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Secularism, Humanism, Anti-Family Sex, Hedonism, Autonomy, Totalitarianism, and Mass Death
Blame it on the Westminster Confession

Of the Civil Magistrate
Chapter XXIII

An educational system called "the Trivium" produced some great minds. The second stage of this process, known as the "dialectical," developed critical thinking and logic. "Dialectic" is the clash of two views, from which a better understanding of the truth emerges.

In the late 20th century, it became fashionable to resist dialectical thinking. When an opposing view (especially a traditional view) was set against a well-accepted (trendy) view,  adherents of the modern view would react with emotion rather than reason, and plead for an end to analysis. "I've been offended!" they would say, and accuse the challenger of being "judgmental," or even guilty of a "hate crime." This pre-empted any examination of the truth of the challenged position.

The best way to analyze the "thesis" of the doctrine of the State propounded by the Westminster Confession of Faith is to confront it with a clear "antithesis," and hope that our "synthesis" will be closer to the truth.

Other Vine & Fig Tree WebPages have attempted to do this. We have called for a "paradigm shift" by posting "95 Theses on the State" which directly challenge the prevailing view of the State, inviting public debate. This page looks specifically, line-by-line, at a classic statement of the reigning Christian view of the State, found in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-48), chapter 23.

The basic Thesis of the Westminster Confession is found in the first section of the Chapter:
1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.[a]
[a]. Rom. 13:1-4; I Pet. 2:13-14

The basic Antithesis with which we will confront the Westminster position is "Christian Anarchism."

Christian Anarchist Home Page

The Christian Anarchist's Romans 13 Home Page

It is hoped that the clash of these two ideas will bring both sides to a Synthesis, which will be closer to God's Truth.

God is King

Let us break down the first section of this Chapter:

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good:

The Christian Anarchist believes that God is the only legitimate "Archist." [see sidebar]  We agree with the Westminster Divines: "God [is] the supreme Lord and King of all the world." Our Romans 13 Web Site is based squarely on the Reformation doctrine of Providence.

Only one "archist?" Well, not exactly. Christians believe in The Fifth Commandment, "Honor thy father and mother," the first commandment "with promise" (Ephesians 6:1-3). Our belief that God creates human beings in families makes us defenders of "Patriarchy," which is a family-centered society. The Vine & Fig Tree vision is of Godly families joined in a peaceful society with no need of "State" or "church." Our defense of the Family is technically "patriarchal," while our attack on "archist" institutions is called "anarchist."


What does it mean to say that God . . . hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him? Everything in the universe -- from the greatest Empire to the smallest sub-atomic particle -- has been "ordained" by God. But when it is said that "the State is ordained by God," it means that the State has God's imprimatur; that there ought to be a State, that the State is a good idea; and that "mere" citizens ought to keep a sacerdotal distance from the Great and Powerful Oz..

There are at least two problems with this view of "ordination."

First, God "ordains" evil. Just because something has been "ordained" by God does not mean it is good, or that its existence should be legitimized or perpetuated. At no time did God ever command human beings to form a State, precisely because everything the State does is contrary to God's revealed will. The State is a very, very bad idea.

Second, the word "ordained" in Romans 13 is used elsewhere in Scripture to commend an "anarchic" self-ordination. All Christians are to be kings and priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). The existence of a "special" group of "ordained" kings detracts from the personal responsibility all Christians have.

"Over the people"

This is a vestige of the medieval doctrine of "the divine right of kings." By the end of the 18th century this view had been widely discredited, at least in the United States, which granted sovereignty to "the People" and called the magistrate "the public servant." If we are truly to "submit" to the magistrate, how do we "submit" to one which claims that "the People" are sovereign over the State?

The two prooftexts cited by the Confession for this first section plainly do command us to submit to the State (and all other forms of evil). In 1 Peter 2 slaves are commanded to submit to their masters, even the wicked ones. This does not legitimize either the practices or the existence of wicked slave-holders. Nevertheless, we are called to submit to evil-doers, following in the footsteps of Christ, Who submitted to the greatest evil in the history of the human race: His own execution (1 Peter 2:21). We have discussed this mandate elsewhere.

