|| Previous || Next || Romans 13 || e-mail || V&FT ||

The Powers Behind the Politicians in Romans 13

In a previous paper we saw how three concepts -- power, astrology, and "monotheism" -- combined to buttress the power of the Empire.  Just as Satan transforms himself and his army into angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) to war against God and His angels (Revelation 12:7), so the intellectuals of Empire mutilate the Biblical doctrine of God and the State into a perverse mirror-image of the truth, claiming that Satan and his henchmen are the source of true power and dominion, working through the machinery of pagan kingship.  The war described in the New Testament is that of God and His angels working through the Church of Jesus Christ vs. Satan and his angels working through Babylon. Thus we must ever be striving for the Christian concept of the "separation of Church and State," that is, the separation of life and death (2 Corinthians 6:17; Revelation 18:4).

It remains for us to continue to reconstruct a "Roman's-eye view of Romans 13."  When Paul addressed the Romans concerning the Christian's walk and our relationship to Empire, he knew the Greco-Roman view of the State, and he knew how to challenge it (cf. Acts 17:16ff.).  Having seen the ties of the State to astrology and how the centralization of imperial power was tied to a pagan concept of "monotheism," we now examine the Greco-Roman concept of DaimoneV.

Who (What?) Are They?

What are the beings we call "demons" (daimones, daimoneV)?  Every Christian should take a morning out to read every verse in the New Testament (if not the Bible) which speaks of "angels" or "devils."  Many striking, never-before-known facts will emerge.  Even those scholars who have spent many years studying the subject still discover new things every time they re-study the Scriptures.

The Biblical perspective is, of course, different from that of secular Greco-Roman paganism.  Morrison (The Powers That Be, p. 83) gives us this definition of daimones in non-Christian thought:

Daimon indicated a superhuman, generally divine being, frequently related to man in one way or other as his guardian (genius, comes), as a divine force affecting his destiny directly or indirectly, or even as the "divine part" of a man. In [the Hermetica] the "persecuting daimones" serve a purpose not unlike the wrath of God in Rom. 1.18ff., cf. I Cor. 5.5. (p. 83)

Pagans have often viewed demons as "ghosts" of people who have died. The Greek concept of "heroes" merges with their concept of demons. One can find coins of Roman emperors with long-since dead heroes of military might standing behind them. Rushdoony's analysis of the pagan quest for "power from below" helps us link evolutionism and demonic politics (The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Symposium on Satanism, Winter, 1974).

Self-deception is perhaps the key note of pagan demonism and power; they know in their hearts what God has revealed about true power (service) and false power (autonomous kingship -- Mark 10:42-45), but they resort instead to creature-worship of one kind or another. Satanic forces are held up as the source of "good" and power (Isaiah 5:20), and labeled and re-labeled ("impersonal forces," "Fortune," "the Genius of the Emperor," "natural law,") in order to deny the Creator-creature distinction and to gain power apart from God's Law.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the Christian view of demons, which sees them as members of Satan's army, forces for evil, although ironically exploited by a Sovereign God (who created these demons for His own purposes) for the good of the Kingdom of His Son.

We must remember, then, that while the Bible sees demons as bad, pagan cultures see their work as good, and hope to lock into their power to aid their own prosperity and power.

As in previous papers, we shall rely on Morrison to sum up recent research into the relationship between daimones and the State.

"In the idea of the daimon we see a convergence of the great themes, power, astrology, and monotheism. It is in this conception of the spiritual deputies of the one great [g]od who are entrusted with the government of the world that several particular words gained their meaning: 'principalities, rulers, powers, authorities, thrones, world rulers, dominions, elemental spirits.' It was from their domination that the gnostic, mystery, and magic movements strove to liberate their adherents." (pp. 83-84)

(This, of course, is the origin of conservatism in the modern world. The gnostics claimed a hidden, or special knowledge, much like modern conservatives claim to have intellectual superiority over their ideological opponents and hope to save America by "educating" people by "exposing" the role of hidden forces in international politics. We can contrast the intellectualism of a Russell Kirk with the social activism of his "liberal" opponents. Christianity, because of its association with the powerless and the poor (Matthew 11:19) and its emphasis on activism over "doctrine" (James 2:24; 1:27), appeared as a leftist movement to its establishment opponents in church and State. It opposed gnosticism.)

