Principalities, Powers, and Pecksniffs

I have recently been listening through a collection of essays by C.S. Lewis, and have been having a wonderful time. I don’t have a long commute, three or four minutes is more like it, but it is amazing how much steak you can eat when you cut it up like that.

I just recently finished listening to his essay “Lilies That Fester,” and something he said there struck me forcefully. I want to agree with his central point in that passage, and then use that agreement to disagree with another point he was making in that same passage. To all my effronteries, I will now add this one to them all. I am going to argue with Lewis.

Under a theocracy, they might want to watch our every move. Better not risk it!
Under a theocracy, they might want to watch our every move. Better not risk it!

“I would go further. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual, or even anything very strongly ethical, in its pretensions is dangerous, and encourages it to meddle with our private lives” (C.S. Lewis, Essays, “Lilies That Fester,” p. 372).

My agreement with part of this, and disagreement with the other part, is why I have in the past called myself a theocratic libertarian. As should be easy to see, my agreement with Lewis is on the “live and let live” end of things. Like Lewis, I want government to be modest and to set for itself strictly limited objectives. Unlike Lewis, I believe that requiring government to be modest in this way is a “strongly ethical” requirement. And as a strong ethical requirement, it requires a transcendental grounding.

When I tell an ordinary citizen that he must not steal, I should be in a position to answer the question if he wonders why. If I tell my government that it must be modest, what do I do in the face of the same question? For — believe me — governments want to misuse their power more than ordinary citizens want to steal. My elected representatives want to steal from me more than my next-door neighbor does. That being the case, they must be told not to — which is a strong ethical requirement. As such, like all ethical requirements, it requires transcendental grounding.

The natural assumption that many make is that the higher the claims for governing authority, the higher the aims of actual governance will be. This is the assumption that Lewis is making here. In other words, if we grant that God has established the authority at all, then the authority must have a double-0 rating and can do whatever it wants.

But this does not follow. A government appointed by God to be a ministering servant is not a government appointed by God to be a swaggering bully. Divinely established authorities can also be put under severe restrictions — and in Scripture, the authorities have been.

So if we withhold divine sanction from government in order to keep them from claiming too much authority, we discover that we have simply opened the door to allow them to claim all authority. If there is no recognized God over the state, then who has now become god? Who is now the highest authority in the lives of those governed? I am far more likely to find myself governed by a swaggering bully who recognizes no authority whatever above him than by a swaggering bully who feels he needs to justify his behavior from Scripture. In a dispute with the latter, I at least have something to appeal to.

But the former situation is precisely the position we are currently in. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and pecksniffs. Lewis worried about “meddlesome” rulers — you know, the kind who would make you sort your garbage into different colored bins. The kind who would shut down your kid’s lemonade stand. The kind who would confiscate half your income. The kind who fine florists for not celebrating vice. That kind. The kind we got.

It turns out that overweening conceit in rulers requires a strong theocratic restraint.

If there is a court of appeal past our human government, then in principle I have admitted theocracy. If there is no court of appeal past them, then I have just made them god. Having made them god, I discover that I am still in a theocracy, but instead of a loving Father, the theos of this system is corrupt and grasping, mendacious and low, and full of flatulent hubris. Requiring government to remain modest and within the bounds of sanity is therefore one of the most profound ethical requirements that has ever been promulgated among men.

So if you agree with Jefferson, as I do, that that government is best which governs least, then it follows from this that that government is best which appeals to the divine will of Heaven the least. But for what it does do, and with regard to what it forbids itself to do, it must learn to heed and obey the most powerful “thou shalt nots” ever uttered.

Whatever appeals there are to Heaven must therefore be the kind of appeals that reinforce the limitations and boundaries on government. One of the central things that this government must learn to appeal to is the fact that Heaven insists that the rulers refrain from overreach and arrogance. This is why I have argued so often, and so forcefully, for the jealous protection of free markets. The issue at stake is this issue. Because Jesus is Lord, we proclaim free grace, which results in free men, which results in free markets.

