Monday, March 26, 2007

Hereditary Power: The Solution to Party Politics

On his blog, Peter Hitchens writes the following:

Jeff Pollitt writes to say that he cannot go along with 'hereditary power'. Well, first, he does already go along with it because as he rightly points out, in the USA (which he appears to admire as a pure democracy) and also Britain (despite heavy socialistic taxes) people are allowed to inherit from their parents, which is the foundation of private property, which is the foundation of freedom. If there were no inheritance, and no private property, everything would be subject to the state.

Wealth, private or commercial, is one of the main sources of power in any society, especially free ones. If it can be inherited, then so can power. So I cannot really see his principled objection. If he objects to unelected people exercising power, what about the USA's unelected but immensely potent Supreme Court? And why is it so wonderful to have an elected President as head of state? When Richard Nixon was in office, and asking his subordinates to do illegal acts, they had no recourse except to quit, and decided that was more than their jobs were worth. In Britain, where an unelected Monarch is the head of state, and we have a neutral civil service and armed forces, officials, judges, soldiers and policemen are all obliged to refuse unlawful orders from ministers or anyone else. Mixing up party politics with the headship of state is a definite disadvantage. You'll have to do better than this, Mr Pollitt. It's no good just saying "I don't like it because I don't like it".

Go Peter!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Discussion of Darryl Hart's A Secular Faith

De Regno Christi is hosting a conversation on Darryl Hart's new book.

Holy Russia?

Alastair alerted me to a recent post by Peter Leithart on the Christian foundation of Europe. In that post, Leithart features a very interesting columnist who writes under the pseudonym "Spengler" for Asia Times Online. Here is the conclusion to an article entitled, "Europe is not the sum of its parts":

To recapture Europe means re-creating the faith. It is hard to imagine that the Roman Catholic Church might re-emerge as Europe's defining institution. The European Church is enervated. But I do not think that is the end of the matter. As I argued last month, Russia has become the frontier between Europe and the Islamic world and, unlike Europe, is not prepared to dissolve quietly into the ummah. Pope Benedict's recent pilgrimage to Turkey, it must be remembered, only incidentally dealt with Catholic relations with Islam; first of all it was a gesture to Orthodoxy in the form of a visit to the former Byzantium, its spiritual home.

Franz Rosenzweig, that most Jewish connoisseur of Christianity, believed that the Church of Peter (Rome) and the Church of Paul (Protestantism) would yield place to the Church of John (Orthodoxy) - that the churches of works and faith would be transcended by the church of love. If Europe has a future, it lies in an ecumenical alliance of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and at least some elements of Anglicanism.

For the time being, Europe's constitution will be stillborn. But Europe is not yet dead. Russia is the place to watch, and the quiet conversation of Catholicism is the still, small voice to listen for.

And so we wait for God to work out his purposes for the world through the agency of his Church, the New Jerusalem that is dawning in the present age.

Of further interest to Christian monarchists, check out this article by Andrei Zolotov and "The Restoration of Romanity" by Vladimir Moss.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dennis Prager on Macro vs. Micro Ethics

If you have an extra 35 minutes, listen to this broadcast by Dennis Prager about the difference between personal and social ethics. One of Dennis' favorite ideas is that justice is of primary importance in larger social matters, while compassion is primary in smaller personal matters.

A few of the topics considered are "turning the other cheek" and what one should wear to church. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jude's Epistle

Jude 1 (New King James Version)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Greeting to the Called 1 Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Contend for the Faith

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Old and New Apostates

5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Apostates Depraved and Doomed

12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. 14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

Apostates Predicted

16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

Maintain Your Life with God
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Glory to God

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

Was Constantine a Christian?

Was Constantine a Christian? This vain question has to be considered, hardly discussed. The interminable opinions, one way or the other, are for the most part wise-seeming, meaningless generalizations. Like any generalized statement, it is conditioned by the point of view of the author. When ten men answered the question “What is a Christian?” in ten different ways, who shall say what any one is? This has been the difficulty. One does not conceive of Christianity apart from baptismal regeneration. The question has then narrowed to one of baptism.

