February 11, 2015

God Glorified in the Evils of Statism

By In Articles, Theology

The Background

The first published sermon by American Puritan Jonathan Edwards in 1731 was titled God Glorified in Man’s Dependence.  In this sermon Edwards aims to show: “1st, that there is an absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on God for all their good.  And [2nd], that God hereby is exalted and glorified in the work of redemption.” Man is wholly dependent.  And by this, God is glorified.

Edwards first notes that all our good finds its very source in God, as he is the author of all that is good.  And not only is he the “first cause” of all the good that the redeemed receive, but he is also the “only cause” of all our good. “He gives the purchaser [for our redemption] and he affords the thing purchased.”  Edwards notes secondly that not only is God, by His own grace, the source of goodness in life, but He is also the “medium” of all that we have.  That is, we receive the good gifts of God through him and no other.  All that contributes to our salvation “is from God by a Mediator; and this Mediator is God.”  And lastly, Edwards notes that God Himself is the substance of the good that we receive.  “We not only have it of him, and through him, but it consists in him; he is all our good.”

That is to say, man is wholly and completely dependent on God.

But this is exactly how God has chosen to glorify himself.  Edwards says it best:

“Man hath so much the greater occasion and obligation to notice and acknowledge God’s perfections and all-sufficiency. The greater the creature’s dependence is on God’s perfections, and the greater concern he has with them, so much the greater occasion has he to take notice of them. So much the greater concern any one has with and dependence upon the power and grace of God, so much the greater occasion has he to take notice of that power and grace. So much the greater and more immediate dependence there is on the divine holiness, so much the greater occasion to take notice of and acknowledge that. So much the greater and more absolute dependence we have on the divine perfections, as belonging to the several persons of the Trinity, so much the greater occasion have we to observe and own the divine glory of each of them.”

A wondrous doctrine to be sure.  But does not God seek to glorify his name in all other circumstances as well?  It is no doubt true that the dependence that the redeemed have on God’s goodness is perhaps the most glorifying activity God has demonstrated throughout all history.  But does not God declare that He is sovereignly working for his glory in other ways as well?  Yes indeed!

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9-11)

Why do afflictions exist?  So that his name is not profaned and his glory is not given to another.  Shall any other receive glory?  No, none at all.  Man must realize his dependence on God, not only in redemption, but in all of life.  In every aspect of life, we must declare that God is King.  When man discovers his outstanding dependence, it is nearly impossible to deny that God is on the throne.  Trials and afflictions make man realize that he is dependent and thus these are necessary so that God may declare his glory.

The Application

If then, God sovereignly directs us to recognize all that he is, even in the midst of hardship and suffering, so that we may know our dependence of Him, we can say that God is glorified in the evils of Statism.  Freedom has been taken away in this country.  We have lived in the era of Statism since the early 1900’s.  The State has used its power to subject more people to poverty, murder more human beings, extract more wealth, and breach more rights than any institution in the history of mankind.  In today’s world, we are seeing the expansion of government tyranny to an extent greater than ever before.

How is God glorified in this?  First, it is not only in the revelation of man’s sin that the Christian understands his great dependence on God.  It is also when he is subjected to the domineering kings of this world that he recognizes that there is nothing that he can do physically to rectify the nasty activities of centralized power.  For his liberty then, he ought not to depend of the governments of the world which do nothing but take away liberty and freedom.  No, truly it is absurd to depend on an institutionalized criminal conglomerate such as the imperious State for the protection of rights.  Be not dependent on other men.  Depend on God for all your freedoms and liberties, for it was for freedom that Christ set us free! (Gal 5:1).  As we suffer under the boot of Statism, God makes it known to us that there is freedom only in the cross.  Suffering directs our gaze to Him.  In this dependence, God is glorified.

Second, God is glorified in the evils of Statism because his children recognize that God is the only good King.  God is a King who loves his children, cares for them, seeks their highest joy by making himself known to them.  God Himself is the great gift that he, while not obliged, was graceful enough to give us.  What human king has done such a thing?  Human rulers act in the opposite.  They make you go fight to the death for the expansion of their kingdom.  God sent his own son to die for his people, that by this act His kingdom would be set in stone for all time.  God is a loving King who is true to his promises, and honest to his own good name.  The State sets up Ponzi Schemes like Social Security, which, by its very nature, is a false promise which depends on future theft.  The State is dishonest and is by its nature an institution of lies and threats.  In realizing that God is the only good and honest ruler, God is glorified.

Third, God is glorified in the evils of Statism because the Christian notes that this despicable world is not his permanent residence.  It is in times of prosperity and earthly freedom that we become complacent and comfortable in the very lives which we are to see as temporary.  In times of comfort, we forget that we are not supposed to focus on storing up our treasures here on this earth.  We should rather, as citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, focus on our long-term investment.  That is, our eternal investment.  Nothing that we do here will be beneficial here in the long run.  All that is eternally good, is eternally good precisely because it will be fulfilled after this world passes away.  We recognize that we are pilgrims on this journey and we live life in light of eternity.  And the first step of being a disciple of God is recognizing that eternity matters far more than temporary things.  Under the tyrannies of Nero, the Christian church was purified, made strong, and declared that God eternal was the very source of all that was good, despite the evils of Rome’s statism.  In making a commitment to eternity, God is glorified.

Fourth, God is glorified in the evils of Statism because he is sovereign over the State, no matter how big and brutal it becomes.  Jesus told Pilate: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”  In the same way, God may at anytime take away the power that any domineering State claims for itself.  God is sovereign, not the State.  And although the State sees itself as the greatest institution in the world, it is God who daily allows for its existence and it is therefore up to the determination of God how long their power shall last.  He may end it today, or in ten years, this we do not know.  But we do know that God’s declaration of sovereignty over the existence of the State glorifies Him.  Both the State and God do all things for their own glory.  And yet God can, whenever he wills, gloriously put to shame the claim to power that the State lusts for.

Fifth, God is glorified in the evils of Statism because, while the liberty movement longs for their ideal of “limited government” and perhaps for some, no State at all, the Christian who longs for liberty realizes that earthly liberty is a blessing given by God in His good timing.  It prevents the hopelessness of a small man realizing he can do nothing to “change Washington.”  Where there is false optimism, there is eventually great disappointment.  But where optimism is grounded on the Truth of God’s promises, it never fails.  God never says that we will find utopia in this life, but he does promise that we will be forever in his presence, once he does away with the evil that is temporarily here and among us.  Christians who are part of the liberty movement realize that it is not worth their entire life to dedicate it to earthly liberty because this is false optimism.  It is good to fight for liberty, but it is better to put that fight in an eternal context: for God has already purchased our liberty and promised that we will spend eternity in his glory.  Christians, in discovering that the State has over the last decade expanded beyond what they thought possible in American society, have realized that politics does not have the answers, the word of God alone does.  As the State continues to get uglier and uglier, perhaps it will lead many away from the State, which is the god of our age.  God is glorified when people find their hope in Him alone, and not the whims of evil politicians.

Conclusion

God is glorified in man’s dependence.  Man’s dependence is revealed in many ways.  One of which is by the expansion of statism and the evils of tyranny.  Therefore, God is glorified in the evils of Statism.

It is indeed a terrible development that the State grows in power and domination. And yet even this is not outside the decrees of God.  He is sovereign over good and he is sovereign over evil.  It is quite obvious that the State will continue to grow and become more forceful, more domineering.  But how much more obvious is it that God will use this to bring people to him, and to declare his good name across the world?

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com