Morrison concludes his survey of the concept of daimones in the Greco-Roman conception of the State in the Cosmos with these words:

"It is in the Graeco-Roman conception of the daimon (genius, comes) that we see the significance of all the preceding discussion [of power, astrology, and monotheism]. The wide acceptance of this belief as a basic fact of the cosmic order is evident, not only from the variety of literature in which it appears, but from the matter-of-fact character of its use. This is especially important with regard to the early Christian and Jewish writers who, though they, like the philosophers, were forced to refine certain aspects to assure ethical and religious consistency, never doubted the basic correctness of the existence of the daimones or their place in the world order. While Christians and Jews found it necessary to differentiate the 'good daimones' as angels, it is of real significance that the daimon behind the emperor was so basic to the nature of the world and the State as they saw it, that the term was not replaced by another. Of all the applications of the concept of daimones or comites, none was more prominent or more widely accepted than that which had to do with the daimon of the emperor. While Christians could insist that it was the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who appointed the emperor, they did not deny that the emperor was under the guardianship of a daimon, and this belief had no small significance for the Christian problem of 'honoring the emperor' without being involved in a religious recognition. Doubtless the most important factor in differentiating between angels and daimones was the reality of the latter. A.D. Nock has shown clearly that the idea of the daimon was basic to the Graeco-Roman conception of the emperor, but especially that this term was used with a 'fluidity' which is foreign to the modern mind yet thoroughly in keeping with the Graeco-Roman period. This is of utmost importance for any who desire to enter into the communication between Paul and the Romans with regard to the State." (p. 90)

While Morrison is right in pointing out the undeniable presence of spiritual forces in the Roman/Christian view of the State, and correct in pointing out that while the Romans worshipped (reverenced, paid political homage to) these demons, Christians refused to do so, he is as confused and as "syncretistic" as the early church fathers (who lived after the fall of the Old Jewish economy [70 A.D.] in body but not wholly in spirit). It is vital that we explore his statement that "Christian and Jewish writers . . . like the philosophers, were forced to refine certain aspects (of the daimon concept) to assure ethical and religious consistency. . . ." Consistent with what? Paul's words in Romans 13 were too often strapped to the Procrustean Bed of Greco-Roman presuppositions about the goodness or necessity of the Roman Empire.

Pagan Demonology

Morrison begins his account of the syncretistic reformulation of the daimones concept by describing the pagan philosophers who gave academically credentialed garb to the reigning political/social views of the masses:

The philosophers meanwhile found it difficult to reconcile the evil in history with the administration of good daimones (The only kind which a wise god would place in charge). (p. 84)

"By What Standard?" -- The Christian must always be asking this question. Just what was it that the philosophers considered "evil"? The fall of their empire? A trade deficit or jump in unemployment? Undoubtedly they considered imperial set-backs as "evils" and wondered why the daimones permitted them. To avoid this difficulty, Porphyry postulated good and bad daimones:

Besides the good daimones, which preside not only over men but over the seasons, arts, learning, medicine, etc., and which can do no evil, there are the evil daimones which have no official appointment and compensate for it by trying to usurp authority, attract worship to themselves, and degrade the great gods. (p. 84)

For those who still question the thesis, the very argument of Porphyry presupposes the widespread existence of a demonic conception of the State:

Throughout, Porphyry appears to be arguing against a popular and prevailing notion that both good and evil flow from the one set of daimones appointed by the great [g]od. It seems obvious that his thesis is essentially a refinement of a long accepted conception of divine government.

Christian Syncretism

Cornelius Van Til has surveyed the syncretism of the early church (A Christian Theory of Knowledge, chap. IV) and shown that by and large they failed to rightly consider the Creator-creature distinction. As Greco-Roman statism was a denial of God's sovereignty in their own quest to "be as gods" (Genesis 3:5) this meant that the church fathers were often unable to refute the concept of a divine-mediatorial State.

