Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Day 9: A Christmas Nagocracy

It's the Ninth Day of Christmas, and if I hadn't attended schools run by the government, I'd be able to tell you if we were three-fourths or two-thirds of the way through the 12 Days of Christmas. On this blog we're observing "The 12 Days of Liberty," and so far we've seen how Christmas marked a change from "B.C." (before capitalism) to "A.D." (I can't think of anything as clever as "before capitalism" -- you're invited to submit your idea in the comment box).

We looked at the Christmas fact that "Christ" means "King," and the Advent of the Christ was rightly seen as a threat to the political power of the kings of that day.

On Day 7 we mentioned that the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were schooled under the Puritan educational philosophy exemplified by "The New England Primer." The children's catechism questions included

Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer ?
A. Christ as our Redeemer executes the office of a prophet, of a priest, & of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

When elementary-aged children finished the New England Primer, they went on to the Larger Catechism, a catechism which 90% of today's seminary graduates and televangelists could not pass. That catechism asks,

Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself,
[174] and giving them officers,[175] laws,[176] and censures, by which he visibly governs them;[177] in bestowing saving grace upon his elect,[178] rewarding their obedience,[179] and correcting them for their sins,[180] preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings,[181] restraining and overcoming all their enemies,[182] and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory,[183] and their good;[184] and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.[185]

The bracketed numbers are Scripture "prooftexts" appended to the answer by the eminent theologians in Westminster who drafted the Catechism in the 1640's. "Christmas" is the advent of a King who does not use the machinery of an earthly State to accomplish his purposes. Christmas strikes out at the pretended "divine right of kings" of past centuries and the "unitary executive" of today.

Let's pretend for a moment that we are teenagers in colonial America, learning our Catechism. The Scripture prooftexts tell us many interesting things about the coming of the Christmas King in the first century, as well as how Christmas capitalism can shape the 21st century. The first feature of the Christmas King is

"calling out of the world a people to himself"
[174] Acts 15:14-16. Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written [Amos 9:11-12], After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.

The New Testament says that these Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. The Gentiles have been called. The wall has been broken down, and the Jews and Gentiles have become one new man (Ephesians 2:11-19). A New Temple has been established on the foundation of Christ and the Apostles (Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Corin­thians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Revelation 21:22).

The idea that the Messiah came at Christmas not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32; Matthew 4:13-16; Isaiah 9:1-2,6-7;), and incorporated them both into a single new Body, adopting believing Gentiles into the "household of faith," making them adopted sons of Abraham, and heirs to a promise not just of Palestine, but the entire world, has tremendous implications for U.S. foreign policy. It destroys the idea that western nations should use the power of the State to forcibly displace arabs to make room for a secular state of Israel in Palestine, rather than allow individual Jews and Arabs to voluntarily negotiate trades for land; it destroys the idea of keeping Jews separate from Gentiles and encouraging them to return to a separate homeland until they're wiped out in a nuclear holocaust. And it destroys the idea of paying for all this with taxpayer "contributions."

Some Christians believe that another physical tabernacle is going to be built. But if the New Testament is correct in saying that these Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the first century when the Gentiles became the building-blocks of a New Temple, why would a literal old-style tabernacle be (a) necessary and (b) delayed for thousands of years after this New Temple in Christ was established?

[174 con't] Genesis 49:10. The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The gathering of the Gentiles into the household of faith was a work of Christ at His first coming.

(Luke 2:25-32) And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. {26} And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. {27} And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, {28} Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, {29} Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: {30} For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, {31} Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; {32} A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

If the natural sons of Abraham choose not to follow Abraham (John 8:56), the adopted sons of Abraham need not subsidize their departure.

Psalm 110:3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth.

The power of the Christmas King is that of changing hearts, and making people willing. This is the key to the great question of social order. This is why capitalism succeeds. This is why there is no obstacle to fulfilling the Great Commission. Psalm 110 is the most frequently-quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament.

The next feature of the Christmas King is

"giving them officers"
[175] Ephesians 4:11-12. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

There are two ways to understand these passages. One interpretation holds that these Apostolic gifts were for “the last days” of the Old Covenant, and do not operate today. The Apostles lived in a transitional era. Once the transition was made from the types and shadows of the Old Covenant into the full reality of the New Covenant, Apostles and their gifts were no longer needed.

