Who is Sovereign - & Why?
Coercive Force & the Way of the Cross
George Bush, John Kerry, or Jesus Christ?

F. Earle Fox

[COMMENT:  For background, see the Two Worldview Diagrams.   The following is adapted from a sermon preached on October 3, 2004, at the Christian Community of Family Ministry (the Mustard Tree Community) in Vista, California, just a few days after the first Bush-Kerry debate.  This is also a revision of a previous article posted here on The Road to Emmaus.   E. Fox]

I. A Lame Debate

Both George Bush and John Kerry (for quite different reasons, one must suppose) count themselves as Christian men, but, if one knew them only from their comments in the debate on October 3, 2004,, one would not readily guess so.  One would suppose, at least, that they had yielded to the public, court-inspired pressure to keep "faith" from intruding into public policy decision-making. 

The judgement of the courts outlawing the Christian faith from open participation in public affairs was constructed whole cloth.  Is has no legal or historical precedent because the past history of American courts prior to the 1940's consistently supported the Judeo-Christian character of America.  The Bible and Decalogue were commonly recognized as part or our common law tradition.  Though there were identifiable secularizing influences washing ashore from the European "Enlightened" continent, it is not true that America was founded as a secular nation.  Those negative forces did not take deep root in America until maybe the mid 1800's. 

Sadly, excepting for a few tips of the hat in God's direction, both Bush and Kerry conducted their debate as though the law and grace of God were irrelevant to US foreign policy in Iraq.  Nothing of substance in their presentations emerged from a specifically Biblical worldview or Christian faith, which tells us that our liberties come from God, not civil government (see Declaration of Independence and also article on the Biblical form of government).  The notion that our Christian religion is merely a private matter, unsuited for public policy, constrained the debate to a secular framework.   

If the American founding fathers had it right, and if the Bible has it right, the first and primary task of all civil government is to discern the will of God, to apply the law and grace of God, to administer the law which God has already given, not to invent its own laws.  The sovereignty of God over all things in His creation was a standard legal principle of the American founding era.  William Blackstone wrote the legal textbook read in both American and England for perhaps a century, in which Blackstone asserted that no human law can supersede the law of God.  That book would have been read by probably every legal student in American and England. 

In the debate, Bush and Kerry has several opportunities to explain the Biblical view of politics.  They spoke about foreign policy, the UN coalition, international courts, all based on the contemporary idea of "liberal democracy".   These all cried out for a Biblical critique -- which would, of course, have raised a fire-storm of protest. 

But hardly a Christian in the West knows how to articulate and defend the Biblical view in the public arena.  Such defense is not likely to happen in current politics because both Democrats and Republicans promote a secular form of democracy, so-called "liberal democracy" (in skeptical quotes), which does not acknowledge the sovereignty of God, believing rather that (1) there can be a moral order without God, and that (2) thus secular civil government can erect a legitimate legal system. 

The question of how this legitimacy is obtained is simply dismissed.  The obvious need for a system to adjudicate international disputes is so pressing that most people think it is foolish to quibble over such matters, so there is little public debate over these deeper issues.  We are thus run by our "experts", whom, we are assured, know what they are doing. 

They do not know what they are doing.  They do not know how to create a government with legitimacy, that is, a government which has the legal right and obligation to command obedience from a group of people, the citizens.  Our founding fathers knew, but our present leadership, with just a very few exceptions, does not know.   In many cases, they are bent on suppressing any serious discussion of the matter -- as indicated by the treatment of Judge Roy Moore (see Constitution Library/Church-State). 

The simple answer is that without God there is no basis whatsoever for obligation of any sort.  There is no moral order without God.  And with no moral order, there is no basis for anyone commanding anyone else.  There is only persuasion, and failing that, manipulation and coercion.  None of those create legitimacy.

II. What is "Government"?

Government is all about coercion.  Stalin said, mockingly, "How many divisions does the Pope have?"   Mao Tse Tung remarked, "Morality comes out of the other end of a gun barrel."   George Washington said, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire it is a dangerous tool and a fearful master." 

That is why our founding fathers insisted that the jurisdiction of civil government be severely limited.  There are many things that one would not want accomplished at gunpoint.  But power corrupts, and those with power generally get so enthralled with their own wisdom and policies that they seek more power to enforce them -- with or without the consent of the governed.