Origen, in his arguments with Celsus, gives an example of this. Morrison says that "In an unsophisticated reliance upon the accepted view of things Celsus is easily involved in the contradiction which later philosophers were interested in correcting; the daimones appear to be authors of both the good and the evil." (p. 85).

There is no contradiction. Christians need not assume that the demonic forces behind the Empire are good. In an evil Empire the demonic forces behind it can at times do no worse than Ludwig von Mises and the secular, conservative economists: use economic principles which rest on the intellectual capital of Wisdom (the Word) to bring (short-term) prosperity to the Empire. When catastrophe besets the Empire, it is not necessarily evil angels which inflict the covenantal judgment of God, it can be God's Host, His angels. It can also be the demons of another empire bringing [short-term] prosperity to that State -- God ordains evil as well as good.

Because the State sees itself as God, its philosophers greet the presence of prosperity and calamity with hopelessly crossed eyes. It attributes good to the daimones of the State, but to whom will it attribute evil? To God and His angels? And destroy the official State illusion of atheism? Not a chance! There is no God, there are no "angels." There are only daimones and especially the genius of the Emperor. That evil still plagues the empire is a contradiction from the hand of an ultimately unknowable god (Acts 17:22-23; see our paper, "Ghostbusters on Mars' Hill"). Everything we've seen so far about the State leads us to conclude it is an evil institution, yet there is in this fact no problem in the temporary prosperity of the empire (cf. also 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Only when the State is assumed to be a God-commanded, lawful institution (either by pagans or, unfortunately, by Christians who have mis-read Romans 13) is there weeping when the State falls (Revelation 18:19).

The statist presuppositions of "national security" are turned upside-down by Christians (2 Kings 21:13; Psalm 146:9; Acts 17:6).

Lest there be any lingering doubt that the Romans held to a demonic concept of the State, Morrison reiterates the fact with reference to Origen's defense:

Considering the unwillingness of Origen to compromise with Celsus or to place any emphasis upon their agreements, the church Father shows a striking dependence upon the ancient view of "world rulers" which the Christian Church inherited to a great extent by way of Judaism's previous adaptation. Origen does not "de-mythologize," but agrees that the rule of the world is "only in consequence of the agency and control of certain beings whom we may call invisible husbandmen and guardians," although he insists that they are not daimones. Rather, he assigns the subordinate guardianship and rule of the earth to angels. (p. 85)

The question will be asked later, Is this compromise required by Scripture? Does the Bible teach that the spiritual forces behind empires are demons or angels? If the former, we may attribute Origen's and Judaism's compromise as an unwillingness to cling only to Scripture and ignore the philosophers of Empire. Morrison writes,

While Judaism looked upon the gods of the nations as the appointed spiritual rulers (folk angels), Paul appears to have preferred a tradition which dissociated Christianity from this more congenial view of paganism (Deut. 32.17; Ps. 106.37; 1 Cor. 10.20). . . . (p. 86)

Note the verses cited by Morrison:

They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear.

Deuteronomy 32:17

They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons
Psalm 106:37

Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
1 Corinthians 10:20

That "tradition" of which Morrison speaks is, clearly, simply the Scriptures.

Even Origen sometimes came closer to approximating this "tradition" when he asserts that,

It is not according to the law of God that any demon has had a share in worldly affairs, but it was by their own lawlessness that they perhaps sought out for themselves places. . . .

