Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Day 1: Incarnation and Liberty

On this first day of Christmas and "The 12 Days of Liberty," let's consider the Incarnation of God as Man. It is the central meaning of Christmas. It is the foundation of Liberty in the Western world.

The story of Christmas and Liberty begins not 2,000 years ago, but much earlier than that. John's Gospel starts out with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
This is what makes Christmas the most important event in the history of the human race. The Creator of everything that exists became a human being.

This man was also a King. The Prophet Micah foretold this Divine King:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”
The Prophet Isaiah also spoke of the King born a child on Christmas:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The Creator who became a Child, the God who became our King, is the reason we should
give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or "archists" or "the powers that be." All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the true Archist, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
We've translated the Greek word arche as "archist" to bring out an important point that's never brought out during "the holiday season": The Christmas Child is the True King, the Lord and Ruler of Nations; all others are usurpers.

At the first Christmas, the emperors of the ancient world all claimed to be gods. They were divine mediators between man and the heavens, linking the two in a chain of Being. In the story of the tribute money, in which Jesus uttered those famous words, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," Jesus exposed the archist idolatry of the religious leaders of His day, who would later shout, "We have no king but Caesar!" Rushdoony, following Ethelbert Stauffer, notes the idolatrous nature of the imperial tax coin, the denarius:
These men used the coins of Tiberius which carried a "bust of Tiberius in Olympian nakedness, adorned with the laurel wreath, the sign of divinity." The inscription read, "Emperor Tiberius August Son of the August God," on the one side, and "Pontifex Maximus" or "High Priest" on the other. The symbols also included the emperor's mother, Julia Augusta (Livia) sitting on the throne of the gods, holding the Olympian sceptre in her right hand, and, in her left, the olive branch to signify that "she was the earthly incarnation of the heavenly Pax." The Coins thus had a religious significance. Israel was in a certain sense serving other gods by being subject to Rome and to Roman currency. The point made by implication by His enemies, that tribute to Caesar had religious overtones, was almost confirmed by Jesus, even as He proved their own submission to Caesar.
quoting Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 124f.
They were making the same error their forefathers had, when they asked for a king "like all the nations." God told Samuel, "they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them."

The desire to be or to have "archists" is a rejection of God and of His Christ.
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.
Acts 4:26; Psalm 2
Jesus told His disciples, who were arguing among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the coming Messianic Kingdom:
You know that those who are considered rulers (Greek: "archists") over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Those who understand the true meaning of Christmas reject the seductive call of the archists. The are servants, not archists; they are an-archists.

Only the Christmas Child gets to be King.

In A.D. 451, about the time the Roman Empire was collapsing, leaders of the church gathered to set forth the meaning of the first few verses of John's Gospel. The Council of Chalcedon declared that Jesus was "perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, truly God and truly man, in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation." R. J. Rushdoony explains the significance of this Council:

Chalcedon established the Christian foundation of Western culture and made possible the development of liberty. Chalcedon handed statism its major defeat in man’s history.

The problem centered on the definition of the two natures of Christ and their union. Behind the problem stood the resurgence of Hellenic philosophy in Christian guise and the claims of the State to be the divine order on earth, to be the incarnation of divinity in history. The Hellenic faith held to a radically different concept of being than did Biblical faith. The Christian distinction between the uncreated being of God and he created being of man and the universe placed an infinite gulf between the two, a gulf unbridgeable by nature and bridged only by grace, by grace unto salvation and by grace permitting a union or community of life, not of substance. For the Greeks, as for non-Christian religions generally, all being is one undivided being; the differences in being are of degree, not of kind. In this great chain of being, it is a question of place on the scale or ladder of being, whereas for Christian faith the difference is one of divine and uncreated being as against created and mortal being.

In terms of this Greek perspective, salvation is not an act of grace but rather of self-deification. Moreover, the central institution in history becomes the State, because the State as the highest point of power in history manifests the nascent or incarnate divinity of being either in the body politic, the rulers, or in their offices. In various forms, this faith was the substructure of all pagan statism. Thus, the issue very literally was one between Christ and Caesar.

