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The Middle Class & Imago Dei
Why the Middle Class is a Godly Foundation for Freedom & Prosperity
An essay on Biblical Economics
Note: This material will become part of a book,
The Theology of Civil Government: Why Government Requires God.
See also: A New Reformation, & Centralized Coercion vs. Limited Government
F. Earle Fox
1. Why a Middle Class?
2. Church, State, & Freemarket of Ideas
3. Is Capitalism Selfish?
4. The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
5. The French vs. the American Revolutions
Equality: of Results
or of Opportunity?
7. Is America Becoming a "3rd World" Nation?
8. Unity, Freewill, & Coercion
9. At a Cross Roads
10. What About Jesus?
1. Why is there a Middle Class?
I grew up thinking that the middle class was just a natural part of any society, that there was a normal spread of the poor, middle, and rich. I thought that the middle class was lacking in early Western Civilization because we had not yet become rich enough as a culture. I was puzzled by people who wrote about the "rise" of the middle class as a new thing, almost unique to the West. Why the West? Didn't every culture at least potentially have a middle class?
It was probably Rodney Stark's two books, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, and then, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery, which triggered my thoughts in the following direction, but there had been vague inklings in years prior.
In the middle of July, 2012, I awoke with Stark and several other sources percolating in my mind, with a startling and to me thrilling new thought: the Middle Class is designed by God for a purpose, having to do with the Image of God, the Imago Dei.
This does not mean that all middle class persons are Godly, far from it. The unGodly middle classers will themselves torpedo their own class. We are to be obedient to God to keep His blessings. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Matthew 6:24-34) That is a theme running through the whole of both Old and New Testaments. When we obey, we flourish. When we disobey, His blessings become unavailable -- by our own actions.
Nevertheless, the middle class, I had come to recognize, is the fundamental engine which has driven Western economic success, and, indirectly it drives politics and government as well. The middle class is the "saving" class, they save a part of their income for that rainy day, which then becomes also a source of funds to invest, and to give to the poor. The middle class is the engine which has lifted up whole national economies. The pagan rich did not do that, or only rarely. They were in control and had slaves to do their bidding. There were two basic classes, (1) the rich and powerful, and (2) the poor, divided between the slaves and everyone else.
A college history professor told the story of a Roman emperor (I do not recall which) who was having demonstrated before him a road-laying machine invented by one of his subjects (note: not "citizens"). It apparently worked impressively, and would thus be a wonderful tool for the road-building, wide-traveling Romans. But, he told the inventor, "Burn it!" When asked why, the emperor replied, "What would I do with all my slaves?"
The emperor (along with probably everyone else) did not expect "progress" or "betterment" of the lives of people, other than that obtained by force of arms or inheriting a fortune. Might made right. The thought of betterment just did not occur among pagan cultures. Slaves were to be slaves, that was the way it was. Social levels were pretty much cast in cement -- if the upper class had anything to do with it. They wanted stability, not freedom. There was no concept of the grinding poverty of the poor ever changing. The rich had no incentive to make life better for the poor. Their incentive was stability in their culture, not change. Change agents were heretics to be gotten rid of. The investment of the powerful was in keeping the status quo.
There have been, of course, "small business" men and women since the first village markets. But the earliest markets were by barter, with no banking system, and thus could never develop the wealth leading to the middle class which was beginning early in the Middle Ages. And, most importantly, there was little or no sense of personal value -- as would have a child of God.
All this was true because -- in paganism there is no
such thing as the Image of God in which we are made and loved, as we meet in the Bible.
A middle class can arise only where one's sense of self-worth comes from some
place outside the social structure -- especially the structure enforced by the
powerful to keep themselves powerful. That was exactly the effect of the
Image of God in which we are made. It took centuries, millennia, for that
thought to percolate through Western culture, overcoming the belief common among
pagan (and even early Biblical) people, that the powerful had the right, even
duty, to rule the weak.
2. Church, State, and a Freemarket of Ideas
But after Constantine made Christianity legal, things began, very slowly, to move in a different direction. The struggles between Church and State were partly about the sovereignty of God over all civil government, and the growing notion that came to fruition in the pre-Reformation centuries, that (as pre-Reformation Bible-translator John Wycliffe put it, I think in the introduction to his Bible translation into English) God wants a government of, by, and for the people, later echoed by Abraham Lincoln.
