Things in our public life together are gummed up enough that I believe we can openly call for radical reform. Whether we do or not, I think we are going to get the same treatment. We might as well respond with something that might actually help. Whatever the case, we will not be able to trim or pirouette our way out of this mess. As an insightful sailor on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor might have said, as the third wave of Japanese bombers flew over, “The time for nuance is passed.”
A few posts ago I mentioned the five smooth stones of theocratic libertarianism. This was in the context of an illustration using David and Goliath, and as with David, I think most of our problems would probably be addressed in principle with just the first one.
At any rate, here are the basic features of theocratic libertarianism. Here are my five smooth stones.
1. Jesus is Lord. I have been arguing for years now that what is required is a return to Christendom, but in a form that I call mere Christendom. If you like, you can call it mere fundamentalism. A free civilization is necessarily larger than any of the Christian denominations within it, but at the same time a free civilization will have to be Christian. So I propose no single established church, no tax-supported denominations, but I do propose the formal adoption of the Apostles’ Creed, and without any hermeneutical funny business. I propose that as a nation we formally confess together that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. If you protest that this would kill the great secular experiment that is America, I would reply that the great secular experiment that is America appears to have already gone out behind the barn and shot itself.
2. The libertarian aspect of this insists that most of our practical problems can be addressed through repealing laws and abolishing agencies. When most people hear about a “theocratic” anything, they assume they will soon be confronted with ayatollah-manned death panels. But all societies are theocratic, with the only thing distinguishing them being the nature and attributes of the reigning theos. Since our current theos happens to be a bloodthirsty maniac, and because I am not a devotee of that particular religion, I would urge my fellow citizens to turn away from him, and turn to our heavenly Father. The first thing that would happen in a biblical law order is that the EPA, the IRS, the Department of Education, etc. would all be abolished. Legitimate functions of government (Defense, State, etc.) would be significantly downsized or redirected.
3. The positive laws I would like to see enacted would be in the area of constitutional process and reform. The kind of government we are currently abused by is precisely the kind of government that our Constitution was originally drafted to prevent. Consequently I would like to see reform undertaken through “process” laws instead of “content” laws. By this I mean laws of process restraining our rulers, and not any new laws governing the peons. A good example would be term limits, or a law requiring “none of the above” on every ballot, such that if “none of the above” wins, that a new election with new candidates be scheduled. The goal should be to have a government that stays within its appointed bounds. The goal should be to keep the termites out of the woodwork.
4. A formal recognition of the Lordship of Jesus is necessary, but is not sufficient. More is required than paper commitments. All true constitutions arise from the people, and genuine allegiance to Christ is not going to happen unless there is a reformation and revival. In order for any of this to work, we must have countless preachers of the gospel, faithfully declaring the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The role of the government here is to stay out of the way, allowing such preachers free access to the people, and thereby encouraging them to have at it. If you don’t give a heck about the man with the Bible in his hand, as the Staple Singers taught us, just “get out the way and let the gentleman do his thing.” There is a straight line blessing that runs from free grace to free men, and from free men to free markets.
5. Culture wars should be fought in the culture, not in the courts. One of the central reasons for having a constitutionally limited government is so that one cultural faction does not get to cheat, using the force of law to skew the outcomes in their favor. Since law is coercive by definition, the areas in which coercion is allowed should be radically limited. The law should protect life, liberty, and property. After that, the alternative visions for truth, goodness and beauty may freely compete. Using their own money, voluntarily donated, the secularists and atheists may build their own schools, write poems and novels, produce plays and movies, build cathedrals, compose concertos, and so on.
But it will not have escaped your notice that such free competition is a Christian value, and by limiting government in this way we have already decided what is the best way for everyone. There is no neutrality. So I don’t want liberty for secularists because secularism is true — it isn’t. Secularism is an opium dream, complete with flashing eyes and floating hair. I want liberty for secularists because Jesus is Lord.
Where do I sign up?
David, wherever you are, I would suspect ;)
side note —
Doug: you set the gold standard for bloggage.
Yours is a conveyor belt that keeps bringing stuff, nonstop: new, old , all notable, chewable, edifying.