[175 con't] 1 Corinthians 12:28. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

The other interpretation is that we do indeed have legitimate Apostles, healers, tongue-speakers, and miracle workers in our age. Over the last 2,000 years, this position is a minority view. Both Pentecostals and the Roman Catholic Church believe in Apostles or their successors in our day, and in continuing miraculous gifts (though most Pentecostals, unlike Roman Catholics, do not believe in miracles through relics; see the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia on miracle-workers: )

We have discussed elsewhere how the “officers” in the Old Testament were created by Pharaoh in Egypt, and used by God during the exodus, but Moses expressed the goal of the Spirit to have all the Hebrews become Godly patriarchs like Abraham. “Officers” are temporary.

The next gift of the Christmas King is

"giving them laws"
[176] Isaiah 33:22. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

Notice that the offices ascribed by Isaiah to Jehovah are ascribed by the Westminster Assembly to Jesus Christ.

We don't need "the State" to make laws. God has given us laws.

Nor do we need "the State" to enforce laws. This is one of the most amazing connections between Christmas and Liberty:

"giving them censures, by which He visibly governs them"
[177] Matthew 18:17-18. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Notice that Christ gives His church (the new body of Jews and Gentiles) "censures," but the Westminster Assembly denies that Christ gives to the church the powers that have been claimed by Popes in the past, namely, the power of the sword, or civil government. Virtually all Protestants have agreed that the only power possessed by the Church is that of censure, specifically, excommunication.

[177 con't] 1 Corinthians 5:4-5. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

This is a major issue, hotly debated throughout the history of the church. Does the church have the power of the sword; the power to execute people, or to prosecute a war? All Protestants except anarchists (such as the Anabaptists) agree that “the State” has the right to execute (capital punishment) and to use the sword in a “just war.” If the Church does not have this right, do Christians have the right to execute people by “voting” for other people to do so (while calling themselves “the State”)? If not, is there a way to maintain social order without killing or threatening to kill other people? Consider this scenario:

Suppose Smith steals from Jones, and Jones follows the procedure in Matthew 18 above. Smith is "excommunicated." Smith’s ex-church now shuns Smith. Suppose everyone in the nation is a member of Smith’s ex-church, and none of them will sell Smith groceries, water, electricity, or do any business with Smith until he repents of his crime and makes full restitution to Jones. Would Smith be willing to live as a complete social outcast, utterly self-dependent, unable to participate in commerce or social activities? Or will he repent––or, more cynically, “feign obedience” (see the verses on Day 5)? What is a more persuasive sanction against Smith’s crime: spending 6 months in a human warehouse where all his material needs (food, clothing, shelter) are met at taxpayer expense, or having to grow his own food, generate his own power, and spin his own clothes, without benefitting from the division of labor and being a social outcast for the rest of his life (which may not be that long, if he’s been turned over “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”). How does King Jesus want His Church to maintain social order? “Censure” or coercion and violence?

What are the implications of this scenario for the “Great Capitalist Commission?” If we made thorough disciples of all nations, and taught everyone to obey the commands of Christ, who would initiate socialism?

Another more popular word for "censure" is "nag." Social order is a human necessity. Can it be maintained by nagging alone, rather than by force and threats of violence? This is the question that Christmas poses. "Liberty" is freedom from the initiation of force by others. But liberty cannot exist without social reminders of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." Our conscience is not enough. We need parents, schools, bosses, neighbors, investigative reporters in media, consumer reports, the UL label, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, boycotts, "discrimination," competition and freedom to shop elsewhere. All of these things are firm reminders of our duties.

The idea of a nagging-based society (rather than a guillotine- or gas chamber-based social order) is explored at this not-ready-for-primetime website:

Surprising to many, most commercial disputes today are settled without recourse to state violence, but through arbitration agreed upon by contract. This was standard procedure through the Christian middle ages, and became known as the "Law of Merchants," or Lex Mercatoria. This is the history of the development of capitalism and commerce based on "censure." This is how the Prince of Peace governs the world. Christian libertarians must discard dispensational fundamentalism and recapture this vision of global capitalism.

More from the Larger Catechism tomorrow.

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