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The Relevance of the Theocracy

The Relevance of the Theocracy: The bearing of Old Testament practices on some modern problems

By Meredith Kline

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(Originally posted at http://www.meredithkline.com/files/articles/Presbyterian-Guardian-February-16-1953.pdf)

More than is generally recognized, the answers to some live questions facing the Christian today depend on a right view of some “dead” Old Testament history. In recent articles, for example, two writers seeking to define the roles of family, church and state, have, in our judgment, erred in so far as they have founded their conclusions on the history of Israel, because both misconstrue the nature of Israel’s Theocracy.

Fresh from their experience of divine deliverance out of Pharaoh’s tyrant hand, Israel at Sinai entered into a covenant with the Lord. This covenant was pursuant of the earlier covenant promises made to Abraham, and in terms of it, the seed of Abraham which had meanwhile multiplied to national proportions was now organized as a nation whose king was the Lord. Directly from Him would Israel receive both Law and Land. It is to this unique arrangement that the name “Theocracy” has been given.

To what shall we compare it? Was it a state-church like the Church of England? Or were it better to call it a church-state? These answers are equally inaccurate. For when we work with the ordinary concept of church and state and family we do not have the materials out of which the Theocracy can be constructed. It is as though we tried to construct a three-dimensional object out of two-dimensional elements. The conjunction of two or three or a thousand depth-less planes will not produce a solid. So no combination of family, church and state can produce the theocracy, for they do not have their being in the same “dimensional” sphere as the Theocracy. They exist in the sphere of common grace; but the Theocracy in the sphere of Consummation. As G. Vos points out: “The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be right measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of God the consummate state of heaven” (Old and New Testament Biblical Theology, 1942, P. 80).

Our illustration of two and three-dimensional things will not take us all the way here. For with these dimensions the difference is simply one of addition. Even when depth is added as a third dimension, length can still be distinguished from breadth and depth as length, and breadth can still be isolated as breadth in the resultant solid. But the difference of the Theocracy and its anti-type, Heaven, from the ordinary institutions is not merely a matter of combination or addition. There is here the appearance of a new species.

For in the kingdom of glory the family cannot be isolated as family distinct from the citizenry of the kingdom. Nor is the sessional record book with its church membership roll something distinguishable from the royal archives with its register of his majesty’s subjects. Nor can it be said, “In this activity the heavenly community function as a family, and in that activity as a state.” But in the “dimension” of common grace it is essential to the nature of family, church and state that they be separately organized and perform separate functions. That is at times difficult for us without access to Urim and Thummin to determine the boundary line of the appointed territory of each institution does not blur this distinction. Since then what is essential to these institutions under common grace vanishes in the Kingdom of the Consummation, the difference must be one of [a] kind. Heaven is a brand new species.

What is true of Heaven is true of its divinely order type, the Theocracy. For though the Theocracy was in the world of common grace, as a type of heaven it transcended its environment and anticipatively shared in the world to come. Whenever we would deal with the theocracy as we behold it in the pages of the Old Testament, we should first listen attentively to the Lord as He speaks to Moses on the Mount: “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). If we do listen we will not try to segment the Theocracy into the usual three discrete institutions. We will not then say: “Here (e.g. in Aaron) is the church, and here (e.g. in Moses or David) is the state, and there the family.” Not even roughly speaking. For all that can be said accurately is, “Here are theocratic priests, here are theocratic kings, here are theocratic prophets and there are the theocratic people from whose ranks all these have come. (Cf. Ex. 28:1; Dt. 17:5; 18:5.) Over all His Old Testament house as the mediator of the covenant stands Moses, the servant of God. And behold, he directs our eyes down the ages to his antitype, Jesus, the Son of God, who is exalted ‘over his house, whose house we are, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorifying of our hope firm to the end (Heb. 3:6).'”

