Some Power and Authority

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We may be stronger than we think
By J. Jeff Toler for Shenandoah Christian Alliance

“When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.” –Declaration of Independence (1776)

“When it comes to defining terms on religious freedom, there is little confusion. Most religious leaders prefer a definition that mirrors the language of the First Amendment: that the government shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. In the 2014 survey of all Christian and non-Christian clergy, over eight in 10 (82%) said that religious liberty is “freedom to practice religion without interference from government.” [“Faith Leadership in a Divided Culture” Barna Group, 2019]

Recently, I was commissioned to produce a video for First Landing: 1607 Project, in which we advance the premise that pastors and church leaders should be among, indeed the first among, those whose voices and influence should be deployed to inspire, inform, educate, and encourage their church and church communities in confronting the collapse of our social and cultural construct in this country. The idea was and is to begin locally, and then, ally with other local communities to continue promoting the real truth about this nation and The Church.

The “surprising” foundation of this premise is that America was indeed established as a Christian nation.

Two reactions invariably emerge from that statement: it’s either wrong on its face, or its assumed that this means America is, or was, some sort of a “Christian theocracy.” Either idea is understandable from a secularist’s point of view, but it’s often Christians who make these assumptions, and we should know better. 

During—and even prior—to the research and development of the video script, I examined the statistics, and concluded that while America’s churches still hold considerable influence in the culture, there is increasing evidence that same influence is diminishing. Remember, these statistics were published months prior to government intervention into the province of the Church. I have to think it’s not any better, and probably worse.

Assuming, as I do, that this Barna report—published prior to the COVID 19 government mandates—could not possibly have considered the mass capitulation to government intervention by the majority of local churches, who followed the diktats, either to the letter, or by using some form of under-the-radar tactics to worship together in some heavily modified manner that would not raise awareness and sound an alarm. We were afraid of what the government would do. 

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This is not meant to make light of the burden on churches and their ministry leadership in those early days. The risks presented were nearly impossible to ignore. But for most Americans, it became apparent within a few weeks that the government was using fear and confusion to the point of belligerence. For the Church, this should have been the suspicion even sooner. We recall pastors like John McArthur, or Rob McCoy, or Jack Hibbs who decided to turn and face the enemy of government overreach. (There were others who fought back, but lacking the fame, prestige, and resources, they lost their freedoms and their churches.) Resisting sooner rather than later, they fought long and hard against an enemy who lacked the courage to take the matter all the way to the highest court in the land. For these few pastors, they knew there was a much higher court they feared more.

2021 was a watershed moment in our nation’s history. It was generated by desperately angry and determined enemies of the Church: heartless ideologues and our own political leaders.

Quoting Aaron Kheriaty (pictured) from his book, “New Abnormal: The Rise of the Biomedical Security State” (2022) “Many of us during the pandemic puzzled over why data and evidence did not seem to put a dent in some people’s convictions about covid or our public policies. Perhaps this was because we had implicit Platonists* (understanding that term broadly) trying to communicate with implicit Marxists (also understood broadly, regardless of whether they had read a word of Marx)… The light of reason could find no purchase with the cunning of reason. The twain could not possibly meet. The very same words carried two entirely different meanings. Is truth something we discover in the world, or is truth what we ourselves create entirely by our will to power? People who disagree on this foundational question cannot engage in a fruitful debate about science or evidence.”

I’m now wary of “the science,” and even more so by “settled science.” I’m also wary of this similar tendency by some church and faith leaders who have adulterated the church and state relationship—particularly Protestant non-mainline churches—by embracing some things not found the Word of God in both their preaching and their polity.

The big problem confronting people in 2020-2021 was the apparent ease with which elected officials—and a lot of unelected bureaucrats as well—assumed an outsized authority over everyone. It was matched only by the level of acquiescence by people in accepting their edicts and diktats. For some old enough to remember, or who were blessed by good, solid upbringing, we would only trust authority as long as we could verify it. One of the first clues to look for is when authorities resort to punitive threats if we dare to question them.

The exceptionalism that has made both American civics and the American church uniquely influential here and abroad has been the rejection of concentrated authority. The ease with which the state overstepped its authority so completely was due to real fear and panic…but more ominously, through two generations of deliberate conditioning. Is The Church courting disaster when it embraces the teleology (the study of ends or purposes) of our politicized culture? 

Gerald R. Thompson, writing in his wonderful treatise, “Five Biblical Principles of Church Government: That You Never Ever in Your Entire Life Heard Preached From a Pulpit,” provide insight into why The Bible was such a magnificent influence on the Founding Fathers. 

The Diffusion Principle of Authority

“1st Principle – God hates concentrations of power. All the authority delegated by Him to mankind is spread out so that ultimately, no one is in charge of everyone else. And this is no less true in the Church than it is in the rest of society.”

All God-given Authority Is Diffuse, Not Concentrated

“The Diffusion Principle of authority is that all God-given authority is diffuse, not concentrated – in other words, spread out among a lot of people – and no one is ultimately in charge of everyone else. This principle has three main sub-points: 1) God delegates authority via His covenants with people (that’s how people get authority in the first place); 2) God hasn’t given any person (or subset of people) more authority than everyone else; and 3) the diffusion of powers is the rule i.e., there are no exceptions.”

Take from all of this what you will, but as for me, I must take the delegated authority God has given very seriously. As I will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, I must through His gifts of discernment and wisdom, speak out clearly yet graciously truth to power.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.