The Purpose of Government: A Traditionalist Christian View
Recently, Jake MacAulay of the Institute on the Constitution, shared his opinions on the role of government in an article titled What is the Purpose of Government? In his introduction he states:
“There is a God. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to protect and secure God given rights. This is the American View of Law and Government. It is also the Christian View. It is set forth very concisely and precisely in our Declaration of Independence.”
What my response herein will do is demonstrate that, though MacAulay claims the view he expresses is “the Christian view”, it is certainly not the view of all Christians, nor is it the historical Christian view or even a necessarily Biblical view. In fact, there is nothing in the New Testament that even hints at the role of government as protecting some concept of liberty or “rights”. While I certainly agree that this is the substance of American Law and governance, to somehow extrapolate from this that it is necessarily “the Christian view” is simply opinion and not fact. Since the greatest cultures in human history sprang from the Christian faith, it is far wiser to look at those historic Christian cultures and understand how they viewed the role of government and their concepts of “rights”. After all, the fruits of the founding principles of the United States are seen in the current culture of rebellion, godlessness, sexual perversion, etc. These deviant behaviors are a result of the faulty notions of liberty, equality and fraternity so enshrined in the founding of this nation.
Those who would say we have God given rights are at a deficit from the start. First, one would have to prove that humanity is indeed granted “unalienable rights” by God. The problem for those who advocate for this theory is that there is nothing in Sacred Scripture that supports it. The created (humanity) have no rights before the Creator, and certainly nothing unalienable. Any suggestion to the contrary amounts to reading into scripture the ideological principles of the Enlightenment, and forcing scripture to fit the Americanist narrative.
God did not grant humanity any liberties. Liberty is thought of by most Americans as the freedom to do associate with whomever one pleases, the freedom to say whatever one wants to say, to publish whatever one wishes to publish, and to worship whatever one wants to worship, or indeed, deny there is anyone or anything to worship. These so-called liberties are nowhere granted in the pages of Sacred Scripture. In fact, scripture is explicit that these “rights” many think are God given are actually God forbidden.
‘What about free will?’, some will ask. ‘Doesn’t that imply rights?’
Not at all. Free will, properly defined, is an ability. Specifically, the ability to make moral choices. An ability is not the same things as a “right” or liberty. In the case of Free Will, it is an ability to affirm the moral, not determine for ourselves what is right, or good, or beneficial. Ability can be misused in that way, certainly. And one of the most obvious examples is in the mistaken notions of liberty and equality; asserting that we possess “unalienable rights”. If indeed we possessed such “God given” liberty- freedom of speech, freedom of association, etc.- then God would have no basis upon which to judge our words or actions, since that would imply we are independent from our Creator’s power, control and dictates by His own divine act of conferral of such liberty. The fact is, however, that everyone will be judged based on their misuse of the ability of Free Will.
We see the same principle at work in our laws. If you drive at 55 mph in a 25 mph zone, you will receive a ticket. While you have the ability to drive at that speed, you are not at liberty to do so. You have no right to do so simply because you possess ability.
The concept of equality is equally fallacious in Americanist thought. Nothing in Sacred Scripture suggests that we are born equal. The only sense in which egalitarianism is true in orthodox Christianity is when we discuss soteriology, and thus in human dignity of person. Every human is soteriologically on the same playing field. However, to suggest from there that this means we are “created equal” as the American Constitution states, is not born out by the facts. We are all born with unique gifts and talents, some possess superior intellectual capability to others, and still others are far below average in intellect. And, while there are absolutely no superior races, there are superior cultures arising from peoples who distinguish themselves above other nations. At the heart of egalitarianism, which forms the very core of Americanism, are the very same liberal principles that manifest as Marxism, Communism, Socialism, National Socialism, Fascism, Nationalism, and other such counter-biblical systems of governance.
When we read statements that republicanism is somehow “the Christian view” of government, we have to challenge those assertions based on the philosophy itself and its origin, which is Nationalism. Nationalism was the very lifeblood of Jacobinism, and of the French Revolution. And though it is cast as “extreme right wing” in current thought, it is actually a very revolutionary and Leftist ideology. Nationalism, too, would have us believe that the people have a right to self rule, self determination, and unalienable rights. Before the French Revolution took the logical turn it did in murdering the King, it changed his title from the King of France to the “King of the French”- an important ideological distinction as it emphasized the Nationalism inherent in liberal revolutionary thinking. The people had a primacy- unalienable rights. The very concepts of a right to self-governance and self determination- those bastions of Americanist thought- the notion of “by the people, for the people”, have their foundation in Enlightenment abstract thought which actively sought the destruction of Christianity and the cessation of the church’s influence on the State.
