Note: This is the forth installment in a four part series on some complex theoretical issues revolving largely around intersections between (Protestant) Christianity as a worldview and its political and economic implications. These will all be completed by Saturday April 20, 2013. Part 1: Individualism. Part 2: The Individual vs. the “Common Good.” Part 3: Name Calling and Giving Honor. Part 4: The Christian’s response to Government and its dearest fans. If you have not already done so, it is important that you read my understanding of Romans 13.
I hope that this post will “sum it all up.” I have made a small case for individualism and have used those principles to discuss the myth of the common good. In the third post of this series I attempted to make it clear that to “honor everyone” only makes sense if it means “honor all types of people.” And yet I wanted my readers to know that truth should not be sacrificed in giving honor.
This final topic is the most close to my heart. What shall be said of those Christians who love the State –who practice the idolatry of Government worship, out of an abused and tainted misunderstanding of Romans 13? If the Church of the modern day has acted as the Israelites in 1 Samuel 8, should they be rebuked, and if so, to what extent? Furthermore, if Romans 13 tells the reader to submit to the authorities, and 1 Peter 2:17 tells the Christian to “Honor the Emperor,” and if Jesus in Matthew 5:39 compels us to “turn to them the other cheek” when we are “slapped,” how should we then respond to the mighty power of the State?
So, there are two issues here: 1) Our response to those who love the State and 2) Our response to the State itself.
The ultimate first step in helping our fellow Christians understand the evil ways of the State and its power is, as per Ephesians 6:18, by “making supplication for all the saints.” It is true that we ought to pray for everybody, but the Scriptures are especially clear that praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ is a glorious activity. If God moves by means of the prayers of the saints, then praying for a radical shift in mindset is surely the most important of all activities.
Second, we must respond in love to those who do not understand the beast which they worship, primarily because they do not understand that they worship this entity. They worship this entity when they rely on it for wisdom, security, peace, health, wealth, education, housing, food, etc. As they long for the State to supply their every need, they have placed their trust in God to trust in the State. If there is anything that shall be called idolatry, it is this. By understanding this, we can realize that loving them through their sins to State-worship is a powerful remedy. Hardly anybody has ever changed their mind by being yelled at.
And yet, we must not be afraid to rebuke; that is, to point out their contradiction when they appear to “serve two masters.”
Third, we must be prepared intellectually to make a defense for any argument or line of reasoning that is spoken against our position. If we are not ready mentally to engage in conversation, we should not expect others to come to our positions. Christ comes to us through our minds and thoughts. We must take up intellectual ammunition and defend the glory and justice of God over and against the abuse of power of worldly governments.
Fourth, we must remember that political ideology is not the type of knowledge required for salvation. It is a secondary issue that, although related to the truth of Christianity and the promises it makes, is also not a “make or break issue” which should cause division. Let not politics interfere with community and with the expression of the Gospel and the truths of the Christian worldview. May the libertarian and the statist praise God together and let God convict the sins of each.
Answer to issue 1: Prayer, love, intellect, unity.
Regarding “issue 2,” we must not forget the truths of justice and law. We must not forget that the Bible never exempts any class of people from the rules which include “no stealing” and “no murdering.” And those rules must, at all times, be applied to the actions of those people which make up the Government. Romans 13 says submit. So submit. 1 Peter 2 says honor. So honor. Matthew 5 says turn the other cheek. So turn.
The main thrust of my argument is that in submitting, honoring, and turning, the Christian never promotes or defends the State’s actions. He is only humbling himself against the tyrannies of this world. Government is a role for the sake of an orderly society. And yet everywhere and always, whenever the State monopolizes the functional role of a government, society falls.
(It seems like I must soon describe the difference between the State and government. But quickly, government is a role that has several expressions [i.e. civil government, family government, self-government] while the State is an institution which forces itself on society under the guise of providing government services).
Wherever the State asks the individual to sin, I pray we resist and honor God, even to the point of persecution. But I also pray that whenever the State sins against the Christian individual, that we would turn the other cheek. Please hear my distinction here. Many who love the power of the State would ask us to pay our taxes because that is what the State is for. I disagree. I say we must pay our taxes precisely because Christ told us to turn the other cheek! I say we pay our taxes and obey the coercion of the government because Colossians 3:22 says “Slaves, obey your earthly masters.” This is the grand and radical shift to the Reformed Libertarian view of the State.
And if time comes for a revolution, let it not be like the French revolution. Let us not take our guns and cannons and seek to take over the capital. Rather, let revolution be intellectual. Let the masses know that the State is a farce, having the spirit of the antichrist (because it sets itself up as Lord and does not honor Christ as Lord). And let it be secession, like the American revolution. Let say to the evil powers of the world: no more. Evil has gone on long enough.
If the Church will understand the nature of the State via the principles in issue 1 above, the principles in issue 2 will continue to become more and more difficult to follow. And historically, that is when the Church finds its true influence in society. But as long as the Church treats the State as the god of the land, its heavenly impact will be small.