What follows is a comment with which I happen for the most part to agree. The comment came during a debate at this post, DEBATING THE ETHICAL FOUNDATION OF GOVERNMENT. Note that I corrected the misspelling of Dominionism, and I provided a link to Wikipedia for a definition.
Russ White says:
Just wanted to point out one thing… In reality, there are many types of Christians in the world, and Christian theology can be divided along multiple “bright lines.” For instance, is salvation through some form of works, or all through grace? Are people elected before they are born because it’s God’s will, or because of God’s knowledge, or not at all?
One of the various dividing lines is over Christianity’s relationship with the Government. How should Christianity, as a whole, relate to government? There is a school of Christianity (represented by the Quakers, for instance), that believes Christianity should have nothing –absolutely nothing– to do with the government. There is another school –Dominionism its various flavors– that believes Christianity should be government. Here we find the Roman Catholic Church pre Vatican 2, for the most part –the Church should crown kings.
There is another school that says government should be founded on Christian principles because these principles are the closest to the real situation we find ourselves in, and therefore are the most likely to actually produce a working society. Not a _perfect_ society, not a “Christian utopia,” just a _working_ society. The best humans can actually do given their fallen and imperfect nature.
This just happens to be the school of Christianity I belong to (and the school I think Tom belongs to).
I’m not trying to build “utopia” of any sort, because I don’t think such a thing can be built by humans. Communism, socialism, fascism, and even, in some forms, capitalism (specifically the versions that don’t admit God), are all trying to build a perfect utopian world. They do this by trying to correct what they see wrong in people. For instance –people don’t always care for the poor in their midst. Socialism tries to solve this by forcing them to care.
The school of Christianity I live in says, “you can’t force people to care –you’re just going to make things worse!” Socialists and communist reply, “humans are plastic, infinitely bendable to the will of the state.” In other words, “I can make people take action, even if I can’t make them care!”
So in the real war, the Christians where I live aren’t on the side of the “utopians.” We’re on the side of those who believe there is a limited amount the government can do, and that limit, in reality, is rather small. That when you step over the line a little, you wind up stepping over the line all the way, simply because you must in order to support the little point at which you’ve already stepped over the line.
Take, for instance, the government’s statement that you must be able to unionize. Simple enough, right? Well, now that the government has declared it a “right” to unionize, someone has to control the conditions under which a union must be form. Those rules, as a matter of course, can be gamed, so they must be made ever more complex to cover situations no-one ever thought of, and must be enforced. This one rule –that everyone has the right to unionize– must be defended and upheld by a forest of rules, each of which must be enforced. Each of these must, in turn, by supported by another forest of rules, each of these which must be enforced. Thus the government creeps from a single idea to the point of telling companies and employees everything they may, and may not, do.
If you believe you can make society a “little better” with a “little utopianism (socialism),” then you will easily slide to “I can make society a lot better with a lot of utopianism.” Unless you can identify the specific line you won’t cross, and the specific reason you wont’ cross it (other than “no reasonable person would go there,” because people aren’t reasonable), then don’t go down that path in the first place.
There is no “little” government without a lot of humility about what our limits are as humans. The problem with socialism and communism is they don’t believe we have limits as humans. In Christianity, particularly among creationists, we believe humans have limitations, and we know what those limitations are.
Note that the limited government Russ describes requires two things from each of us. The first is self restraint. When the use of the force of government cannot be morally justified, we must restrain ourselves from trying to use the government to get what we want done. The second involves the willingness to accept personal responsibility. We must each assess our personal gifts and voluntarily contribute the use of those gifts to the welfare of our fellows.
What is not required, however, is that we act solely as individuals. In fact, I believe God both wants us and designed us to work in fellowship with each other. Why do I believe this? We have an example. In the America that once was, Americans readily — without the force of government — took it upon themselves to work with others to satisfy the needs of their communities. Check out THE RIGHT OF FREE ASSOCIATION. Here I reference Alexis De Tocqueville, the author of that classic work, Democracy in America.
The spirit that Tocqueville described still exists in America, but we do need to revive and renew it.
P.S. – With respect to his comment, I have one minor point of disagreement with Russ. Whereas Russ identifies himself as Creationist, I do not. I will readily agree that God created us. Nonetheless, I have the same problem with Creationism that I have with the Theory of Evolution. Scientists have no way to test either theory.
Even if we take Genesis literally, we must remember that the Bible is not scientific treatise. God intended that the Bible could be understood by people without any scientific training. Hence, while the Bible makes it crystal clear that God created us and why, the Bible says little that addresses how God created us.