The Restoration of Biblical Government

Of, By, and For the People
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Under God

by The Rev. Earle Fox, D. Phil.

1. Of, By, & For the People – a Pipe Dream?

[A disclaimer: Please understand that there are exceptions to many things said here, that cannot be explained in a short article...]

The principle above, which has come to stand for good government, is today generally understood in a secular way. But both Lincoln’s use of the principle and the first use of it by John Wycliffe, (ca. 1370. in his introduction to perhaps the first Bible translated into the English language) assume a Biblical use.

The whole of pagan and secular history shows a pattern of decision by combat, winner take what he can get. History is the story of one war after another. But there was no possibility of anything else until the development of the English “loyal opposition”.

Under that principle, the losing party in a vote had a sort of gentleman’s agreement to work with the winner, or at least not topple his government with force, hoping then to win then at the next election. Prior to that, the winner had to “get rid of” those who lost the battle or election because the winner knew that the loser would be out to get him. Kill or be killed. As one of Shakespeare's characters said, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

Julius Caesar was killed by enemies whom he chose not to kill when elected to lead Rome. Love of neighbor does not endure in pagan or secular culture. So a servant government of, by, and for the people was not even a pipe dream. It was no dream at all. In Biblical culture, of, by, and for the people is, by the second highest commandment, an obligation. That moral command makes a difference. Governors are required by The Governor to love their people.

The “loyal opposition” principle developed first in western Europe under the influence of Christianity. It began, perhaps, with the English Magna Carta in 1215 when the English barons, with the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury, forced King John to share some of his powers with them. The servant leader mandated by God was (very slowly) developing.

Over time, lower and lower classes of citizens demanded a share in the pie, leading eventually to the freedom of the commoner under a parliamentary government, his home, without a search warrant, now being his inviolable castle. And then to the American Declaration of Independence and Constitutional government under God -– the most free (because most self-governing) society in recorded history.

It was a long, painful, and often bloody struggle, with the odds, given fallen human nature, much against success. But it succeeded in America, not only because of a self-governing population, but because the founding fathers designed the government with checks and balances to help counter our fallen human nature. They understood that one dares not grant too much power to any one person or group. They will abuse it. So the powers were separated into legislative, executive, and judicial, and then dispersed among federal, state, county, and city.

2. What is “Legitimate” Government?

To put the question differently, how does government (or anyone else) get the authority, the right, to command other persons? Why does not the big “SEZ WHO...?!” prevail?

As noted, almost every government in existence came into being by a successful power struggle. Does winning a power struggle give one an authority, a right, to command? No. it gives only an ability (not a right) to force compliance. You obey to keep your head on your shoulders.

Many ancients understood the need for a moral order by which people would be governed. Socrates began his philosophical career with the quest to discover the meaning of man as man, a moral issue. But no pagan or secular philosophers have successfully provided a moral order that worked. So, governments went right on ruling by force, not by righteousness, not as servants of the people or of God.

Biblical religion changed that because Biblical religion for the first time in history could produce an objective moral order –- the two highest commands of which were about love. The Creator of existence mandated love to be the reason for existence. Biblical religion was termed “ethical monotheism” because it, for the first time, linked morality to the will of God. (For the argument to sustain this principle, see http://www.theroadtoemmaus.org/EM/ShpMl/Law&Grace/00Law&Grace.htm )

That objective moral order slowly worked its way into societies populated by Christians, with dramatic changes, such as the appearance of a servant ruler. Power struggle cannot produce such a ruler, only the command of God can do so, working through the moral order believed and supported by the people. Just so, only a saved people, themselves under God, can keep their government on a constitutional tether.

Only God, being the Author of existence, can have authority primordially. One gets authority only from another who already has it. The source of political authority, the right to make laws and command obedience to them, must thus come from the general moral order given by God. So all moral (and thus all political) authority comes from the law of God.

That means that only governments under God, and laws in conformity with laws of God, are legitimate. God wants us to obey our governments - because even bad governments are often better than the chaos of no government at all. But more importantly, it is the duty of Christians to elect Christians for their governors (as said by John Jay, first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court). Government is just as fallen as the people it governs. It brings out the worst in persons hooked on power.

We thus need a converted people who will then elect converted governors. That will not happen until pulpits ring (as they did, firing up the American Revolution) with exhortations for Godly government.

3. Limited Government & Moral Consensus

The founding fathers designed a limited government. Let us today ask how to design a citizenry which can hold the government to those limits.

The citizens face a particular disability. They are large in number, wide spread, often far away from each other, and not much focusing on how those in government are behaving. They are not likely to take action against abuse because the effort necessary to mount an effective response can be huge.

But those in government are comparatively few in number, they are more geographically concentrated (in the capital cities) than their constituents, they are narrowly focused to enhance their control of things (i.e., over the citizens), and they are able to act much more quickly and directly to counter threats to their power. And worse, they often can write the laws to favor themselves, not the voters, to whom they are by law responsible. These conditions make for many career politicians, and for citizens who feel helpless. Is there a way out? Yes.

The founding fathers touched on the solution, but, so far as I know, beyond mentioning, never developed it. Some noted, for example, that the constitution was made only for a moral people, and that it would be wholly inadequate for a people who did not have the law of God written in their hearts, i.e., who did not govern themselves.

Self-governing people need very little civil government supervision. During the 1800’s, you could live your whole life and never contact the federal government. That bespoke a more properly limited government. How can we then restore and keep it? Only by moral consensus.

