Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Kingship of all Believers and Monarchy

I have been having an on-going debate with Russ Smith of the Jack of Clubs on the subject of monarchy. Russ and I are members of the same Reformed Episcopal parish and have had many discussions on the topic. He recently responded to my posts on the Kingship of all Believers:

This is very good but I can't escape the feeling that you haven't established the link between this theology and your views on monarchy. If "we receive" a kingship in "the royal anointment with the Holy Chrism" it is hard to see how this implies the need or even desirability for a human king.

It is true I have not yet made the case that common kingship necessitates monarchical government of some over others. However, I first wanted to lay the groundwork for the royal inheritance Christians share in common. The theological foundation for any Christian theory of monarchy must begin here. My original intuition is that human authority is patterned after divine authority, which is monarchical. Though human authority is analogous to divine, human authority images God’s in a real way, i.e. human authority must truly represent God’s authority in the world.

The claim that there is no king but Christ, and so we ought to have no human kings, is at bottom an objection—a doubt—that human authority can truly minister God’s authority. Hence, my advocacy of what I call covenantal realism, my claim that earthly things formed and re-claimed by grace are legally, hierarchically and ontologically “connected” to heavenly realities. Whatever is bound on earth is bound on heaven, and vice versa (Matt. 18:18-20).

To re-phrase Jack’s question: if all believers share in kingship by virtue of being in Christ, why have particular kings to rule over the others? To some it seems that regenerate men who have the Law written on their hearts and who partake of the Holy Spirit have no need of anyone to rule over them. It is thought that saints, who of their own accord follow the law of love, have no need of any external compulsion to do good to their neighbor. While, ideally, this view is true in the realm of personal ethics, it fails to take into account that the collective action of any society must be directed by those in authority.

This misunderstanding is reflected in Jack’s following statement:

As Schmemann points out in the quote from yesterday, we are also "fallen kings" and to that extent often require worldly punishments and rewards to keep us in line. But both biblically and theologically, this need is an aspect of judgment, not an ideal state to which we aspire.

While it is true that the exercise of punitive justice was necessitated by the fall and is therefore not the ideal, it does not follow that particular kingship (i.e. monarchy) should not be. We must distinguish between the power of the sword and political authority in general. Political authority existed before the fall: Adam was formed first, then Eve (I Tim. 2:13; c.f. I Cor. 11:6ff.). This is the origin of all human authority. The ontological priority of the husband-father implies the investure of authority. This, really a participation in the Kingship of God, is what unifies husband-fatherhood into a single reality, or office. Monarchy is correlative to the roles of husband and father. In this sense all men have the potential to become kings.

Adam was constituted the monarchical head of the race and entrusted with his dominion-stewardship before Eve was created (Gen. 2:15-16,20). While man and woman jointly exercise dominion over creation (Gen. 1:27ff.), it was Adam who was invested with rule over his wife and posterity in order to direct the God-given work of humanity.

Far from diminishing Adam’s authority, the fall only reinforces it (Gen. 3:16,20; I Tim. 2:14). The woman was deceived, not Adam. Furthermore, Adam retained his headship over humanity. Any political theory which employs the fall as an excuse to soften the right of human authority to command obedience has no foundation in Genesis. The Bible makes no such argument. Any critique relying on original sin or total depravity to discredit monarchical authority is an illegitimate application of Holy Scripture. Rather, St. Paul instructs us to “honor those to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7).

To state my position clearly: the power of the sword was rendered necessary by the fall (Gen. 4:15; 9:5,6), but this power is not essential to governmental authority; it is only instrumental to the continuing legitimate exercise of government.

It thought by many that the basic inheritance that all Christians have in Christ excludes differentiation among us. The dispensation of the New Covenant makes all equally share in the grace of Christ (Gal. 3:27-29). But even in the Church there are special graces that flow from its risen Head. Man remains the image and glory of God, while woman is the glory of man (I Cor. 11:7). Therefore, man exercises authority over woman in the realm of grace. Furthermore, masters are to rule over servants in obedience to Christ (Eph. 5:5-9). There is even a certain priority of Jews before Gentiles in the New Covenant: “To the Jew first, then the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

The Body of Christ, the Church, is not an undifferentiated homogeneous mass. It is now a very large social body composed of many parts (I Cor. 12:12). Within a body, certain parts have priority over others. While it is true that members of the Church which the world would deem less honorable are given the greatest honor amongst us (vv. 21-24), there is hierarchical authority in the Church. “God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, etc.” (v. 28; Eph. 4:11-16). In the Church there are a variety of ministers who mediate Christ’s authority. Any ecclesiological theory that ignores this fact is true neither to the apostolic Church nor the Church of history.

Given the facts of Scripture and the practice of the historic Church, we must admit no contradiction between common inheritance and the principle of hierarchy.

