for property rights, for sexual morality, for everything the Bible teaches. But now their property was being robbed, and they were upset.

I was reminded of the boy I went to high school with who thought it was great fun to steal melons, and said that the best tasting melons were stolen ones. A few years ago, back home, a friend told me that this same person, now a farmer, was busy damning the young punks who were stealing his melons!

The Communists, both before and in the early years after the Russian Revolution, were busy destroying morality and religion. Now they have a problem in that a generation reared by their standards will not work, will steal anything they can get away with, and has no real standards except self-interest. The Communists are now trying to tell their youth that laziness, theft, and promiscuity are bourgeois, capitalistic sins! . . . .

No society can exist without moral law, and no man-made moral law has ever commanded man’s obedience. Men who work to overthrow moral order are in the end very unhappy when they themselves are robbed by lawless men.

We have been trying to operate without God and His law. Our schools have reared a generation of lawless youth, and our apostate churches have given men dry sawdust instead of the Word of God. The results should surprise no one.

God promises another result if we turn to Him: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

--> In short here he is advocating the principle that we see in Rom 2:14 and in 13:8 - 10, the universality of the moral law and the incoherence of those who would subvert it -- i.e. all that stuff about "self-evident truths":

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

RO 13:8 . . . he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

--> On these points, it seems Mr Rushdoony is dead right, and so we must be careful against throwing out the baby with the bathwater, on whatever points he -- like all of us fallible thinkers -- is wrong.

--> I think here, if memory serves, he may be a bit more towards applyig the Israelite Levitical civil code to our situation than I think is sound. But in fact that code is a source in Roman Law as critically pruned by Justinian, and the Common Law of Britain. [Cf my observations on the case of the woman taken in adultery and thrown down before Jesus to trap him.]

What I find fascinating on this is that here we see the tendency to label and dismiss people instead of addressing issues seriously. For, these men may indeed have foolish things to say on many issues, but they have in fact raised significant points that are well worth thinking about and taking up seriously.

So, I am thinking we need to take the time to think about a key question, in addressing news, views, educational presentations, entertainment, etc:
Is the presented information: (1) accurate, (2) fair, (3) kind and (4) balanced?
For, we should treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Next time let us follow up on this issue a bit more -- is biblical Christianity properly to be feared as a likely source of tyranny; or should it be viewed instead, historically, as a fountainhead of liberation?

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