The United States is not suffering because Leftists are taking over institutions. The nation is collapsing precisely because the principles of its system of governance are predicated on liberal, Leftist ideology- albeit antiquarian at this point. Progressivism, moral decay, the LGBTQ lobby and influence in culture, are all the natural and logical end of what MacAulay falsely hails as “the Christian view”.
The Apostle Paul informs us of the proper role of government in Romans 13:1-7. Nowhere does Paul mention anything about protecting some vague concept of “rights”. In fact, he simply writes that Christians obey their rulers. Romans 13 is, in my opinion, a scathing denunciation of revolution, including the American Revolution. Both the French and American revolutions violated the principles laid out by Paul, and ignored the divine right of their respective Kings to rule and to collect taxes. Paul nowhere suggest that we pay only if we have representation. Nor did Jesus. The New Testament is consistent that we respect the rulers, pay our taxes, and pray for our rulers while giving them the respect their office, ordained of God, affords them.
No unalienable rights, no freedom of speech, and no freedom of religion mentioned whatsoever.
Looking back at the great Christian cultures what we find is that the Modernist concepts of liberty were non-existent before the 18th century. Of course, the 18th century was the century of revolution, Naturalism, rationalism, and all fomented in the halls of Freemasonic Lodges, such as the Grand Orient Lodge of France. It is also the era of the guillotine, and the persecution of Christians en masse. To put it bluntly, it was the era of rebellion against the authority of both the State and the Church. This completely new idea of individual liberty and equality claimed that the Christian faith had completely missed the facts that God granted these to humanity and that the constraints that faith placed on culture must be removed. In the context of the history of libertarian thought, we must be honest regarding what these revolutionaries demanded to be free from- Christian culture itself.
The Church had not missed anything regarding human ability in the form of Free Will. The reality of Free Will, however, does not grant humanity a license to sin, as we have shown. Free Will is an ability that, when properly used, enables us to achieve wonderful things and do good works. It also means humanity is capable of doing things that disrupt order, disfigure beauty, and defy the Word of God. In libertarian thought, Free Will is indeed a license to be free from the constraints of that very Word if one so chooses. What is missed by those who advocate for “unalienable rights” is that Free Will is a blind faculty that must be informed by the Word of God and through the intellect in order for it to even recognize what is healthy and good for the individual and culture.
The human intellect is the faculty of the soul whereby we discover truth- that which conforms to reality. In turn, the intellect informs the will as to the proper objects it should pursue. Free Will also means there can be indifference to the object. What this means is that created things are not necessarily attractive to us, but have a limited attraction. A limited attraction means the intellect can reject it, and therefore acted upon in that manner by the will. For example, if you put a can of cat food in front of a hungry cat, it will move necessarily to the food and eat it regardless of its flavor or smell or appearance. For the cat it is not a free choice, but purely one of survival instinct.
If, however, you place a plate of food before a hungry man, although he would be attracted to it due to hunger, he would still have the ability to perceive that it is a limited good. That is, he could perceive that it smelled bad, or tasted bad, or not cooked well. He would then make an intellectual decision either to put up with the bad tasting, overcooked food purely for the nourishment, or refuse to eat it because of those same things. In other words, even if hungry he can choose not to eat it. The reason humanity is free to choose when it comes to limited goods is that our will and intellect were created to crave unlimited good. And so we can sacrifice the limited for the unlimited. This is why the great martyrs of the faith chose not to offer sacrifice to the Roman emperor or a pagan deity. They understood the limited good (self preservation) was inferior to unlimited good (obedience to God and eternal life).
When we apply these facts to culture and governance they reveal that humanity should indeed be free with regard to those objects or areas that are indifferent, but not free with regard to those areas that are necessary. God’s Law is that which is necessary for the common good of humanity, and thus the proper role of government is not to preserve some mistaken notion of “unalienable rights”, but to constrain the disordered passions of humanity that come forth from Inherited Depravity. This is not at all what we see in American governance. This was, however, the role played by the Christian cultures of the past. In fact, since the destruction of those once great Christian cultures by the abolition of Christian monarchies and the advancement of democratic governance, the common good, the traditional family, morality, ethics, and economics have all suffered terribly and only grow worse as the years go on.
The Christian view MacAulay seems to believe is absolute, is absolutely not so. The concept of “unalienable rights” is fallacious, unbiblical, and has produced very rotten fruits.