Men will be ruled. There is no alternative; there never has been. The question has always been, by whom? The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the great founding principles of this nation were a statement that men of this nation would be ruled, must be ruled, by themselves.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This was truly a revolutionary concept for the ages. Its principle was and is that liberty is not a right that governments give to men, that liberty is a right which God gives to men, and which governments can then either acknowledge and defend, or attempt to deny and withhold. Therefore, any government which denies life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness is an illegitimate government, according to the principles of our founding fathers.
The theory is based on theism, at the least. It is based on the idea that God made men. Without the concept of creation, this statement makes no sense. If we are the products of chance or unthinking nature, then it is inevitable, natural, good, that some races, classes, kinds of men should be better than others and should oppress and rule over others. There is no consistent way of expressing the inherent equality of men except under the principle of a God who created them.
But there is no reason of itself why theism should lead to the belief in fundamental equality either. For if God made men, He may have made them unequal, making some races and classes better than others. Certainly many religions believe this. So it is not sufficient to have religion, but one must have a certain kind of religion, one that teaches equality, in order to make the statement made at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.
Christianity is just such a religion. The Apostle Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) The distinctions between mankind, the inherent inferiorities and superiorities are all there erased at the drop of a hat. With those distinctions and rankings goes the idea that one group of people should inherently rule over another. It took the church hundreds of years to work that out and put it into practice, and it has come in fits and starts, but the very concept is fundamentally Christian, fundamentally a part of the gospel and is inconceivable without it.
Certainly through most of its history Christendom has known the rule of kings, many of them tyrants, many more just incompetent. But God sharply criticized the people of Israel for desiring a king. The desire for a king, God said, was a desire to be like the nations around them, to share in their glory and to gain the sense of security that would come from a king with a standing army to go out and fight their battles for them. The desire for a king was fundamentally a repudiation of God’s rule. (1 Samuel 8) For four hundred years before then, Israel was ruled politically by judges. There was no perpetual national government; government was handled locally and tribally, and figures known as judges would arise when the need existed for them. They would serve to unite Israel against their common foes and they would also serve to adjudicate disputes brought to them. As long as the people would follow God and not worship the false gods and idols around them, this was the only government they needed.
Think of the freedom they possessed! No palaces to pay for, no imperial guards, no bureaucrats consuming their wealth. No pyramids, no royal tombs, no huge projects erected to the vanity of the rulers. No officials telling them how to live their lives. They were free.
They threw it away, and subjected themselves to kings. First they had Saul who was terrible. Then they had David, who was a very good man, but who as a king was still not very good for the nation. His own sins inflicted war and plague on the nation. And he was the best; it was mostly downhill from there. Ultimately the kings of Israel were a disaster; their oppression split the nation, involved the nation in ruinous alliances and wars, were the avenue for a great deal of wickedness and idolatry entering the nation, and ultimately bringing on the destruction of both the northern and southern kingdoms at the hands of foreigners. The people of Israel threw away their freedom, and ultimately their security and prosperity as well. When they did it, this is what God said to Samuel, the last of the judges:
“.. they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”
Our founding fathers recognized that a free people could only be a people who would be ruled by God. Only when people voluntarily chose to be ruled by the principles of God’s word would a representative government work. One could debate the philosophical underpinnings of this belief, but it really isn’t necessary. We see around us in our nation today a people being brought into slavery. But we are not being brought into slavery by a political party, by a president, by foreign enemies or internal conspirators. We are being brought into slavery by ourselves.
You can, for example, trace a great deal of our present economic woes to the subprime mortgage crisis, where banks made loans to people who could not afford to repay them. When they defaulted on those loans in huge numbers, starting especially in 2007 and 2008, the whole credit industry was shaken by it. Some blame the banks for making irresponsible loans. That’s true, to a degree. Some blame the government for coercing those banks into making bad loans. Also true, to a degree. But none of it would have been possible except for people who took those loans. People refused to be ruled by the principles of God’s word, principles of hard work and savings as the source of wealth, and as a result those people, and the nation as a whole, are being brought into slavery.
Whether the subject is health care, education, abortion, homosexuality, war, civil rights, unemployment or anything else, the principles of right behavior are clearly contained in God’s word. If people would follow them, there would be no need for government action to solve problems that don’t need to exist. But we don’t trust God to take care of us, and so we resort to government schemes. People say we need the government to handle our health insurance for us. But Jesus told us that God would always take care of us, if only we trust Him. If we follow the Scriptures in our behavior, if we lived godly lifestyles, if we were moderate and sensible in our eating, drinking and everything we do, if we worked hard and saved our money, if we were generous with the poor around us, then there would be no need to look to Washington and cry, “Save us from ourselves!” And there would be no need to turn a quarter of our wealth over to power-hungry bureaucrats just to give ourselves the false assurance that they can save us.
Because here’s the dirty secret- they can’t save us. If we rebel against God, nobody can save us. If we follow His word and submit to His law, then we have no need to worry about any threat, whether economic, foreign, or natural. But if we throw off His rule and resort to our own ways, then no government program in the world will rescue us from His judgment. Israel’s kings did not bring them security or prosperity; on the contrary, they sucked up the wealth of the land to glorify themselves and made the nation even more exposed to invasions and oppression than they were before.
