The State: God’s Hangman?

Not Just a Hangman

Last week we saw that according to scripture the state is more than God’s hangman. The state has a prophetic office, the protection of life. The expression the state is God’s hangman of course comes from Luther. But, it has been very commonly taken out of context. The Lutheran church in using it as it’s doctrine of the state has not been true to Luther. As a matter of fact Luther saw the state as far far more than God’s hangman, rather as God’s prophet and servant.

Sixth Commandment: To Make Alive by R.J. Rushdoony

True enough, if you are talking about, say, safety requirements in building codes (Deuteronomy 22:8). But even here, there is no ban of roofs without railings, there are no licensing codes involved. Instead, if someone falls and is injured/dies of it, the building owner is liable for it, with a penalty up to and including execution.

The Christian Prince, The Christian Scholar

We tend to think of Lutheran as churchman and as ecclesiastical in it’s emphasis. And of course the Lutheran clergy has made a very pious and strong church man out of Luther who worked to reestablish a new church.

This is radically twisting the facts. Luther was primarily a professor! And we cannot properly understand his career unless we understand what he was. Indeed, he was concerned about the faith, but his main concern was with Christendom and the whole society of church, state, and schools! And as a professor, as a scholar, he was concerned with the revitalization of all of society by means of Christian scholarship. And so he saw as the two central agencies in that revitalization of Christian society, the Christian prince and the Christian scholar.

Sixth Commandment: To Make Alive by R.J. Rushdoony

Certainly, as political authority devolves, there will be a need for local Christian leadership in the courts and the executive.

I am doubtful of the purpose of a legislature, if you assume that the only legitimate laws are Divine Laws. Also, you don’t give power to human legislators if you don’t want to be quickly swamped by an ever-expanding pile of poorly-considered laws that nobody even reads.

(See: What Makes You Think We Read The Bills? 2nd Edition by Senator H.L. Richardson

right before you read Confrontational Politics: How to Effectively Practice the Politics of Principle 4th Edition by H. L. Richardson)

These two worked together to revitalize society, so that it was not so much church and state in Luther’s thinking, nor how the Lutheran clergy today read it, the church, but it was the Christian ruler and the Christian thinker. And this is why the universities in Germany came to have a tremendous fire and vitality for centuries after Luther. In fact, until our day, almost, the German university had a import that no university elsewhere in the world had! And until a generation ago, their supremacy was marked. And even today the language to learn if you are interested in scholarship is German, because the great scholarly works that are not in English are predominantly in German.

And all this because of Luther’s emphasis on scholarship. Christian scholarship. We might add parenthetically here that Luther had during his lifetime 20,000 pupils, and those 20,000 had an important position in revitalizing the face of Europe! So that Luther’s position was not that the state was just God’s hangman. It had a positive, a prophetic function. To speak for God, to declare the law word of God in the domain of justice. Now God specifically declares that as he deals with the world his principle of operation which he ask human authorities to follow is this. See now that I, even I, am He. And there is no God with me. I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal. Neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

Sixth Commandment: To Make Alive by R.J. Rushdoony

The faster Christians return to producing high-grade scholastic works — outside of the Academy, which today values conformity and obedience far more than truth and logic — the better.

Every Sphere of Life Carries a Sword

So that God as he faces the sinful world proceeds then to kill and to make alive. To destroy that which is evil and to prosper that which is good. And as he faces any law order that fails to fulfil this calling which he delegates to them, to kill and to make alive, he exacts vengeance upon them. I set my glittering sword, mine hand takes hold of judgement. I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward –that is, with judgement– them that hate me.

God as the supreme law giver has this function. And he delegates to human authorities. All human authorities in every sphere have this function. Not only the church, but the state and every calling: To inhibit, to injure, to kill out that which is evil, that which is destructive, that which harms. And to further that which protects and furthers life, under God. In the church it is the binding and the forgiving of sins. In other areas it varies in terms of their function. And so the scripture sees everything that man has and man must do in terms of this function of killing and making alive.

It surprises us when we realize the extent of this, but when we examine the book of psalms for example we see that music also has this function! To make alive. Conversely we can say that bad music certainly kills. That’s the way I respond to a great deal of music today. It has a very depressing, killing effect, so far as I’m concerned. But good music makes alive! And this was the function of the psalms, of music in worship.

Sixth Commandment: To Make Alive by R.J. Rushdoony

Not just church and state, but family too.

Wicked children can — and should! — be disinherited, while godly children are to be strengthed and receive the inheritance. Just as Esau is to be kicked out, and all the great goods are to be placed in Jacob’s hands – just as God expects, and regardless of the will of their father Issac.

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