In a world gone mad, sanity is always thought to be some form of extremism. When people are wound tight in their scruples, the preaching of free grace is thought to be antinomian license (Rom. 6:1ff). When the early Christians refused to acknowledge the pantheon of gods, they were not accused of monotheism, but rather of atheism. In the same way, because we are living in the era dominated by the gargantuan state, any assertion that we must return to biblical norms will be thought to be anarchy. It is not anarchy, for reasons to be explained shortly, but for the modern statist, it might as well be. Try to think of it as theocratic libertarianism.
“Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deut. 5:16).
Summary of the Text:
When you honor your father and mother as you ought to do, you are honoring your immediate parents, those who establish what we call the nuclear family. But the honor due to our parents is not something that lasts for eighteen years and then poof, it is gone. Dependent children are told to render honor to their parents through obedience (Eph. 6:1-2). But when the children are grown up, and simple obedience is no longer required, the honor is still required, now in the form of financial support (Mark 7:10-13). And it does not stop there. The principle is that this particular kind of honor grows, develops, and changes. The duty to honor does not evaporate. The movement is from “my father,” to “our father,” to “our fathers.”
Politics Is Personal:
As we read Scripture carefully, we see how what we call political power grows up from the family. There is an organic connection between the nuclear family, the extended family, the clan, the tribe, the tribes, and the nation. When Saul is established as the king over Israel, an important institutional development has occurred, but it did not arrive de novo.
Atoms and Molecules:
The central difficulty with atheistic libertarianism and anarchism is that it challenges the right foe, the state, but is attacking an Abrams tank with a peashooter. The individual is an atomistic challenger to corporate man, and corporate man This is why pot-smoking libertarianism is such a joke. The lotus-eaters have never stormed any castle.
In order to resist the artificial swollenness of the modern state, the answer must be the true answer of molecular connectedness—the family and the church. But as soon as you have the family, and people worshiping together in the same language, you have the beginnings of nationhood. As long as Christians are honoring their fathers and mothers (Ex. 20: ), and honoring their leaders in the church (Heb. 13:7,17;
In the Meantime:
The Roman Empire was a hot mess. But even so, Christians were commanded—as far as conscience allowed—to render honor to the agents of it (Rom. 13:7). They absolutely refused to worship the emperor, but this refusal was all the more striking because they were commanded to honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:17). This is the approach we must take when the state is a disordered one, needing to be raised from its mat, like Aeneas was. Honoring rulers in a diseased state is not compromise; it is obedience to God. “I think myself happy, king Agrippa . . .” (Acts 26:2). Paul walked back what he said about Ananias (Acts 23:5). And Jesus said to “render to Caesar” that which belongs to him (Mark 12:17), which means that something does.
But at different times, in different ways, the political order is not disordered.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).
“Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, And his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, Even a morning without clouds; As the tender grass springing out of the earth By clear shining after rain” (2 Samuel 23:1–4).
“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: For the throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12).
“Take away the wicked from before the king, And his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5).
Whatever era you live in, whatever political economy has been established—a republic, or a monarchy, whatever—righteousness at the top matters.
Now remember that history begins as a garden and ends as a garden city. That city is, in effect, the Christian church, the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all. The kings of the earth do not lose their glory and honor, but rather their glory and honor are placed in true perspective.
“Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame”” (Is. 49:23, ESV).
“And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it” (Rev. 21:24).
Church and Kingdom:
In a rightly ordered society, the church is the cathedral at the center of town. It is the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. All families come to worship the Lord there, but they do not live their lives there. In Christ, through Christ, all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:3), but they live their lives out in the parish, out in the kingdom. They are the Ministry of Health, Education, and Welfare. As they cluster in towns, they have to organize their practical affairs in some kind of order, and that would be the cause of the civil order—the mayor, the governor, the king, the president, the father. This is the Ministry of Justice.