We do indeed, however, make laws to be enforced because some things are rightly enforced.  The executive power is the enforcer, the coercer.  So, whether rightly or wrongly, everything civil government does is done, as it were, at gun point.  We usually do not see the gun because we agree with the laws and obey them.  But the gun (sword, billy club, mace) is there. 

III. "Liberal Democracy" vs. Under God

Given all this, what, then, is "liberal democracy"  -- which is today the very base of all Western politics and of allegedly legitimate government? 

The word 'liberal' has a history.  Let us examine both "liberalism" and "democracy" from the viewpoints of the two basic worldviews: the Biblical versus the secular/pagan worldviews.  

On the Biblical view, the cosmos is an open system because there is communication of information and energy from within the creation to God outside the creation.   Information goes back and forth (prayer and revelation), and the cosmic energy of the act of creation itself and of the love of God enter the created order, with God in turn receiving the love and worship of His faithful -- or the rejection of the unbelieving or rebellious. 

On the secular/pagan view, the cosmos is a closed system, the only absolutely closed system imaginable.  There is absolutely no passing of either information or energy from within the cosmos to outside, or vice-versa, for the simple reason that there is nothing "outside" the cosmos to which information or energy might go, or from which it might originate.  The cosmos is itself "everything", and, by definition, you cannot get outside of everything -- except by self-annihilation which makes you a nothing. 

"Liberalism" -- In our founding era, Jefferson was the primary spokesman for classical liberalism, contending that the best chance of arriving at the truth of a matter was by open, candid debate of the issues, with all persons respected, all viewpoints welcome, and -- all viewpoints open to critique from their opposition.  The liberal goal was to set free with truth.  In that classical liberal process of debate, we would obviously have the best chance to be set free by the truth. 

This Jeffersonian or classical liberalism is, in fact, the foundation of God's approach to the human race.  He wants us to be set free by the truth.  God commands, "Come, let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18).  Elijah, several centuries before any philosophers appeared on the scene, tells his own people on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18), "How long will you go limping on two opinions?   If Baal is God, let's go with him.  But if the Lord be God, then let's go with Him."  Elijah appealed to logic.  It was either/or, not both/and.  Then he set up an empirical test to see whose God had the capacity to keeps his promises.   Elijah conducted a rough and ready, but scientific, experiment.   Jesus announces that if we follow Him, we will know the truth, and that truth will set us free (John 8:31 ff.).   Intellectual credibility is right at the foundation of Biblical spiritual life -- unfortunately, one of the Christians' best kept secrets. 

Modernism, or secular materialism, asserts that it has the truth, but limits truth to the physical, phenomenal world, the world of the five senses.  The metaphysical world, the world beyond (meta-) the physical, e.g., the spiritual world, is thus not a part of reality.  Faith in God is a leap into the dark, not compatible with evidence-gathering or logic, and thus has no intellectual credibility.  Truth is defined by the five senses, and thus Judeo-Christian religion has no part in deciding issues of public policy -- which must be guided by allegedly "scientific" (really materialist) evidence. 

Post-modernism takes this one step further, abandoning materialistic science and the five senses.  Truth is now defined by feelings.  There is no objective truth.  Truth is pluralistic, or pluriform.  The goal is no longer truth, but unity, collegiality, feeling good about ourselves and each other.  "Just learn to get along, and stop worrying about truth."  The Biblical message, with its insistence on objective truth and morality, is considered a dangerous intrusion into the peaceful coexistence of all beliefs.  As is said, "Doctrine divides, dialogue unites."   So the procedure for problem solving today is not a search for truth, but endless dialogue, dialogue until all participants agree and feel good about it. 

"Democracy" -- refers to the people. 

In a Biblical democracy, the people are always "under God".   In the secular/pagan world, persons are (or strive hard to be) autonomous, self-made, and self-directed. 

At the time of the American founding, the divine right of rulership was transferred from the king or the aristocracy to the people themselves under God.   It was the divine right of rulership, a right given by God, not by civil government.  The people, not the elite, were to discern the will of God, to choose (or unchoose) their leaders based on their discernment of the will of God. 

Any honest reading of history shows that the people, reasonably educated, much more accurately discern the will of God than do the elite.  A democratic republic under God requires a population dedicated to honest learning.  It requires a truth-seeking populace.  That is why Biblical cultures have always been the most literate, and why, as we hack away at our Biblical foundations, we are also losing our literacy. 