1215, more than a century before Wycliffe was born, saw the signing of the Magna Carta, forced on King John by his English barons, to limit the tyrannical power of the king. The Archbishop of Canterbury was involved in the writing of the document. It was the first time the authority of an English king had been forcibly limited by his own subjects.
The Magna Carta had a trickle down effect -- as citizens below the rank of baron also began to claim rights under the king, leading eventually to the principle that "a man's home is his castle", and that no person could be arbitrarily punished by the state. First primarily in England and then supremely in the USA, there was probably no place else in the world where such positive freedom developed for the lowest classes.
The growth in the academic world during the Middle Ages of a freemarket of ideas would eventually support the notion of universal individual freedom, still yet a long way off. This freemarket of ideas became institutionalized in the newly forming universities of the great cities of Europe.
Out of these universities sprung science, a combination of the Hebraic world of particular things, history, and a rational world built by a rational God, all wedded to the gift of abstract thinking developed by the Greek philosophers. The blend resulted in science -- a culturally supported freemarket of ideas, research, and a level playing field in which anyone might express his viewpoint in a common search for truth -- and not be burned at the stake or shot at dawn if he lost the debate.
And then an increasing development of technology (ships, weapons, new metal plows, pianos, clocks, horse harnesses, etc.), mostly unheard of in pagan cultures (see the two books above by Rodney Stark). None of this could have happened without the wedding of Hebraic valuing of the particular and historical to the Hellenic gift for abstract thinking.
The key behind all this was the uniquely Biblical belief that all men were created equal, that we all stand equally before God, so all equally before any government on earth, and are therefore equally free to engage ourselves in productive enterprises for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and our society. Lower and lower classes began demanding the freedoms being gained by those "above" them. Contrary to the typical pagan attitude, the world was deemed by Christians rational, orderly, and improvable. Life could get better, not only politically, but physically and financially as we developed new ways of financing, constructing, and manufacturing.
The growth of the middle class and economic opportunity put a brake on centralized rulers who were almost single-handedly responsible for most of the wars of mankind. As R. J. Rummel shows, governments with dispersed power almost never go to war, mostly because the people are in charge, not power-hungry leaders.
All of this was generated out of the Biblical moral and spiritual framework which valued time, space, and the sacramental life -- where the physical revealed (not hid or destroyed) the spiritual, the Image of God. Most of this new energy came from the bottom up, not from the power-pyramid top down -- greatly upsetting the status quo. The tyrannical lock on the people by those at the top had to be (and could only have been) broken by the law and grace of God. Individuals and families were set free to be creative by the Spirit of God from within themselves.
So long as this took place within the Judeo-Christian framework, it was understood that individuals were a part of that larger community, the Kingdom of God, which the Church was to represent and invite all people. People came to be respected and respectable because they were well off and capable -- independently of their prior social status. The new Entrepreneurial Middle Class was forming -- because the law and the grace of God were increasingly (if not perfectly) respected.
The secularization of science, and then of Western
culture, removed this Godly foundation,
leading to disastrous results
with all the power of secularized (and
therefore false) science behind it during the 20th century.
3. Is Capitalism Selfish?
The notion that capitalism is selfish is foolishness. Capitalism cannot be selfish, only people can be. But good and generous people, just as selfish people, can be capitalists. The mere fact of making money is no more selfish than growing a crop, or than collecting taxes from those who do make money. The issue is whether the actors act honestly and intelligently for themselves and for the whole community. The secularization of the West ensured that the foundation of the Middle Class would collapse because the Imago Dei had been removed. Power would soon again assert itself over everything else [see the Hillsdale College course on the Declaration and Constitution for information on the effects of the "Progressives" (late 1800's and early 1900's) and then "Liberals" (beginning in the 1960's) on the Constitution of the United States].
Freemarket capitalism under God is the opposite of selfishness, one of the great barriers to the most selfish and destructive of all forms of government -- centralization in the hands of a few or a class. Capitalism becomes evil for the most part when it gets rich enough buy out politicians and co-opts the coercive force of government in its favor. But that is no longer capitalism, it might be called corporate monopolism, as we see all through the West.