In illustration of the relevance of this thesis to the solution of some current problems of the church, state and family relationships, we turn to the articles mentioned earlier. One of the writers leans heavily on an argument from theocratic arrangements to support his theory that the Christian religion should be officially recognized by the civil government. (Rev. M.R. Mackay, “Is ‘Equality of all religions before the Law’ Scriptural?” Part IV. The Contender. July, 1952.) Having indicated the positive roles played by David and Solomon in the establishment of Israel’s center of worship at Jerusalem, the opposition of various godly kings to Baalism, and similar data, the writer suggests that those who do not accept his view of the relation of church and state are confronted with a dilemma. Their only alternative to capitulating to his position is, he thinks, to contradict the Bible’s approbation of the conduct of David, et al., by judging that these kings transgressed the limits of their authority in interfering in religious affairs.

That the horns of the dilemma are vaporous is evident, for the argument rests on an utterly false equation of the theocratic monarchy with the ordinary state. As observed above, neither church nor state is isolable within the Theocracy. It is therefore impossible to identify one theocratic institution such as the kingship with the ordinary concept of the state. From this it follows that one cannot determine the relationship which should obtain between, e.g., the United States of America and the Christian religion, by a study of the relationship of godly theocratic kings to the worship of the Lord in their day. What we do see in the activity of these theocratic kings is a typical portrayal of the kingly office of the Christ of God, exercised in behalf of His Body, the Church, in a reign which now is and is to come in the glory of the Consummation Kingdom. For that Kingdom will be the anti-type of the theocratic kingdom ruled over by David’s dynasty of old.

To cite another example of the misuse of theocratic history, we turn to an article by the Rev. J. M. Kik in the December, 1952, issue of The Presbyterian Guardian. While it is our opinion that the particular error which will be noted below is part and parcel of a failure throughout his argument to follow the most fundamental exegetical principles of the discipline of Biblical Theology, it is nevertheless by no means the intention of the present article to criticize Mr. Kik’s argument as a whole or to evaluate his theory as such.

The article in question contends, in part, that the Old Testament by precept and example gives to the Church alone the right and duty of training men for the ministry. It offers as proof of this claim: 1. the role of the Levites in the instruction of the people; 2. the training of Samuel by Eli, the high priest; 3. the training of Elisha by the prophet Elijah; 4. the divine calling and instruction of the prophets.

As matters of detail it may be noted that the first item is inaccurate (for with only one partial and inconsequential exception none of the passages offered in evidence has anything to do with the non-priestly Levites). Also item four is irrelevant (as would be the first point even if corrected). Mention may be made, too, of certain features of the calling in the theocratic teaching ministry which seem, irrespective of our main objection, to prevent close enough comparison with the teaching ministry of the new covenant to warrant one’s basing the mode of preparation of the latter on that of the former. Of the two special teaching groups in the theocracy, the priestly and the prophetic, the first calling was hereditary and the second was charismatic. It is obvious that these features would control the agency and mode of preparation, and neither of these features is characteristic of the gospel ministry today.

Our chief criticism again, in terms of the thesis of this article, is that to label the priests and/or the prophets as the church within the Theocracy is unwarranted. The priests were, indeed, the representative-mediators of the congregation in its approach to God, and the prophets declared the Word of the Lord to the congregation. But the king ruled in the congregation, and Israel was that worshiping, serving congregation. All alike who lived in the Theocracy were always engaged in specifically religious, because theocratic, business. God was in the midst of the covenant people and, therefore, all was church, as also all was family and all state – the church of God, the family of God, the Kingdom of God – all in one and one in all, and such was the Theocracy. However, if all is church and all is family and all is state, then nothing is church and nothing is family and nothing is state in the usual sense of those words. Strictly speaking all is Theocracy and nothing but Theocracy.

