The After Deck of the Pirate Ship

Whenever I write on things like liberty and taxes, it is easy for some to try to stuff me into the wrong box. And upon my making this objection, some might expect me to go on to say that I hate labels. But actually I love labels, which are the precondition of all honest discourse. Con artists hate labels.

But the label should be accurate. I am no anarchist, and I actually am in favor of both liberty and taxes. I’m against parodies of either, and because these parodies are currently dominating the landscape, they are the problem which must be addressed.

The parody of liberty is found in the libertarian image of the fornicating pot smoker – but you can get high and get laid in a 6′ x 8′ prison cell. There is one who defiantly cries out that he wants more liberty – so that he can enslave himself ever more tightly in chains he has forged himself. But no tyrant has ever been successfully resisted by cluster of lotus eaters, however big the cluster might be. Virtuous people cannot be kept as slaves, and an effete and self indulgent people are made for slavery. It is their native habitat.

But the parody of taxes is the idea that general and indiscriminate confiscation is somehow in accordance with the rule of law. People who are subject to such treatment are not a free people, but rather are a huddled band of prisoners on the after deck of the pirate ship. In case you were wondering, that’s you right now.

To attack the parodies, to attack the distortions, is not the same thing as attacking the true pattern, of which parodies are the caricatures. To defy tyrants is not the same thing as despising the king, and those people who are so myopic as to be unable to tell the difference are actually a central problem in all of this. But what we are after is a virtuous citizenry, not a ganglion of lickspittles.

What we need is liberty under law. Law is not the antithesis of liberty, but rather precondition of it. God’s law is the law of liberty. If you won’t live the way God calls you to live, you are living in slavery.

Herod was a limousine liberal, and his onerous tax policies had to be dialed back several times by the imperial government. Complaints about his fiscal policies flowed regularly to Rome, and the response of Augustus was eventually to call for a census and taxation of the entire populace. Judas Galilaeus responded by organizing a tax revolt, which then morphed into a plain old revolt, which was summarily crushed by Rome.

By way of contrast to this Judas, his contemporary Joseph did not join the rebels, but rather decided to file. This is why Jesus was born in Bethlehem – that is where the Imperial office required the Davidsons to be registered. Joseph, a righteous man, did not join in with a tax revolt against the regime of oppressive taxation, when there was in fact such a revolt that could have been joined.

There were two sets of scoundrels in the story. There were the establishment scandals, and there was the Grand Maccabean True Republic of Israel Trailer Park scoundrels. Presented with this choice, righteous and wise men stay with the devil they know, as Joseph did.

So if we want restoration of the republic, the only possible way this can happen is through reformation in the church. When God is worshiped, and the gospel of Christ crucified is proclaimed, people are liberated from their sins. Sin is the place where the tyrant’s hook always goes in. It is the only place where his hook can get in. We are currently governed despotically because we are a sinful people who can be governed in no other way.

When freedom from sin happens, this results in the foundation of all free government, which is self-government. Freedom from sin is that which makes it possible for such freedom to work its way out into the three other governments established by God.

On the foundation of self government, we find three other governments created by God in Scripture. They are family government, church government, and civil government. When people are set free from sin as individuals, then they marry and bring up children in that same liberty. When they are converted from iniquity, they seek out other saints converted from iniquity, and they worship God together. This is the church.

And it is at that place when the stage is set for liberty to flourish in the civil realm. Until then, you can save your energy for sweeping water uphill.

But if I believe this, then why do I write about it so much? Do you think this is centuries off? I do this because all of this is governed by the Word, and when the Word decides to move, He can move fast.

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Brandon
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Brandon

Great stuff Pastor Wilson. A few grammatical mistakes got me hung up, so call me pedantic for highlighting these, but I thought you might want to correct them: But the parody of taxes is the idea of that general and indiscriminate confiscation is somehow in accordance with the rule of law. -To attack the parodies, to attack the distortions, is not the same thing is attacking the true pattern, of which is parodies are the caricatures -This is why Jesus was born in Bethlehem – that is where the Imperial office required to Davidsons to be registered. -So if we… Read more »

Drew
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Drew

“We are currently governed despotically because we are a sinful people who can be governed in no other way.”

I appreciate the truth of this statement, Doug. But related to this, you wrote something once on your blog shortly after Colorado legalized pot about how you believed pot should be illegal. Do you think it should be illegal because we have too many rebellious pot heads, and this is the only way to stop them? And what do you think of the idea that people should have the freedom (or autonomy?) to enslave themselves to pot?