Corporate monopolists advertise that they are giving us a free market. That is deception, and I think, largely deliberate. The market is made to be free only for themselves. A government properly limited to being referee (not a participant in the game) and run by honest citizens would be the best proof against that kind of evil. The separation of commerce and state is just as important as the proper separation of church and state. And for the same reasons, the danger of the abuse of power. That limiting requires keeping civil government to the task of referee for, and not a player in, the game of economic supply and demand, producing and consuming.
Taking care of oneself and one's family is not selfish, any more than putting on one's own oxygen mask in an airplane before helping one's child (as the stewardess will tell you). One can be of assistance to others only to the degree that he is healthy and capable of doing so. Capitalism vastly increases that ability, and tends to disperse the wealth throughout the market rather than concentrate it. The poor increasingly take part in both the producing and the consumption of the economy.
Taking care of oneself and saving wealth is what enables the middle class to be generous, for which Americans are well known. Creating a saving attitude is part of middle class wisdom. You cannot give away what you do not have. In a faithful Biblical culture, money follows love, not power. That is a fundamental part of honest redistribution. In a spiritually healthy culture, there are fewer poverty stricken, and there are more wealthy willing and able to take care of them.
The savings of the people generate wealth for both welfare and education down at the lowest levels of society. When government takes over these areas, government centralizers use them to control the people, education by way of mind-control, and welfare to buy voters. But as Thomas Sowell quipped: "I have never understood why it is 'greed' to want to keep the money you've earned, but not greed to want to take somebody else's money."
Everything the government does, it does at gunpoint. You do not see the gun unless you refuse to obey, but it is there just the same, including behind and enforcing taxes.
The primary wrongful concentrator of wealth is not wealthy capitalists, but rather, by a huge margin, civil government unlimited by the law of God. Where is there a centralized government in which those at the top do not skim off wealth from their people? Rapacious centralizers in Washington do it routinely, voting themselves exceptions to the laws they pass. (They voted themselves an exception to Obamacare, for example, creating their own health care plan.) Centralized government is typically selfish far beyond the capacity of any corporate scheme acting without government collusion. (Yes, Virginia, conspiracies really do exist.)
The powerful among the pagans did not redistribute wealth in a healthy manner, and neither do secular pseudo-liberals. Judeo-Christians, if they are obedient to the law of God, will limit government as in the American Constitution, and set free the market to run its own affairs, with government the referee to keep the playing field honest by the mutually agreed rules of the Declaration, the Constitution, and statutes passed by Congress.
In the Old Testament, God is continually urging the people, as in Deuteronomy 8:18, "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day." See also Joshua 1:1-9. God wants to confirm His covenant with us, in which He promises to make us flourish. That is part of the meaning of the law being made for man, not man for the law. Following the law naturally and organically leads to success. Just like following the directions for maintaining your automobile. The rules for keeping your car running are made for you, not you for them. A tyrant centralizer turns that around so that your are made for his laws, not his laws for your benefit. With just a little bit of brainwashing, he can persuade the public to like it and think it is for their good. America has been sliding in that direction since the late 1800's with the default of Christians in the public arena, and the rise of the Progressives who systematically rejected the core of the Constitution.
Then, again, in the New Testament, Jesus tells the disciples, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these [material blessings...] will be yours as well". Spiritual obedience leads to material as well as spiritual success. That is the beauty of the sacramental world which God created.
That is not true in the foolish sense of thinking that God is obligated to honor our requests. Success comes from obedience, following the way of the cross, not from our "naming and claiming it" from God. There are no claims we can make on God. Obedience might lead through very tough times -- especially when repentance is required, or in spiritual warfare. But in the end, it leads to success in all the ways which God has promised in His covenant -- the Kingdom means all the riches of both heaven and earth. That is the richness and goodness of a sacramental cosmos. The Christian failure to let that be known had to have been one of the primary reasons for the successes of Communism. We looked and acted like losers.
The socialist/communist solution to economic problems gives the economic power into the hands of those (civil government) who already own (or want to own) all the weapons, a perfect prescription for tyranny (as in "the perfect storm" which will sink our ship of freedom). All of the available evidence tells us that the concentration of power (financial or coercive) into the hands of any group or person will end, not in a just and righteous redistribution of wealth, but in the concentration of wealth into the hands of those with that power. Power must be distributed in order to keep the wealth distributed -- as in the separation of powers and the federalism upon which the American constitution is formed. That distribution is the point of the 2nd Amendment.