The one criticism presented here, it need hardly be added, does not by itself invalidate either of the theories used in the illustrations. Our present purpose is only the narrow one of defining the true nature of the Theocracy and so to clear the way that certain problems might be approached on the basis of proper Scriptural evidence. Wide enough, however, is the application of this thesis, for how many pages pro and con regarding the definition of the specific function of the major institutions have been devoted to irrelevant appeals to theocratic practice. The systematic theologian is always obliged to stop, look and listen to the voice of Biblical theology, but that is, perhaps, nowhere more apparent than when he comes in his search for proof texts to the Theocracy.

The Lego Movie: Is Everything Awesome?

The Lego Movie is not your average “kid’s movie.” It is packed with relevant socio-political cultural allusions, relentless in its humor, catchy when you wish it wasn’t (Admit it now – you have sung “everything is awesome” at least once since watching), and what may have caught us all off guard – it was deeply emotional and philosophically robust. Who knew going into a Lego movie would mean being confronted with complex views of time, libertarian freedom, and the nature and purpose of god and man?

Maybe you didn’t catch those, but they were there. **Spoiler alert** While the word “god” was never used, “the man upstairs” immediately stepped into a god-like character, controlling the whole Lego world (a character reserved only for one as morally astute as Will Farrell) from the infinitieth-floor.

Represented as “President Business” in the Lego world, the man upstairs decries the status of the world by saying, “People everywhere are always messing with my stuff. But I have a way to fix that. A way to keep things exactly the way they are supposed to be – permanently.” Gluing Lego pieces into place is, representing a deterministic universe fixed in time and space, the ultimate Lego-world conflict.

Although intuition and cultural context might lead us to suspect a critique of the Christian God, whatever aims the film had at representing the man upstairs this way were foiled by both his deterministic desires and the film’s rejection of a creation from nothing (ex nihilo):

“All the people of the universe were once free to travel and mingle and built whatever they wanted. But president business was confused by all the chaos, so he erected walls between the worlds and became obsessed with order and perfection…”

Liberal trends in the Christian church want to view the Bible as merely one of many ancient near Eastern creation myths by interpreting its narrative to describe a God who merely patterns the chaos of time and space, instead of creating time and space in Genesis 1. This god does not transcend the created world, but only exists within it. Ironically, not only is this unorthodox, it is clearly not the case with Will Farrell’s character, who exists both outside and within, an inconsistency worth a good smile and some armchair reflection on the creator-creature distinction.

The movie is not shy about its inconsistencies. Cloud koo-koo-land appears as the ideal-utopian society, which exists in a heavenly-cloud realm. Princess Uni-kitty describes it:

“‘Here in cloud koo-koo-land there are no rules. There is no government. No babysitters. No bed-times. No frowney-faces. No bushy mustaches. And no negativity of any kind.’

‘You just said the word “no” like a thousand times.’

‘And there’s also no consistency. Any idea is a good idea, except the not happy ones – those you push down deep inside where you’ll never ever ever ever find them.'”

A fascinating glimpse into how the human will is interpreted in the Lego world, the writers show their poker hand here by admitting that there is no way to be consistent in saying that the ideal government is a government that has no government. But why is this “ni dieu, ni maitre” (No Gods, No Masters) such a powerful rallying point in heaven?

The Lego Movie puts forth its highest statement of value in the form of “the prophecy”, which is stated numerous times, but in its essential form is most directly told to Wild Style:

“The prophecy states that you are the special. The embodiment of good. The foiler of evil. The most talented, most brilliant, most important person in the universe.”

Unlike Biblical prophecy, this prophecy is not an infallible revelation of an all-powerful God at all, but is admittedly made up, “because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be.” And this takes on a utilitarian aspect when Emmet asks, “How can I believe I’m the special when I’m not?”, and the answer is “Because the world depends on it.”

This really is a fascinating concept. The creativity of the creature, or the Lego in this case, contains the purposes of the whole world, and recognizing self-value is the key and universal objective.

