Re: Shapes of a Wedge

From: Innovatia <>
Date: Mon Jun 14 2004 - 17:13:32 EDT

From: "Peter Ruest" <>

> What is better: tyranny of the 51 %, or tyranny of the 10 or 1 %? Of
> course majority does not make right. But democracy is still the best
> political system I can conceive of for the modern world. Old Israel had
> theocracy, in principle, but usually (like all the other peoples of
> antiquity) tyranny of a few % or of one person. No non-Israelite people
> has ever had a functioning theocracy, at most a few weak attempts at it,
> and all of them misfired (think of the murder of independent Christians
> by various state churches in Europe!). I don't think God wanted to
> institute any such system in A.D. times; he foresaw that in virtually
> all societies, Christians would be in a minority.
This was not exactly true in the alpine valleys of the Cottian Alps or of
those near the Piedmont in Italy or southern France, where the
Vaudios/Waldenses had thriving Christian communities, living according to
biblical teaching, and not as democracies or monarchies. It was not usually
true of the Celtic churches of southern France, Ireland, Scotland or the
Britons. The Church of the East spread across the vast expanses of Central
Asia, all the way to China, and consisted of thousands of Christian
communities, functioning according to biblical government, which was neither
democratic nor monarchic. To a great extent, the persecuted Christians who
came to the shores of America and formed the early colonies acknowledged the
lordship of Christ over their colonies and lived accordingly. One might
criticize details of any of these groups, but overall, I see them as
faithful to biblical teaching about how Christians should organize
themselves, and that organization was, by the way, rather minimal. It was
not democratic in the usual modern sense, but their communities were set
free by Christ.

> >I would agree that the people need some means for interacting with
> >government. It is law-making in particular that is the problem. Nowhere
> >scripture are we encouraged to make up our own codification of right and
> >wrong, for that is what law is. I see it as the essence of original sin,
> >where Adam "knew" right and wrong for himself. When we make up our own
> laws,
> >we do as Adam did in the Garden. I opt for a govt in which God's law
> (taken
> >in the NT perspective) is the law, period. Numerous wise men down
> >history have commented on the folly of a multitude of laws, but that
> is also
> >a result of legislative activity.
> This argument would be applicable to states with Christian majorities
> only (or perhaps Christian absolute monarchies or oligarchies - but I
> consider such political entities as a contradiction in itself). I don't
> know of any government of the last 2000 years in which "God's law (taken
> in the NT perspective) is the law, period". And even if there were such
> a government or nation, there would be a constant need of legislative
> activity regarding new matters arising, like urbanization, ecology,
> nuclear, reproductive and gene technologies.

I would say instead that biblical instruction applied to new issues would
produce new precedents in applying God's law, but not new revelation from
God of new commands. It is because we are to obey God's commands, not those
of our own devising, that legislative activity is forbidden for Christians.
It is in essence what caused the fall of Adam.

> >>And any existing body of law is a result of humanity
> >>determining right and wrong, with only some of the legislators taking
> >>God's laws into account.
> >
> >The problem is deeper than making laws in conformance with God's laws.
> It is
> >the act of usurping God's sole prerogative to make and give us law to
> >by.
> I don't think making laws is in itself usurping God's sole prerogative.

How do understand what Adam did when he sinned in the Garden, if Adam was
not making up his own law to live by?

> Jesus (and the OT prophets up to John the Baptist) applied the divine
> law to the practical world of their days, corrupted as it was by sin.
> Soldiers, tax collectors, proconsuls etc. were not enjoined to give up
> their jobs, but to work responsibly in their actual situations (although
> all of them were working for a thoroughly corrupt government).

I am not so sure this is true. While Jesus did not, in the gospel accounts,
tell the centurion to give up his position, it would be an argument from
silence to say that Christ approved of God's people fighting the wars of the
wicked. Neither Jesus nor the gospel writers - Matthew included - had
anything good to say about tax collectors (but much bad). Jesus contrasted
the rulers of this world with himself, which does not put the governors,
proconsuls, etc. of worldly states in a favorable light relative to
membership in his kingdom. Paul (Rom 13:8) advised the Roman Christians to
as free as possible from worldly entanglements in obligating
themselves to worldly powers.