Constantine was not a Christian until just before his death. Another has some other test. Another is not a Christian himself, and so on. A good Biblical, Protestant starting-point is to say he was a Christian as soon as he believed in Christ, and that the evidence of faith is in confession and action. Already, before his campaign into Italy, he seems to have been in intimate contact with the Christians. Hosius was probably already one of his advisers. The young emperor had inherited his father’s piety (Paneg. 307, c. 5), and was inclined to monotheism. The words of advisers must have made him think at least, and he seems to have made a sort of test of believing at the time of the famous “vision of the cross,” whatever that may have been. Judging from the way men think and feel their way to faith, it seems psychologically probable that, feeling his way along to that point, he tried faith and, having success, he substantially believed from that time on. Certainly from a very early period after this, the evidences begin to be clear and increasingly so as presumably his faith itself became more clear and fixed. The account in Eusebius of the process of thought by which he inclined toward Christianity has the greatest plausibility. He says that “considering the matter of Divine assistance, it occurred to him that those who had relied on idols had been deceived and destroyed, while his father…had honored the one Supreme God, had found him Saviour, &c.…he judged it folly to join in the idle worship of those who were no gods…and felt it incumbent on him to honor no other than the God of his father.” The nature of the vision of the cross, whether a miracle, a natural phenomenon, or only a dream, does not affect the probability of the account by Eusebius of what followed it (V. C. 1. 32). “At the time above specified, being struck with amazement at the extraordinary vision, and resolving to worship no other God save him who had appeared to him, he sent for those who were acquainted with the mysteries of his doctrines, and inquired also what God was.…They affirmed that he was God, the only begotten Son of the one and only God,” and he thereupon “made the priests of God his counsellors and deemed it incumbent on him to honor the God who had appeared to him, with all devotion.” According to Sozomen, “it is universally admitted Constantine embraced the religion of the Christians previous to his war with Maxentius and prior to his return to Rome and Italy; and this is evidenced by the dates of the laws which he enacted in favor of religion” (Soz. 1. 5; cf. 1. 3). Philostorgius (1. 6), “in conformity with all other writers,” ascribes to the victory over Maxentius (Photius. Epit.). This is confirmed, too, by the remark of the Panegyrist (313, c. 4; cf. c. 2 and c. 11), that he conducted the war by Divine instruction, and the famous inscription on the triumphal arch, “instinctu Divinitatis.” According to Augustine he was at the time of the petition of the Donatists, “mindful of the hope which he maintained in Christ” (August. contra litt. Petil. Bk. II. c. 92, p. 205).