This doctrinal point about the nature of men is one that Lewis himself makes in his essay called “Membership,” when he says there are two approaches to democracy. He believed the “false, romantic” view of democracy was that which thinks all men so good “that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice.” This view really is pernicious.

“On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows” (Essays, p. 336).

I take a brief moment here to dismiss any form of Christian anarchy. What governmental power exists must be fixed, defined, nailed down, watched very carefully, even though it is swathed in the duct tape of multiple Bible verses about man’s depravity. To take government down to zero is simply to create manifold opportunities for ad hoc warlords. Theocratic libertarianism suspects the heart of all men, all the time, while anarchy, eternally suspicious of the current rulers, fails to suspect the hearts of those forming hypothetical militias on the fly.

But some still react to the word theocracy in superstitious ways. They are like the ancient Romans who were willing to turn over the whole operation to Julius Caesar, but would not permit him the use of the word emperor. Or like Americans, who have granted their presidents more authority than many medieval kings would ever dream of, but would flip out over use of the word king.

Why are we so afraid of theocracy? What might happen? Might we go on a rampage and kill 50 million babies? Yeah, that would be bad. Better not risk it. Might we set up a surveillance state, with camera clusters pointed in every direction at all the intersections? Right — theocracies are terrible like that.

The real reason why our current rulers want us to react violently whenever we hear the word theocracy is that petty gods are always jealous of their position, and dread any talk of a Lord who rose from the dead.

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Rob Steele
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Rob Steele

I think I’m listening to the same thing. This time around I’ve been amazed at how often I’ve disagreed with the great man. He’s not Catholic but he’s not Reformed either.

David R
Guest
David R

I dont believe Lewis would disagree with you. He had a healthy understanding of the word theocracy, unlike the spirit of this age. He knew theocracy to be the State is the Church, something all of us would abhor, but oddly embraced by the Left.

Today people scream “Theocracy!!!” if you think marriage is one man and one woman, or that men should not be allowed in women’s locker rooms, or that babies are human beings. Lewis would find such agitprop comical and devoid of reason, and definitely not examples of Theocracy.

wisdumb
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wisdumb

David – “He knew theocracy to be the State is the Church” –
But it’s NOT! That would be an ecclesiocracy; theocracy is God is the ruler (the question then, is: is His rule mediated)

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Beware the government that take is upon itself to change human nature, whether it calls itself a theocracy or a secular democracy. Think of the power that would need to be exerted. Think of the resource costs.

Reality
Guest
Reality

I agree. Like all the costs of our current administration (Attorney Generals time….) to petition the Supreme Court on the marriage issue; even though most of the people in most of the States had voted against such, or providing legal support to specific classes and individuals. I see many cases of this now; but seldom before. What changed and why is this now “acceptable”?

Ilíon
Member

But some still react to the word theocracy in superstitious ways. They are like the ancient Romans who were willing to turn over the whole operation to Julius Caesar, but would not permit him the use of the word emperor.
The word Caesar had to avoid was ‘king’.

Reality
Guest
Reality

It seems like we are the exact opposite. We are Caesar by responsibility of vote; yet those elected self assumed responsibility and not servitude to those voting?

grace
Guest
grace

Why do you keep scrubbing your blog?

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

What, like with a cloth or something?

Kevin Bratcher
Guest

^ Win.

jsm
Guest
jsm

Doug, how do you define free market? How do you avoid the abuses of the industrial revolution with no government intrusion? Men’s hearts are wicked. Powerful men will exploit the weak and the environment with no thought for future generations.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Adam Smith is still pertinent here. We do not have free markets, we have crony-capitalism–where one must ‘donate’ to the state to do major business. The in’s make out very well, the outs not so much.

Unions (private, not public, sector) are a useful corrective against evil capitalists.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Has it worked that way? What is a useful corrective against evil unions?

