Emmaus News

July 1998

A Friendly Word

Greetings in the Lord,

The connection between "the criminalizing of ignorance" and "how many governments are there?" has been broken by the insertion last issue of an article on the Anglican Lambeth conference. We pick up the thread again this month. You might do well to refresh your memory by rereading the two articles on "The Criminalizing of Ignorance" (Emmaus News .

It needs to be noted, however, that the issues at Lambeth are closely related to the issues of Godly government and Godly education.  Behind all the Lambeth uproar over sex lies the same mentality of subversion (relativizing) of truth that we find in government-controlled education, with a consequent drift toward centralization. When the people become relativized and thus morally and personally atomized, they become ungovernable, necessitating a strong central government to keep order.

Paradoxically, what often looks like a liberal quest for equal-results (socialist) freedom always ends in a tyranny -- because it is only the Godly self-governing person who can maintain his freedom. The drift into centralized control to produce equal-results is always a warning bell of a drift away from the law and grace of God. Persons with a personal relationship to God will prize their freedom, for they understand the cost paid to provide it for us -- not only by our forebears, but by Jesus Christ. Our political freedom is a product of our prior spiritual freedom.

The quote of the month (below) from Edmund Burke in 1700's was echoed by an American legislator of the 1850's who said that we would be ruled either by the Bible or by the bayonet. Or, as a high school principle a few years go put it to his students, "If you do not control yourselves, someone else will."

Faithfully in Christ,
Earle Fox

Our Reasonable God

How Many Governments
Are There?

[See also ** The Constitutional Case against Government-Run (Public) Education -- E. Fox 

- 1. Only One Government  -

If you ask anyone how many governments there are, he will probably count up the number of nation states in the world. That reveals two things about how we think of government.

First it reveals that we do not include God in the matter because He is considered irrelevant to government by modern thinkers. Secondly, we assume that government is essentially what the state does. When we say "government", we almost always mean civil government.

Both of those assumptions are false. The state is indeed charged with a certain kind of governing, but government is not essentially "what the state does". And God is essential to any understanding of government.

Government is defined in my dictionary as "direction" and "control". Direction is decided by the laws chosen to be enforced, the "direction" that nation will go. And control is the means to enforce that direction.

The two essential tasks of the political process are thus deciding whose laws will be enforced, and how to enforce them.

- 2. Obligation and Legitimacy -

But government is more than merely direction and control. Government implies a certain legitimacy - a right to govern, a right to enforce laws on other people. We distinguish between the Mafia and a legitimate government. In a democratic republic we are likely to make the mistake that a government becomes legitimate when it is "democratic", i.e. when it is voted in by the people. That is a good and Godly idea, but being voted in by the people does not by itself give any government legitimacy because the people themselves, neither singularly nor together, can put an obligation on any other individual or group to obey their wishes.

The problem is the nature of obligation. Who is it that can obligate any other person to conform his will to some standard? To cut to the point -- no one but God can do that. No matter how many votes we make, no matter how many constitutional conventions we have, we cannot obligate anyone, not even ourselves, to obey any rules or laws proposed. The person supposedly being obligated can quite rightly respond: "Who are you to obligate me?" Or, more bluntly, "Sez who!!??"

The almost inevitable response (that you will be thrown in jail if you do not obey the laws of the land) is indistinguishable from the Mafia response (that you will have your shop windows broken if you do not pay the protection money) unless there is a principle of obligation somewhere in the alleged government. Mere threat of punishment does not create an obligation to obey a command.

The only possible source for an obligation is the will of God, i.e., our purpose for existence. To say that "I ought to...." means "God wants me to...." There is no other "ought" that will stand up to logical inspection.

[I have written a philosophical defense of this assertion, Defining 'Oughtness' and 'Love', published in the Journal of Religion, available from Emmaus Ministries -- $3.00 ppd.  See also, National Sovereignty: Why is that Important?  in the Politics Library.]

If so, then it follows that a government loses legitimacy and thus any obligation to be obeyed to the degree that it refuses to put itself under the law of God. Hence there is only one government, that of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. The kings and lords over whom God is King and Lord are all the rulers of the earth.

That was precisely the point of the first Christian creed: Jesus is Lord. Caesar understood that, which is why he bothered to persecute them. He understood Jesus to be a rival to his pretensions to absolute sovereignty -- which Jesus indeed is.