Modernism, secular materialism, is based on the independent, autonomous self, not the self under God.  Democracy, then, is all the independent selves using their secularized science to arrive at good government.  Majority rules in a process based not on the law of God, but on pragmatism.   The self is said to have value, not because God created and loves us, but just because we are.   We, by blind accident, by random chance selection, have "evolved", apparently, to the point where have inherent, innate value.  

Post-modernism does much the same thing, excepting that democratic processes have to be based on feeling rather than on either objective science or the will of God.  

IV. The Problem with "Liberal Democracy"

When one moves from the Biblical view (the open circle, creation where we are undergirded by the Hand of God and informed and directed by the Voice of God) into the closed circle with no Hand or Voice of God, we find ourselves in a cosmos totally divested of moral order.  A world evolving by total random chance has no possibility of arriving at (or evolving into) an objective moral order.   There can be no objective difference between good and evil, only the myriad of conflicting personal opinions and values -- which is the problem, not the solution. 

There is a difference between having the ability to coerce and the right to coerce.  Stalin's divisions might give him the ability, they do nothing at all to give him the right.  The total absence of the right, of legitimacy, is an inherent part of life in the closed circle. 

That means, as a logical consequence, that there can be no objective legitimacy of government.  There is no possible justification for any person or body of persons obligating me or any other person to obey them.   They are, at best (or at worst) only bigger and tougher than the rest, and therefore able to coerce obedience, but not justified in doing so.   There is no possibility of a legitimate government. 

"Legal" is the political subset of "moral".  So without the moral, there can be no legal.  The closed-circle cosmos is a totally a-moral cosmos with no hope of redemption, so there is no justification for any person or group of persons governing (compelling or forbidding behavior of) other persons.  There is no moral constraint on anyone doing what is right in his own eyes -- even if that means savaging other people.   There is no way to make rational the use of coercive force.  Legally and morally, life is a total crap shoot. 

Thus, by the objective classical definition of 'liberal' and 'democratic', the modern and post-modern "liberal democracy" is neither liberal nor democratic.  So-called "liberal democracy" neither liberates with truth nor honors the people.  Secular democracy will always drift toward filling the spiritual vacuum in the closed-circle and God-less world with centralized government -- centralizing power over people, not educating, enabling, and freeing them to rule themselves.  Honest freedom will evaporate because the vulnerability of people without God drives them to seek a God-substitute.  And centralized Government Nanny is the only thing that seems big enough to do the job. 

But things are different in the open-circle cosmos.  God is, by definition, the Creator, and therefore also Sovereign over all things, including over the use of coercive force.  He alone can define the purpose for existence of anything.  Because purpose for existence is the only basis for objective morality, just so the closed-circle cosmos, with no purpose at all, has no basis for legitimizing government.  Unity of government, then, depends completely on pragmatic (subjective) persuasion, and failing that, power struggle.  (See Defining 'Oughtness' and 'Love' for the argument that only God can define morality.) 

If it is true that only God can legitimize anything at all, and that therefore only God can legitimize the use of coercive force, then legitimate government means bringing the use of coercive force under the law and grace of God, where all coercion is submitted to the will of God.  Precisely the point of William Blackstone.  

V. One-World Government

Foreign policy debate is driven by the obvious need for adjudication of international disputes.   World society cannot allow the current "wild west" vigilante system of justice to continue.  We are drifting inevitably toward a one-world government.  Isolationists are unrealistic because isolation is impossible to maintain in a world where we are all rubbing shoulders. 

Instead of shrinking in fear of a secular (and therefore totalitarian) one-world government, however, Christians should be answering:  "We, too, want a one-world government!  Let us introduce you to the Governor.  We know His name!  He has already been appointed.  His kingdom is already established and legitimized.  If you let Him, He will legitimize yours." 

So the Question before us is whether we, the nations of the world (but especially those who call themselves Christian) will remain in rebellion against Him, or whether we will put Him on the throne of our hearts, and thus also on the throne of our nations and over public policy. 

In that light, both allegedly Christian candidates should be saying, with respect to the UN or any of its courts, that America will not put itself under the jurisdiction of any form of government which (1) does not hold itself accountable to the Judeo-Christian God, and (2) is not clearly accountable to those over whom it rules.   Any government which submits to no authority higher than itself and which does not honor the divine right of the people to rule themselves is, or will shortly become, a tyranny. 

The UN does not honor God, and is in no serious way accountable to the people.  The UN is dominated by nations which are hostile to the rule of God, and which themselves have a terrible record of coercion and abuse of citizens and non-citizens.  To call the UN a peace-keeping organization is a travesty of language.  It is nothing of the sort.  It is totalitarian in nature.  It wants to consolidate all coercive power to itself, and thus guarantees the continuation of war. 

