Saturday, May 31, 2008

Response to the Jack of Clubs: Political Order and Christian Faithfulness

Over the past few years, Russ Smith, a.k.a. the Jack of Clubs, and I have "crossed sabers" over the monarchy/republic debate. I take the position that monarchy is the divine order of things, the entire cosmos being subsumed under the headship of Jesus Christ's kingship, and that earthly government ought to be patterned after it.

Russ takes the position that Christ's kingship can just as adequately be represented by other forms of government, and that the historical outworking of Christ's rule is through the agency of the Holy Spirit enabling the multitude to acknowledge and obey God's Law. Russ and I share the conviction that God's Law is the standard for earthly society, and thus share much in common. In this blog entry I will endeavor to clarify my positions in light of Russ' expressed criticisms responding to my previous post.

1. Here, I must admit I jumped the gun by too quickly equating the sources of political legitimacy with their—in my view—purest expressions or arrangements. Leaving aside the question of demonic inspiration for the moment, there are only two legitimizing rationales for government: the Mandate of Heaven or the Will of Man. Office is either granted by divine appointment or seized for some perceived benefit to man (e.g., preeminence, power, wealth, security).

Now, I take kingship to be the paradigmatic office of divine appointment, because the king is (or should be) God’s anointed. Therefore, when Russ asks about man’s vice-gerancy, he knows I will associate Adam’s headship with kingship. I have previously argued that the priority of Adam’s generation, his offices of husband, father, covenant-sacerdotal head, cohering in his person, made Adam the quintessential King before Christ.

But Russ posits a third alternative to monarchy and democracy, which he calls vice-gerancy. I take him to mean by this a Holy Republic of humanity, wherein all individuals share responsibility to obey God’s Law, order their personal lives, and cooperate in the common cultural task. Now, I have no problem with accepting the idea that mankind in general has a royal and priestly calling, and ought to do these things. But, to suppress the notion that particular individuals superlatively exemplify kingship and/or priesthood, as Adam or Melchizedek did, seems contrary to the intent of Scripture.

Regarding my equation of legitimacy and office, the whole point of my previous post was to explain how the logic of legitimacy favors one conception of office over another in life. There is an intimate relation between theory and practice; everyone recognizes that theory implies practice, but less obviously, practice disposes to favor theory. And if democracy is institutional unbelief, as I contend, Christians should have none of it.

2. I’m going to get to Russ’ points about composite governments, idolatrous monarchies, and faithful democracies in the next post. Right now, I'll conclude with an application of my theory of office to our current situation. According to my theory, all rulers fall somewhere on a continuum that runs between the ideal king who exercises merciful judgment & just beneficence and the ideal tyrant whose justice is disproportionate & mercy cruel. We Americans don’t normally call our presidents kings or dictators, but in my view our leadership definitely tends in the wrong direction. Remember: in a really functioning monarchy, the legislative, judicial, and executive powers are all exercised by the king. In our system we have entrenched demagogic politicians, unaccountable bureaucrats, and dictatorial judges. It seems to me, then, that the main difference between an unjust monarchy and an unjust republic is in the greater number of heads needing to be chopped off.

To be continued…

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