A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Neither One Nor Many: but Covenant

This is not the last word on this subject; I am too stupid to know the
last word.

Of course the Constitution of the United States is an attempt to devise a
pragmatic solution to a centuries old conundrum facing the Church. What
is the proper form of the government of a people?  There must be
government or the strong will bully and oppress the weak.  Even the
heathen know that, and all peoples have government.

Aristocracies, or Oligarchies, were pragmatic institutions where the strong,
by right of birth or conquest, would claim to be acting for God for the
good of the people, to protect them from the "other" and ordained of God
to do so.  They often trampled on the liberties of the people.  In Christian
lands they sometimes cited the Scriptures as giving them this "divine right."
The British crown claimed descent from the "lost tribes" and gave rise to
the heresy of British Israelism that is still promoted by a few madmen in our

The church used these pragmatic arguments to find shelter under the rule of
kings and emperors and in return taught the king's "divine right" and told the
people to submit. A form of theonomy has been around for a long, long time.
As a result there were burnings, hangings, the rack, torture, and Inquisitions.

The United States, made up of immigrants who had fled such governments,
tried another solution, based upon a different religious philosophy. The result
was neither theonomy nor wicked individualism, but covenant, a civil
covenant not imposed by God, but by the free choice of the people. The
choice was made by representatives of the people.  The founders built upon
the "divine right" of a people to enter into civil contracts, into covenants that
were based upon the transcendent power of the Third Commandment. This
was not a new concept, for all kings required oaths of allegiance and
claimed the favor of God by being anointed for their office.

It was a pragmatic solution that Israel wanted when they demanded a king.
They wanted to replace humanistic anarchy [Everyone did right in his own
eyes] with humanistic tyranny [Give us a king]. This king would be the
pragmatic institution that would deliver them from all their enemies. That
idolatry never left them. Even in the days of Joash, after the death of
Jehoiada the priest, the elders of Judah came to Joash and persuaded
him to return to idolatry, resulting in the persecution of the prophets and
the assassination of Joash.

Amaziah followed the same pattern.  During the days of the kings, the nation
only returned to God temporarily under imposition from the top, and when
the godly king died, the nation reverted swiftly to idolatry and wickedness.
There were brief "revivals under Hezekiah and Josiah and complete apostasy
came very shortly after Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Necho.  Humanistic
tyranny is never a solution for humanistic individualism.  Though they had
rejected God from being their king, He did not reject them as His people
during all that time.

One of the great issues that brought about the American War of Independ-
ence was the desire of Britain to "protect" the colonies after the French and
Indian War.  They sent soldiers who were even "quartered" in the homes of
the colonists, and the taxes on tea among other things were designed to pay
for these soldiers and other "necessary" defense measures.

The colonists said, "No thank you, we have been defending ourselves and
doing just fine.  Go home and take your tea with you."  It was precisely the
arrogance of "Christian" kings that brought about the War. Royalists like
John Wesley, who didn't like reformed theology or biblical covenants that
bound free will, hated the American War for Independence. As a result, the
influence of the Methodists and Anabaptists retreated in America until their
revival in the Second Great Awakening and Finney's denigration of cove-
nant and exaltation of "free:" will.  The result of the revivals was American
State Religion and the Pelagian State. Covenant, and the Constitution,
retreated into the background.

Israel didn't really need a king, but their government under God only
"worked" when they obeyed the voice of the Lord. That obedience could
not be imposed by a king [Even David and Solomon lapsed into tyranny
and murder and their crimes resulted in disruption in the state], but could
arise only in the individuals, families, and tribes. Salvation could arise from
any of these if they would turn to the Lord.  The book of Judges records
these many periods of liberty that came to the nation when people turned
to the Lord and He raised up a savior, sometimes from the most unlikely

It is true that, according the covenant made with Noah, God used magis-
trates to judge the wicked, but he also punished those same magistrates
for thinking they were "gods" as He did Herod in smiting him with worms.

Rulers pretending to be sovereign is precisely the evil to be avoided that
drove the presupposition behind both the Declaration and Constitution.
Sovereignty is denied to men, both individual and collective sovereignty,
because in the multitude of counselors there is safety.  The representatives
of the people could be replaced by the people if they presumed too much.
But what can a minority do if the majority of the people want wickedness?
That is the question.  Shall the Christian magistrate impose the will of God
on a rebellious people with hangings, burnings, torture, etc.  The answer of
the New Covenant is a resounding NO.

There is no institution, "secular" or otherwise that can bring about salvation:
that comes only from Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, which is not of
this world.  Jesus said it was necessary that He [the King] to go away, so
that the Spirit would come, and He would be given to the Church and her
officers [Ephesians 4].  Sovereignty to His Kingdom over the "secular" affairs
of life was specifically denied to the church [Romans 12-14], for man was
free to make decisions for himself concerning his time, his meat, his occupa-
tion, his associations, as a man free in Christ: a prophet, priest, and king
before His God.

