A few comments on Gary North’s “Progressive Responsibility”:
The apostle Paul recognized the necessity of Christians exercising leadership, first within the Christian community, and later in the very processes of the cosmos. When the sin-plagued Corinthian church faced a major disciplinary problem, Paul wrote to them that they should handle it themselves. They should not appeal to a secular law court, implying that since the court would not be governed by the standards of biblical law, it would be a poor testimony to seek judgment there. It was wrong in principle because it would appear to sanction the validity of Satan’s rule over the church. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters” (I Cor. 6:2)? Not only will the saints judge the world, they will also judge the angels, Paul said. If we shall judge the angels, “how much more the things that pertain to this life” (l Cor. 6:3b)?
To humble them, and to demonstrate how important it was for them to stay out of the civil courts, Paul advised them: “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church” (I Cor. 6:4). In other words, the least esteemed member of the local church was far better fit to make a valid judgment of the dispute than the high officials in the civil courts.
If Christians actually believed this, and insisted on ruling themselves under Biblical Law instead of being ruled by secularists that view everything they are with utmost contempt, we would be a good 80% of the way to regaining our liberty.
What we should understand from the beginning is that we are the recipients of a law structure which is the proper foundation for all our personal decisions. This law structure has been designed to fit the external realm of human action. It has been designed by God to provide a productive order. When men are exposed to the preaching of the whole counsel of God, they are able to begin to make valid distinctions between right and wrong. They can begin to deal with the sins in their own lives, and from there they can begin to handle the sin-created disputes in the local church.
The lawful, noble, righteous life comes from the Word of God to rest in the heart of the repentant sinner, expands to church and family, and finally shapes, limits, and governs the State.
Bondservice to Christ means liberty before men, and the fear of hell and judgement means the lack of fear before the wrath of evil men of power.
(Which, of course, is why Our Masters despise the Word of God, the Liberty of Free Men, and the doctrine of hell and the lake of fire.)
So reliable is the law of God, that Paul could tell the Corinthians that the least esteemed man in the church, with only a vague conception of the proper application of biblical law, was a preferable judge than the master of humanistic law in the local Corinthian court. Better to subject oneself to an inexperienced judge who has a vague understanding of God’s revelation than a skilled lawyer who is not guided by the precepts of biblical law. That is how much more reliable the law of God is than the humanistic laws of the pagan civil governments.
Looking around, this should be blindingly obvious to every Christian.
Obviously, the problems were there already. It was a question of how to solve these problems with the least display of subservience to the pagan world. It was the responsibility of the members to become skilled in settling disputes in the local church. Until this was done, there was no way that they could come before the pagans of their day to announce a new king, with a new law-order. They could not begin to exercise dominion over the face of the earth if their own internal conflicts were being settled by representatives of an enemy law-order.
Exactly. An alien and demonic law-order is not to govern relations among Christians!
Was Paul arguing for some sort of ecclesiocracy? Was he trying to get the whole world under the authority of church courts? Did he envision a day in the future when everyone will be a church member, and the church courts will take the place of the despised civil courts? Paul never said so.
What Paul was arguing for was theocracy–the rule of God’s law. He was not arguing for ecclesiocracy, meaning civil rule by priests or ministers. He did see that it was better to settle disputes among church members without appealing to a rival religious order to restore peace. Yet in Romans 13:1-7, he acknowledged the legitimacy of civil rulers. He even called them ministers. Paul’s theology held that there are two basic ministerial offices, civil rulers and elders in the church. Neither is to replace the other. Neither can perform all the functions of the other. Neither is to be vested with comprehensive, monopolistic sovereignty. But both are to be governed by God’s law.
And now, we see why secularists view Christians with nothing but malice and contempt: as far as they are concerned, the State has the right to extend and expand its power to every realm of human existence and every human action, without limit. From the punishment of disobedient children, to your washrooms, to what kind of money you use: “everything under the state, nothing outside the state, nothing above the state!”