Katecho
Member

A start would be to forbid requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

holmegm
Guest
holmegm

Perhaps lots of Christians becoming capitalists would be a good corrective as well.

ashv
Guest
ashv

I think we can extend the argument further and critique Lewis’ argument about democracy on the same grounds. Attempting to prevent anyone from being entrusted with power results in power being accumulated without responsibility. Before the age of popular government, princes were honoured as legitimate rulers and could not easily blame their failures on others. Under democracy, political power is said to come from popular opinion — and so whoever controls popular opinion, such as academia and the media, holds the actual power, but can never be held responsible in the same way. (Of course, this proved unstable in the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Great point. Along these lines, we just witnessed as departing Speaker of the House Boehner saddle us with another increase on the government debt ceiling, which was conditioned on some future administration paying back this latest incremental insult somewhere around 2025. Talk about complete lack of accountability. Talk about taxation (of the future) without representation. The lies we tell ourselves.

Paul Sanduleac
Guest

Helped me understand better the appeal to “free grace -> free men -> free markets”. Thank you.

holmegm
Guest
holmegm

If Jesus is Lord, then Obama (and John Boehner) are not.

Think of Samuel’s incredulity, when the Israelites demanded a king. “The Lord your God is your king.”

timothy
Guest
timothy

Because Jesus is Lord, we proclaim free grace, which results in free men, which results in free markets

Good. very good.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

And there ain’t any freedom anywhere else. There is the freedom from God that the world promotes but that’s only the freedom from gravity one experiences after jumping off a cliff (DW’s metaphor, if I remember correctly). It’s really slavery to sin and the end of all real freedom, which we are about to find out the hard way unless God shows mercy.

insanitybytes22
Member

“I discover that I am still in a theocracy, but instead of a loving Father, the theos of this system is corrupt and grasping, mendacious and low, and full of flatulent hubris.”

Words of wisdom there. Many people want to take God out of the equation, but they never ask what we will replace Him with.

RFB
Guest
RFB

That is the point of contention that is regularly talked past or brushed aside; not whether, but which.
All cultures are theocracies; test to determine the identity of their god by how they respond when you insult it.

adad0
Member

As the cretin poet VanZant once said: “ewww ewww that smell…”

As the cretin poet Zimmerman (Dylan) once said: “you gotta serve somebody..”

When people take God out of the equation, the assumption is that they themselves will be the replacement, not realizing that the competing principalities and powers (darkness) are far more pecksniff than conceited mortals will ever be.

“Hey darkness! I just used my new word and called you a pecksniff! Don’t like it? Talk to our Father!”

Andrew Lohr
Member

Everyone in the military and police should read “The Necessity of Chivalry” (#109 in Rob Steele’s link).

TedR
Guest
TedR

Pastor Wilson, this reminds me (the mention of Jefferson got me thinking), in one of your blog posts within the last year or so you mentioned some percentage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (or perhaps those that attended the first Continental Congress?) were, as a majority, a Christian group. Preparing for an objection to that point you provided some evidence and I remember I wanted to follow-up on that, not because I didn’t believe you but because I wanted to read more about those men. I field the objection of “Jefferson was a deist, Franklin was an… Read more »

adad0
Member

TedR, one unsolicited short version.
The American war of independence was a continuation of the English civil war, with lessons learned.

Main lesson: Don’t have a denominational government, religious or otherwise. They all have the potential for “flatulent hubris”.

While the American founding fathers were men with the common faults, they all disliked the smell of
“Flatulent hubris” so much that they sought to create a govt. system that could structurally avoid it.
Some of those structures have broken down since that time.

That’s why it smells around here. ; – )

TedR
Guest
TedR

I think I agree with all of that.

