GOD AND GOVERNMENT
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Romans 13:1-4 (emphasis added)
Politics is a ministry of God. It is not the only ministry, but it is one. The civil magistrate brings God’s negative sanctions in history. In a democratic society, voters bring negative sanctions against civil magistrates. Thus, politics begins with the individual citizen, who is covenanted in a civil order under God. He governs himself, and then he executes judgment through politics.
Politics is the means of establishing and controlling civil government. This does not mean that politics is central to government. It is one of the great heresies of our era that only civil government is “government,” and that the other, lawful, God-ordained governments are something less than government. There is self-government, church government, and family government. It is this monopolizing of the concept of government by the State that is at the heart of the loss of liberty in the twentieth century.
My former instructor, the conservative sociologist and historian Robert Nisbet, has written in his classic book, The Quest for Community (1952), that “The argument of this book is that the single most decisive influence upon Western social organization has been the rise and development of the centralized territorial State.”
Politics has therefore become central to modern man. It derives its importance from the State. Nisbet continues: “Unlike either kinship or capitalism, the State has become, in the contemporary world, the supreme allegiance of men and, in most recent times, the greatest refuge from the insecurities of and frustrations of other spheres of life…. [T]he State has risen as the dominant institutional force in our society and the most evocative symbol of cultural unity and purpose.” He is correct when he says that this modern faith in the State as the supreme manifestation of man’s unity, purpose, and power “makes control of the State the greatest single goal, or prize, in modern struggles for power.”
It is this struggle for control over the State that is the equivalent of medieval man’s quest for salvation. What Professor Wolin wishes to accelerate – political participation as the primary means of social transformation – his former faculty colleague at Berkeley, Professor Nisbet, wishes to reverse. What Wolin says is the great evil of modern political philosophy – the separation of State and society – Nisbet says has gone way too far, and therefore he wants to reaffirm the moral and institutional legitimacy of this very separation.
Society is far more than the State, Nisbet insists, following Edmund Burke, the late eighteenth-century English politician and social philosopher. Society is a complex of lawful institutions – families, churches, businesses, and many voluntary associations and memberships. A denial of the distinction between society and State is, Nisbet argues, the first step toward totalitarianism. The West has long since taken this step.
Rushing Toward the Year 2000
The authors who are part of the Christian Reconstruction movement are convinced that we are now moving into a period of great turmoil historically – not just U.S. history, but world history. Every inhabited continent is being plowed up institutionally and religiously by God. This process is unquestionably worldwide in scope. Telecommunications now link the whole world, and so does the New York Stock Exchange. For the first time in human history, the whole world is operating with the same science, technology, and mathematics. It is also struggling with the same fundamental philosophical questions. The whole world is experiencing the same breakdown in man’s ability to understand and govern God’s world. God is plowing it up.
We are rapidly approaching the year 2000, an apocalyptic-sounding year if there ever was one. The sense of urgency will only increase from this point forward. The visible collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the possible break-up of the Soviet Empire, the threat of a military coup in the U.S.S.R., the disarming of the West, the neutralization of Germany, the rise of a “green” politics based on supposed ecological terrors and the quest for political solutions to modern economic and environmental problems, and the attempt to create a politically unified Western Europe all point to enormous dislocations.
The New World Order (Again)
The humanists are at last proclaiming the advent of their long-promised New World Order. In the midst of an unprecedented budget crisis and political deadlock, and in the midst of a military confrontation between the U.S. and Iraq, President Bush announced to Congress:
A new partnership of nations has begun. We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective – a new world order – can emerge: a new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.
A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world in which the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.
This is the vision I shared with President Gorbachev in Helsinki. He, and other leaders from Europe, the gulf and around the world, understand how we manage this crisis today could shape the future for generations to come.
He speaks of a hundred generations. This takes us back to the era of Abraham or thereabouts, in the days when Egypt rocked the cradle of civilization. From Egypt to 1990: a lengthy gestation period. I think Mr. Bush was not deliberately exaggerating, as messianic as his extended timetable may initially appear. The model of Egypt is always the covenant-breaker’s preferred alternative to decentralized biblical civilization. It is time to recall the words of the great German sociologist Max Weber, in a speech he delivered in 1909:
To this day there has never existed a bureaucracy which could compare with that of Egypt. This is known to everyone who knows the social history of ancient times; and it is equally apparent that today we are proceeding towards an evolution which resembles that system in every detail, except that it is built on other foundations, on technically more perfect, more rationalized, and therefore more mechanical foundations. The problem which besets us now is not: how can this evolution be changed? – for that is impossible, but: what is to come of it?