4. “King of kings & Lord of lords”

The phrase “Jesus is Lord” was the first baptismal creed developed by Christians as they converted pagans to their faith. It seemed appropriate for the candidates for baptism to state the content of the faith to which they were newly committing themselves. "Jesus is Lord" then grew into the Apostles’ Creed.

Both the Apostles and Caesar himself understood "Jesus is Lord" to be a political statement, i.e, that Christians meant Jesus to be Lord over Caesar and all human government. He, of course, did not like that idea, which is why so many Christians died for their refusal to honor Caesar as Lord. “Who is this upstart Jesus???”

It is heresy, to say that God is less than ruler of all things in heaven and on earth. But who are the “kings” and “lords” over whom Jesus is King and Lord? They are the legislators, executives, and judges to be found all over the world. “Jesus is Lord” is as much a political statement today as in the New Testament world. The failure of Christians to understand and defend that principle led to the demise of Christianity in the public arena.

5. Positivism: When Law is not Law

Because during the 19th and 20th centuries Christians became incompetent to defend the sovereignty of God over all things, secularists were able to successfully offer “positivist” law in place of the law of God. ‘Positivist’ means ‘posited’, as in ‘deposited’. It means ‘put there’ by the legal experts, rather than discovered and received as a command from God.

The 1962 Supreme Court decision, Engel v. Vitale, telling us that prayer in schools was unconstitutional, that students could no longer talk to God on school time, nor He to them, supposedly dismissed God from His sovereignty. That was positivist law, made up whole cloth, with not a single precedent behind it. The Church of God said almost nothing.

The effect was to trash the legitimacy of American government, and for the government to appoint itself as moral sovereign. Legislatures, executives, and judges would now decide the difference between right and wrong, and who was and was not a person. They declared themselves unaccountable both to God and to we, the people. That was not treason?

Engel v. Vitale was only the first of several decisions which ran Christians from the public arena, and which, in Roe v. Wade, 1973, declared war on babies in the womb. To this day, the Church has remained on the sidelines in the battle to remove Roe v. Wade.

So, the above noted viciousness of secular and pagan government was not long in re-asserting itself – as Christians became ignorant, cowed, and compliant. At stake is the difference between heaven and hell. As the Bible says over and over, and as repeated in The City of God by St. Augustine, the secular/pagan world is incapable of creating a “civilized” society. Without the law and grace of God, they descend back again into barbarism – the outskirts of hell.

Legal principle states that an unconstitutional law passed by Congress is in fact no law at all, as if it has never been passed. The law of God is our cosmic constitution, so the principle holds for the law of God. Any law passed contrary to the law of God is in fact no law at all, as if it has never been passed.

If God is in fact the Author of all authority, and if the laws positivists posit are intended to replace the law of God, then positivist law is no law at all, binding no one. It is just another of the pretenders.

The proper authorities must make that decision, but the final authorities are we the people under God. The buck stops here, not at Harry Truman’s desk. In the constitutional order given to us by the founding fathers, we, the people, taken as a whole, the voting public, are the highest officer of the state. We, the people, are sovereign over the civil government. The civil government is our creature, we are not its creature. So we, under God, tell them why they exist, they do not tell us why we exist. The moral, and thus the legal, authority runs from God, via the Church through the people, to the government – last in line.

6. Government: Referee, not Player-in-the-Game

Totalitarian governments (communism, fascism, socialism, and others) are those centralized to control decisions which individuals and groups in the public arena should be making for themselves. They do so, they say, for the sake of the poor. Almost universally centralizers become more fascinated with their central position than with helping the poor. The tragic 20th century gave testament to that, and the 21st shows no sign of change.

Centralization almost always focuses on centralizating the flow of money through government coffers, that is, through the hands of the centralizers. Their hands are just as greedy as the hands of any “rich capitalist”, proven over and over. But much worse because they have such enormous police and military power also at their hands.

There is indeed a “redistribution” of wealth, but not to the poor. They skim the cream off the top and use the rest to bribe the poor for votes.

To understand how that can be done, go to www.moneymasters.com, and get the video, The Money Masters, on how the Federal Reserve manipulates the money supply, going way back to Julius Caesar, and to Jesus and the money changers.

There is evil in all camps, conservative or liberal, left wing or right. But limiting the size of government so as to be the referee for the public arena of supply and demand, production and consumption, and not a player in the game, severely limits the possibilities for evil in government.

Redistribution of wealth makes government THE major player in that game. It produces a compromised referee, ensuring the growth of evil in the free enterprise world. The primary evil in a free enterprise market is the bribing of government officials to force the direction of government in their favor. These misbehaviors are precisely how a centralized government, compromising itself by playing in the game, destroys its own role as impartial referee.

7. Moral Unity - Bigger than the Government

“Church and State! Church and State!” one hears when suggesting that God, the Author of all authority, is Lord over government. “Theocracy!” we hear. "Totalitarian government!"

But both logic and history show that only God, the source of moral unity, can give us a limited government for a free people. Those who want freedom without God want something they cannot have without agreeing to something they are not willing to grant – the sovereignty of God. Only moral unity under God makes a people bigger than the government.

There is a rightful separation of Church and State. The State holds the gun of enforcement, but may use the gun only as directed by the people - elected legislature. The Church, holding no gun, operates in the freemarket of ideas, passing on that unifying moral consensus under God, teaching the people the meaning of Godly government – so they as voters can hold government on the constitutional tether.

Church and State are indeed different entities, but both under God. The government referees, and the Church teaches how to do that refereeing under the law and grace of God.

So, only God can design a people able to reign in civil government to its rightful size and task. A Godly moral order more than evens up the sides in any contest between people and government.

Government of, by, and for the people is then a step toward the Kingdom... and the King.

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