Government centralizers are enemies of God, of the
American Constitution, and thus of we, the people. That is true, as the
founders of America stated, because we humans are not angels, and need "help"
in loving one another. The only effective antidote to the concentration of
power is the law and the grace of the
living God which dictates the separation and dispersion of power and
4. The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
Napoleon derisively called the English "a nation of shopkeepers", i.e., unfit to make war on France, in contrast to themselves as the cultured, sophisticated, and civilized, and so, one supposes, themselves the elite with the right to make war on whomever they so desired (as Napoleon, the final inheritor of the French Revolution, murderously did). But it was those English entrepreneur "shopkeepers", who kept producing better ships, weapons, and other goods which enabled Britain to dominate the world for a century after Napoleon had died. And it was Napoleon, with government centralized around himself, who put the newly growing middle class, and thus all of Europe, again in certain peril.
The British (et al) defeated Napoleon, but lost their lead in the economic race, because, as under George III, they would not support the freedoms of the rising middle class in America and so lost America. Americans understood that their economic (as well as political and spiritual) freedoms were from God, not from George III.
The genius of entrepreneurship thus shifted to America, the new land of the free and home of the brave, where, for perhaps the first time in history, the common man could own land securely and outright, not as renting a plot in the king's realm, but full ownership. He could then use his land as secure collateral for a bank loan to start a farm or business. Fueled by such advantages, the entrepreneurial enterprise took off all across America. Newly freed individuals and families were having a very successful go at producing the "good society".
It could have worked, not perfectly but substantially, had the people kept their covenant with God as indicated in the Declaration of Independence. They understood themselves to be separating from George III to become more rightly dependent upon and obedient to God Himself. "No king but Jesus!" proclaimed the Presbyterian clergy.
But, sadly, it does not appear that the arrival of the middle class was understood by many, even in the new America, as a gift from God, and that God, not secularism, was bringing civilization to a new level of maturity, based on the principle of equality in the Image of God. America was drifting off to secularism, and too many Christians had misunderstood and rejected the Biblical cooperation between spiritual and material, and saw politics and economics as "unspiritual". They wanted to be "spiritual" in a manner that was not Biblical -- which came to be called "pietism". The Christians were thus unable to keep the powerhouse of the rising economy united with their God-given limited government of, by, and for people. Christians over the 1800's failed to see and effectively proclaim that it was God, not a secular economic and political structure, that was blessing them materially.
So, by the end of the 1800's, the whole process was being
secularized, due largely to the failure of Christians to defend
their case in public, and to the newly-recast-by-secularists "positivist" law
God as the source of all government authority. It had taken over
a millennia for the notion of equality of all men everywhere to effectively
challenge the pagan belief that the strong can and should rule the weak, that
slavery is natural, and that might makes right. It took only one
century after it peaked in America for it to be shredded.
5. The French vs. the American Revolution
The negative reaction had begun with a vengeance in the late 1700's, with the ink had hardly dry on the American Constitution.
The French rejection of God, intended or not, meant the rejection also of individuality in any healthy sense. The atomized secular individual, less and less embedded in local communities, is easy prey for centralized government. It might have been largely the newly emerging French middle class, who were champing at the bit for freedom and saw both Church and State as their enemies. They did not see that the proper wedding of Church and State would be their best friend, and so the French middle class became its own worst enemy.
Friedrich Gentz, a German scholar, in the early 1800's wrote The Origin & Principles of the American Revolution Compared with the Origin & Principles of the French Revolution (download free online -- a must for any student of American history), drawing a powerful contrast between the two, going in exactly opposite directions. Retired President John Quincy Adams translated the work into English. Gentz unfortunately and wrongly leaves God out of the equation, but he otherwise does a marvelous job in the comparison.
Christian Americans saw "revolution" quite differently from the atheist French. Only God can unite we, the people, in a substantial manner -- by way of moral and spiritual consensus, to hold government on a tether so as to keep our freedoms from the ever-present danger of power-centralization. That was why the rise of the middle class in America was so productive. America initiated the first substantial beginnings of that proper relation between Church and State, where the Church is the moral and spiritual teacher and the worship leader, but in a freemarket of ideas where it has to compete for adherents (that same freemarket which Christians began in the Middle Ages).