Our generation is about to get the answer to Weber’s question. We now face the looming threat of Egypt revisited. This is far more of a threat to the enemies of Christ than to the Church. “Thus saith the LORD; They also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 30:6). The towers of this world shall crumble, and those who trust in them shall fall.
But there is already a New World Order. It was announced by Jesus to His disciples:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, 10, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
It is this world order – the fifth and final kingdom – that alone will expand to fill the earth:
Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35).
We are witnessing a world revolution. It is an ancient revolution. It is the advent of a new quest for empire. It will inevitably fail. But it is a revolution. When we hear the word “revolution,” we usually think politics and bombs. But revolutions do not spring up full grown overnight. They do not take place in historical vacuums. They take a lot of planning. Revolutions are always preceded by major shifts in people’s thinking, especially the thinking of the intellectual elite. This is taking place now. The various humanist intellectual elites are visibly in philosophical retreat. The moral and political leaders have lost confidence in the existing liberal worldview. They talk tough, but their economies are being threatened by massive debt. They talk tough, but international terrorism now raises its ugly head, against which the politicians can do next to nothing. There are no more self-attesting truths in the world of humanism, except one: that the God of the Bible isn’t possible.
It is this deeply religious presupposition that Christians necessarily reject. It is this rejection that enrages the humanists. Christianity, in its orthodox form, challenges all forms of the power religion. Christianity is the religion of Christ’s kingdom (civilization). It offers a better way of life and temporal death, for it offers the only path to eternal life. It offers comprehensive redemption – the healing of international civilization. It is the dominion religion.
When Christianity departs from its heritage of preaching the progressive sanctification of men and institutions, it abandons the idea of Christ’s progressively revealed kingdom (civilization) on earth in history. It then departs into another religion, the escape religion. This leaves the battle for civilization in the hands of the various power religionists. Russia saw the defeat of the visible national Church when the theology of mysticism and suffering (kenotic theology) at last brought paralysis to the Russian Orthodox Church. It had been infiltrated by people holding pagan and humanistic views of many varieties. The Church was incapable of dealing with the power religion of
Lenin, and especially Lenin’s successor, the former seminary student, Joseph Stalin. We are seeing today a replay of those years written large. The war for the hearts and minds of men continues to escalate internationally. The technology of nuclear destruction competes with the technology of economic healing and the mass communication of the gospel. But, contrary to Marx, it is not the substructure of the mode of production that determines the superstructure of religious faith; the contrary is the case. The battle is over covenants and ethics, not economics.
 Nisbet, The Quest for Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1952), p. 98.
 Ibid., p. 99.
 Ibid., p. 103.
 Sheldon Wolin, Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political
Thought (Boston: little, Brown, 1960), ch. 10.
 Nisbet, Quest for Community, ch. 5.
 “Text of President Bush’s Address to Joint Session of Congress,” New York Times (Sept. 12, 1990).
 Max Weber, “Speech to the Verein für Sozialpolitik” (1909); reprinted in J. P. Meyer, Max Weber and German Politics (London: Faber &: Faber, 1956), p. 127. Cf. Gary North, “Max Weber: Rationalism, Irrationalism, and the Bureaucratic Cage,” in North (ed.), Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective (Vallecito, California: Ross House Books, 1976), ch. 8.
 Gary North, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988), Appendix C: “Comprehensive Redemption: A Theology for Social Action.”
 On escape religion, power religion, and dominion religion, see my analysis in Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion vs. Power Religion (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), pp. 2-5.
 Ellen Myers, “Uncertain Trumpet: The Russian Orthodox Church and Russian Religious Thought, 1900-1917,”Journal of Christian Reconstruction, XI (1985), pp. 77-110. She writes: “Russian pre-revolutionary religious thought was thus generally suspended between the poles of materialist-Marxist and mystic-idealist monism. It partook of fundamentally anarchist Marxist and also Buddhist-style withdrawal from reality; an infatuation with hedonistic classical paganism over against Christian supposedly joyless morality; a ‘promethean’ desire to raise mankind to godlike superman status; and, concomitant to all three, an ‘apocalyptic,’ nihilist rejection of the entire existing order in Russia in anticipation of an imminent new, other, and better utopian state of affairs.” Ibid., p. 93.