The footprint of the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth is the church and her
sacraments and her officers.  But there is not a single hint in the New Testa-
ment of the church seeking or ordered to establish a secular government to
bring heaven to earth.  On the contrary they were commanded to submit to
the secular magistrate, honor him, and obey his laws.  The wheat would
grow up with the tares and only the angels were fit to separate the two and
decide which were tares and which were wheat.|

The question I would ask, and it is a deathly critical one.  At what point in
the preaching of the Gospel does the church decide that it is time to establish
this "non-pragmatic" transcendent kingdom [Yes, it has been tried before:
Constantinople, Rome, England under James I, France under Louis XIV,
Sweden, Norway, the Puritan Congregationalists in America, even in post-
Calvin Geneva, etc], and everyone of them ended the same way] in religious
persecution and alienation of the ruling class from the people.]?

When is it time for the king to say, I am a Christian and non-Christians will
be expelled from the kingdom?  They WILL have to be expelled, you know,
or given the Mohammedan choice:  Say the Creed, becomes a permanent
underclass, or die?   Are you willing to use the sword to compel obedience
to the First Table of the Law?  That is the choice.

If you compel the confession, then the next decision will have to be:  "Is the
confession genuine."  Do the Jews who are baptized in Spain really mean
what they say?  Will you consent to torture to get the "truth"?  Which of the
Christian creeds must the magistrate confess:  Lutheran, Roman, Orthodox,
Reformed, or Anabaptist?

In America, because of the influence of revivalism and individualism, the
implicit confession is Anabaptist by default, but that is another subject, for
the Anabaptists deny that even a human contract was binding on them and
will not even submit to the government of Christ in the officers of the church,
but multiply "independent" churches ad infinitum and build a wall of separa-
tion between themselves and all human government.

Calvin excoriates this in his treatment of human government, but he also
rejected the Roman/Orthodox solution that required the magistrate to
submit to the church in order to be legitimate.  He even opposed Knox
on his rejection of women rulers of Europe, saying that some had inherited
their thrones [Elizabeth of England] and ruled by right from God, not by
permission of the church.  Calvin was a most "pragmatic" theologian and
said there was no "right" government that was good for every nation.

Calvin knew that once you insisted that the magistrate must confess the
creeds in order to be legitimate, you deprived not only kings of their
authority, but also elected officials, fathers, and "masters" of all kinds
and created perpetual revolutions and insurgencies.

He ended by saying that masters were to rule by the universal law of
equity that is in the heart of every man by reason of his creation, which
was self evident: the strength of your desire for every man's interest
should be as strong as your desire for your interest [Matthew 7:12].
Kings that do that were to be honored.  This would secure the liberty
of ministers to preach the gospel and the liberty of the church to worship
and treat each other with compassion and decency.

By establishing the state on the law of Creation, Calvin rejected, in my
view, both the theonomic state and the Anabaptist state.  The church
would exist in the state as the soul would exist in the body.  The kingdom
of Christ would rule the heart and the conscience; the state as the natural
order [of which God is still the universal king beside whose throne Christ
sits in David's seat] would rule the body.

Some say that this denies Chalcedon and divides the Person.  The answer
is that it saves Chalcedon by not confusing the natures.  According to the
fleshly nature, Christ is descended from the fathers; who is over all, God
blessed forever.  Romans 9:5.  It is not God who sits on David's throne
with respect to His divine nature, but Jesus the Son of David according
to the flesh, the last Adam.   We must neither divide the Person nor confuse
the natures.  There are not two kingdoms; nor is there one kingdom.  God
is Lord over all kingdoms and all these kings will become the kingdoms of
the Son, but not yet, for they have not yet become His footstool.

Liberty dies when the church seeks to rule the body in meats and drinks and
time; or when the state seeks to rule faith, hope, and charity.  It would be
Antichrist who would in the church seek to prohibit the use of creation:  "Now
the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from
the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  Speaking
lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  Forbidding
to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created
to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received
with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer."

The kingdom of God is not in meat or drink, in physical things.  The state may
regulate and tax and forbid and permit in physical things, but not the church.
But in such things, the state must adopt a pragmatic, sensible rule.  For
instance the state may regulate the use of medicines, alcohol, how food
is marketed, etc., for the safety of the body in terms of love for life.  But
this is not the jurisdiction of the church, although it may discipline for drunken-
ness, theft, and other crimes, but then the discipline is only spiritual and may
not exceed excommunication from the Table.  The church has authority in the
soul, but not over the body.