RFB
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RFB

It almost seems like a combination of capture-bonding (e.g Stockholm syndrome) and cowardice. The first group views their free potato-odor soup as an act of kindness, and the latter react with anger at anyone who might challenge the status quo, either through ignorance of foundational principles, or actual antipathy toward truth.

BTW: I stopped having PC problems in 2006 when we changed to an iMac. Still using the same one problem free.

Drew
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Drew

Doug,

I agree that that is a problem, but as you have suggested yourself, that problem needs to be solved through the power of the Gospel, rather than by making pot illegal – am I wrong?

timothy
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timothy

By way of contrast to this Judas, his contemporary Joseph did not join the rebels, but rather decided to file. This is why Jesus was born in Bethlehem – that is where the Imperial office required the Davidsons to be registered. Joseph, a righteous man, did not join in with a tax revolt against the regime of oppressive taxation, when there was in fact such a revolt that could have been joined. The imperial office required our fore-fathers to pay a tax on tea and they-lickspittles all-revolted. Now, I think looking at these things from ‘particulars to particulars’ is not… Read more »

Ben
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Ben

This seems contradictory to me:
“I am no anarchist….”
“….the foundation of all free government, which is self-government.”

If self-government is the foundation of all free government, then what’s your definition of “self-government?” Does it involve being threatened with kidnapping or death in order to fund such services as dispute resolution and law codification and enforcement? Stated differently, does it involve having to work, say, 18 days out of the year for the government (this is equal to roughly a 5% income tax) at the point of a gun?

RFB
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RFB

Ben, Government is not Malum in se; it is a providential gift by God to maintain order, commending right and executing God’s judgment upon evil: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive… Read more »

Ben
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Ben

RFB, were the authorities in Paul’s day just or unjust? Were they conducting themselves in a manner consistent with that passage? The question of course answers itself. Interestingly, Paul doesn’t address how we are to act in situations where the authorities are behaving wrongly. You’d think he would have, considering how evil the rulers were at that time. Why don’t you think he did that? If Paul was teaching that we need to always submit to the rulers regardless of how wicked they are, then conservatives like Doug need to stop speaking out against them. If he was implying that… Read more »

Ben
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Ben

RFB, I just want to clarify that when I said I draw the line at coercion, I meant using aggression or the threat of aggression against innocent people to coerce funds from them. Obviously not all coercion is evil, such as killing someone who invades your home.

timothy
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timothy

Hi @Ben If he was implying that there is some line to be drawn somewhere between ruling righteously and unrighteously, and that such submission is not required once that line is crossed, then Christians who complain about the unrighteousness of the authorities need to say where they draw that line. Pastor Wilson broached this subject in several posts. I believe the first was On The Lam For Jesus (it may have been the last, or in the middle somewhere) He did a nice, some would say retrograde, exposition of what Christ was teaching in the ‘who’s face is this on… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

Ben,

If you have not, I would recommend reading Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661). Its not perfect; only the Word of God achieves that, but it is salient regarding the instant situation. They wanted his head for what he said, but God decided otherwise.

These are not issues that are new (cue up Solomon).

melody
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melody

“…when the Word decides to move, He can move fast.”
Thanks, I needed that

melody
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melody

I think it is very important to remember that at the outset of the Revolutionary War, there had been a Declaration of Independence written but no shots had as yet been fired. Once that first British soldier fired on his own kind (as all were British citizens at that time) all bets were off. Everyone was required to choose a side, like it or not; and this was not done at the behest of a group of Christians, though there might have Christians among them. Abigail Adams surmised that on third of the people were still loyal to the British… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

melody,

I wonder what the intra-church discussions where like back then. Did they mimic today’s disagreements? Was/is the American Revolution an illegitimate thing on scriptural grounds?

The faith of our fore-fathers informs me that it was not, but I am interested if I am wrong about that.

RFB
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RFB

timothy,

research a set of works, (I am away from my bookshelf at the moment) called something like “Political Sermons of the Founding Era”.

John Callaghan
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John Callaghan

Melody, The Declaration of Independence was signed on the Fourth of July, 1776 – more than a year after what is now regarded as the start of the War of Independence: the battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The First Continental Congress had been convened the previous year, in October of 1774, and issued Declarations and Resolves outlining grievances with the behavior of the British government. That Declaration did not declare independence, but instead petitioned for redress on the basis of British citizenship. King George III refused to negotiate, famously telling his Prime Minister: “The die is… Read more »

JohnM
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JohnM

“So if we want restoration of the republic, the only possible way this can happen is through reformation in the church. When God is worshiped, and the gospel of Christ crucified is proclaimed, people are liberated from their sins.” is on the right track.

