Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Illegitimate but Valid: The American Founding

In the previous post it was asserted:

“The liberal order is illegitimate, but valid. Every power that exists is dependent upon divine sovereignty as manifested in the rule of Christ the Lord. All governments reign at the will and sufferance of Christ.”


To explain my meaning, legitimacy is here construed as the regular transmission of ancestral patrimony to successive heirs. In a word, legitimacy is summed up in continuity, the maintenance of the horizontal link to one’s origins. Within this continuity, the universal fatherhood of God (Cf. Luke 3:38) operates in a beneficent, sustaining way.

The natural constitution of the human race is familial. It was originally thus, and so it will always be until the end of time. The normal transmission of human heritage (goods both material and immaterial) has been from parent to offspring, especially from the father to his firstborn son. It is hoped that the bond of blood energized by the synergy of paternal love and filial adoration, will provide the medium for the successful transmission of parental aspirations and values (duties and rights). In this way, a family spirit is spirated (produced through spiration) and perpetuated within the family community.

This, I believe, is the authentic meaning of Leviticus 17:11 when it says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood.”

The family precedes the state. Fathers, mothers, offspring, and the institution itself all precede the state. The state does not create the family, nor is the state the overseer of family affairs. The family is the first state and does not cede its original integrity to derivative integrities.
Parallel sovereignties don't work. The only way to preserve the independent integrity of the family is to raise it above the state, where it belongs. This is the genius of hereditary monarchy: the father of a particular family embodies his nation’s patrimony in concrete form above positive (man-made) law.
The American patrimony is more than the proposition “all men are created equal,” which is true in a particular sense only. There is a whole American way of life: “mother and apple pie.” Without a First Family embodying and transmitting these aspirations and values from generation to generation, the continued survival of the national spirit is much less assured.
Artificial communications media driven by the supply and demand of commercial interests seem a paltry substitute for the bonds of blood and natural affection.
The American Founders appealed to a direct vertical relationship that exists between every individual person and God. On this view, sovereignty is dispersed throughout the mass and is not located in any particular office or institution. The people are free to organize themselves in whatever way they think best to secure collective peace and happiness.

Completely left out of this arrangement are the prerogatives of family written in the law of nature. The family as an institution with its own constitution is dissolved into the “People” or subjected to their synthetic instruments of power. The fundamental composition of the human race is subverted or, at best, marginalized.

The Lord Jesus reigns from Heaven. Law and order issue from his throne. He has direct dealings with every individual person. Earthly justice prevails to the degree individual lives are able to exert horizontal moral influence upon the community. Divine justice is operative only in a vertical way. Yet, to this point God has blessed America with relative order, peace, and prosperity.
The government of the United States is valid as long as it continues to provide order and security to its citizens. But, legitimacy has never really been established. Integral divine justice (on the horizontal historical plane) is lacking.
The American spirit disembodied as it is, has disintegrated and will disintegrate further. As the politicians, lawyers, and media celebrities who guide this country drift further away from faithful service to the original ideal, it will become clear that the center has hollowed out, dispersed into the ether. Eventually, the center will be unable to sustain the allegiance of the citizenry, and a nation for which no one is willing to sacrifice is not long for this world.
It is my belief that a revival of the American spirit is only possible through a new engagement of national life with familial life. The American spirit must be adopted into the human family and partake of its life, which is in turn sustained by the fatherhood of God operative in both nature and grace. We Americans must learn to honor our fathers so that we may live long in the land our divine Father has granted us.

3 comments:

Charles said...

Hello Matthew,
Prophetic and thought provoking. Your dismissal of parallel sovereignty is a critical one, and by recognizing none other than the family, you sort of cinch up old problems typically associated with church v. state. Catholic polity solved this apparent antinomy by placing the monarch at the "head" of both the civil and the spiritual. As you noted, a first family incorporates and is raised above each. But this also seems to be a recognition that there's one body with two arms. The body is the commonweal of families, ranked in order, and amongst their numbers are two arms, one holding the chalice and in another the rod? This reminds me very much of Esclante's exposition on protestant polity, and how the idea of parallel sovereignty tends to falsely pit the spiritual against the secular. Any thoughts on Esclante?

I have a question: If the American spirit is based on a vertical, unmediated relation to God for each individual, etc., then why invite this spirit into the house of our families? Isn't this spirit the one belonging to dissent, and if it's caused our problems, what can be salvaged? That said, I agree-- any reversal will be through the true sovereignty of families in church and state. Does this change your ecclesiology? curious.

A. M. said...

Hello Charles,
It's good to hear from you. I had to wait until I could give your comment some thought.

"Your dismissal of parallel sovereignty is a critical one, and by recognizing none other than the family, you sort of cinch up old problems typically associated with church v. state."