Furthermore, that was also the argument of our own American Declaration of Independence, that King George III had violated the covenant relation between himself (the ruler), ourselves (the ruled), and God the Sovereign over all of us. "No King but Jesus!" and "The crown rights of King Jesus!" were colonial slogans in the spiritual war to maintain the freedom under God which they had already had for two hundred years. The king had unkinged himself by his violation of that covenant.

I just yesterday received an article from the August 3 issue of Weekly Standard, entitled, "Present at the Creation - America's Founders and Religion", by Matthew Spalding, chief of manuscripts for the Library of Congress. Spalding tells of "a powerful counter to the historical amnesia by which we've forgotten the way things were seen", i.e., before the Supreme Court rewrote our Constitution. This "powerful counter" is an exhibit now showing in the Library of Congress, entitled, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. The exhibit demonstrates over and over that America was not founded as a secular nation, that none of our founding fathers were "deists", and that the founding fathers and the populace considered Biblical religion to be essential to the success of the state.

On the last page of the article is shown one of the proposals for the Great Seal of the United States. The seal is a picture of the Exodus event, showing Moses and the Israelites standing to the left on a dry promontory with Pharaoh and his troops drowning in the flooding waters to the right and center. At the top is a towering flame of fire surrounded by a cloud, the superintending Shekinah Glory of God. Surrounding this bit of Biblical history, which compares George III to Pharaoh and the colonials to the Israelites, is the slogan, "REBELLION TO TYRANTS IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD."

And who designed this extraordinary piece? Our alleged arch-deists, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. (If you are in Washington, be sure to see the exhibit. Pray that it will "go on the road". It could be one of the most powerful evangelistic tools in recent memory. )

The argument that only God can impose an obligation, and therefore only God can legitimize government, makes sense only if (and follows from the truth that) God is the sovereign over all things whatsoever, including civil government. William Blackstone, the preeminent jurist at the time of separation from England, stated the case which had been developed from Scriptural principles through the Middle Ages, and commonly understood in the 1700's, that any law contradicting the law of God was no law at all. (Read The Theme is Freedom, by M. Stanton Evans.) God is sovereign, and in that sense, there is only one government.

- 3. Four Governments -

But that having been said, nevertheless under God there are on the human level four essential types of governments: family, church, the individual, and (lastly) the state.

Each of these four areas of government obtain their jurisdiction from God, not from the other three. The family, church, and individual are under the jurisdiction of God independently of civil government.

The statist mentality sweeps the other three under the tent of civil government, so that we begin to believe, as per current "positivist" legal theory, that 'right' and 'wrong' are defined by the state. The state then, simply by its massive preponderance of coercive power, creates the illusion of moral legitimacy.

That, friends, is treason against God, and the very hallmark of the Fall. It is the theory of law which led in 1962 to the outlawing of prayer in schools (the issue was sovereignty, not prayer), and then shortly after to Roe v. Wade in which the civil government took upon itself the right to define who is and who is not a person.

Any of those four forms of government may intrude on another only if there is a clear and present danger to an individual or to the fabric of society itself. Thus the colonials claimed the right to reject the sovereignty of King George because he and Parliament were conspiring to subject the colonies to their own despotic control. King George was intervening in all three of the other governments without cause. So they intervened and reestablished their own civil government on correct Godly principles.

- 4. Family -

Historically, extended family is the first government to arise. The family or clan has had a jurisdiction and responsibility recognized in almost every culture to raise up children into adulthood, and to be the basic building block of society. The biological, emotional, and spiritual facts of life make that almost inevitable.

In Biblical order, the father or husband is the spiritual head of the family. Headship is a calling, an obligation, not a right. The head is held as first accountable, as with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. After the Fall, God went first to Adam, not to Eve. All fatherhood comes from the Father of us all.

The family, in the plan of God, does not get its right to raise children or to educate them from state or federal boards of education. Education of one 's children is a responsibility (not a right) from God Himself. It is not the place of civil government to intrude into education or other forms of child-raising at all. Such intrusion constitutes an infringement of one government over another, and constitutionally is a violation of separation of powers.

- 5. The Church -

The second level of government is the Church, which is the Family of God in-the-making. The Church, too, has its order of ordained authority. Generally in the Anglican tradition, the clergy are the spiritual heads (hence "father"), and the people are in charge of the physical resources (through the vestry or other governing body).

The family and church are independent of each other, but are required to work together to raise up children to be children of God, hence the family of God. Children are raised up to be no longer children of human parents, but of God Himself.