The book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission by Charles Murray lays out a good case for why “some of those structures have broken down since that time”. I’d go further and say that many of those structures have fallen down or are in an extreme state of disrepair.

adad0
Member

” and I’ve been wanting to load up the evidential bucket ever since.” Ted, thanks for the response. To your original desire above, true evidence is always great, though it always serves the true principle, which can often be demonstrated by excersize of the principle, which becomes evidence its’ self. Not to mention, the concept of “flatulent hubris” strangely widens the appeal of the explaination. ;-) To other comments on this post, our individual salt and light, granted to us by Father, Son and Spirit, is where our stand against principalities and powers must always start. Any government that is… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

TedR, “Prime Minister of England Horace Walpole, upon hearing the news of colonial rebellion, said, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson!” “Give ’em Watts, boys” (Pastor James Caldwell) If you have not already, search for information regarding the “Black Robed Regiment” (aka “Black Regiment”). It might prove useful for your endeavor. Also, with the individual failure of any Christian, it is important to focus upon a crucial point: “Was the person acting in accordance with, or in disobedience to the standards of doctrinal faith.” Their departure (or anyone’s) from the standards of The Faith once delivered, does… Read more »

TedR
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TedR

Fair point about living up to the standard, which none of us do. I suppose I should have framed the argument I hear as “America was not founded as a Christian nation” to which I say, “What does that mean? Regardless, it was a nation founded by Christians”. I just need to be more prepared to talk specifics about the founders and what they believed.

ashv
Guest
ashv

The specifics I’d want to talk about include the Constitution creating the first explicitly atheist government (by forbidding religious tests for federal office).

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

If the Constitution prohibited theists from holding office that of course would create an explicitly atheist government *and* would be a religious test. I’m glad the Constitution doesn’t do that, aren’t you?

ashv
Guest
ashv

Things are rarely so bad that they can’t be worse. Fortunately the American revolutionaries merely encouraged the French Revolution from afar, rather than importing it directly.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

“Things are rarely so bad that they can’t be worse.”
For example, if the Constitution actually created an explicitly atheist government that would be far worse than anything the Constitution actually does.

ashv
Guest
ashv

An organization that isn’t explicitly in submission to Jesus is organizationally opposed to Him.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Arguably. On the one hand the world that is not with Christ is against Him, on the other hand a government does not have to be explicitly in submission to Jesus to be ordained by God and His servant, so I don’t know about organizationally opposed. In any case not explicitly in submission to Jesus is not the same thing as atheistic, and if it was the same thing then the government established under the U.S. Constitution would hardly be the “first explicitly atheist government”, as you said. In regards to submission to Jesus, at worst it is no worse… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

What preceded the USA in this regard? As far as I can tell every preceding government was legitimized by one god or another.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

You said that not being explicitly in submission to Jesus is to be organizationally opposed to him. Since you said that in reply to my prior comment you implied being organizationally opposed to Jesus equates to being explicitly atheist.
All the nations and governments preceding the USA were not explicitly in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and few, if really any at all, ever were. Do you really think being legitimized “by one god or another” is submission to Christ? I tell you it is not. Neither is nominal Christianity.

ashv
Guest
ashv

No. Government is religious in nature, it is the expression of a society’s beliefs about the will of their god regarding civil order. Nobody denied this until the American Revolution.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Except when it’s an expression of what the powerful want and what they can get away with. In any case, if indeed government is religious in nature then the U.S. government by definition is no more irreligious than any other. As for the American Revolution, it did not stand in denial of religion, whatever else might be said for or against it.

ashv
Guest
ashv

The black-robed regiment of the Revolution was the spiritual ancestor of today’s mob-inciting pundits. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would have fit right in.

Katecho
Member

Jefferson claimed to be a Christian and explicitly denied being a deist, though he was certainly a Christian heretic. He wrote his own version of the Bible without any miracles of Jesus. He acted the most like a deist.

Franklin is the only one I know of who actually claimed to be a deist, but he was always going around praying to God and asking for His providence. Odd.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

he was always going around praying to God and asking for His providence. Odd.

Kinda like my Arminian friends, God bless ’em, who go around praying for God to save some dude.

Jill Smith
Member

This Catholic, who is instructed to pray for people’s salvation, is a little confused. Do you mean that prayer is pointless because God has already foreordained that person’s salvation or damnation? But, if so, what is the point of any intercessory prayer?