Furthermore, honest and mature Christian candidates would acknowledge the terrible failures of America - e.g., that in order to protect our demand for sexual promiscuity and other conveniences, we are killing our unborn babies, and in many cases, our born babies.  We are drifting into killing our old and other "unwanted" citizens.  Murder under the pretext of compassion.  If that is not sin, what is?  If the slaughter of 40,000,000+ little babies is not genocide, what is?

The reason the subject of God is avoided, surely, is that we do not want God butting into the kingdoms of our own independent and sovereign selves -- the basic foundation of so-called "liberal" democracy, asserted by renegade Justices to be the law of the land.  The sovereign self (not God) is the quicksand base for the "liberal" moral order.  Like any other idol, it delivers its worshippers into the opposite of what it promises.  Only the true God can keep His promises. 

An honest and mature Christian leadership would train itself to publicly defend the Christian faith, and to articulate the sovereignty of God over all things to a public and to a political system which has lost its way. 

American leaders should be telling the world that any coalition we form will be based on Biblical principles, and that we will join no other coalition which is inconsistent with those principles.  We should be announcing to the world that political freedom, just as much as personal freedom, comes only, in the end, within a Biblical worldview, under the lordship of Jesus Christ.  America should be forming a coalition of nations which support Biblical government, and therefore true political freedom. 

We should be saying to the world that, if you want to understand history and where it is going, why is has failed or succeeded, you must first understand the mind and will of God who created the world, and who is directing history toward His own ends.  None of us, neither singlely nor en masse, can direct history.  Our Grand Illusions will always, like Ozymandius, come crashing down. 

Until Christians learn how to speak the law and the grace of God in public, we will continue, as one pastor says, to be of little use to the Kingdom of God, and little threat to the kingdom of Satan.  St. Augustine, in The City of God, was right.  Like Rome, any nation which refuses to join God in His purposes will sooner or later come to an unhappy end.  Only those peoples and nations who join God can perdure.  That is because they are then building with God the Kingdom of God. 

VI. The Real Debate - the Way of the Cross

This great continental divide between the two worldviews marks the boundary of spiritual warfare all about us, which will continue until the return of the King.  The divide is over whether there is a Creator and therefore Sovereign over all things, or whether we humans are, by cosmic default, rulers over our own autonomous, independent selves, but with no possible morality to adjudicate between our conflicting, independent selves (let alone between nations).  And thus condemned to eternal warfare and (at best) erratic, and often chaotic, vigilante justice. 

That is the Great Debate we Christians should be forcing into the public consciousness.   All other debates are subsidiary.   Secular and pagan people are forcing their view onto the public by denying Biblical folks the freedom to present their case.  Christians must present theirs whether or not it is politically correct -- at any cost to ourselves -- as Elijah on Mount Carmel (and God all through Biblical history), challenging the world to an honest contest of ideas and results.  We must do it gracefully and intelligently, but we must do it.  Anything less is betrayal of our King -- because the honest contest is precisely where the King wins. 

Christians stumble at this point over private vs. public religion because we have been persuaded (deceived) to believe that our Christian religion is for only private, not public, consumption.  That is patently not the case, so Christians must stand up to present their case for the Lord.  (See Nancy Pearcey's book, Total Truth, on the split between private and public, between sacred and secular, and the Biblical resolution.) 

The American Constitution is a document still "in progress", but it is (so far) the highest example of Godly government.  It illustrates the Way of the Cross for civil government.  The Constitution, joined with the Declaration of Independence, spells out our national covenant relation with God, the Legitimizer of our political system. 

We "die to self", giving up our right to be right, and submit our views and policies to open debate to determine whose views are the right (i.e., Godly) ones.  We give up our right to coerce our will on any other human being, submitting our gun barrels and divisions to the authority of God Almighty through open, candid, public debate.  That is the way of the cross for public policy.   Our constitution was written to ensure, to enforce, precisely that kind of open debate under God.  It could have been written only by a Biblically inspired people.  

That is the debate which should be raging across America with the likes of George Bush and John Kerry.   And with the likes of our pastors and of every Christian person. 

Let us devoutly pray that we ourselves will become the messengers of true freedom in Christ, letting the world know that public and political freedom for all of us, just as much as our personal inner freedom, is a gift from God. 

(ENDNOTE:  If you are looking for a political party which understands the above, go to

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