The claim that any other power – especially a Power that claims to be both above the State, and claims the authority to determine what the State can and cannot do -has mastery over all is blasphemy against the State and the Will of the People.
Like the Secularist, I also believe in One Lord and God… I just have a different God to worship, adore, and obey.
It was not that the civil law should be transformed into ecclesiastical law; it was that both ecclesiastical law and civil law should be conformed to God’s law, with neither the church nor the state possessing an absolute monopoly of lawful authority.
Paul was not arguing for the rule of church courts over every area of life, but he was arguing against the concept of neutral law. If the saints shall judge the world, then neutral law is a myth. A man must judge in terms of standards. An act is right or wrong, acceptable or prohibited. If Christians are to judge the angels, then they must do so within a framework of morality designed by God and revealed to man. The Corinthian Christians were to stay out of pagan law courts precisely because there is no neutral civil law.
Amen, and amen.
The Secular State hates you, Christian. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want a fight: the State will go completely out of its way to pick a fight with you, as they know the threat you represent to it.
Why on earth would you give them an inch you don’t need to? Christians may have to live under Secular rule, just as we had to live order pagan rule, and Muslim rule, and Communist rule.
But there is no need to lie to yourself about how your life and religion and culture is seen in the eyes of the enemy.
(See James B Jordan’s excellent article Daniel’s Job to know how to live under an evil human government. Hint: rebellion and hostility is not the focus, as our lives under the enemy’s heel is indicative of a righteous judgement on our own folly. Instead, excellence on the job, paying due respect to the authorities – who are put there by God’s will, after all – and a refusal to compromise on personal holiness are the key points here.)
Technical competence in law is not to be preferred to biblical law, for there is no such thing as technical competence as such, or neutral law as such. The standard is biblical law, administered with or without great technical competence.
Where are men to gain the preferred competence? Obviously, by becoming familiar with the terms of biblical law. First, they learn as children (Deut. 6:6-7). Second, they learn as church members in churches governed by elders who respect biblical law (I Cor. 6). Third, they learn as deacons, who assist the elders in the less crucial responsibilities, like the administration of charity (Acts 6:1-4). This office is a son of apprenticeship position. Fourth, men may be appointed to the office of church elder (I Tim. 3). But this presumes that they have already approved themselves in the fifth office, that of family head (I Tim. 3:4-5), which is also a requirement for deacons (I Tim. 3:12).
This, however, is only the beginning. Men are also to serve in positions of authority in business, the military, medicine and other professions, the civil government, and wherever God’s law applies. (It applies wherever men make decisions for which they are responsible before God; only in those zones of life for which men will never have to give an account of their actions–in the neutral zones of life- does biblical law not apply. Anyone who denies the rule of God’s law must explain, using the Bible as his source, just where such zones are.) Men are to become competent rulers–judges, if you prefer–in their labor. Their callings before God are training grounds for the exercise of godly judgment.
To be the high judges God calls us to be, we must master the minor duties we have been given. To rule, you must serve.
The doctrine that the church and its members will experience an endless set of failures until the day of judgment, whereupon the saints shall judge the world with Christ, has this curious implication: experience in exercising godly judgment is best attained through constant failure and the inability of saints to gain positions of authority, in time and on earth. In other words, Christians will never rule on earth, and therefore they will rule after the final judgment. Those Christians who argue that individual saints will be far removed forever from the seats of power or even the corridors of power, until the day of judgment itself, are building a theoretical case for the success of [off-the-job] training. They are arguing for perpetual childhood and subservience: domination by rebellious rulers–ever-more consistent, ruthless, and lawless rulers– is the way to become competent rulers. But the Bible tells us that a sign of God’s judgment is to be ruled by children (Isa. 3:4). We need an eschatology which offers us a doctrine of progressive responsibility, a doctrine of maturing judgment. We need a concept of on-the-job training and promotion through competence.
Fearful cowards are not what God has in mind, when it comes to raising a people for Himself.