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Do you mean that prayer is pointless because God has already foreordained that person’s salvation or damnation?

No, that would be the Arminian’s jab at Calvinists, (and hopefully also in good nature).

What I’m talking about is how intercessory prayer is inherently Calvinistic. If I have a friend who is using his free will to reject God and I pray for God to save him, I’m asking God to “violate” his free will, right?

Laura
Guest
Laura

Yes.

You could ask God to put the right person in his path at the right time to talk to him. But that’s not the same thing

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

I wonder if the pushback against the term theocracy is because in most people’s minds, including most Christians, when they hear it they don’t think of Jesus as the ruler. They think of a vague concept of “God” which is much more easily twisted into a power grab than the specific delegated office of the Christ. Without this specific divine governing title, which is already held by a specific man, the “theo” in theocracy is depersonalized and no more trustworthy than the Ring of Power. Would it be more appropriate to instead use the term “Christocracy”?

drewnchick
Member

I think (without empirical evidence to back me) that many people cringe at the idea of theocracy because 1) it acknowledges the existence–nay, the supremacy–of God, which 2) leads to all manner of differing religions living in the same country arguing over which God is tops, and 3) brings to mind the Crusades, regardless of which side you fall in with, where people went around killing in the name of their God, and 4) perhaps more perniciously they think that God, being Lord over the government, will not allow anyone to have any fun; that is, He will ban sodomy,… Read more »

Krychek_2
Guest
Krychek_2

No, that’s not the pushback. The pushback is that theocracy has a fairly nasty history of treating people badly if they’re not part of the theologically favored ones. Not all of them have been as bad as the Spanish Inquisition or ISIS, but only a couple of threads ago we had people saying that Jewish and Muslim merchants should be required to honor the Christian Sabbath. We’ve got women being stoned to death for adultery in Iran and Afghanistan. We’ve got kill-the-gays bills being passed in Uganda. And I don’t even think most of that is the fault of religion… Read more »

aztomt
Member

Krychek_2, I agree with you on one point, and disagree on another. First, I am a believer, but have good reason to worry about a government founded on any religious beliefs and broadly placing those religious beliefs into legal code. I can see what starts out as a well-meaning Christian government over time denying rights to citizens who don’t get baptized by immersion, for example. People in power are just that way, not all the time in all cases, but history shows us that power corrupts and goverments need to be limited. My disagreement comes with that last statement: “if… Read more »

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

if you take religion out of it by having a secular society, you have at least removed one reason for people to be nasty to one another.

“… and substituted another.”

There. I fixed that for you.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Yes, you’re sort of proving my point. My point is that if theocracy is limited to “god”, this can become an arbitrary means to push one’s own agenda. But if it is focused in on the office of Christ, which is held by Jesus, it removes much of this problem. Now, people will still do evil things in the name of Jesus, but Jesus has a very specific record of what he approves of and what he does not, making it much harder to abuse the name of Jesus than it is to abuse the title God.

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

“When people stop believing in God, they don’t start believing in nothing. They start believing in anything.”

Wish I’d said that; widely attributed to C.S. Lewis (but I haven’t looked it up).

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

Actually, it is widely attributed to G.K. Chesterton – though it may have been coined by a friend of his, a Belgian poet named Émile Cammaerts who wrote a book on Chesterton.

For full details, see:
http://www.chesterton.org/ceases-to-worship/

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

Fair enough. Thx for the source.

Bugs
Guest
Bugs

G.K. Chesterton wrote that.

Kelly M. Haggar
Guest
Kelly M. Haggar

See below where John Callaghan agrees.

Tom©
Guest
Tom©

The God of the Old Testament gave a very specific record of what He does and does not approve of. Jesus claimed it, and came to fulfill it.

The name of Jesus is often abused by those who proclaim Him as a kinder gentler God that would not condemn a sinful lifestyle.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Yes but those sort of abusers aren’t the same people who would also believe in a theocracy. Claiming a Christocracy filters out the wimpy Jesus crowd.