The tales of his baptism at this time, or by Sylvester at all, are pure fables (cf. under The Mythical Constantine), but it appears from antecedent probability, from testimony, and from his early subsequent identification with the Christians that he became fairly convinced at this time. His letters concerning the council at Arles, to be sure, have little direct evidence, but enough to show that he regarded the Christian religion as the worship of that one supreme God, and in them Hosius was already his trusted adviser. But in his letters to Chrestus (314) he speaks of those who are “forgetful of their own salvation and the reverence due to the most holy faith,” and if his letter to the bishops after the council at Arles—a letter full of expressions like “Christ the Saviour,” “brethren beloved,” “I who myself await the judgment of Christ,” “our Saviour”—be genuine, Constantine was well advanced in his commitment in 314; but whether it is or not, the fact of his Christian advisers, of his laws in behalf of Christians, and various substantial favors to them, his recognition of their God as his one God, makes it almost idle to discuss the question. Was Constantine a Christian in 314? What is a Christian? He seems to have been. The type was that of many a business-man church-member of to-day—Christians, but neither over-well-instructed, nor dangerously zealous in the exercise of his faith. It must be remembered that during these earlier years his confession of his faith and identification of himself with the Christians was conditioned by his relation to the old religion. Such a change was a radical novelty. His position was not yet secure. He had to use his utmost tact to keep all elements in hand. He was conditioned just as a modern Christian emperor or president, a majority of whose political advisers and subjects or electors are non-religious. He had great problems of political organization to effect, and was immersed in these. The only matter of surprise is that he grew so rapidly. There is no ground whatever for supposing that he dissembled to the end, or even at all. To say that his retaining the title of pontifex maximus, or making concessions respecting the old worship, or allowing soothsayers to be consulted, or even the postponement of his baptism, indicate this, is critical absurdity in the face of evidence. (3045 His saying before baptism is discussed in the V. C. 4. 2, notes. ) Testimony, both heathen and Christian, to the openness of his action is complete, and the testimony of his acts—such, e.g., as the law for the observance of Sunday—conclusive. Later, at least, he “most openly destroyed temple worship and built Christian houses of worship” (Eunap. Vita Ædes. 37, ed. Boiss. p. 20). From the defeat of Licinius on, edicts, letters, speeches, acts of all sorts, testify to a most unequivocal adoption of the Christian religion. Eusebius hardly overstates in saying that “he maintained a continual testimony to his Christianity, with all boldness and before all men, and so far was he from shrinking from an open profession of the Christian name, that he rather desired to make it manifest to all that he regarded this as his highest honor” (V. C. 3. 2). Really the question whether he considered himself, or was considered, a Christian at and after the time of the Council of Nicæa is too idle even to mention, if it had not been gravely discussed. In the opinion of the bishops there he was “most pious” and “dear to God” (Ep. synod. in Socr. 1. 9; Theodoret, 1. 8). On his part, letters are full of pious expression and usually begin or end or both with “beloved brethren.” To the council itself he describes himself as “fellow-servant” of “Him who is our common Lord and Saviour.” Another more considerable position is that all that indisputable external connection with Christianity was pure political expediency, that he was a shrewd politician who saw which way the wind was blowing, and had skill to take advantage of it. That Constantine was not a Christian in the strict sense even to the end of his life was the position of Keim. Burckhardt regards him as a pure politician, without a touch of Christian life. Brieger (1880) says we have not grounds to decide either way, whether he was “a godless egoistic fatalist or had a more or less warm religious or even Christian interest,” but that the fixed fact is, that it was not because of his inner belief in the Christian religion that he showed favor to the Christians. In a brief attempt to get some basis in the sources, the enthusiastic testimony of Eusebius and other writers, explicit as it is, may be quite disregarded, even the testimony to facts, such as his practice of giving thanks (V. C. 1. 39), of invoking Divine aid (Euseb. V. C. 2, 4, 6, 13; Soz. 2. 34), of his erecting a place of prayer in his palace (Soz. 1. 8), of his fasting (V. C. 2. 41), of his having a stated hour of prayer (V. C. 4. 22), although all these are interesting. The documents, however, unless by supremely uncritical rejection, can be regarded as fundamental sources. A brief analysis of these, even though imperfect, will furnish grounds on the basis of which those who apply various tests may apply them. Starting from his faith in Christ, surely the center of Christianity, he believed Christ to be Son of God, “God and the Son of God the author of every blessing” (S. C.), the revealer of the Father, who has “revealed a pure light in the person of Thy Son…and hast thus given testimony concerning Thyself” (S. C. 1), proceeding from the Father (S. C.), and incarnate, his incarnation having been predicted also by the prophets. He believed this Son of God to be his Saviour (Ad Tyr., Ad Ant., Ad Euseb., &c.) “our common Lord and Saviour” (Ad Euseb.), “our Saviour, our hope, and our life” (Ad eccl. Al.). He believed in his miraculous birth (S. C.) and in his death for our deliverance (Ad Nic.; cf. Ad Mac. &c.), “the path which leads to everlasting life” (S. C. 1), “a precious and toilsome” work (Ad Euseb.), and in his ascension into heaven (S. C. 1). He believed in “God the Father” (Ad Euseb. 2), “Almighty” (Ad Euseb.), Lord of all (Ad Euseb. 2), and the Holy Ghost (Ad eccl. Al.; cf. S. C.). He believed in “Divine Providence” (Ad Eccl. Al.; Ad Alex. et Ar.; Ad. Euseb. 1), God the preserver of all men (Ad Alex. et Ar.), who sees all things (Ad Syn. Nic.), who is near us and the observer of all our actions (S. C.), and “under the guidance of whose Almighty hand” he is (Ad Prov. Pal.), that all things are regulated by the determination of his will (Ad Euseb.). He believed in the existence of a personal devil (Ad Eccl. Al.). He believed in the future life (Ad Prov. Pal.), “the only true life” (S. C. 12), the “strife for immortality” (Ad Euseb.), to which those may aspire who know Him (S. C. 12). He believed in future rewards and punishments (Ad Prov. Pal.; S. C. 23). He believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures (Ad Eccl. Al.). He loved God (Ad Euseb. 2; V. C. 2. 55), and considered it his chief work in life to glorify Christ (S. C.). He loved his fellow-men, being disposed “to love you with an enduring affection” (Ad Ant.; V. C. 3. 60, &c.), and recognized it as virtue in others (8, c. 11). To him, God, in general, is the source of all blessings (Ad Prov. Pal.; S. C., &c.). “I am most certainly persuaded,” he says, “that I myself owe my life, my every breath, in short, my very inmost and secret thoughts to the favor of the Supreme God” (Ad Prov. Pal.). He recognizes contrition as a requisite for pardon (Ad. Prov. Pal), and that it is the power of God which removes guilt (Ad Euseb.). In the conduct of life. “Our Saviour’s words and precepts are a model, as it were, of what our life should be” (Ad. Ant.; V. C. 3. 60).