In that arrangement, the government (not the Church) holds the gun of enforcement, but is tied by the Constitution to using the gun only as directed by the morally and spiritually informed public through their elected representatives. That was the basic foundation of a government limited for the freedom of the people. That limiting of civil government with its rightful coercive force to the law of God produced the freedom which no other arrangement can produce -- a people morally submitted to God, and thus generally trustworthy, through elections guiding the coercive force of government.
The Church part as worship leader and moral teacher was absolutely essential to maintaining the moral and spiritual consensus. Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution could have been written by a non-Biblical people. And, as we are proving today, neither can survive without the proper wedding of Church and State. Neither the Declaration or Constitution are paid much attention by either political party in power -- because the Church has failed miserably in its task of moral and spiritual education in the public arena.
The French Revolution was a counter-attack not just against the tyrannies of a decadently Christian Europe, it was in effect, even if not intended, a counter-attack against the growing freedom of the people. That was evident from the very process of the French Revolution from one butchery to the next, with Napoleon himself inheriting the pinnacle, designated First Consul in 1799, then Emperor in 1804. Despite their claims to be fighting the tyranny of the Church and of royalty, they inspired a far more repressive tyranny, which did not take many decades to deploy itself in the form of Communism, the absolute centralization of all freedoms into the hands of the now secular central few. They traded religious tyrants for far more vicious secular tyrants.
As Lenin himself said, Communism was never about redistributing to the poor, other than for the "useful idiots" who believed such things. Communism is about redistribution from both the middle class and the poor, and from those rich who disagree, into the pockets of the centralized few. A whole new aristocracy of secular sheer brute power -- all for our good, of course.
Communism has never been "for the people". Like Islam, it has during the whole of its history flourished only under coercive centralization, by force. No surprise that Islam has worked together with both fascism (Near East Muslims sided with Hitler) and communism (today they receive arms from Russia). Communism has never been supported substantially by "the people" uprising to throw off the chains of capitalism. Capitalism, under the law and grace of God and under a properly limited government, is by far that most effective and most just redistributor of wealth ever invented -- which communism claims to be.
Antonio Gramsci, a 1930's
Italian communist, who wrote the playbook, not for military takeover of the
world as dictated by Lenin and Stalin, but takeover by the long slow march through the
cultural institutions, exactly what is happening today -- with the both clergy and
politicians stubbornly oblivious. Or in cahoots. (See
Besmenov, ex-KGB agent, interviewed in the early 1980's by G. Edward Griffin.)
6. Equality: of Results? or of Opportunity?
The French Revolution and its centralizing offspring put the unifying of the human race right back into the hands of the powerful, not into the hands of the righteous under God. And that means the end of the middle class. There are the rich and powerful and there are the poor and weak, no strong rising middle class, please, to meddle and compete with the power elite at the top. It is no accident that the central enemy of Communism is the middle class under God. They are too educated, too well off, and too often Christians. No centralized government, whether from the right, center, or left, can allow the free dynamism of a healthy middle class with a freemarket of ideas and a freemarket economy because the middle class under God is a block to tyranny. Under the law and grace of God is how America was founded, not perfectly, but substantially.
Government-given equality is equality-of-results. Civil government is unable to give equality-of-opportunity because equality-of-opportunity is based on the love of God for His people, the ability and right to be themselves, free moral agents, by being made in the Image of God. That ontological personal security, standing on the omnipotent Hand of God, hearing the commanding Word of God, is what sets individuals free to be productive in a cooperative and loving way. The world cannot give that security (it is called "salvation").
Without that affirmation of personhood from God, the fallen in the world must beg, borrow, or steal their sense of value from each other in the world (see Romans 1:18-32). Civil government is glad to pretend that it can give it, but is not capable of giving any person his value because no human government is the creator of its citizens. It is the creature of, and thus to be the servant of, the citizens under God.