"The public good"

This language in the Westminster Confession reflects the unBiblical path charted by John Calvin, who abandoned a pure Theonomic view of the State for one based on "natural law" and "public utility." Very few scholars have seen how dangerous this doctrine is.

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto:[b] in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth;[c] so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.[d]
[b]. Gen. 41:39-43; Neh. 12:26; Neh. 13:15-31; Dan. 2:48-49; Prov. 8:15-16; Rom. 13:1-4
[c]. Ps. 2:10-12; I Tim. 2:2; Ps. 82:3-4; II Sam. 23:3; I Pet. 2:13
[d]. Luke 3:14; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 8:9-10; Acts 10:1-2

Can a Christian be a Politician?

The Confession says yes. We have come to a contrary conclusion elsewhere. The defining characteristic of the State is doing those things which are universally recognized to be sinful when performed by non-"ordained" private citizens. The State confiscates wealth when God says not to steal, the State conscripts and enslaves when God says not to kidnap, the State murders whenever the Confession deems it a "just and necessary occasion." (Strong contrary teaching is found elsewhere in the Westminster Standards.)

The prooftext for the propsition that Christians can be magistrates is Prov 8:15-16:

{15} By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
{16} By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

This proves way too much. It is true that all kings and all judges have been given their power by God. Pilate was given power by God to execute the Sinless Son of God (John 19:11). Saddam Hussein does not conduct biological warfare in vain; Communist China does not have missiles pointed at L.A. in vain.

But can a Christian be a communist dictator? Can a Christian be an Assyrian dictator, or participate in Assyrian imperialism? But God says the Assyrian Army, engaged in rape and pillage, was a minister of God's wrath (Isaiah 10:5ff.).

Possibly the most important item of church reform in the 21st century is for Pastors to threaten to excommunicate each and every parishoner who currently works for either the Mafia or the Civil Magistrate and will not resign immediately.

"The wholesome laws of each commonwealth"

This too is reflective of the non-Theonomic thinking charted by John Calvin, which we mentioned above and have discussed elsewhere.

"Just War"

Although there have been (since this Confession was published) hundreds of wars, with hundreds of millions of people killed, and trillions of dollars in property damage, it would be difficult to name a single war in the last 400 years which was "just." If you have a candidate, please mail it to us and it will be discussed here. Here is the analysis we will use.

3. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:[e] yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed.[f] For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.[g]
[e] 2 Chron xxvi.18 with Matt. xviii.17. And Matt. xvi.19.  1 Cor. xii.28,29; Eph. iv.11,12; 1 Cor. iv.1,2; Rom. x.15; Heb. v.4.
[f] Isa. xlix.23; Ps. cxxii.9; Ezra vii.23,25-28; Lev. xxiv.16; Deut. xiii.5,6,12 &c.; 2 Kings xviii.4; [1 Chron. xiii.1. to the 9th verse. 2 Kings xxiv.1. to the 26th verse.] 2 Chron. xxxiv.33; 2 Chron.xv.12,13.
[g] 2 Chron. xix.8-11 [2 Chron. chapters xxix. and xxx.] Matt. ii.4-5

Recent revisions of this section of the Confession have only made things worse, furthering the mythical "separation of church and state." The further church and state are separated, the more pietistic and irrelevant the church becomes, and the more unGodly the State becomes. We must abolish both institutions while returning to the classical concept of "public religion." The dangers which prompted the revision of this section of Confession can only be avoided by the complete abolition of the State, not the privatization of religion.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates,[k] to honour their persons,[l] to pay them tribute or other dues,[m] to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake.[n] Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them:[o] from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted,[p] much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.[q]
[k]. I Tim. 2:1-3
[l]. I Pet. 2:17
[m]. Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6-7
[n]. Rom. 13:5; Titus 3:1
[o]. I Pet. 2:13-16
[p]. Rom. 13:1; Acts 25:9-11; II Pet. 2:1, 10-11; Jude 8-11
[q]. Mark 10:42-44; Matt. 23:8-12; II Tim. 2:24; I Pet. 5:3

The only problem with this section is that it presupposes the moral legitimacy of the State.

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