Expositions of his doctrinal and ethical positions might be multiplied almost without end from the many and fruitful sources, but a few specimens in his own expression will best show the spirit of his religious life. A most suggestive and beautiful sketch of Christ’s ministry on earth too long to quote here may be found in his Oration (ch. 15), but the following selections will give the idea:

A description of the inner Christian life. “For the only power in man which can be elevated to a comparison with that of Godinner Christian life. is sincere and guiltless service and devotion of heart to Himself, with the contemplation and study of whatever pleases Him, the raising our affections above the things of earth, and directing our thoughts, as far as we may, to high and heavenly objects” (S. C. 14).

A description of the outer Christian life. “Compare our religion with your own. Is there not with us genuine concord, and unwearied love of others? If we reprove a fault, is not our object to admonish, not to destroy; our correction for safety, not for cruelty? Do we not exercise not only sincere faith toward God, but fidelity in the relations of social life? Do we not pity the unfortunate? Is not ours a life of simplicity which disdains to cover evil beneath the mask of fraud and hypocrisy?” (S. C. 23).

A prayer. “Not without cause, O holy God, do I prefer this prayer to Thee, the Lord of all. Under Thy guidance have I devised and accomplished measures fraught with blessing: preceded by Thy sacred sign, I have led Thy armies to victory: and still on each occasion of public danger, I follow the same symbol of Thy perfections while advancing to meet the foe. Therefore have I dedicated to Thy service a soul duly attempered by love and fear. For Thy name I truly love, while I regard with reverence that power of which Thou hast given abundant proofs, to the confirmation and increase of my faith” (Ad prov. Or.).