Tom©
Guest
Tom©

I think I understand what you’re saying, and according to Revelations, there will be a Christocracy, and that’s putting it mildly.

Washington is rife with the wimpy Jesus crowd, and don’t forget their propensity for double speak.

I hear the word “Christocracy” and I’m reaching for my Bible and my gun.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

I should clarify my question. The pushback from Christians to the term “Theocracy” is what I’m going after. We all know why non-believers hate the idea.

Jill Smith
Member

I have no doubt that during the worst excesses of Isabella’s Spain or Cromwell’s Commonwealth, the rulers thought of Jesus as their King. When people are committing human rights atrocities, it gives me no comfort at all to believe that they are sincere Christians doing their best to act in the name of their Lord. I realize that theocracy must be clearly defined so we know what we are arguing for or against. In my idle sojourns on Christian Dominionist websites, I have read proposals that truly appall me. A few are as follows: (1) anyone caught in the act… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

How about (4) the prison population shall be reduced by introducing flogging as an alternative sentence?
Seems to me that would possibly be as or more effective, and would be less or at least no more cruel than imprisonment, and would be less of an economic burden to the rest of us who, as it is, are in a way being punished along with the malefactor.
Otherwise, your overall point, I get.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Where in the Bible was anyone ever divinely judged, either before the Law of Moses, by it, or after it, for how old they believed the earth was? To go even further, where is one’s belief about anything the basis for receiving judgment? Your comment reveals a serious misunderstanding of how God governs. He judges specific crimes, and always has. The way one thinks about something has never been one such crime. Corrupt leaders such as those you mentioned may have done such things, but never with a biblical example to do so. As I said, saying Christ is in… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

“saying Christ is in charge can be abused, but not for very long if people know what that actually means.”

I think Jillybean’s point was that historically those rulers who claimed Jesus as their King demonstrated they did not know what it actually means. That human rulers suppose they are (to borrow her words) “sincere Christians doing their best to act in the name of their Lord” has hardly guaranteed compassionate, reasonable, or restrained government.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

But that’s just not true. Historically, when people realized Jesus was Lord and not Caesar, things happened such as the Gladiator arenas being shut down, rights for women and children being accepted, hospitals and schools built, public sacrifice removed. You have to look at the big picture, the overall shifts that happen when God is given supremacy and not man in the public sphere.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

When people realized Jesus is Lord people began acting like Christians, and that changed things. It changes things whether rulers claim to be ruling in the name of Christ or not. It is helpful and to be preferred when rulers are not opposed to the church, when they let the church be the church without interference, I’ll go with you that far, at least. If rulers understand and affirm Jesus is King of Kings they are wise and that is good. But see my response to a different post by Barnabas.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

I think we agree, John, the question is just perhaps whether the term theocracy is appropriate. I don’t know that “Jesus is Lord” needs to be written into the Constitution (though I’m not sure that would be inappropriate). But it does need to be written on the hearts of Christians and they need to interpret it as “Jesus has authority over the government in all things.” Only then does cultural and government transformation start to happen.

Jill Smith
Member

But, Steven, your question was why theocracy is repellent to some Christians. My original reply was not based on my own limited and mistaken ideas, from studying scripture. about what a Christian theocracy would look like. It was based on descriptions drawn up by Christian reconstructionists who have presumably based their formulations on scripture. They may be wrong. Perhaps all the Christian theocrats of the past were also wrong. But why should I be optimistic that other would-be theocrats have got it right when so many have erred? You say that abuses will not last long if people know what… Read more »

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Jill, see my response to JohnM above. In the big picture over the long run of history, when officials say Christ is the ultimate authority and man is not, violence and evil, overall, fade. No one alive today, if they knew what it was really like, would wish to live one week in the pagan Roman Empire.