> >>On the one hand, we must recognize that there
> >>is no such thing as a "Christian state", as a majority of the citizens
> >>are not following Christ.
> >
> >There have been governments, albeit few, who have acknowledged (in
> practice)
> >the sovereignty of God over the govt. That's critical. The early
> >colonies and some kingdoms during the Middle Ages would fall in this
> >category. Ancient Israel was one, though the Israelites were mainly
> >unfaithful to God. Several could be found from 500 - 1000 AD east of the
> >Roman empire.
> I suspect that most of these (I don't know about the early American
> colonies) submitted to God's government in theory only (I am most
> skeptical about those of the Middle Ages and Byzantine times). But even
> if some did so in real practice, they still would have to legislate
> novel practical matters arising, not dealt with explicitely in God's Word.

I am not referring to the many kingdoms in Europe (usually under the Pope)
who were nominally Christian, but to those whose kings really did submit to
the authority of Christ. There weren't many; most were before 500 AD. The
Protestants who acted differently than popery on church-state matters were a
few Lutherans and the Anabaptists. The latter group is distinguished from
the rest of Protestantism by their distinctive position on church-state
doctrine, which was essentially that of the Church in the Wilderness of
earlier times.

As for novel adjudication, it is a question of whether God has given us
sufficient guidance in scripture for handling whatever might arise. I think
he has, though application of biblical principles to some issues takes
nontrivial judicial discernment.

> >>Thus, we cannot expect to be able to provide
> >>for a law system fully in accordance with the intent of God's laws.
> >
> >We cannot under the current circumstances from any of the major
> >nation-states. They are thoroughly commited to humanism. But new
> >could. The Constitution of Panama, for instance, while also under the
> cloud
> >of democracy, comes close in acknowledging the lordship of Christ in its
> >constitution. There are Christians who are also working nowadays on a
> >country of that kind.
> Why do you equate democracy with humanism?

By "humanism" (and I realize this word has suffered shifts in meaning -
maybe "Adamism" would be more to the point) I mean humans determining right
and wrong for themselves. Laws are codifications of right and wrong, no more
and no less. Some people say you can't legislate morality, but that is in
fact all that can be legislated. (Moral attitudes are another matter.) By
making laws, human beings determine what is right and wrong as they see fit.
They make themselves gods in violation of the first commandment. Democracies
are based on such law-making. Therefore, they are humanistic.

> Of course, literally, it
> means "government by the people" or "power wielded by the people", but
> there is no reason to link it indissolubly with (modern) humanism's
> atheism and rebellion against God.

Disobedience of the First Commandment is rebellion against God. If by
"democracy" one means that the people should have some voice in how they are
governed, that is not necessarily Adamistic. We can see that was the case
under Moses. But "democracy" nowadays generally means rule by the majority
vote of the people and that the people themselves are the final authority
for right and wrong. The Enlightenment's contract theory of government,
which denies God any authority at all, is the underlying rationale for most
modern nation-states.

> In fact, much of the basis for
> democracy is derived from biblical principles. Think of humans, as God's
> representatives on Earth, using the power, delegated to them, of
> responsibly subduing the Earth. Or, all Christians constituting a royal
> priesthood. Or, the Christian conviction that all humans are of equal
> worth. Or, Christians fighting for religious freedom, freedom of
> conscience, abolition of slavery and race discrimination, organizing
> medical care, literacy, schools for all, workers' rights, orphanages and
> other institutions helping the poor - all this requires political
> influence, virtually requires democratic liberty.

This gets to the crux of the matter. Mark Ludwig and I have been arguing
that the failure after failure of the church in the 20th century reflects a
deeper error in thinking in the church, and that error is that the church
has accepted uncritically too much that is in conflict with biblical
teaching about how to relate to the world. All of these good intentions
within the church have repeatedly been doomed to fail, and have, because the
Christians involved have not been careful enough to discern and then obey
God's instruction to us about how to go about interacting with the world.

> Why is it that
> democracy, like modern science, is virtually a fruit which slowly grew
> after the Reformation? Just as God has given us humans the
> responsability of doing science, he equally charged humans with the
> responsabilities of legislation and government.

Democracy was promoted by the Enlightenment strand of philosophers such as
the French philosophes and British empirical philosophers, such as Locke,
Mill, and Hume. These men were promoters of Enlightenment thought which
gained in influence after the Reformation. The 16th-century Reformers were
not rebelling against existing kings in order to achieve democracy.