A confession of faith in God and in Christ. “This God I confess that I hold in unceasing honor and remembrance; this God I delight to contemplate with pure and guileless thoughts in the height of his glory.” “His pleasure is in works of moderation and gentleness. He loves the meek and hates the turbulent spirit, delighting in faith. He chastises unbelief” (Ad Sap.). “He is the supreme judge of all things, the prince of immortality, the giver of everlasting life” (S. C. 36).

Was Constantine a Christian? Let each one apply his own test.

(Ernest Cushing Richardson, from his prolegomena to Eusebius: The Life of Constantine)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Constantine the Great: God's Instrument to End Persecution of the Church

VICTOR CONSTANTINUS MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS to the inhabitants of the province of Palestine. To all who entertain just and sound sentiments respecting the character of the Supreme Being, it has long been most clearly evident,…how vast a difference there has always been between those who maintain a careful observance of the hallowed duties of the Christian religion, and those who treat this religion with hostility or contempt. But at this present time, we may see by still more manifest proofs…both how unreasonable it is to question this truth, and how mighty is the power of the Supreme God: since it appears that they who faithfully observe His holy laws, and shrink from the transgression of His commandments, are rewarded with abundant blessings, and are endued with well-grounded hope as well as ample power for the accomplishment of their undertakings….[But those] who have been bold in the practice of oppression or injustice; who have either directed their senseless fury against God himself, or have conceived no kindly feelings towards their fellow-men, but have dared to afflict them with exile, disgrace, confiscation, massacre, or other miseries of the like kind,…have found that they received a recompense proportioned to their crimes,… Many a time have their armies been slaughtered, many a time have they been put to flight; and their warlike preparations have ended in total ruin and defeat.

But now, with such a mass of impiety oppressing the human race, and the commonwealth in danger of being utterly destroyed as if by the agency of some pestilential disease and therefore needing powerful and effectual aid; what was the relief, and what the remedy which the Divinity devised for these evils?...I myself, then, was the instrument whose services He chose, and esteemed suitable for the accomplishment of His will. Accordingly, beginning at the remote Brittanic ocean, and the regions where, according to the law of nature, the sun sinks beneath the horizon, through the aid of divine power I banished and utterly removed every form of evil which prevailed, in the hope that the human race, enlightened through my instrumentality, might be recalled to a due observance of the holy laws of God, and at the same time our most blessed faith might prosper under the guidance of His Almighty Hand….Believing therefore, that this most excellent service had been confided to me as a special gift, I proceeded as far as the regions of the East, which, being under the pressure of severer calamities, seemed to demand still more effectual remedies at my hands. At the same time I am most certainly persuaded that I myself owe my life, my every breath, in short, my very inmost and secret thoughts, entirely to the favor of the Supreme God….[Hence] I deem it incumbent on me to remove at once and most completely from all persons the hard necessities laid upon them for a season, and the unjust afflictions under which they have suffered, though free from any guilt or just liability.

(Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, 2.24-42; Quoted in David L. Dungan, Constantine’s Bible, 107-108)

Thus the pious Emperor, glorying in the confession of the victorious cross, proclaimed the Son of God to the Romans with great boldness of testimony….All the nations, as far as the limit of the western ocean, being set free from the calamities which had heretofore beset them, and gladdened by joyous festivals, ceased not to praise him as the victorious, the pious, the common benefactor; all indeed, with one voice and one mouth declared that Constantine had appeared by the grace of God as a general blessing to mankind.

(Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, 1.41; Quoted in David L. Dungan, Constantine’s Bible, 118)

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.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Political Significance of Baptism

Read Peter Leithart's posts here, here, and here.

Here's the upshot:

Three points: First, the fact that the Reformers retained infant baptism is a sign of their continuity (with revisions) with the medieval vision of Christendom. Second, the claim that modern politics is "Anabaptist" in inspiration is not metaphorical, but a strictly historical judgment. Third, politically, we are all (or virtually all) Anabaptists now, and the intervention of the Anabaptist outlook makes it virtually impossible for us to grasp the political and cultural significance of baptism meant prior to the 16th century.