Sunday, November 30, 2008

Government - Big vs Little

A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual FMCI conference near Dallas, TX. The theme for the conference was "Reforming The Church Reclaiming The Nation." One of the speakers, Dr. Patty Amsden, gave an excellent, ten-thousand foot view of government from a Biblical/historical perspective. Let me share with you some of the high points that I learned. I would like to expand these thoughts much more but right now I just want to get my thoughts out. Please bear with the lack of depth.

The first government was established when God created man and told him to rule and take dominion of the earth. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" (Genesis 1:27-28) This was self and family government. The smallest and most local type of government.

After the great flood, God reiterated his established government with Noah and his family. Man was to multiply and fill the whole earth (Genesis 9:1-7). God also expanded government by instituting the death penalty for anyone taking the life of another man (Genesis 9:6). Before this, I can only assume men like Cain and Lamech were allowed to live.

Man multiplied on the earth but decided it would be better to centralize in direct contradiction to the plan of God to fill the whole earth. "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:4) This centralization took the focus off of God and looked to man to provide the needs of all. The tower of Babel symbolized the top-down structure that man would try to build rather than follow God's decentralized order.

Later, God made covenant with one man, Abraham. He governed his family under God's covenant and they multiplied. The world around them began to centralize and we can see this clearly in the nation of Egypt. Pharaoh was the ruler of the land and all decisions came down from him. The pyramids are visual examples of this top-down structure.

We can see the affects this system had on the people of Israel even after they had been delivered from Egypt. They were free in the wilderness but when times became hard they wanted to run back to their slavery because at least they had security, safety and three square meals. After all God displayed in delivering them from bondage, the people liked the having a man they could look to to meet their needs rather than God. Even if it meant harsh slavery. They wanted someone else to provide for them rather than finding a way to survive as families under God's direction. While wondering in the wilderness the people set Moses up to hear from God for them when God was trying to speak to them directly (Exodus 20:18-19). They also cried out to Moses when times got hard and they wanted him to provide for them (Exodus 14:11, 17:3).

Later, God set up Judges and the priests for leadership. After a while the people looked at the other nations around and thought it would be better to have a king. Another attempt at centralizing their government. Samuel the prophet warned them about how badly a king would treat them but the people wanted someone would would provide security, safety and three square meals (1 Samuel 8). Now, it must be said that it is God's plan that a king reigns from the family of David. This is not an earthly kingdom only but a heavenly kingdom with Jesus, who is God in the form of man, on the throne.

We can see this pattern again when Jesus was on the earth. Jesus fed the 5000 and then the people wanted to take Jesus and make him king by force (John 6:1-15). Jesus withdrew because he knew that this was not how God intended for Him to rule. The people had become used to relying on man to meet their needs, Pharaoh, Moses, now Rome - they thought Jesus would feed them as well.

Again, after Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples asked if now He was going to restore the kingdom here on earth (Acts 1:6).

Fifteen-hundred years later, the church had once again set itself up with a top-down structure, placing the Pope at the top. Martin Luther got the revelation that salvation was a gift of grace for all and that the scriptures should be available for all individual believers. The Reformation swept the world into a new paradigm of personal devotion to the Lord. Luther's ideas took authority away from man's structure and returned it back to the man's personal relationship with him.

England did not like the Pope having all the power either but all they did was declare the King as the head of the church.

America was founded on the ideals of a decentralized government. Truly unique, starting from small local governments and funneling up to a national government. The republican (form not party) system is set up to stand for the individual through elected representatives. This government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. The constitution is written as an implied-powers document with all power not specifically delegated to the federal government remaining at the state and individual level. It is designed to limit the power of government.

Over time we have gotten away from this limited government and we have allowed the federal government to grow and grow. We have abandoned our individual rights and we want the government take care of us. It usually starts as a good idea and it seems to solve a problem but government has a way of taking more of our liberties then we ever intended.

We see this with government schools. There is a need to collectively help educate our children but now we have abdicated our rights to direct what they are taught. Our schools are not allowed to talk about God or even acknowledge His existence. We are seeing increasing education on issues that are opposed to our own personal values.

Currently our government is trying to solve the problems of the economy, poverty and health care. Socialistic thought is growing the size of our government and asking it to meet our needs. If we just pay a little more taxes we can get government bailouts, welfare and health care. It takes our focus off God and has us look to our government to save us. And we will loose personal freedoms as government comes to the rescue.

Dr. Patty Amsden coined the phrase, "pyramidism," in an effort to try and explain this process of moving from individual, family and local government to having an powerful centralized government. That term helps us picture the structures that men try to set up to remove our need for God. It is one of the most basic rebellions, "I will be like God."

It seems to be a basic principle that the more self-government we exhibit, the less external government we need. As Christians, we need to work toward establishing the law of God on our hearts so that we can break down the need for big government. We need government and God establishes it for our good (Romans 13). We just need to increase God's rule in our lives and do all we can to limit governments power over us.

If you made it this far without falling asleep, thanks for allowing me to spill out my thoughts here.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Would have been better without the apology before and behind :-P