Jill Smith
Member

I think we might have found some common ground here. Of course I would vastly prefer to live under the rulership of people who hold themselves accountable to God and who value justice and mercy, as opposed to those who worship naked power and hold themselves accountable to no one. But that kind of government is not what I think of when I hear the word theocracy. Maybe the word needs to be carefully defined each time it is used.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Agreed. Which is why I think perhaps the word “Christocracy” would be preferred. It clarifies quite specifically what the true idea of God is, which was in many ways the point of Jesus coming anyway. But I would also agree even a term like Christocracy would confuse a lot of people. But the conversation is necessary to help show people the Gospel is not just about Jesus in my heart. It is very political, though the politics are taking place in Heaven. But the goal is always “on earth as it is in Heaven.” The word “democracy” worked when everyone… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

This reads like a return to Leviticus, when St. Paul shows us that it has passed away.

Jane
Member

Just out of curiosity, why is it less heinous to you for people to be jailed for violating soda-size laws, than some of the laws you mention?

I’d think at best, you’d think there wasn’t much to pick between them, not that one was greatly preferable.

Laura
Guest
Laura

Not Jillybean, but I’ll answer: No one would try to control the size of my soda for the sake of my soul. The soda-size thing is for my health’s sake, and it could be argued that society has an interest in this because I might turn to the state for help paying for my healthcare if I neglect it. I think this is a vast overreach, but nonetheless it’s the rationale, and if you accept that there is a straight line from drinking a large soda to developing diabetes (there’s not) it more or less makes sense strictly from a… Read more »

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

Do you have an example of a law passed that was aimed at soul health and not societal functionality?

Jill Smith
Member

Going back to the Mass Bay Colony, I would venture sumptuary laws (how much lace, for example, a woman could wear on her sleeve) and Sabbath laws that regulated conduct behind closed doors.

Laura
Guest
Laura

Blue laws? The liquor stores locally can be open Monday through Saturday, but not Sunday. You can’t even walk in to buy liquor that you plan to consume later in the week. You can go to the grocery store, or the drug store, but not the liquor store.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

If dry counties in the South are the biggest threat to freedom in the 21st century, I think we’ll be alright. Not trying to be combative here, just putting things in perspective.

Laura
Guest
Laura

You asked for an example. There’s one. No one is saying this is the biggest threat to freedom in the 21st century.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

That was hyperbole. And your example doesn’t work anyway. Those laws aren’t passed to save any souls. They’re passed because people want their community to be sober for a day out of the week.

Jill Smith
Member

Hi Jane, I don’t think that even the most fanatical of dietary overseers has suggested jail time for the purveyors and consumers of super-sized sodas. If they did, I would regard any legislative intent to incarcerate people for gluttony as heinous and tyrannical. I appreciate Laura’s comment about the state conceivably having an interest in promoting health in order to drive down health care costs, but, like her, I think it is overreach.

drewnchick
Member

jillybean said: “I will endure the government determining the size of my soda before I am willing to have it execute homosexuals.”

Then you understand neither the tyranny of soda laws nor the abomination of sodomy.

What is fascinating is that you rightly condemn the abuses of government committed in the false name of Christ, but seemingly fail to realize that this understanding illustrates that you have a working grasp of what is right and/or how a Christian theocracy could operate.

Laura
Guest
Laura

What she and I both have a working grasp of, is how a Christian theocracy would end up operating. And she is 100% right.

Let’s not forget that becoming a Christian doesn’t mean we no longer sin. We wish it did, but it doesn’t.