The problem was God or man, Christ or the State, who is man’s savior, and how is divinity incarnated?

The Council of Chalcedon met in 451 to deal with the issue as it came to focus at the critical point, in Christology. If the two natures of Christ were confused, it meant that the door was opened to the divinizing of human nature; man and the State were then potentially divine. If the human nature of Christ were reduced or denied, His role as man’s incarnate savior was reduced or denied, and man’s savior again became the State. If Christ’s deity were reduced, then His saving power was nullified. If His humanity and deity were not in true union, the incarnation was then not real, and the distance between God and man remained as great as ever.

Western culture has been largely a product of Chalcedon, and the continuing crises in both church and State reflect their departures from or rebellions against Chalcedon.

The attempt of statist theology to divinize nature was declared to be anathema, but so was the attempt of statist theology to diminish the reality of the incarnation. To the degree that the reality of the incarnation was diminished, to that degree the State again asserted its claim to total lordship over man and society as the savior and redeemer thereof.

Chalcedon, first of all, separated Christian faith sharply from the Greek and pagan concepts of nature and being. It made clear that Christianity and all other religions and philosophies could not be brought together. The natural does not ascend to the divine or to the supernatural. The bridge is gulfed only by revelation and by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Salvation therefore is not of man nor by means of man’s politics, or by any other effort of man.

Second, Chalcedon prevented human institutions from professing to be incarnations of the deity and able to unite the two worlds in their existence. The State was reduced to a human order, under God, and it was denied its age-old claim to divinity for the body politic, the ruler, or the offices.

Chalcedon thus placed a double roadblock against man’s mystical pretensions.. By asserting the unique incarnation, without confusion or change of the two natures, first, personal mysticism was barred, and, second, collective mysticism was barred also. Neither the person nor the State could, by its works, experience, or upward growth or evolution unite with and become absorbed into the Godhead. The uniqueness of the incarnation was a preventative, and the insistence that there was neither change of the two natures, or confusion of them in Christ’s unique incarnation meant that no church or State could validly claim that, as Christ’s humanity, they had entered into His deity also. Had Chalcedon’s definition not been made the test of orthodoxy, then humanism could have validly utilized the incarnation, with theological sanction, to introduce Christ’s people, whether as church, State, school, or individuals, into this change of nature from humanity into divinity. To be a Christian in the fullest sense would have meant deification; participation in the sacrament of communion would have meant participation in more than the new humanity of Jesus Christ, together with the blessing of access in Him to God the Father. Instead, the sacrament would become participation in Christ’s deity. Man would eat God to become God. Humanism and paganism would then triumph over Biblical Christianity.

As long as the old pagan view of being prevailed, the State could be the divine-human order. Divinity then became so greatly immanent or incarnate in the State that there was no appeal beyond the State. The State was, at least for its day, the final order. In this scheme of things, man was simply a political animal, a social animal: he was definable in terms of the group, the body politic. Man had no true transcendence nor any ground of appeal against the State. In this condition, liberty was non-existent. Permission from the State to exercise certain areas of activities could exist, but not a liberty apart from and beyond the State grounded in man’s creation by God.

The Declaration of Independence is Chalcedonian in this respect, denying that our rights come from the State, and affirming that they come from God. Tomorrow we will see that this concept of "liberty" did not exist among the ancient empires of the world.

The prophet Daniel had revealed to the king of Babylon the future of four great empires: the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman. Daniel said that in the days of the Roman Empire, a Rock would crush it to powder, "and the Stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth," meaning, "in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." The Kingdom of Christ was exercised by His followers who challenged the divinity of the emperor, "saying that there is another king, one Jesus."

Those who carry the true meaning of Christmas in our day are "libertarians." Not necessarily every member of any political party, but those who reject the idolatry of human empires.

The relationship between the incarnation and liberty, and the conflict between Christmas and imperialism, is often lost in the tinsel and glitter of the season. If I haven't explained the relationship very well, please use the comment section to force me to clarify. Your comments and questions greatly aid the communication of these important principles.

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