I wouldn't attribute the resulting freedoms to democracy but to the
enlivening and liberating power of Christ himself! France was supposed to be
a model democracy, but after the French Revolution, it quickly degenerated
into a Napoleonic autocracy. The American colonies were the most free
because they were the most consistently biblical. But they weren't highly
democratic until later, when Enlightenment influence set in and a centrist
govt (the U.S.) emerged.

> >>But on the other hand, trying to avoid participating in the law-making
> >>process is not a live option for us, as it is not possible to
> >>disentangle oneself from the evils of the world-system in this way.
> >
> >Sure it is. I am doing so. I know other Christians (such as Mark
> Ludwig; see
> > who are. That doesn't mean our influence on rulers
> >nation-states is silent as a result. It means that we are not trying
> to work
> >for God by taking upon ourselves humanist presuppositions. Mark Ludwig
> >explains this in detail in his books/booklets. (I do too, in XLM.) It is
> >certainly a paradigm rattler at first, because we have been thoroughly
> >steeped in various ideas that trace back to humanist (Enlightenment,
> ancient
> >Greek) and not biblical roots. I would encourage you to get Ludwig's
> >True Biblical Government, and think through a radically different
> >than American Christians have been defeated under, time after time,
> for the
> >last 100 years or more. It is becaue they are accepting the humanist
> base of
> >their spiritual enemies.
> Jesus talked about Christians as the "little flock" (Lk 12:32) of those
> who entered by the "narrow gate" (Mt 7:13f), saying nothing about their
> forming a majority in any future nation, but rather indicating that they
> will be persecuted. Where, then, is there an opportunity to form a
> (utopic, IMO) "Biblical Government"?

It is not clear that history might not shape up this way. We know that at
the end of the age, Christ will return to rule the nations with an iron
sceptre, with the saints ruling with him. That will certainly be a biblical
govt. We are
not promoting a military coup in an existing nation-state, upon whom is then
forced a biblical govt. That won't work. While we are living within the
rebelling nation-states, we will be in a minority; I agree. However, what
if, like the examples from history I gave above, Christians congregate to
form a predominantly Christian society? It has happened before and can

Ludwig and I are seeking the opposite of a utopia. I refer you to his book,
True Christian Government (, for a detailed description.
It is not what typical Christians nowadays would suppose it might be. It is
closer to libertarian than autocratic in the sense that God has so few laws
compared to man's. In America, we have become so conditioned to look to some
human law to tell us what to do in every situation, that true freedom is
somewhat disorienting. We have to apply God's law for ourselves to our
situations, such as how fast to drive, etc.

> And this is in accord with history
> - there never was a biblical government, simply because genuine (not
> nominal) Christians have always been in the minority.

Overall, yes; but not in concentrations, such as in the Cottian Alps during
the Dark Ages or in Milan from about 300 to 500 AD, or early-AD Central Asia

> At best,
> Christians can use political influence wherever possible to improve
> politics in a Christian way - but even there respecting the same rights
> of the non-Christians.

Not if the political rules they must play by are unbiblical - i.e., not in
conformance with biblical teaching - in order to play at all within the
System. Ludwig and I are thinking outside the System because that is
essentially the case for the politics of the developed world. I air the
laundry list in part 2 of XLM for those who seek to know.

God simply will not bless the efforts of Christians who try to be a godly
influence in the
world while disobeying God in their interactions with it. That is the story
of the 20th-century American church, in short.

> >I am not arguing for opting out, but for rooting our efforts in true
> >biblical teaching rather than be encumbered by the humanism of "we the
> >people" as the source of right and wrong.
> >
> I agree with you that our efforts have to be rooted in true biblical
> teaching. But success of any such efforts depends on democratic freedom.
> In principle, "we the people" could be "under God", rather than in
> rebellion against Him (although in practice it will never be more than a
> minority).

Let's trust God, not democracy (or any human form of organization), to
provide what freedom we need to do what he has called us to do in this world
as his people. To the extent that we identify ourselves with Christ's
government (a monarchy, not a democracy) and give our loyalty to it alone,
will we manifest the reality of God's kingdom in this evil age. And if his
kingdom is manifested, then true biblical government will be seen by the
world through his followers.

Dennis Feucht
Received on Tue Jun 15 13:55:21 2004

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