I love the last line. One of the things secular culture gets plain wrong is the view that what you are calling for is somehow moving backwards. A call to repentance is turning away from sin and towards Christ but repentance is not turning us back to what we were, that is what got us to where we are in the first place. The other part of their error is that thinking continuing forward in the direction we are heading is progress and that is somehow better. They really believe that their ideas are new. But here comes the new… Read more »
You have written with more sense than I have read from any living clergyman. I applaud your goals though I think that your means are a bit naive. Power can only be confronted with power. This democracy will end as Plato said all must, in tyranny. Michels described it more accurately as ending in Bonapartism. Better to explore what enclaves may be saved, even if it is only that within your own skull. In any event, you are rapidly approaching the limits of what the media/State complex will allow in public discourse and you may have to adopt an anonymous… Read more »
Ben Bowman, Excellent thought.
Doug, I’m good with item #2. If we eliminate the EPA however, we would need to continue environmental protection at the state level AND have our preachers promote, not denigrate, natural resource stewardship. The last item is sorely lacking in mere Christendom at this time.
“but I do propose the formal adoption of the Apostles’ Creed, and without any hermeneutical funny business. I propose that as a nation we formally confess together that Jesus actually did rise from the dead” Here I am uncomfortable. A human creed as the standard, and one that came so long after the age of the apostles. And what about those of us who are not sold on exegetical grounds that our Lord spent the weekend in hell and therefore do not choose to say “he descended into hell.” Even for those who defend this reading, are they ready to… Read more »
There is nothing libertarian about establishmentarianism (yeah, I get that you’re not limiting it to a single denomination). More slippery words from the pen of Doug.
The fresh air of freedom–its been a while since I have smelled it and your post is like the sea-breeze I breathed as a boy. I remember that air, it is the air I breathe.
I am in.
Doug has also said that if you’re a Christian, you can’t be a libertarian, but you will be accused of being one. So taking all of Doug’s words into account regarding this issue shows that his point is not to defend libertarianism as it is strictly defined, but to promote a Christian society that is libertarian-ish.
Sounds like the status quo, minus abortion. Or to put it another way, that you have to pay taxes to fund programs you disagree with does not mean your property is not protected.
Liberty, Matt, taxation used for evil deeds is not liberty.
“but I do propose the formal adoption of the Apostles’ Creed, and without any hermeneutical funny business. I propose that as a nation we formally confess together that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.” “The first thing that would happen in a biblical law order is that the EPA, the IRS, the Department of Education, etc. would all be abolished.” Whoa, Dude! I thought it was your son who was into fiction stories. I think I heard Andy Williams singing the Impossible Dream as I read this one. (True confession: I always liked that song). Which Moscow would supply… Read more »
Umm, I believe there were only two waves at Pearl Harbor. Not tryingto be difficult.
Madison wanted an amendment that protected property. It would definitely put the kabosh on the Keysone Pipeline
When you say “…but I do propose the formal adoption of the Apostles’ Creed, and without any hermeneutical funny business. I propose that as a nation we formally confess together that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.” are you speaking of the nation as a sovereign state, or that all persons confess that this is true. If as individuals then the followup question: What is the state of those who cannot/will not do this?
“I propose that as a nation we formally confess together that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.” You should probably clarify what exactly you mean by this, since you went on to say that all religions should be allowed to compete in the free market of ideas. I’m assuming you’re just expressing what you consider to be an ideal scenario in which every person in the country individually recognizes Christianity to be true and therefore consents to some kind of formal adoption of Christian doctrine as the standard for maintaining and governing society. Of course it begs the question:… Read more »
I’ll agree with you there, but if you think the EPA is evil then you really do have a strange standard thereof.
For the nation to formaly acnowledge that Jesus is Lord the nation has to repent. Which would signify that Goliath has already fallen.
Matt, of course the EPA is a nefariously evil rogue arm of the Fed. Wake up from your dogmatic slumber.
Ben asks: Of course it begs the question: If each person individually is willing to give his consent to this arrangement, why does it need to be formalized at all? Very good question. I don’t think that Doug is proposing reform from the top down, in a coup-like political fashion. Politics is not strong enough to effect such change. Only the Gospel can change hearts. When it does, from the ground up, then politics will follow. Politics always follows the culture. However, on the question of why we would formalize a civic confession, we should look to Psalm 2. Here… Read more »
To everyone asking Doug to clarify his point about our nation confessing Christ as Risen Lord:
Go read this essay about the concept of National Confessionalism from an excellent (but sadly out-of-print) book called God and Politics: http://www.westminster.coresense.com/common/pdf_links/9780875524481.pdf
That essay might clarify things a bit more. Doug, please keep writing more posts on this topic.