Freemarket capitalism is the real dispenser and redistributor of wealth precisely because of the equal opportunity given. In a Godly world, money follows love, the two Great Commandments. Love disperses wealth. In a secular world, money follows power, so centralization of power centralizes wealth as well. It cannot be otherwise. Freedom under God, not without God, is what makes the dispersion work. Persons living under God focus on loving their neighbors, not on controlling and bilking them.
So churches should be preaching an economic Gospel, which, yes, must be built on the prior personal salvation Gospel and renewed family life led by spiritually put-together fathers and mothers. As above, God in both Old and New Testaments is the one who promises us material wealth if we obey. The so-called "social gospel" did not noticeably mention obedience to God on the Way of the Cross. But God rules in economics just as in every other realm of life. Nothing in either the material or the spiritual world succeeds without doing it God's way. Nothing secular people will do can make economics or politics successfully produce a healthy, happy people.
Equal results requires massive coercion and control
because a free people will not willingly line up in regimented rows of equal
results. Forced equal results thus drives out freewill equal opportunity
-- like bad money drives out good money. Equal opportunity comes from the
freewill moral and spiritual consensus of the people which allows each of them
to participate in community life as they believe God or their conscience to be
leading them -- requiring only that they give all others that same freedom.
That freemarket of ideas again. Their value and security as human beings
(established by God, not the state) undergirds their participation whether or
not the State likes it, which is again what gives Biblical society such power. Tyrants make war on Biblical religion
to destroy that power. The joining of economic power to spiritual
power greatly strengthens a Biblical culture. But there are dangers.
7. Is America becoming a "3rd-World" Nation?
It has been quipped: "Spiritual maturity brings forth prosperity, then the daughter kills the mother."
That is a brutal summary of the passage through a cycle: Cultures tend to rise at a time of fervor, unity, often working through great strife, and often to establish or improve a principle -- such as the founding of America. They become productive, successful, and then drift into self-satisfaction, which produces spiritual and moral entropy, apathy, and laziness amidst power-struggle. The people become ruled by the "experts", less and less in charge of their own lives, and unGodly centralized civil government again replaces God as the top of the pyramid of life.
God warns the Hebrews about to enter the Promised Land, "Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.'" (Deut. 8:17.) But we have not learned the lessons of the Way of the Cross and so continue to fall into the trap.
Good, common sense theology is one of the best defenses against such failure to pass on our faith. Common sense theology will survive the ups and downs of the cultural roller coaster, a steady North Star in an otherwise chaotic world.
At some point, God raises up a new people who understand the realities of freedom and begin the cycle over again, but must now overcome the enormous weight of apathy, frustration, confusion, worship of the "expert", and hostility against God and freedom.
America and the West is somewhere in this cycle, reasonable and Godly freedom having peaked during the late 1700's and early 1800's, and then downhill, targeted by increasingly vicious forces of government centralization (Vicious? go to www.hawaii.edu/powerkills).
Over the 1900's, we began to hear about "3rd world" nations, who, we thought, needed to be blessed by our shiny new secularized "liberal democracy" (our constitutional democratic republic under God having been abandoned for early 1900's "Progressivism", a precursor to the 1960's "Liberalism"). Liberal democracy (which is neither liberal nor democratic) was and is to be the secular version of what God had given us, God no longer being thought essential to the project of the good life.
"Blessing" Iraq with a "liberal democracy" was part of the United States government's justification for invading Iraq, and other meddlings abroad. But our so-called liberal democracy has rejected and lost what God had given America, the spiritual energy of a people free to be themselves under the law and grace of God, not under the say-so of their wanna-be human globalist masters. So the "3rd world" cannot be rescued by liberal democracy, which only puts them under a new and more competent overlord, now equipped with mind-control, and with surveillance and incarceration techniques beyond all previous imagination.
We hear (perhaps accurate) predictions of America becoming a 3rd world country, due to our financial disabilities falling back into the poverty-ridden state of affairs. The capacity for a people to generate wealth by capitalism depends on their having a dependable money and banking system, and a dependable government which referees honestly, and does not try to play in the game. Those conditions require a moral consensus and commitment by the people -- which only God can give.
We in America lost both of those in any effective manner probably early in the 1900's, at least by the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's not-so-New-Deal presidency, beginning possibly as early as the war between the states. We rehashed the old basic pagan centralization with a secular veneer and new cast of characters.
