I have quite a bit going on in my life right now, but I hammered out this essay last night. It is something I have thought about a bit, and I will only cover it briefly here.
I suppose that there are four basic positions that a Christian in present day America (using the term Christian in the loosest and broadest sense possible) might think he should adopt in his interactions with civil government. The first three all have some Biblical basis, though obviously all three cannot be correct. The fourth is Biblically indefensible and idiotic, which is why it is the most common of the four among present day professing Christians. Eschatology does figure into these systems somewhat.
The first is that of Theonomy, or God’s Law. Theonomy holds that God’s standard of law as revealed to Moses in the Old Testament is the eternal standard for law in all countries in all time periods. This position would criminalize both sinful acts against others (such as theft and murder) and sinful acts with no legal victim (such as adultery and sodomy). Theonomists participate in government, as they believe they have a divine mandate to do so to advance the kingdom of Christ, the same as when they preach. Presumably, at some point, a government could get so corrupt that they could no longer participate and would either resist it or let it self-destruct –at which point they could step in to rebuild a better one.
This is the position articulated by the Christian Reconstructionists in late 20th century America. The Theonomic worldview would reject the prophetic concepts of a Rapture and tribulation; from what I have read, Theonomists believe that they will slowly Christianize the world at which point Jesus will return. Leaving prophetic views, in a sense, the 13 colonies and the early American republic had a mild version of Theonomy -as did the antebellum South. The Kinist movement seems to usually be Theonomic.
The second position is that of “participation with qualifications”. This position would hold that Christians may participate in civil government as long as the state was not doing anything evil. They would vote, hold office, and fight. As with the Theonomists, presumably at some point the government could get so corrupt that they could no longer participate and would either resist it or let it self-destruct –at which point they could step in to rebuild a better one. Like Theonomy, the second position holds that the foundation of right and wrong, and thus law, must be an unchangeable moral code higher than man –written by deity. The big differences between position two and Theonomy are twofold: (1) that they do not see a scriptural mandate or prophetic image telling them to gradually take over the kingdoms of this world for Jesus and (2) that victimless sins would not be criminalized. This position would see history as an eternal struggle of peoples and governments between right and wrong with Jesus ending the struggle when he returns, perhaps after a period of great religious apostasy.
The third position is total nonparticipation. These people see the kingdoms of this world as under Satan, and see no scriptural mandate to take them for Jesus. These people hold that the church is the only current representative of Jesus’ kingdom on Earth. Obviously, the Amish and Mennonite peoples would take this position. They generally see the world as a bad place until Jesus comes back to end it. This position is taken by many pacifists, but is not limited to pacifists. There are a few people, like Christian agrarian separatist Michael Bunker, who own guns and believe in self-defense and defensive warfare, but who do not get involved in politics as they believe that God will raise up the king he desires.
The fourth position is that the state is an agent of God, basically just God wrapped in the flag. (Note: Apparently this position is only valid if it is the American or Israeli flag). These people fanatically participate in government even when it is very corrupt, thought they do not try to institute moral laws or take over the state to advance God’s kingdom. They oftentimes think that things will end with the climax of a one world tyrannical government that Jesus will end when he returns –about seven years after they are zipped to Heaven safe and sound. Blowing up non-combatant women and babies abroad is fine to them, but abortion of babies at home is the height of evil. (I personally know an Independent Baptist preacher who had a distraught veteran come to him that had accidentally killed women and kids by throwing grenades into a building before entry; the preacher told him it was okay because he was “under orders”). The position four boys will support the troops no matter the morality or Constitutionality of the war they are engaged in; well, not if we fought Israel. Basically the state is their God and must be totally obeyed, unless it infringes on the meetings held in their 501 (c)(3) churches.
At this point in my life, I take position two. That being said, I do not condemn those whose personal study of the Bible and conscience indicate to them position one or three. I hope this will give my readers some food for thought.
© Copyright 2017 by Joseph Charles Putnam or Orange County, Indiana. All rights reserved.