Modern theorists are always forgetting about the family. This is because they think it is an essentially private institution, a voluntary association. It isn't.

There is no higher earthly legal authority than the potestas
patria.


"Catholic polity solved this apparent antinomy by placing the monarch at the "head" of both the civil and the spiritual."

I'm not sure what you mean by this or what historical period you're referring to. It was surely true of the Patriarchal Age. Are you talking about Anglican polity after Henry VIII?

I believe the Church has a constitution higher than that of natural kingship and that kings are spiritually accountable to the Priesthood.

I am emphatically opposed to subordinating the entire priesthood to earthly kings.

The church-state tension still exists, in my view.

"This reminds me very much of Esclante's exposition on protestant polity, and how the idea of parallel sovereignty tends to falsely pit the spiritual against the secular. Any thoughts on Esclante?"

About Escalante, I do believe he was championing the true Protestant Two Kingdoms doctrine. I have no idea what he's up to these days. I hope he's alright.

2K is false doctrine. Christ doesn't rule two kingdoms, one redemptive kingdom of Grace according to his humanity & another providential kingdom of Law according to his deity. This is Nestorian cosmology.

This is the mixture of iron and clay in the feet of the statue Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about (Dan. 2:31ff.), I believe.

Jesus reigns over only one kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and he is presently subjugating another kingdom, the Kingdom of Man (the project of man as God--love of oneself over God).

"If the American spirit is based on a vertical, unmediated relation to God for each individual, etc., then why invite this spirit into the house of our families? Isn't this spirit the one belonging to dissent, and if it's caused our problems, what can be salvaged?"

The value of the individual person and the necessity of personal conversion is primarily what should be salvaged. There are other things, such as local self-determination that should be reoriented as a type of subsidiarity.

"Does this change your ecclesiology?"

Not really. I see a horizontal hierarchy of natural relationships on the natural plane whose heads should voluntarily submit to the vertical ecclesiastical hierarchy.

This is just another way of framing the old Two Swords view.

Cain needs to recognize and honor Abel's favored place or else he's going to do something stupid and end up wandering the earth, futily building cities to the pride of man.

charles said...

Hello Andrew,

I'm sort of catching up. You asked: "I'm not sure what you mean by this or what historical period you're referring to. It was surely true of the Patriarchal Age. Are you talking about Anglican polity after Henry VIII?"

I'd like to think Henry's supremacy was consonant with the patristic "symphony" of two swords. Henry ruled both civil and church bodies, but the Articles as well as the longer catechisms (1537 & 1543 versions) made clear Henry had no authority over the administration of word and sacrament. In my mind, this makes the "tension", and the English Crown generally left convocations alone to deliberate matters of doctrine. The only direct interference I can think of was Elizabeth's involvement via Parker with articles 28, 29, and in my estimation this was to keep a broad understanding of the real presence, thus rescuing the catholic nature of the English church. Of course, the crown stacked the episcopate with favored churchmen, but for the Tudors and Stuarts divines seem to have originated from the more "catholic" or high church party. By solving the "antinomy" of church-state, I meant the usual constitution of the patristic church as both concilar and national.

You commented: "I see a horizontal hierarchy of natural relationships on the natural plane whose heads should voluntarily submit to the vertical ecclesiastical hierarchy.
This is just another way of framing the old Two Swords view."


Yes, I believe I agree with your emphasis. I think the English Majesty resonates with Byzantine's notion that the Emperor stood like Moses or Melchizedek. The Eastern Emporers held the following traditional perogratives summed by the Nine Articles of the Council of Stoudios 1380 (p. 307, Emperor and Priest):

"1. The emperor had the right to veto the election of an arch-bishop who did not please him.
2. He could modify as he saw fit the heirarchy of episcopal sees, make transfers of bishops and, sign of the times, grant bishoprics as benefices.
3. He ratified appointments to the chief ecclesiastical offices, that is to the upper ranks of the patriarchal administration.
4. He ensured that the boundaries of the dioceses, as established by him, were respected.
5. He would free from all patriarchal censure, and if an archon and member of the senate infringed on canon, the patriarch would impose a punishment only through his intermediary, who would represent his role as defender of the Church and the canons.
6. He could retain in Constantinople or send back to their diocese bishops who had come or been summoned to Constantinople on important business without the patriarch having a right to object.
7. He might demand from every new bishop a promise of loyalty to his person and the empire.
8. He could require all the bishops to approve and sign the synodal acts.
9. The bishops were obliged to take note of these articles and should not propose for election to an episcopal see anyone who was not a friend of the emperor."

Of course, there's probably the usual gray areas which these canons either do not cover or cannot restrict?