Morrison comments,

Yet in this unofficial capacity the daimones are not without a positive usefulness in the rule of God: "demons . . . in the capacity of public executioners receive power at certain times to carry out divine judgments." (p. 86)

The example of Pilate is the obvious example of unmitigated evil being "ordained" by God:

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? {11} Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin.
John 19:10-11

Again, Morrison:

"With regard to civil rulers Origen does not set forth a complete system in refutation of Celsus, but we can observe that the universe is under the guardianship of certain 'invisible agents' and, in his tendency to substitute angels for demons, he proceeds to identify 'the true rulers and generals and ministers' as 'angels of God.' While Celsus earlier identified these officials as rulers 'in the air and upon earth,' Origen avoids making his view of divine government through angels parallel to the familiar daimon conception in every detail. It is of particular significance that he mentions the contemporary view that 'what is called the fortune of the king is a daimon,' and explains that it is basically because daimones are what pagans call 'gods' that Christians cannot swear by the 'fortune' of the emperor. It is this issue which appears to underlie the necessity of Origen's distinction. On the one hand he knows no other cosmological system than the prevailing one, but on the other he must account for the fact that within that world order Christians do not subscribe to its 'logical' implications, e.g., honouring the emperor through the established cult. It was thus the early Christian acceptance of the prevailing cosmology but not pagan religion which demanded a rethinking of the place of daimones in the Cosmos. By replacing them in the world order with angels the cosmology was not altered, ethical confusion vas eliminated, and paganism was shown to be unauthorized." (pp. 86-87)

Morrison to the contrary notwithstanding, in Origen's defense the Biblical cosmology has indeed been altered and ethical confusion has been generated. If the "world rulers" were evil angels, would paganism be "authorized"? Why, then, must the genius of the emperor be altered? Why must the angels of the Empire be good?

The problem lies in the continuing compromise with paganism, which was not limited to philosophy, but included political matters (a fact which might surprise some amillennial readers of Van Til).

The problem lies in believing that God affirmatively desires men to be Gentile kings (Mark 10: 42-45). Origen's faith in the goodness and necessity of the State is Biblically unwarranted. Seeing Romans 13 as a prescription, rather than as God's predestinating decree, leads Origen and those who follow his steps to contradiction and impotence in reconstructing society.

While Origen is firm in the view that rulers are appointed by God, the problem of whether the king is under the guardianship of angels (because of his divine appointment) or under the authority of daimones (because of the evidence of tyranny as well as his place in pagan religion) may account for his not entering at this point into what would necessarily be a detailed argument. (p. 87)

There is no problem; detailed arguments are not necessary. Can Origen produce one Scripture verse in which God commands men to leave their families and a life of service to rule others as an emperor? Then why assume that Empire is good? Why generate a problem in either prosperity or calamity befalling Empire? Why bother to "re-think" the pagan cosmology? Why not simply confront it with Biblical Law and the Biblical view of the demonic State?

In future papers we shall have opportunity to discover the true conflict in Christianity's battle against the emperor-cults, as well as many examples of the Apostles' battle against the pagan State as recorded in the New Testament. It has been our desire in this and previous papers, however, simply to show that Paul and his contemporaries held to a view of the State which extended far beyond the walls of the temple-palace and into the heavens.

The significance of these views . . . lies . . . in the character of the world and State agreed upon by both pagans and Christians. Their differences were almost exclusively theological; the Christian gospel has never been based on a particular cosmology, but was proclaimed as intelligible to the accepted views of its own age. (p. 87)

The Christian Family Overcomes the Babylonian State

Christian "Anarchism" is Our Goal  | |  All Evil is Predestined by God   | |  Pray for a Servant's Understanding  | |  Angels and God's Throne of Government  | |  Stars and Idolatry  | |  Why the State Always Encourages Immorality  | |  Unlucky 13 -- Romans 13, Revelation 13 and Isaiah 13  | |   A Roman's-Eye View of Romans 13  | |  "Principalities and Powers"  | |  Lakes of Fire in "Smoke-Filled Rooms"  | |  Romans 13: The Burden is on the Archists  | |  Taxation, Representation, and the Myth of the State  | |   Why the State is not a "Divine Institution"   | |  Angels and Autarchy  | |  95 Theses Against the State   | |   Here is what a Christian Anarchist looks like after he has joined The Christmas Conspiracy.

Christmas Conspiracy


Vine & Fig Tree

Paradigm Shift


Subscribe to Vine & Fig Tree
Enter your e-mail address:
vft archive
An e-group hosted by eGroups.com

Vine & Fig Tree
12314 Palm Dr. #107
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
[e-mail to V&FT]
[V&FT Home Page]