But neither does the state have jurisdiction in the church.  It cannot compel
creeds, the form of worship, excommunications, licensing of ministers, what
they preach, or whom they preach to.  In America the "pragmatic" covenant
was to forbid Congress from making ANY law concerning speech and
religion. Until the Civil War and Amendments 14-16, the Bill of Rights
applied only to the National Government.  States adopted their own
constitutions [covenant] and most of them came to have provisions similar
to the national covenant.

All human covenants are based upon transcendent law, the Third Command-
ment. Jesus said that our Yea and Nay binds us. It doesn't matter whether
we swear by God or by our head we are still bound by our oath.  Covenants
made by fathers bind the children if such is the covenant.  The Constitution,
being a national covenant, binds all the states and their governments, but it
can be amended as a human covenant.  Non Christian kings rule by the
authority of God and the nature of their rule is by the covenant they have with
the nation they rule.

Their authority is defined by God whether they recognize it or not. Even Jesus
told Pilate that Pilate had authority over Him that was given to Pilate from
above. [John 18:29ff] It was very wicked of the rulers of the Jews to seek to
use Pilate's God-given authority against the Son of God, but the Son of God
did not deny that Pilate had the authority, only that the sins of the rulers of the
Jews was worse than the sin of Pilate.  Even Pilate's authority was based upon
the transcendent power of God, although Pilate didn't recognize it, or even
recognize the transcendent nature of all truth.

God's covenants cannot be amended, for God is God. Marriage is established
by God and is a human covenant only in the sense that a man and a woman
can choose whether or not to get married.  Once married they are bound to
the law of marriage which is a creation ordinance, not a church one, for they
are binding whether performed in church or not, by a minister, by a judge, by
a ship's captain, or even by common cohabitation in some states.

It is true that there is Calvin looking back as well as Calvin looking forward.
Some of his writing was backward looking and led his followers into
persecution and tyranny, without question, as in Congregational New
England Puritanism, and led to the denigration of Calvinism and it's
rejection very early, in New England Theology and the birth of Unitarianism.

But Calvin looking forward saw that the government of the church by the
Mediator on David's throne is not identical to the reign of the Creator in
nature. It is not Two Kingdoms, per se, for there is but one God, the
Triune God, including the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, but it is
two administrations per accidens.

Hence, Christ delivers his kingdom up to the Father when all his enemies
are made his footstool, but he does not send kings out to do that. That is
His work alone. The church has a message for the whole world; she does
not have a government for the whole world to usurp the government of
Creation by the Triune God, for Scripture affirms that the magistrate holds
his government from God, even if he is "froward."

The church can warn kings to kiss the Son lest they perish from the way,
but the church cannot compel them to do so though it has sometimes tried,
to the destruction of peace, nations, families, churches, and the souls of men.
Neither can the magistrate compel the church to deny Christ, though they
have shed blood attempting to do so and have been successful in a great
many cases, to their own damnation.

Even the unbelieving husband or wife is "sanctified," by being married to
a believer, but the unbeliever does not lose natural authority by being an
unbeliever. The believing spouse can bear witness, but cannot compel, nor
are they "loosed" if the unbeliever wants to "stay." Salvation is not escape
from creation, but the redemption of creation.

The church errs by making the Kingdom of God to consist of meats and
drinks and keeping of days, for time is of creation. The state errs by seeking
to control creeds, sacraments, excommunications, ministers. The state may,
however, require safe buildings and adequate parking and the abatement of
nuisances [Loud speakers in parking lots that disturb the peace], or riotous
assemblies or criminal activity in the church [pedophilia, embezzlement].

Jesus, to Pilate who inquired into these matters, "My kingdom is not of
this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight,
that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou
sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I
into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is
of the truth heareth my voice.

The Mediator is King of a different realm than the kings of the earth. His
realm is truth and righteousness, and He is not on the earth, for these things
are transcendent. But the Mediator is NOT an absent King, for He dwells
in His church which is the pillar and ground of the truth.  He dwells in His
people, in His word, and in His government, and in His sacrament.

He cannot be silenced in any state, no matter how pagan or how corrupt,
for where the church is, there is Christ the King, and His kingdom spreads
as leaven--not by revolution.  The law of nature permits and sometimes
requires the sword; the law of Christ does not.  The state may punish the
body even to death with the sword; the church has only the sword of the
Spirit, the word of God.  The weapons of creation are carnal; the
weapons of the Mediator are not carnal.

So I would say a pox on both houses:  those who would rend the Person
of Christ, or confuse His natures and separate the Kingdom of Christ from
the Providence of the Creator.

I believe I also have the Westminster Confession with me, for those divines
place the authority of the magistrate, not in the Mediator, but in the Creator.
It is an important distinction and underlies the Constitution of the United
States of America and the Declaration of Independence.
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