Jill Smith
Member

Hi Malachi, of course I regard soda size laws as over-reaching tyranny. If I want to jeopardize my health by the gluttonous consumption of Pepsi, the government has no right to stop me. (However, this does open up questions that are much less clear. If I want to lace my Pepsi with Schedule II amphetamines, should the government have a right to stop me? Should the government have the right to punish my doctor for handing me fistfuls of narcotics?) But, yes, I do think it is tyrannical for the government to execute people who commit sodomy. This does not… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

Christian men, in the long-term, are self-governing. A “theocracy” then looks like America at its founding.

aztomt
Member

A theocracy should look like America at it’s founding, and Christian men and women should be self-governing in the long run. Since we have to have some form of government, this would be the best until we have a real Christocracy (when He returns). But we all would do well to remember that Christ came to make dead men alive, not bad men good. That sanctification process is long and laborious and full of ups and downs. To look toward the best and ignore the worst in that process will eventually lead to abuse and the generic theocracy that people… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

In America at its founding, chattel slavery was legal. Women could not vote, and in some places men who were not landowners could not vote. There are those who would argue that we should go back to these conditions, but this is not universally held among Christians. And for that reason, we can’t have a Christian theocracy. We Christians actually don’t all agree as to what that would look like. To look toward the best and ignore the worst in that process will eventually lead to abuse and the generic theocracy that people are right to fear. A theocracy could… Read more »

Laura
Guest
Laura

Another reason is found in John 18. “My kingdom is not of this world.” It’s not for us to say “Yes it is!”.

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

It’s not of this world (the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life-1 John 2:16) but it is of this earth (on earth as it is in Heaven). At least that’s the trajectory. The idea is to create a “whole new world” to quote Aladdin. And if you took a time machine back to when Caesar was recognized as god and not Jesus, you would see that we really do live in a new world, one that is much more heavenly. And it is because men have recognized the Lordship of Christ on… Read more »

Tom©
Guest
Tom©

Yes, but what guarantees that a “Christocracy” would have repentant, humble servant leaders?

The founders understood that religious liberty required limeted government. That precluded state sanctioned religion even if that religion was to be Christianity.

We live in a theocracy in the sense that our founders understood where our rights come from. After that you’re on your own.

aztomt
Member

Thank you Tom and Laura for your comments, as they will help me clarify my position. I agree with both of you, and your comments, Laura, are particularly helpful. When I said a theocracy should look like America at it’s founding, I didn’t say that it should resemble it’s principles – limited government, the consent of the people, liberty for individuals, etc. I do not intend it to mean resembling early America in particulars – no slavery (that violates 2 principles already), full participation in government for men and women, all races, etc. I hope you get the point. The… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

And checks, and balances, and ……for men are not angels…..

Steven Opp
Guest
Steven Opp

The thing with theocracy, and this is what Pastor Wilson is getting at, is that it’s not “Do we want theocracy or not?” “Do we want our rulers to claim a divine sanction to there decisions or not?” The reality is that we are already in a theocracy, and the question is, as it has always been, which god is being recognized? Jesus Christ, Allah, or the State? So to say you’re a theocrat isn’t pushing for something new, it’s just being aware of what is already going on. As they say in Pirates of the Caribbean, with a little… Read more »

Luke Pride
Guest

“To all my effronteries, I will now add this one to them all. I am going to argue with Lewis.”
Honestly, I wish you would do this a lot more often. He was a talented writer, but many of his ideas are dangerous and unsound, and have no warrant accept that he finds they fit his idea of myth.

Barnabas
Guest
Barnabas

Historically, there have been many rulers in Europe that were explicitly Christian. They were also hypocritical, bigoted and cruel. Modern Christians hold to a Christianity that is more loving, idealistic, and egalitarian. The hard decisions that have historically been part of statecraft would be proscribed by the modern Christian. So the way I see it, either Christianity calls for passifism, soft communism, and universal love in a manner that means Christians should not seek political power (I will respect anyone who chooses to defend this theory.) or the modern concept of Christianity is so erroneous that it would take a… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Historically there have been many rulers in Europe that were professedly Christian, which is not quite the same as explicitly Christian. Had they been the real thing they would not have been so hypocritical, bigoted, and cruel, nor so greedy, prodigal, incontinent, selfish, and hubristic. I don’t think our choice is really between rulers like that and governors who don’t have the backbone to actually govern. I don’t believe wickedness goes hand in hand with efficacy such that you can’t have one without the other. It seems some commenters here, upon considering the imperfections of modern republican government, are inclined… Read more »