They are taught, as they mature, to shift their dependency to the hand of God, and their obedience to the voice of God. Thus family and church work to spread the Good News that all men and women can become sons or daughters of God.

- 6. Self-Governing Individual -

The third government is the individual. God has given each person a freewill, which means a small but powerful area of choice and activity over with we each govern and rule. We have a limited sovereignty which we are to bring under the sovereignty of God.

It is the existence of individuals with poorly governed freewill which brings about the necessity for government in the first place.

The secular version of maturity is often heard from teenagers: "I am old enough to do what I want!" No such age exists at which we may "do what we want".

Godly maturity is rather: "I am strong, determined, wise, and integrated enough to do what is right (obey God) in the harshest of circumstances, even when no one is looking." Maturity means choosing our purpose for existence, given by God, at any cost to ourselves.

An "adult" therefore is one who has incorporated the law of God, his reason for existence, into his heart, no longer on external tablets of stone or paper. The two Great Commandments are at the top of his priorities: to love God and to love his neighbor at any cost to himself.

The self-governing individual is thus the key to all other Godly government. He chooses what God wants rather than any independent choice he might otherwise make. And he does it reasonably, with a cheerful and willing heart.

- 7. Civil Government -

We talk about "civil" government to distinguish from the other forms of government. Civil government is the last in line to emerge on the human scene. Civil government was established to tame the use of coercive force by bringing it under a law higher than itself.

Without legitimate civil government, coercive force tends to be like the Mafia, just another "gang" forcing its will on others; or vendetta law, as with the Hatfields and the McCoys of Appalachian fame, where one clan fought it out with another to establish its turf; or vigilante law, as in the "wild west" where one took the law into one's own hands and hung the thief from the nearest tree.

Civil government is instituted to bring rational and just order to this undisciplined use of force. Hence the other three governments yield a near monopoly on coercive force to civil government. They let the civil government "hold the gun". But that makes sense if and only if the civil government is itself held to Godly righteousness and justice, and if the people being governed are in control of how the civil authorities will use the gun.

Those are the goals achieved by a constitutional democratic republic under God. Families, churches, and individuals control the government through their elected representatives.

The role of the families and churches is to teach the people about Godly government, and the role of the individuals is to both elect and be Godly candidates for civil government. The people thus interpret the will of God for civil government through their elected officials. They tell the government what laws to pass and thus how to use the gun.

The primary tasks of civil government are

(1) to administer those laws of God that should be enforced at gunpoint, leaving the rest to public persuasion; and,

(2) to be the referee in the public arena under the laws of God.

Just as a football referee is bound by the laws of football, so also a civil governor is bound by the laws of the country which are legitimized by being under the law of God. The civil government is not above the laws of God any more than the football referee is above the laws of football. The civil government must be neutral with respect to citizens just as a football referee must be neutral with respect to the teams and players. That is the meaning of "equality before the law".

- 8. Government in America -

If these principles are accurate, then clearly we in America, we in the west, indeed, we in the whole world, are far off the mark from the plan of God for government.

America was headed in the right direction up through about the 1830's. But secular "Enlightenment" influences began to undermine the Christian foundations. Christians retreated from the public arena because we began to believe that secularism, not Godly religion, was "neutral", that truth was plural, that religion was just a private affair, and that civil government was none of God's business.

The truth is that only God can mandate a truly impartial government. No one else can produce the justice and equity which God alone even intends, let along accomplishes, for His Kingdom.

The American beginning was clearly not a perfect launching of a democratic republic. There was the issue of slavery, and many details of the republic needed to be sharpened and clarified. The nature of the separation of powers and of Church and State were not yet clearly stated, leading today to the systematic corruption of those powers, and the near destruction of popular participation in civil government.

It has led also the near destruction of the other three forms of government. The family is not seen as a center of government, and is instead being systematically eroded, the Church is a laughing stock, and individuals are creating moral chaos all over the land.

But, as the above noted exhibit at the Library of Congress indicates, God is raising an army on our side of the river.


Quote of the Month

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion
to their disposition to put
moral chains on their own appetites. 
Society cannot
exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite
be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within,

the more there is without.  It is ordained in the eternal
of things that men of intemperate minds
cannot be free. 
Their passions forge their fetters."

- Edmund Burke, English Prime Minister of the 1700's
& stout supporter of American Freedom -


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Copyright, Earle Fox 1998