The author of this thesis is the founder of a non-profit publishing organization called Vine & Fig Tree. The name comes from Micah's prophecy of a day when men "beat their swords into plowshares" and live safely under their "vine & fig tree" (Micah 4:1-7). Vine & Fig Tree currently maintains an Internet presence of nearly 1,000 web pages. This thesis is a small fraction of the effort being advanced to make Micah's prophecy a reality in our day.
The idea that Micah's prophecy can even become a reality in our day is a controversial concept among those who believe that the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy has been postponed until after a future second advent of Christ. But the timing of the fulfillment of Micah's prophecy is not nearly as controversial as the content of the prophecy (under the "Vine & Fig Tree" interpretation). It is our contention that the beating of swords into plowshares represents a Biblical pacifism which logically leads to the abolition of "the State" and of the entire concept of "civil government."
It is thus our belief that God's Law prohibits the formation and maintenance of "the government." If politicians were to obey God's Law, they would disestablish their political systems, leave the capitol and go home to put God's Law into practice in their own lives, and encourage voluntary compliance to God's Law in the lives of their neighbors, including other unresigned politicians.
It is the goal of Vine & Fig Tree to set in motion a chain reaction of such political abdications, until nobody is left running "the State."
One step toward this goal is removing intellectual obstacles to radical change, such as apparently pro-state Bible passages that are used as excuses for continued acts of "government."
One such obstacle is an idea that historically originated in the Calvinist concept of "the depravity of man." This obstacle causes us to react in horror at the idea of abolishing "the government," for fear that the next day everyone would go out and use drugs, hire prostitutes, rob banks, and kill their neighbors (although doubtless the reader of this Thesis believes he would be an exception to this universal disintegration of morals). "The State," it is believed, holds society together, and prevents a collapse into "anarchy."
But a more widely-held objection to the idea of abolishing "the State" comes from Romans 13:1-7.
In that passage, Paul says the State is "ordained by God." "Ordained" here is understood to mean "approved," "required," or "set in place with God's ethical approbation." Only those with strong libertarian tendencies, such as the Anabaptists, see "ordained" as meaning "set in place" providentially, but not approved of ethically.
Our view is that God "ordains" (predestines) members of "the State" to violate His Commandments, but that God commands all men not to form or maintain "the State." Judas was "ordained" to betray Christ, without his betrayal of Christ being ethically approved by God. Assyria inflicted horrifying evil on Israel as part of God's judgment, but not as an ethically normative thing for any human beings to do. God "ordains" Evil.
In relying on a Bible passage for support for one's personal conduct, one usually relies on a celebrated commentator's exegesis of this passage. When a politician cites Romans 13 as a reason why he feels justified in continuing to commit political acts, he is usually resting on a renowned commentator. Part of our strategy of removing obstacles to political abdication is to critique the most popular commentators on the most popularly-used passages.
This thesis focuses on John Calvin's exegesis of Romans 13:1-7, set in its context of Romans 12:17 - 13:10. We show first that Calvin admits that Romans 12:17-21 reflects the ethical norms of Christ. Careful consideration of all that Calvin says on this and related passages would lead any Christian to pacifism and to anarchism. But in Romans 13:1-7, Calvin approves of the institutionalization of disobedience to Romans 12:17-21. The State is given permission to violate the ethical norms of Christ with impunity. Citizens who wish to evade the commands of Christ can "vote" for politicians to take vengeance for them. So anxious is Calvin to buttress the legitimacy of the State that he misses a chance for effective analysis of God's Law in Romans 13:8-10.
Analysis of Calvin's comments on these and related passages may be of help in breaking out of the older statist paradigm and encouraging dedication to implementing Micah's "Vine & Fig Tree" prophecy in our day.