5 stones? More akin to a “shotgun” blast.
Shoot him ‘fore he runs out.
Katecho, I understand what you’re saying about the need to formalize such arrangements in writing for the benefit of future generations. The story of King Josiah finding the law comes to mind. My only issue is, we know that there will be hold outs, people who don’t accept Christ and therefore will not be interested in individually signing this document, nor in funding the civic authorities who carry out these laws. What should happen to them? Should they be forced at gunpoint to fund the government anyway? Or can they just do their own thing and not bother about spouting… Read more »
Rousas Rushdoony would give Mr. Wilson a high five if he were alive today. I’m curious as to the fate of those who would not profess the Christian injunctions set forth in this article. Come to think of it, this sort of experiment has been done before and some folks eventually lost their heads. No big deal…as long as it’s the *legitimate* Christians ruling. ;-)
Well, we can eliminate forcing them to bake a cake with the Apostles Creed in icing commemorating the occasion from the list.
Count me among the light-handed, minimalist camp. We have history behind us with its lessons and the history of the USA was a pretty good one when its government was restrained and her people where free.
An official confession of beliefs does not necessarily (or even likely) entail forcing individuals to go affirm it. Were people ever forced at gunpoint to confess that there are certain truths that are self-evident, such as the fact that all men are created equal, and that inalienable rights were endowed by our Creator?
I only bring up the question of the hold outs because Doug is a minimal statist. He believes, for example, that those who think that the military, police, and/or courts are evil in their current forms should still be forced at gunpoint to fund them. And since he’s OK with forcing someone to pay for a system they don’t consent to, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be OK with it in a Christian theocratic society.
By the way, I do think Doug is better than 95% of evangelical leaders on these issues, so I don’t want to sound like I’m being too harsh on him.
Ben asks: My only issue is, we know that there will be hold outs, people who don’t accept Christ and therefore will not be interested in individually signing this document, nor in funding the civic authorities who carry out these laws. What should happen to them? Should they be forced at gunpoint to fund the government anyway? In my understanding, the issue is not whether there should be a public, formal and ceremonial confession of Christ by our rulers. I think this is undoubtedly a good thing, and advised (lest they perish in the way). But to Ben’s question, I… Read more »
@Robert: “Madison wanted an amendment that protected property. It would definitely put the kabosh on the Keysone Pipeline”
Thanks for this observation! And I’d agree that it should put a whole lot of “kaboshin'” on a great many efforts by the corporatocracy to steal via majority vote!
Lead the way: “Stones” Wilson in 2016!
How would laws regarding homosexuality, pornography, adultery, blasphemy etc. be handled in this “theocratic Libertarianism”?
That doesn’t really seem to conform very well with the idea of “free competition,” though, right? What if, for all practical purposes, all the laws and organizational structure etc. remained the same but one had to confess an article of Mormon faith?
Katecho, just so I understand, if 51% of the population wants a theocratic society as you are proposing, then the governing authorities representing that majority have a right to force the other 49% who think such an arrangement is idiotic and evil to pay for it under threat of imprisonment. I’m not trying to sound like I’m ranting, but that does seem like the logical conclusion. Also, for those unbelievers who were willing to pay the taxes in order to stay in the U.S. and stay out of prison, there is still the issue of what should be done when… Read more »
I think you folks would have been the ones attempting to force Christ to establish His Kingdom here on earth. His Kingdom is not of this world. Christians attempting to establish their ideal societies have proven to be disastrous. The Puritans fleeing persecution from the Church of England were revealed to be just as intolerant and unjust as their persecutors. Their experiment failed miserably although I suspect a few commenting here might beg to differ. Only at the end of the age will all be made right in Christ’s Heavenly Kingdom. Christians desiring to establish what is under the jurisdiction… Read more »
What if post-millenialism is true? Then your argument does not hold water.