We must be ruled by God, or by God we’ll be ruled. I bow to no one in my disdain for the current administration and congress. But they aren’t the problem. The Democrats aren’t the problem; the Republicans aren’t the problem either, just as they obviously are not the solution. The problem is us. The problem is a citizenry that will not be ruled by the truth of God’s word. The problem is a people who believe that it is their right to indulge in every lust, every desire, every evil dream they have, and that it is their right to have science or government or religion rescue them from the consequences of their bad behavior. The problem is a nation full of people who hear “you deserve to own your home” and believe it, and believe that a law should be passed guaranteeing them home ownership, and that someone else should pay for it. The problem is a nation full of people who do not trust God to protect us, God to give us health, God to give us prosperity, and instead look to false gods, who look to the Beast and Babylon to fulfill our every lust and protect us from every danger, trying very hard not to notice that Babylon is built on dead mens’ bones. Whether we look to the monolithic state, or the promises of economic prosperity, or the pleasures of entertainment, it makes no difference. We are pledging ourselves to the empires of the world, the false gods of this age. The empires of the world, including the one we live in now, are built on lies and theft and murder. If we will not bow to the God who made us, then we will bow to tyrants.
The truth will set you free, Jesus said. The key to being free in our political and economic lives is to first be free in our spiritual lives. If we repent of our sins, throw ourselves on God’s mercy and pledge ourselves to be ruled by Him in every aspect of our lives, then we will be free as individuals. We will be free of the lies and oppression of evil men in our minds and hearts. We will be able to live lives that are governed by God’s gentle and just rule and can trust God completely to meet our needs.
This was the dream of America, a nation of free citizens, self-ruled and looking to the truth of God’s word, working out in each of our lives individually, to meet our needs. A nation which recognized the God-given right of every individual to rule themselves by God’s principles, and which exercised its governmental function only on those who refused to rule themselves. The pursuit of happiness never meant the untrammeled exercise of every lust, but rather the right to decide for oneself, according to God’s truth, how to live one’s life, and not have the course of one’s life dictated by the state. The constitution isn’t inspired by God, and it isn’t the only way of living out these principles. But the government of this country was an expression of the Biblical truths of the equality and dignity of man created in the image of God. It certainly wasn’t perfect. America’s principles failed too often with regard to the American Indians, and completely with regard to the black slaves, at least for many years. But even this was not a failure of the founding principles but a failure to consistently apply those principles. But as we fell away from our Christian roots, as we failed to trust God, as we refused to be ruled by God’s truth and came to see our right to indulge all our desires, we have gradually lost our freedom. We are no longer independent.
I fully support the separation of the institutions of church and state. But there can never be any separation between religion and state. We will be ruled by God in every aspect of our lives, public or private. Or we will come under the rule of tyrants, thieves and liars. This is the judgment of God who will not be ignored, and it is inevitable. We see it all around us right now.
If you are a patriot, if you love your country, the greatest service you can do for your country is to recommit yourself to be ruled by the truth of God’s word, and to encourage those around you to do it as well. It can’t be forced; it must be voluntary. Passing laws, choosing judges, electing officials and the like is all secondary; not unimportant, but secondary. What must be primary is that every one of us becomes citizens first of all of God’s kingdom, repenting of our rebellion and submitting to the rule of Jesus Christ. Only then can we be free, and only when this nations returns to a belief in a God who made us and reclaims the rights with which God endowed us, the right to rule ourselves according to God’s holy truth, only then will this nation again be independent of the rule of the tyrants of this world.
4 thoughts on “Independence Day”
Great post, Matt. Israel didn't need a king to be protected. When they walked with God, God protected them, raising up the likes of Samson, Samuel, Othniel, and Deborah. As Jonathan said, "it is nothing for the Lord to save by many or by few." Israel didn't need alliances, world government, or huge armaments. A jawbone of an ass will work well in the hands of God's appointed savior.
The only thing to fear is disobedience to God.
I often struggle with this very problem with great angst. It seems to me that in order to have a functioning republic, practically speaking, we cannot expect all people to be pious Christians, or even the majority. However, they must have theistic, indeed Christian, presuppositions, as you point out. In the 18th Century, they seemed to be able to strike a very interesting and delicate balance, even among the cultural elite, which often did not hold to many biblical doctrines. I am not sure this type of culture can be remade, as it was a sort of strange, historical anomoly. So, I am in a bit of a fix. I think we all are. Is our only hope for a decent government complete spiritual revival? If so, I cannot help but be bit pessimistic. At the same time, if the Lord tarries, I am not sure we can afford to be pessimistic for the sake of our posterity.
Peace to you,
Contemplation of that same problem leaves me in despair of ever having an enduring governmental system that supports liberty and upholds Biblical standards. But I'm not sure that's a bad thing. As people in particular places become Christian in their theology, they will form governments that reflect that theology. But by the very nature of a government that arises out of such theology, theological viewpoints will not be mandated, but tolerance for different opinions must be allowed. In my view, no truly Christian government could ever force someone to be a Christian, or any particular kind of Christian, that being contrary to the nature of the gospel itself.
So then, the voluntary maintenance of those Christian principles, while allowing for other views, is the only way such a system works, and history seems to indicate that it won't work forever. But we have no enduring city on this earth, so that's OK.
True, it does seem to be a self perpetuating cycle. I realize the city of man will always be temporary and corrupted. I guess I just worry about our posterity and wonder if all is lost.
BTW, I just posted an article based on the same approach you set forth, although I stick my neck out on the chopping block with the challenge of the term "self-evident" in the DoI:)
Peace to you,