This is similar to the Christian’s conception of Imago Dei (“Image of God”) with Adam and Eve, who were, as the pinnacle of God’s creation, sent out to actualize their creative powers by subduing the earth in order to reflect, and spread the reflection (i.e., image) of God’s glory. But in the Bible, this creative power comes indirectly; it is mirror-like. Because Adam and Eve are image, their creative power is derivative. Not so in the Lego world!

Because the inhabitants of the Lego cultures are asked to realize they are “the special” by creating anything, or destroying anything, as “ground breakers”, all sense of orientation for what a prophecy might mean by “foiler of evil” is completely lost, since morality, knowledge, and reality are self generating. If Unikitty says only happy ideas are good ones, what if it makes someone “happy” to lie or to murder in the Lego world? What kind of Lego creation is this in which chaos is the highest law? Even the Lego Movie creators are inconsistent in their hate of order since they created an entire movie that is now utterly fixed in its form. But relishing the inconsistency, Emmet’s Lego piece even moves by itself on the table as the power of the creature over the power of god starts to surface. The creation doesn’t need a creator!

It is just at this point that the film’s most stunning emotional arguments are made in the person of the son. In the humorous but profound argument about a “highly sophisticated interlocking brick system”, the father and the son are entirely at odds about their creation. The son does not see an ordered universe, but the father does. Through Emmet, the son makes a case for the chaos creation:

“What I see are people, inspired by each other, and by you. People taking what you made and making something new out of it.”

Through the mediation of the son, the father is reconciled to the world and no longer at odds with his creation.

Sound familiar?

Despite just how closely this narrative resembles a Christ-figure story, it is entirely at odds with a Biblical one. The Lego Movie says the god-figure, “the man upstairs”, is actually the bad guy! And the son’s character teaches us all that the father-creator is flat-out wrong. Except for a failure to see each person as a god-like creator and self governor, no wrong can be done in the Lego world. If sin is defined as “lack of conformity to, or transgression of God’s law”, then sin is actually the highest moral virtue in the Lego world.

But the Biblical God, the God of our world, claims sole right to say what is good and evil, and to order all of creation. Jesus came as fulfillment of prophecy to call men to repentance and faith in the God who made them, as well as to believe in Him as God’s Son so that they could be made right with the Father, and made to be like Him.

But the Lego Movie not your average “kid’s movie!” Instead of bringing sinful man up to heaven through the son, the Lego Movie brings sinful god down to earth through the son. While the movie was one of the most riveting and amusing “kid’s movies”, its religious values and teachings amount for the Christian to cosmic treason.

But who wants to think about all that!? Cue Music!

“Everything is awesome!”

 

The Misnomer of Aronofsky’s “Noah”

Having very much enjoyed some of Darren Aronofsky’s work in filmmaking, especially due to those attributes the Huffington Post mentioned in their review of Noah (“the canted camera angles of ‘Requiem,’ the unfiltered feel of ‘The Wrestler,’ the psychological twilight of ‘Black Swan'”), I was looking forward to sitting down in the theater for this epic.

However, much to my dismay, the versimilitude of the movie was quickly shot by its Biblical infidelity. To this time disagree with the Huffington post, who claimed “Everything you’ve read in the Bible is there. It just fills in the holes with fantasy. So calm down”, I evoke a sigh of relief by noting a few (emphasize “few”) important deviations from the truth (i.e., the Biblical narrative) in an epic countdown:

3. The Earth, Animals, & Dominion

While the film had a quirky yet effective montage (Aronofsky usually very effective with this) of the fall of man, visiting numerous times the eating of the forbidden fruit and Cain’s act of murder, it appears that the extent of the fall of man excludes the earth. For this reason the flood is construed as a portal through which all of mankind would be exterminated and the animals could then live in peace and harmony on a sinless earth (man now extinct).

However, Romans 8:22 makes clear that “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth…”, pain in childbirth being a result of the curse (Gen. 3:16). In fact, it is rather surprising the film missed this since Gen. 5:29 attaches this significance to a name: “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.'”