JohnM
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JohnM

Was trying to add to the last when…I don’t know what happened.

Anyway, reformation in the church ought to be the goal quite apart from restoration of any republic. If reformation results in a free republic fine and good. I like republics better than any alternatives that is likely to be realized. But ask yourself, if you could choose between true reformation without a republic or a republic but without reformation, which would you really want. No cheating, my hypothetical, so pick one of my choices – any answer suggesting reformation would guarantee a republic will not be accepted.

timothy
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timothy

@JohnM

If we where a Godly people, I don’t care what the political system is as long as it meets the scriptural criteria.

@RFB

Thanks for the book recommendation. I have a $7.00 credit with amazon and a used paperback copy is on its way.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0865970912/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

they seek out other saints converted from iniquity, and they worship God together. This is the church

But they might like to keep some of those others from worshipping fully.
You know: “No voting here, you converts, unless you also swear the oath we invented.”

The church elders also like a little extra power, too.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Or slowly.

Andrew Lohr
Member

Or slowly. From “Political Sermons…”, opening lines (of a pamphlet?): Devil: Hearken to my counsel. George [III]: Thy servant attends. Bro Ben, something like Doug’s version is better than yours because Biblical. God gives political government the job of terrorizing evildoers (Rom 13) so good people can live Godly lives in peace (I Tim 2) with liberty to serve one another in love however God calls them to (Gal). For this service, government earns its pay (Rom 13). You’ll be happy to note that parks, schools, welfare, health, retirement, etc are on the serve-one-another-in-love list, not on the political list.… Read more »

Barnabas
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Barnabas

John Callaghan-
In the 18th century as today, grievances were given as an excuse to seize power and redress would only have interfered with the designs of our founders. Hutchinson’s Strictures should be required reading for any student studying the Declaration.

http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1776-hutchinson-strictures-upon-the-declaration-of-independence

JohnM
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JohnM

Timothy,
Do you agree a form of government other than republican could theoretically meet scriptural criteria? Which are by the way? I know you might feel you’ve laid this out before, but if you have time and inclination to summarize, thanks.

By “we” did you mean if the church were godly, or the general population? My thought is with the former we’d be talking about reformation after all, with the latter it’s hardly to be expected, beyond perhaps an outward form – which I suppose does make for more peaceable and orderly living at least.

Ben
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Ben

Andrew, my prescription is not unbiblical. The Bible nowhere states that the governing authorities must, in order to be God-honoring, be funded by gunpoint. Suppose one particular country developed their laws, dispute resolution, and protection services through voluntary contributions and service fees rather than taxation (I know it seems unlikely, but unless you believe it’s 100% impossible, you should be able to grant that for the sake of argument). Are you really prepared to tell those people that their particular way of ordering and governing society is God-dishonoring because they fund those services through fees rather than taxation? Do you… Read more »

Barnabas
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Barnabas

There is no republican government in scripture. Government instituted by God in scripture both in heaven and on Earth was always hierarchical. Watching your country burn itself out after 250 years in decadence and ungodliness should be a clue that there might be better options. Could there ever be a Christian Lee Kuan Yew or will it take the return of Christ to remove Enlightenment chaff from Christian thinking?

Sarah
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Sarah

Doug, thanks so much for this. I work in a public school (which I believe to be my calling and mission field) and am really struggling to reconcile the work I do in the classroom with the ridiculous and tumultuous political landscape of public education. This post is comforting to me. I will continue to do the work God has called me to and to pray for a revival in the hearts of my students and their families.

Jaquan
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Jaquan

Virtuous people can not be kept as slaves. Ever hear of Jim Crow? i tend to believe your arguments about the Christianization of the blacks in the South. It is somewhat consistent with what my university professors said. That being said, you can not just blithely say virtuous people can not be kept as salves when we have the hundred years after the Civil War showing us just the opposite.

Barnabas
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Barnabas

Vaclav Havel teaches how life under Communism corrupts a people but modern Western government may be the first to deliberately morally corrupt a people for the purpose of making them better slaves? It would not seem to be a helpful measure under non-representative government.

timothy
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timothy

Timothy,
Do you agree a form of government other than republican could theoretically meet scriptural criteria?

Yes, I do.

Which are by the way?

I will defer on this except to note that past political systems have been successfully Christian including monarchy and our own republic.

By “we” did you mean if the church were godly, or the general population?

Both; there will always be edge cases, so I ignore them.

timothy
Guest
timothy

@JohnM

In my previous comment I neglected to greet you.

so, hi. (:

Bruce
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Bruce

“We are currently governed despotically because we are a sinful people who can be governed in no other way.”

That pretty much sums it up.