Lawyers and politicians had even by the 1850's begun to make law without regard for the law of God -- positivist law which claims it owes no allegiance to either the law of God, natural law, or to any other law higher than the government itself. Positivist law effectively gutted the Constitution of its authority and legitimacy, which should have been considered an act of treason, but the watchmen in the Biblical towers (or pulpits) were mostly asleep somewhere in a church poppy field (where are the scarecrows and tin-woodsmen when you need them?).
3rd world nations are those which have not yet raised up a middle class independent enough to govern their own decisions about the creation and consuming of wealth. They still live under a government which controls from the top down, generally for its own benefit, not that of the people.
Our present administration under
presidency is a
long jump in that direction. Government centralizers are enemies of God, of the Constitution, and of we, the people.
Jefferson wrote of (and to) George III, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the
same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it
is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide
new Guards for their future security." George III had not done
nearly the damage which Obama and his handlers are doing. They are moving
America as close to communism as they can get it without being noticed, yet openly, right in front of our
eyes, and in the process, necessarily eroding the
middle class, whom they want closely under government control. Thus the
middle class is slowly being reduced to impotence (as by the corruption of
elections) and poverty (by
manipulating the financial structure) while the rich become corporate monopolists
who can buy out the government.
8. Unity, Freewill, & Coercion
Civil government is primarily (and rightly) about coercion. Everything government does, it does at gunpoint. We rarely see the gun when we agree with and obey the laws. Some things ought to be coerced, such as keeping contracts, protection against robbery, murder, invasion, etc. But only a few things out of the total possible ought to be coerced, which is why righteous government is severely limited. Some things ought never to be coerced, such as religion, education, health care, and welfare -- prime targets of centralizers because they can be made into powerful tools of control -- as every communist knows. Every American should know it as well. Centralized government will try to coerce all of these, not to bless the people but to bless themselves with its control over them.
Government produces nothing, so it can give only what it has taken away from someone else, which means, for example, welfare and generosity at gunpoint -- an obvious self-contradiction. Government can give only through coercion. But government is not rightly, and should not become, either a redistributor of wealth nor a producer of goods. Its rightful role is almost solely as referee in the game of life for the producers and consumers -- which means that it may not catch or throw passes, steal bases, or own/control resources of production in the producer-consumer game.
With the Biblical model, the unity of the people
comes from their freewill decision to love and obey God, and to love one another
just as they love themselves.
With the secular/pagan model, there is no
moral order, so unity of the people must be maintained by threat and coercion.
Top down coercion of equal results means the end of middle class
entrepreneurship because the power of Godly entrepreneurship comes from the
bottom up and from within, from one's relationship to God which sets one free to
be creative. This kind of entrepreneurship is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Civil government cannot give that gift of unity or entrepreneurship. The
American Declaration of Independence is thus
originating theological underpinning for all American civil government.
9. At a Crossroads
Europe has already chosen and is well down the wrong path. America is just past the same cross roads. The middle class is virtually leaderless because the Church is leaderless, divided, at war with itself. The Church is set against itself about Jesus Christ, who He is, what He has accomplished, and why we should follow Him. (Law & Grace in Imago Dei is my response to that division. It can be healed.)
The forces of government centralization, mainly through government schooling, have captured the minds of our people, and pacified/neutralized/paralyzed most of those who disagree with them. It will remain that way until the people, under the law and grace of God, are willing to confront, openly and vigorously, the government with that law and grace.
With God, no situation is hopeless, but we are far behind the 8-ball, and it will take a spiritual renewal in the Church of God to change things. We face a spiritual far more than an economic or political problem. Realistic change requires the reconversion of the Church before the politicians. The Moral Majority of some years ago, and many other attempts by Christians to change things ran aground on just these issues. They should have aimed at the reconversion of their churches out of pietism and back into the Biblical worldview before reconversion of the politicians.
A 3rd-world country is one where the people have not yet been set free by the law and grace of God to manage their own prosperity. That is what America is becoming because the Church, by and large, does not see the public realm as any of its business. Pietism. God does not agree.