Furthermore, it is no dishonor to Christ that rulers are set in authority in the Church. Just as there is one Chief Shepherd who has entrusted ministry to His approved under-shepherds (I Pet. 5:1-5), so there is one Great King to whom lesser kings are accountable. If kings are God’s ministers, as St. Paul says (Rom. 13:4), they are ministers of the One to whom has been entrusted all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:17). Therefore, there is basis for the possibility that political rule may be incorporated within the structure of the New Covenant polity (Rev. 21:24,26).

How might earthly governments be lawfully assimilated into the Kingdom of God? It must be on the basis of covenant headship, i.e. on the basis of public figures entering into covenant with the King of kings and who embody the interests of their people. This may occur either verbally or constitutionally, with the consent of the people, but a public representative must stand for them.
A private individual can only swear for himself, though if he is a father he may swear on behalf of his family. In order for the whole body politic to be brought into covenant, an ordinary and perpetual institution must be established to be responsible to the terms of the covenant. I argue that this purpose is best served by a monarch in covenant with the familial heads of his realm.

The institution of the family is endemic to the race. It naturally arises from human life so as to constitute the basic social unit. For this reason, God instituted the marriage covenant to sanctify the male-female relationship and its offspring (Gen. 2:24; Mal. 2:14,15; c.f. I Cor. 7:10-14). This is the primary theological justification for the practice of paedobaptism.

We have already seen that in God’s kingdom there are mediate authorities. The Church has always in a sense incorporated the family structure into its structure. Since the Church itself is constituted by covenant (Matt. 26:26-29), it is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that families may be assimilated by way of covenant into the New Covenant. Thus a “federal” rationale can be provided for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Ideally, the union of the family with God’s people occurs under the auspices of fatherly authority, since fatherhood is correlative of kingship. But we have apostolic teaching that this may take place on the basis of a mother’s faith also (I Cor. 7:14).

Civil society is a body, not a wheel. The parts of the body politic do not normally receive commands directly from the head, but through the mediation of ministers. In the case of Blessed Constantine, we have the prime case of a political ruler making religious decisions on behalf of the families of his realm, and bringing them under obligation to the terms of Christ’s rule.

In later posts, I want to demonstrate how the biblical covenants have always taken the form of God, the Great King, entering into covenant with royal figures who act on behalf of their families. By faith, all believing Gentiles are incorporated into Christ, the royal root of Israel, and made together with believing Jews into a holy nation. Note well: the New Covenant has social groups in view of blessing as well as individuals. As God promised Abram: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

The institution of fatherly monarchy is necessary biblically and practically. Not all people are capable of entering into formal commitments (because of age or incompetence). Even under the best conditions, not all are sufficiently wise or situated in positions of authority. Human society requires a judicial-executive authority to determine the collective good, marshal resources, and direct collective action.

The collective good of humanity is the eschatological Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is already present, exercising authority in the world. This Kingdom has in the past and may well in the future transform families and nations on a large scale. The restoration of Christian kingship would therefore seem be a most significant step toward bringing the nations under the obedience of Christ. I am mystified why so few men of faith cherish this ideal in their hearts.

5 comments:

Jack said...

The crux of our disagreement, I think, is this sentence: "The claim that there is no king but Christ, and so we ought to have no human kings, is at bottom an objection—a doubt—that human authority can truly minister God’s authority."

It may be true that many who advocate a democratic ideal may hold this sceptical view, but it is far from necessary. It is perfectly possible to hold to a high view of human hierarchy, yet not equate this to a need for monarchy. I think this false dichotomy undermines your later discussion of Church hierarchy, but I do not have time to develop the thought at the moment. (Alas, my preparation for 2 Kings supercedes this discussion of One-King-ism.)

I will try to respond later, but I need some clarification of your use of the Gen 2:15-16,20 passage. I don't see how that relates at all to your point.

Andrew Matthews said...

Thanks for this opportunity to clarify, "Jack". I cited those verses to demonstrate that Adam was already exercising his dominion before the woman was created. All the animals were brought before him to be named, and it was his prerogative to name the woman as well (2:20).

This demonstrates the man's pre-eminence in the order of creation.

I object that my position can be fairly characterized as "One-King-ism". Man was created to be king, and this calling is possible for everyman.

I just deny that this fact means that all kings are created equal. Christ is the Supreme King, and under him there is a whole hierarchy of lesser and greater kings. In this way I wish to maintain the ideal of royal dignity (shared by all Christian men) alongside the possibility of particular kingship (monarchy). The two do not conflict, but complement each other.

Jack said...

You can ignore the comment about "One-King-ism". It was a lame attempt at irony. It wasn't intended to characterize your views, just the topic of monarchy (Greek: Monos = one; arche = ruler or source of authority). I was trying to say something clever but, being pressed for time, opted for a pun instead.

Andrew Matthews said...

Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes I can be a little over-serious.

Jack said...

Okay, I have responded here. Sorry it's so long and even so I wound up not saying half of the things I meant to say. But I'm sure you will have more to say on the subject as well.