Ben wrote: Katecho, just so I understand, if 51% of the population wants a theocratic society as you are proposing, then the governing authorities representing that majority have a right to force the other 49% who think such an arrangement is idiotic and evil to pay for it under threat of imprisonment. I’m not trying to sound like I’m ranting, but that does seem like the logical conclusion. Whoa. What? The principles of righteous government are themselves never up for a vote as Ben seems to be implying. Elections are in order to fill offices, not to decide what right… Read more »
I’d say it’s a risky business to build a government upon eschatological “what ifs.” History shows us that Christians have erred with regard to their eschatology frequently. Just look up all the teachings on the end times and your brain can feel like a twisted pretzel. And by the way, which *Christians* would have the majority rule? Calvinists? I would pity the Arminians, Catholics, Orthodox, well….anyone that was not Calvinist in such a society. I’m afraid it would be a repeat of former disastrous theocracies. Nuf said.
Darlene, Simple answer? If we believe the Great Commission, then all believers, no matter their millennial ideas, should be striving to disciple the nations — including ours. All we’re saying is that Christ gave us a task that is actually achievable. If it were a fool’s errand, how untrustworthy would Christ be? He gave us the task based on the fact that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him. If we shrink from this task, it means we really don’t believe what he said about his kingship. His kingdom is not of this earth, but it… Read more »
@Darlene While Pastor Wilson is certainly an heir of the puritan eschatological hope, and while that is certainly a part of his driving motivation, what is described above does not at all reflect Winthrop’s vision of theocracy in Massachusetts colony. It ironically sounds a lot more akin to what Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmaier tried to accomplish in Nikolsburg through pastoral guidance of the governing authorities (until Ferdinand gained control of the region and put a swift end to the efforts, and to Hubmaier himself). I am not at all saying that Pastor Wilson is borrowing a strictly Anabaptist vision (other… Read more »
“All we’re saying is that Christ gave us a task that is achievable. If it were a fool’s errand, how trustworthy would Christ be?” Jon, being that Calvinists place limits on the Atonement due to God’s preordaining a significant portion of humanity to reprobation, this sentiment seems quite puzzling to me. Unless, of course, you are not a Calvinist. “His kingdom is not of this earth, but is certainly on this earth, just like we believers are.” I think your Christian Reconstructionist idea of what this verse means is quite different from mine. There certainly is a kingdom that Christ… Read more »
“Culture wars should be fought in the culture, not in the courts.” If this one point could be assured, protected and actually followed, I firmly believe Doug’s first and foundational point would eventually follow. The culture currently being enforced by the courts is one of fruitlessness and death and the courts act simultaneously as life support and embalmer. If the courts were to quit taking sides in the culture war, the culture of fruitfulness and life would simply overwhelm and outlast the other. Of course it is hard to imagine a culture which does not currently recognize Jesus as Lord… Read more »
The 20th century was the bloodiest in recorded history. Large numbers of innocent men, women, and children were killed in Christian nations that rejected theonomy. Young men especially-young husbands, young fathers, and young sons-were ordered to witness and perform unspeakable atrocities against each other.
How would you feel if your child were sentenced to death by a non theonomic government and you later found out that theonomy could have saved your child? Would you still be against theonomy?
Katecho, I think you missed my point about the 51% majority. The point was that it doesn’t seem like a particularly free society if there are a substantial number of people who think the theocratic system proposed by Doug is idiotic and evil, and yet have to participate in it, including being subject to laws against nonviolent behavior, laws which originate from a worldview the dissenters find abhorrent. Marijuana was just an example. Most evangelical leaders are not only OK with throwing nonviolent marijuana smokers in prison, they think it’s a sin to advocate against such a practice. So it’s… Read more »
Jeers, The 20th Century produced many martyrs who lived under the despotic reign of Communism. On one hand, such atrocities are grievous. On the other hand, God used and uses such atrocities to bring many to repentance. It is a paradox – both egregious because of the wickedness of man’s inhumanity to man, and yet glorious because the martyrs’ deaths bring many to God. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We live in a world where evil often prevails, and yet God uses His servants in the midst of a perverse generation to shine forth… Read more »
Arminian Troll alert! And how many here believe “Darlene’s” a woman? Not me for a second. There are some similarities between an Arminian troll and Social Justice Warriors….”That’s not fair!”
Darlene has given us zero information on how a Christian governing official is supposed to honor Christ as he/she governs by making laws and ruling against law breakers.
“But that kind of things smacks of that Reconstructionism, and every Arminian Evangelical knows that is false because most of the modern church since the mid eighteenth Century understands future events as Dispensational Premillenials and after all, the Rapture is right around the corner so we don’t have to worry about building a civilization that honors God because Imageden out of here, soon.