We will not have the right people in government until we have the right people in the pulpits and at the altars of America, and as heads of their families -- who can then raise up righteous people for government and commerce. We need a renewed black-robed regiment, like the Presbyterian preachers who proclaimed, to the dismay of the British under George III, "No king but Jesus!". Families, schools, and churches are the smithies where Godly souls are forged, never to be controlled by the state.
That is again why centralized government makes war to subdue all of them. "Public education", taken out of the hands of parents from birth to grave is the project of centralizers to reduce family and church to its own will. Government control of education will subvert or destroy the freemarket of ideas because the governors will educate the people to reelect them. Education then becomes a closed loop, mind-control, not a process open to exploring the truth.
But, the centralizers know neither the Scriptures nor the
power of God. We must rebuild a Church that does know, so that it can set
the record straight on why God has given us a middle entrepreneurial class and a limited government.
The two go together. God wants us to obey Him so that He can confirm
His covenant. No country needs to become (or remain) a 3rd-world country, but to change things
requires submission to God.
10. But what about Jesus?
Are we here getting lost in the "social Gospel" and losing the focus of the Christian faith?
Answer: Jesus is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, not just some of them. So therefore, "Jesus is Lord" is a political statement. He reigns not only within the hearts of individual believers, but in the halls of government. God pointedly told Samuel that the new king was to have a personal copy of the law which he was to read so that he would properly guide his people (I Samuel 8). And why did God tell the king to do that? So that the king would be the servant of the people, not their new taskmaster -- as God describes in the same passage. We should everywhere be telling the same thing to those whom we elect to govern us.
It is is no accident that the Apostles went mostly to the cities, the centers of communication, commerce, and government, notably Rome. They were being set up to deal with the taskmasters. The solution would be a long time a-coming, but only a saved people can bring government under submission.
St. Peter was ministering in Rome, which was turning violent against Christians. He was on his way out of Rome when the risen Jesus met him and asked, "Petrus, quo vadis?" "Peter, where are you going?" Peter understood and turned around back to Rome where he was later crucified upside down. The path to success is not always easy, but it is always possible. Clergy, take note.
For the obedient, God will confirm His covenant. In America the covenant is -- the Bible, Declaration, and Constitution. The Bible? Yes, in their efforts to understand the proper form of government, the founders sought the Bible more than any other book or author -- by a good margin. That means that their Biblical thinking was the foundation of the other two founding documents. The Declaration and Constitution are simply extensions of Biblical principles into our common law and life. (See Charles S. Hyneman & Donald S. Lutz, American Political Writing During the Founding Era, vol. I, Indianapolis: Liberty Press 1983. See also J. Steven Wilkins, America; the First 350 Years )
The founders of America wanted a Godly government. The Declaration, based on the Bible, was from dependence upon King George III to dependence upon, as they often called it, the Providence (the providing, the provision) of God. And the Constitution is the mechanism of federalism and the separation and dispersion of powers which would check the tendency for factions and parties to aggrandize themselves over each other.
Ironically, it is only under the "jealous" God of the Bible that competing religions can live side by side, on the level playing field of a mutual search for truth -- if they are willing. Only one religion/philosophy/worldview will in the end win, that one which is in fact the truth. God, above all else, is jealous for the truth -- not for Himself (He does not have an ego problem). Discipleship to Jesus is a radical training in truth-seeking at any cost to oneself. That is personally illustrated by Elijah (I Kings 18 on Mount Carmel -- "How long will you go limping on two opinions?"), described by Isaiah ("Come, let us reason together...." 1:18, and several other places, e.g., 43:8-13), and as pronounced by Jesus ("If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31 ff.) The Bible stands or falls on its ability to demonstrate that it has the truth. Discipleship to Jesus is the redemption of the whole person, with redemptive effects permeating through all relationships and levels of society -- not the least of which is the raising of a limited government -- much of it by a middle class.
America, quo vadis?
NOTE: for a fascinating article with relevance to the above on the middle class, visit
by Jeffrey Nyquist who makes remarks about the Middle Class similar to those above, and contains a detailed and I think correct description of socialism/communism. Read also Olavo De Carvalho's article just below Nyquist's.
Note: This material will become part of a book,
The Theology of Civil Government: Why Government Requires God.
See also: A New Reformation, & Centralized Coercion vs. Limited Government
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Date Posted - 07/24/2012 - Date Last Edited - 01/08/2013