Noah is seen as one who will reverse the curse of Gen. 3:15 by doing what Adam could not. The command to Adam, then, to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28), applies to Noah, so that a cessation of humanity would be against God’s intent for mankind, thereby making Him capricious. But on the contrary, God blesses Noah and tells him to multiply on the earth after the flood (9:1).

It is notable that the only time God’s command to Adam to subdue the earth is quoted is in the mouth of Tubal-Cain, the arch-enemy of the film. Subduing the earth and movement away from agrarianism is considered evil, but Isaiah 45:18 says, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!)”.

2. Sin & Noah’s Fault

Gen. 6:5,11 says “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.”

It is interesting how the film tries to interpret “man.” Aronofsky’s Noah uses the term to refer to all those outside his family, or household. Surely there is no warrant for this Biblically. And while Aronofsky’s Noah tries to maintain that even himself and his household are under sin, he actually turns out to be in-the-wrong, and is told by numerous characters, especially his wife, that the core of his sons are actually good.

This doesn’t sit well with Gen. 6:5, or scriptures like Ps. 51:5 where David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” The result of the fall, according to scripture, is not a partial depravity, but a thorough corruption. While the hope for Noah is that he would be a new Adam perfectly obeying, even he sins after getting off the ark by getting drunk (especially represented by his nakedness, as with Adam & Eve). The world awaits another savior, one who is morally perfect, who is the Christ to come (the “second Adam”).

But this is not the hope for Aronofsky. The film maintains that men are basically innocent, despite the vast corruption of humanity. This comes out quite a few times, most notably with Ham’s girlfriend, who Ham says is innocent. The twins born are also maintained as innocent (despite Ps. 51:5, quoted above). The physical world is said to be innocent. And yet, Biblically, none of these are innocent (Rom. 3:9-18), so that the only hope for humanity is the mercy of God.

You would think that a movie so focused on judgement would understand mercy, but this is woefully not the case. In fact, Aronofsky’s Noah finally resigns himself to the pressure of his family and conscience, so that God is actually made out to be unjust in wanting to destroy all mankind (noteworthy again is the fact that, Biblically, God doesn’t intend to destroy all of mankind, but preserves Noah and his family). Would God be unjust to do such a thing? He would be if men were innocent, as the film argues, but in fact, there is none innocent (Rom. 3:9-18), so that all deserve judgement and death.

Interestingly enough, Noah is said to be a herald of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), but Aronofsky’s Noah seems to be well set and happy about the destruction of humanity, even killing off quite a few himself. There is no Biblical notion of this. Instead, the idea is that Noah was mocked and derided for his belief in the judgement to come, and the peoples of the earth largely ignored him while continuing in their eating, and drinking, and being merry (Luke 17:26-27) – They were not crowding the ark as soon as the rains came, they were not Tubal-Cain yelling at the heavens for God to reveal Himself, they were well satisfied with their rebellion against the Creator, revelling in their ignorance and evil ways.

1. Revelation – God meets Noah

Is Aronofsky’s Noah a Biblical prophet? While his dreams were rather confusing, it seems they were authoritative, for what he thought would happen actually happened. But it is either that Noah heard clearly from God that all humanity was supposed to be wiped out (including his family), so that Noah actually rebels against God in the end, or it is that God’s revelation to Noah wasn’t clear and Noah actually realizes how wrong he was, which is the film’s implication.

Aside from the fact that the scripture never even gets close to indicating God desired Noah’s family to be wiped out (in fact, all the sons have healthy baby making wives, all who are blessed by God), is the revelation (or message) of God to Noah somehow unclear? In the film, we never hear audibly from God, but Noah either gets a dream or stares blankly at the clouded sky. The silence of God is clearly popular in Aronofsky’s mind.

