Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Burning Books and Demolishing Idols: Part 4: Theocracy or Polyocracy

(posts in this series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

The word "theocracy" was coined in the
first century by the Jewish historian
Josephus.  The basic meaning of theocracy
is "rule of God."  It does not mean "rule of
the church."

Since we have argued that civil government should suppress the outward worship of false gods, many will likely say, “You want civil government to force people to convert to Christianity!” 

Wrong.  Nothing we have said so far implies that civil government should attempt to force conversions.  There is a world of difference between preventing external worship of false gods and imposing an internal change in someone so that they worship the One True God. 

Besides, conversion is solely by the power of God, not by the power of man: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). 

We do not advocate ecclesiocracy, or rule of the church, but theocracy, that is, the rule of God.  Church and state are two distinct entities with their own spheres of authority, but they both answer to God.  And so in a biblical theocracy, while the state does not obey the church, it does obey God by enforcing only those laws the Bible requires the state to enforce. 

Contrary to popular belief, the Old Testament itself requires a church/state distinction: 

And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters …” (emphases mine) (2 Chronicles 19:11a).
Both Kings Saul and Uzziah violated the separation of church and state, and paid the price.  Saul lost his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:8-14), and Uzziah was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

As for suppression of public worship, such suppression is inescapable.  Brian Schwertley writes,
[S]ome type of state persecution or intolerance toward religious practices is unavoidable and inevitable in every nation, even in secular pluralistic states. The United States does not presently permit human sacrifice or torture in religious rites. It does not permit the use of illegal drugs in “native American” religious rituals. Religious prostitution and child molestation also are not permitted. Brian M. Schwertley, Political Polytheism (Lansing, MI: Brian Schwertley, 1999)
As our nation becomes more and more pluralistic, for Christians public worship and profession of Christianity is becoming more and more suppressed by society and the state.  Christians are pressured to not mention God in the public square, and state schools forbid public prayers in the name of Christ.

And of course, our military burns Bibles.
And there has been proposals for “hate crimes” legislation that would persecute Christians for condemning sodomy.  For pluralists, opposing sodomy is obviously a religious crime. 

Religious pluralism prides itself on opposing theocracy, which is, as we've mentioned, the rule of God.  But instead of not adhering to the rule of the One True God, religious pluralism, being polytheistic, turns around and imposes the rule of many gods.  Religious pluralists then are polycrats who want to impose a polyocracy on the nation .

For polycrats, all gods are equal, with the exception of the one True God, Whom polycrats discriminate against.  Only by suppressing the knowledge of God, Who will not share His glory with another, can polycrats hope to realize their goal of a total pluralistic society.

The quest of pluralists to suppress the knowledge of God requires them to have their own version of “burning books and demolishing idols.”  Pluralists seek to burn the Bible either literally, as the military did, or practically, as by attempting to make the Bible irrelevant for Christians by forcing Christians to see their religion as merely a private matter.

And of course, the privatization of Christianity is also how pluralists attempt to demolish the significance of the Christian God, Who pluralists consider a false god, or an idol.  As many professing Christians hold that Christianity has nothing to do with sociopolitical matters, this privatization strategy has been very successful in demolishing in the minds of many professing Christians the One True God, for a Christianity that has nothing to do with sociopolitical matters is not Christianity at all.  Michael H. Warren, Jr. writes,

The idea of a Christianity that saves souls but leaves politics alone is a double-minded, unfaithful Christianity.  First, a finite God, one that does not rule over the State, cannot guarantee eternal salvation for your soul, because if God does not rule over every area of life, then there would be nothing to prevent that area of life outside of God’s control from obstructing the salvation of your soul at some point during eternity.  A finite God would be surrounded by a mysterious universe bigger than himself.  Only an absolute ruler of the universe could guarantee the promise of eternal salvation.  There is no guarantee that good will ultimately triumph over evil, if everything is not under God’s control.  The mysterious chaos beyond God could overwhelm Him and end God’s very existence.

Second, salvation has no meaning unless God is absolute, because if God is not absolute, then there is no absolute standard of good to sin against.  If there is no sin, then there is no need for salvation from sin.  Subject to forces beyond himself, a finite god would be a standard of ethics in flux and subject to legitimate ethical challenge by forces outside of him.
Michael H. Warren, Jr., Lord of Soul and State: The Duty of Christians to Mix Religion and Politics
Biblical Christianity and religious pluralism cannot coexist on a sociopolitical level, for the One True God and false gods cannot coexist.  Again, Warren:
The God of the Bible is not like the finite gods of the ancient pagans, who had one god for the seas, another for the trees, etc.  Neither is the Biblical God like the finite gods of the modern world, ones that are merely gods of people’s private lives and the afterlife.  “Religion is a private matter, not a public matter” is only true if God is finite.  That is not the Christian God.  Rather, “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” (Psalm 96:5).  As Creator of the material world, His rule is not just over “spiritual” matters.  He is the Lord of all.  He is the great “I am” (Exodus 3:14), the source of all existence.  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  “For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever.  Amen” (Romans 11:36). Warren, Jr., Lord of Soul and State
Thus, in closing, the question should not be whether there will be the burning of books and the demolishing of idols (or the attempted, but futile, demolishing of God by polycrats).  The question is, who will attempt to do so? 

Will it be Christians, who will peacefully burn their own non-Christian religious books and idols—with the hope that one day civil rulers will purge society of non-Christian writings and symbols?  Or, will it be the polycrats (as it is now), who impose anti-Christian sanctions and a non-Christian “private religionwhich says that Christianity has nothing to do with sociopolitical matters?

This sermon answers objections to Christ's Lordship over the civil sphere

Listen to the entire “Political Polytheism” series here.


No comments: