Monday, March 27, 2006

James Jordan on Hierarchy

Alastair wrote a post last April quoting from James Jordan's The Sociology of the Church. We should all be grateful for the terrific material available at Gary North's freebooks.com . I looked up the original quote in Jordan's book, and thought it was perfect for my purposes here at UO. One of my goals is to compile an updated biblical defense of the institution of monarchy, and Jordan is second to none in his ability to mine the depths of Scripture.

There is much to ponder here, but I'd like the reader to consider the fifth paragraph especially. There, Jordan likens kingship to parenthood. It is one of my contentions that all human government is basically an extension of familial (covenantal) authority. Adam was a king, and all fathers are kings in a real sense. Kingship reaches its highest perfection when a king becomes like a father to his people. This theory essentially denies that family and state are sovereign spheres, hermetically sealed from one another. For it is also a contention of mine that the usual way of conceiving the various relations between church, state, and family is guilty of artificially dividing what naturally belong together in one commonwealth.

"Americans (evangelical) like to believe the myth that society is transformed from the “bottom up” and not from the “top down.” This flies squarely in the face both of history and of Scripture. The history of Israel, as recorded in Scripture, is not a history of revivals from the bottom up, but of kings and their actions. Good kings produced a good nation; bad kings a bad nation. The order is always seen from the top down, though of course with real feedback from the bottom up.

"This is no surprise. From Genesis 3 onwards, society is likened to a large man, with a head and hands and feet. The head obviously governs the rest of the members. To destroy the body, you crush the head. This is seen over and over in the book of Judges. Sometimes the head is literally crushed, as with Sisera and Abimelech. Sometimes it is the social head that is crushed, as with Eglon, Oreb and Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna, and the five lords of the Philistines.

"Christ is the head of the church, the New Testament repeatedly tells us. The church, however, is also a body politic, with eyes, hands, and feet (1 Cor. 12). Each part is necessary, but each part does not have the same function. There are rulers and governors — a hierarchy — in the church. There is no virtue in trying to evade this obvious fact, by objecting to the term “hierarchy,” or by ignoring the issue. Clearly, the greatest danger to the church comes not from wayward sheep, but from false leaders, savage wolves (Acts 20:30, etc.).

"Of course, we must say by way of a comprehensive philosophy of history that the Triune God always moves all at once, reforming from the top down at the same time as He reforms from the bottom up. The point, however, is that there is a small group of elite leaders and controllers — a hierarchy — in every society. There always will be. Whoever ministers to that elite group will control society. Paul knew that. That is why he wanted so badly to get to Rome. The Episcopalians also know know it. The Presbyterians and Baptists have tried to pretend that this is not so, and have thus left the elite to others, as much by default as by anything else.

"Life and death flow from the head. This is true of Adam and his posterity, and of Christ and His. In smaller ways, the same principle is true in all of life. Good kings bring up a good nation; bad kings a bad one. That is why kings are likened to fathers and mothers in Scripture (Is. 49:23). Influence, for good or bad, flows from the head. People imitate those who are high and mighty.

"This is the invariable posture of Scripture. It was the belief of the early church, which arranged its elders, each of which had the same power, in ranks according to the pattern of Exodus 18. Modern presbyterians, infected with the heresy of democracy, try to make all elders equal in function as well as in office. This does not work, of course, as lay elders do not have the same time nor the same degree of concern for the day to day workings of the church as do fulltime elders. Their speciality lies elsewhere. Modern presbyterians, arguing against the Episcopalian notion of the bishop as a separate office, have gotten rid of higher ranks of elders (bishops) altogether, so that age is not really respected, and a truly spiritual hierarchy is never groomed. One bad result, because hierarchy is inescapable, is that power often, though not always, falls to those least qualified to wield it. Another bad result is that the Biblical pastoral hierarchy is replaced, in democratically- infected denominations, with impersonal bureaucracies.

James B. Jordan, The Sociology of the Church (pp.17-19)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Sleeping King

"Monarchy is also a natural and organic form of government, understood intuitively by individuals of widely varying backgrounds and intelligence. Legitimacy is conferred from above (the Divine) rather than from below (the people), but Monarchy is part of the natural order and is worlds away from an unnatural "system" of government imposed on a submissive population. The Monarch is the very symbol and guarantee of his people's liberty and is there to serve rather than rule. This Christ-like function finds mythological expression in the tales of King Arthur and his Knights, where we also find a legend common to many nations and cultures: that of the sleeping King, destined to awaken at his country's hour of need. "

I know next to nothing about Anarchism, but an online Anarchist journal Synthesis has published a provocative article by John Fitzgerald on the symbolic power of kingship.
It appears to be the case that Christians and occultists are rubbing shoulders together over at Synthesis, a very strange place. I'll be reporting more on this phenomenon as I learn more.

I have been aware of Hans Hoppe, an anarcho-capitalist of the Austrian School who has written extensively about the relative superiority of monarchy over democracy, though he views both as illegitimate monopolizers of coercive power.

I don't think anarchist confusion promises to be a fruitful avenue of investigation, but I find it immensely interesting that there are individuals out there who are anarchists and pro-monarchy at the same time. Perhaps they think a totally free and open society will naturally re-form itself into a monarchical order.

Clarity on Iraq

It's tough keeping up on all the good articles in Reformed Blogdom, but I'm still thinking about the Triabloguer's reflections on "The Lessons of Iraq."

The toppling of Sadaam may have been wrongheaded from the start (which I do not necessarily grant), but this does not give the political opposition (read: Democrats and sundry leftists) an unlimited right to undermine America's efforts to win the war in Iraq.

As the Triabloguer points out, "Bush was never banking on a military solution to the threat of global jihad. Military intervention was intended to be a temporary ground-clearing exercise. The idea was to democratize Iraq and use the Iraqi domino to democratize the remainder of the Mideast, on the theory that the root-cause of militant Islam was political and economic rather than religious or ethnic."

While this theory is flawed, the right and left share its materialistic assumptions. The modern Westerner generally thinks that all problems can be solved by remediating poverty through setting up a political system that either a) redistributes wealth, or b) allows a free market economy to maximize efficiency and profit, or c) a combination of the two. The optimistic Neocons think that a people, given the chance, will vote such governments into power. They are also banking on the capacity of national constitutions based on the American model to diffuse the concentration of sectarian (read: religious) and ideological interests, maintaining an ordered civility. Such a constitutional system with its lauded "checks and balances" allows potentially destabilizing interests to have a voice, without resorting to the ruthless suppression of political opposition.

While I have favored this strategy, it may be that too many Muslims will choke on the rampant modernization, commercialization, and secularization that inevitably accompanies this "new world order." This is why it makes sense that Iraq's new constitution makes a great deal of reference to Islam, while Sadaam's regime was secular in its conception and its workings. The purpose of the Iraqi experiment is to see if a moderate Islamic democracy can survive. It is almost certainly the most humanitarian preemptive war ever fought in history.

The Triabloguer writes,

"Bush was assuming that democracy enjoys universal appeal.

"If it can work here, it can work anywhere.Suppose his vision is flawed. What’s the alternative?

"If the political solution is a bust, then the alternative is not a non-violent solution. To the contrary, if the political solution is a bust, then the only solution is a military solution.

"If we can’t reason with Muslims, if we are unable to even get “moderate” Muslims to stand up for themselves, even when we stand behind them, then the solution is more war, not less.

"If we fail in Iraq, it is only because we chose to wage a war of liberation rather than a war of destruction. American has the military might to win any war of destruction. The only thing that constrains us is conscience, and not a lack of firepower. It has always been within our power to subdue the Iraqis by brute force."

Given the political realities of our day, I think Bush's initiative in Iraq is the most promising solution to the problem of militant Islam. I am unaware of any realistic alternative that has been proposed. John Kerry "had a plan" but he was only proposing tactical rather than strategic solutions to the war. The antiwar nihilists have no solution, and it remains to be seen if they are successful in crippling the American will to win the peace.

The Triabloguer is right: If Bush fails, the future is darker rather than brighter.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Disputation with Jack: The Alleged Impiety of Monarchy

In this entry I'd like to continue an exchange I've had with my fellow parishioner Jack. A number of times he has urged the Priesthood of All Believers doctine (PAB) against my arguments for monarchy. If I understand him correctly, he has indicated that the ideal organization of Christian society is where the people govern themselves (their consciences guided by the light of God's word) under the direct rule of Christ's kingship, there being no king but Christ. This appears on the face of it to be a repudiation (or at least a tendency away from) the ideal of an hierarchical arrangement of Christ's kingdom.

Although I am not sure I understand 1 Cor. 15:24-28 very well, there is a school of thought that the eternal state will be characterized by a kind of "holy anarchy" where all the redeemed will enjoy an unmediated experience of God, seeing and being transformed by the beatific glory of the Father. There are different understandings of this, but needless to say, this final state has not yet been achieved. How much we are to attempt to anticipate this at present is a question I'm currently considering.

Continuing now, here is an important part of our exchange thus far. Jack had written,

"Incidentally, note that Samuel was instructed by God to "listen to the voice of the people", even when they desired something so irreverent as ... a king! (1 Sam 8:7) "

In response I wrote,

"... desire for a king is not per se irreverent. An efficient executive is needed & I will be arguing that a king is best suited fo fulfill this function. Theocratic judges and prophets may have been all that was needed to guide the people on an ad hoc basis in a simpler age, but in developed societies the institution of monarchy has not been improved on (in my judgment!). Finally, we live at a different point in redemptive history than the Israelites of Samuel's day. A King reigns from above, and not only he, but his saints with him."

Jack replied,

"[I]t may not be irreverent per se but I think it is a sign of, at least, theological confusion. In the OT, the people were intended to be a royal priesthood and in the NT we are called "kings and priests" (Rev 1:6 & 5:10). I don't see how the simplicity of the age of judges is relevant. Certainly a larger society requires a more complex government aparatus, but that has little to say about who is in charge of it. Democratic societies can have perfectly servicable executive branches, and our current system is more than adequate."

Here, to continue the discussion, Jack correctly notes that Israel was intended to be a royal priesthood. Note: the whole nation was to be a "kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6) Yet, immediately at the beginning of that nation's history we have the institution of the Tabernacle cult and the Aaronic Priesthood. The priesthood existed as a separate class in Israel, and presumably does not contradict the idea of all Israel having been a priesthood in a general sense. By analogy, why should a distinct kingly line in Israel contradict the general royal character of Israel?

The whole theory that because Israelite kingship historically arose as a rebellion against God's kingship (1 Sam. 8) therefore monarchy must forever be associated with the rejection of God's rule, is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, it is a commision of the genetic fallacy. The impure origins of a particular institution have little to do with what God intends to do. As the Old Testament history shows, the house of David was established, and the future Messiah would come from it.

Second, the integrity of monarchy has nothing to do with the particular circumstances of the Israelite institution. Monarchy predates Israel: Adam, Noah, Melchizedek and Abraham all were royal figures.

Third, Christ's office is a real kingship. To continue to hold such an attitude against monarchy in general is to distort our evaluation of who Jesus is and what he does. The knowledge that human kingly authority is derived from Christ's authority would be emptied of much of its meaning if we allowed this prejudice in our thinking.

Fourth, such an attitude is, I believe, rooted in the anabaptist-antinomian-liberal suspicion that all human use of power is a usurpation of authority, the arrogant imposition of one ego over another. Such a suspicion calls all government into question, and is essentially treasonous. It is impossible to maintain civil society when such a spirit predominates.

The New Testament teaches that there is a hierarchical order in God's kingdom. Our Lord told his disciples they would sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28). In the Church there is an order of apostles, prophets, teachers, etc. (1 Cor. 12:28). This is how the body of Christ is organized (v.27). I don't want to mischaracterize Jack's position, but the Scripture clearly teaches a hierarchical structure in Christ's kingdom, in seeming contradiction to what I've understood from him so far.

In reading this post, the reader may conclude that I confuse the Church, God's kingdom, and the kingdoms of this world. Briefly, my position is that the center of universal authority and rule is in Heaven, but that the New Jerusalem (Heaven) is descending to earth now (Rev. 21). Heaven and earth will eventually coalesce, to achieve the consumation and glorification of all things. But even now, Heaven is breaking into the present, having done so spectacularly at various historical points (Pentecost, the Judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Constantine's conversion). So, while I do not absolutely identify any event of the present with the heavenly dispensation, there are real anticipations of future blessedness. It is true, we are pilgrims "who have here no continuing city" yet we are pressing into and toward the eternal city even now. More on this later.

(Updated 3/20/06)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Solving the Illegal Immigration Problem

How about expelling indolent teenage students who can't make the grade and forcing them to work in factories, fields, and sweatshops for less than minimum wage? This would cut down on the demand for "undocumented workers" and free up the schools to educate the kids who are willing to learn. Two birds with one stone.

See how easy it is to solve our nation's problems? We just need someone who is empowered to make THE EXECUTIVE DECISION.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The 2nd Problem with Democracy: Corrupting Influences on Government and People

In past posts I have not adequately distinguished between democratic principle--the theory of popular sovereignty--and government with popular consent, where the majority's interests are represented somehow. Popular sovereignty, according to Webster is "the doctrine that sovereign power is vested in the people and that those chosen to govern, as trustees of such power, must exercise it in accordance with the general will." Note well, this ideology requires that all individual wills somehow be fused into a general cohesive will. History shows this has only been achieved in a society already diverse through systematic purges perpetuated by revolutionary dictatorships.

The main burden of my criticism of "democracy" is that the "general will" cannot without calamity be made the utimate principle of government. Most of my arguments attempt to show that such government inevitably gives rise to irrational policies, entrenched bureaucracies, and tyranny. The doctrine that the voice of the people is the voice of God (vox populi vox Dei) is the root heresy that will spawn these evils if unchecked by another authority principle.

The doctrine that authority comes from God and is given to the people alone (which they then endow upon public figures or withdraw at whim) is a kind of absolutism. On this theory, God is the primary authority, the people secondary, all others tertiary. This political theory does not commit the blatant heresy of denying the divine source of authority, but it effectively concentrates earthly authority in one power: the body of eligible voters.

There are three ways the democratic principle works to corrupt the governing process:

1. Political Pressure

The frequent subjection of political leaders to public pressure augmented (and instigated) by popular media ensures that leaders will continuously be replaced. Unstable government is thus a hallmark of democracy. By its very nature, democratic government ensures that vast amounts of government money, time, and resources will be spent on elections. (This is a criticism of election processes per se)

2. Election by Achieving a Plurality of Votes

Most elections do not require a 51% majority of total votes cast to determine a victory. In both general elections and legislative votes, all that is required is that the winner garner the greatest plurality of votes. Whole governments may enter into or be expelled from power. Important matters will be decided by the largest voting coalitions assembled for ad hoc purposes.

The plurality taken from the vote of even a *wise* populace can never be automatically equated with principled judgment simply by virtue of being the largest representation of opinion in a given area. This criticism applies equally to the workings of legislative assemblies.

To rely on this method for formulating public policy will inevitably yield unwise and inconsistent results. This is because a process has been substituted for wise and prudential judgment. The problem is exasperated when the average citizen thinks the results of these elections represent the majority view of all people currently voting, possibly being reinforced in holding a false notion (thinking an opinion good because so many people hold it). What he has faith in is not majority opinion at all, but a process that attempts to arrive at a decision for which no one is to blame.

3. Rule by Greatest Plurality

Because of constant subjection to the vicissitudes of popular opinion, leaders must necessarily be guided by other considerations and agendas than they were originally elected for. The primary example being the need to get either themselves or fellow party members re-elected. As a consequence, leaders generally have less freedom to initiate and direct policy. The situation is made worse when politicans govern through continual consultation of the polls. Then politicians do not make decisions based on moral considerations or what they think best for the country, but what will ensure re-election so they can continue to "make a difference."

Under the plurality voting system, small but influential minorities are regularly able to divert the government's attention toward peripheral issues they are chiefly concerned with. This has a distorting effect on government policy with bad effects for the long term.

Rule by plurality also occurs when the methods of direct democracy (e.g., initiatives, referendums, and recalls) are brought into play to bring issues directly before the voting public. In this way representative government is subverted and the people are forced to vote on matters they know (or care!) little about. Through these processes, important matters are decided by a naked majority of votes, which supposedly sanctifies the results. The average unreflective citizen will think the results of these reflect majority opinion. Flattering themselves by thinking that most everyone has "common sense," the public falls under the delusion that these decisions reflect the opinion of the average man on the street. However, the candidates and laws approved by such "majorities" were chosen by the greatest plurality, which is something very different.

The egalitiarian assumption that the average person is competent to make decent political decisions has been associated with democratic government in most people's minds. The laws produced through democratic process thus acquire a status of semi-divine authority in the public's eyes. But this is the same means that produces our politicians, who are viewed with much less regard. The contradiction is palpable but goes unnoticed.

Beyond the malignity of egalitarianism, I will be arguing further that the democratic principle in practice assures the triumph of the lowest common denominator in all things determined by vote. While recognizing the distinction between democratic ideology and democratic government, my thesis is that democratic government itself initiates and superintends a process of social degeneration: religiously, morally, intellectually, and patriotically. In short, democracy engenders a weak willed and inferior people.