So when the Bible says, “God said to Noah” (Gen. 6:13), are we to believe God did not actually say to Noah? A friend of mine didn’t want to watch the film, for he thought it would portray God in physical form (a violation of the second commandment of Ex. 20), and the reason he thought that is because God sometimes manifests Himself in physical form. In Gen. 3:8 it is said that Adam and Eve heard his footsteps, and there are many appearances of God physically throughout the Hebrew scriptures (especially as “The Angel of the LORD”).

Couldn’t the Lord have simply spoken audibly from the heavens? Sure, that could be the case, or he may have physically manifested himself, but the point is that God spoke to Noah, as the scriptures say, not gave him general impressions for him to interpret. Even the specific dimensions of the ark are given by God directly (Gen. 6:15), just as the interpretation of the rainbow is given by God (Gen. 9:12-17), so that God’s word is not only authoritative, but it is clear, and it is sufficient.

This is an important point because the whole second half of the film is trying to deal with the tension between Noah’s revelation from God and what they believe to be true about the future, which seems equally unknown to everyone. This is not the case in scripture, for God knows the beginning from the end of things, and never reveals Himself to his people in vain (Is. 55:11), but He says “I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, Aronofsky’s Noah does not appear to be a prophet knowing God’s word, but a mystic sikh who is more in touch with the earth than with a God who infallibly directs all human history. Aronofsky’s Noah gives in to the understanding of sin given by others and makes God out to be capricious, which would drive anyone to get drunk times over.

No, Aronofsky’s Noah is no Noah at all. This story can be added to the pantheon of pagan flood epics, with Gilgamesh and Atrahasis.

For God has said to us:
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Gen. 5:28-29)

The hope for scripture is in one who would save us from the curse, but for Aronofsky the curse doesn’t extend to all the earth – it doesn’t even extend to the whole of humanity, and because of that the Lord is wrong to desire judgement on all men, and equally wrong to think people need judging (or saving!). But Scripture tells us we are in a helpless place, and that the hope was for Noah to save us.

Noah failed to do that very thing, but there is One who has, and His name is Jesus. This same Jesus said a flood and judgement is coming for us (Luke 17:24-18:8), and when it comes, the question is – will you make it through on the ark? This is the same as asking, “will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is the significance of the true Noah, and as far as it is missed, there is no Noah.

Aronofsky’s “Noah” is a misnomer.

Safe Surfing

If you are like me, perhaps the greatest annoyance in web surfing the net is its ads. Often these can be influential, intrusive, and inappropriate (sometimes down right pornographic). I’ve had a number of Christians ask for help in this area, so I hope the tools here will be of good use for the bride of Christ.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Safe surfing really requires a preemptive strike on all the filth one might find. More often then not, this is in the ads. So, if you have Google Chrome, I highly suggest using some of these tools for yourself or your family to cut down on the brash and worldly rubbish floating around out there, or finding the equivalent for another browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, etc.):

1) Improved Youtube – A great way to clear off the segments of YT which may prove unwanted. Also, start using this well and you’ll feel like you took the remote out of YT’s hand.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/youtube-options/bdokagampppgbnjfdlkfpphniapiiifn?hl=en

2) Facebook AdBlock – For the FB frequenter who is sick of seeing personalized ads.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/facebook-adblock/lfpacabphcagfehdgnigmfnbjdampbaa?hl=en-US

3) Adblock Plus – This is the catch all, oil-pan type ad remover. It makes surfing most the web far more comfortable.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/adblock-plus/cfhdojbkjhnklbpkdaibdccddilifddb?hl=en-US

A more top-down approach may be necessary, in which case filtering not at the software level but at the router level is preferable (i.e., Control what all users connecting to the router/local network can access). There are a number of useful services, but here is a free and useful one:

OpenDNS – “controls that protect every Internet-connected device in your home, instantly.”

http://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/parental-controls/opendns-home-vip/?var=1

Take control of your internet experience before it takes control of you.