The confessionally Christian state


A higher throne

This is an extract from David Field’s lecture at the Oak Hill School of Theology 2008, A Higher Throne, Evangelicals and Public Theology. In this paper, Samuel Rutherford and the confessionally Christian state, we find good biblical reasons not to be defeatist.

Evangelical defeatism is a failure of Biblical perspective. After all, the risen Lord Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and has been made head over all things for the Church; he is the ruler of the kings of the earth and he is currently putting his enemies beneath his feet; he has presumably asked the Father for the nations as his inheritance and the ends of the earth as his possession – and so he will receive them. All nations will bow to Jesus and all kings will serve him and his kingdom will grow to become the largest plant in the garden with the nation-birds finding rest in its branches.

As well as the sovereign Lordship of Christ, there’s the failure of liberal democracy as it demolishes the house that Christ built.

Objection 14: Pluralistic liberal democracy works fine.
It will be shown below that liberal democracy is intrinsically tyrannical but it is a fact that some people living under liberal democracies have enjoyed relatively stable and comfortable social and political experiences. We need to note, however, that any good to be found under such arrangements of the state exists simply because God in his mercy keeps unbelievers and unbelieving ways of arranging human life from the full consistency which would be as horrible and disastrous as life could be this side of hell.

We have actually never seen the political house which liberal democracy builds. Liberal democracy in the post-Enlightenment West has constructed nothing but simply squatted in the house which Christianity built. Imagine arriving at a person’s house and finding it in reasonable shape although it does have some roof tiles off and there’s a large hole in one wall. You see a man – “Liberal Democracy” standing there with bricks in his hands and tools and machines all around him. You are arriving at the arrangement of the state in the United Kingdom in 2007. But you would be badly mistaken if you were to say, “this is a fine house that “Liberal Democracy” has built for you,” because the fact is that the house was built some generations ago by “Christian” and what is really happening is that “Liberal Democracy” is dismantling it as fast as he can even while claiming the credit for the safety and comfort still to be had in the house. Liberal democracy, as has often been observed, is parasitical and destructive, simultaneously living off the benefits of the influence of the gospel in previous generations and working hard to remove them and claiming credit for putting them in place.

I believe a Christian state is essential for the well being of society and can see the disastrous effect big liberal secular government has on the inner city first hand.  When people are discouraged by the state to organise themselves into local churches but instead to depend on the state to provide everything from child care to housing and social education , the local community breaks down.  I want a government which will say “our job is to enact laws, your duty as individuals is to take responsibility for yourself and your community by looking to Christ and being with his people.”  As long as the state says “don’t worry, we’ll look after you” the church will flounder.

Do we have to wait until liberal democracy ruins every good thing that Christendom built or will someone stand up for election before then with a biblical world-view and on Christian platform?  Should church leaders and theological colleges be training politicians?  Yes of course.

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One Response to The confessionally Christian state

  1. Andrew Gray says:

    Great post. Can I respond? Paul mentions somewhere that we should obey the leaders that God has put over us. I think that there is a good amount of truth in what you are saying, but I would argue that God has more of a hand in things that simply saying that he permits by grace. We are not under law, so we don’t have to do what the law says, even the worldly law. But we do so because we see that the law leads to order and our God is a God of order.
    However I do agree that that law is rapidly becoming a mess. I love the fact that you talk of the community organising itself into church. I don’t know whether you did it intentionally, but that certainly contrasts with the presumption of the Christendom church. The Christendom church is like the house that is built, but then the door is left open to the squatters you have referred to!
    The last problem we have to deal with though is that Christendom would claim to be the answer to all ills and the central source of solution to problems from education to health and well fair. This would have been true at one point, but sadly no longer. The world is too complicated a place, and we would not be able to deliver. However, we CAN act as signposts to the right resources. Something I have considered of late is that many people who struggle simply are unaware of the resources available, don’t trust them, and don’t have the skills necessary to choose because there is too much choice. This leads to immobility and, what I and others have called, choice paralysis. We can help by becoming the people who know both camps: the local government and providers/agencies, making friends as first name terms. And we can help those we connect with to access those resources in the right way, and be the people on the ground to support and encourage. Such are folks such as Christians Against Poverty. Perhaps we need to find some joined up thinking?

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