Monday, October 31, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part X, Contrasting the 'Divine Rights of Man' and 'Divine Right of Kings' Systems of Human Government

In the last installment of America IS a Christian Nation, we derived that the Declaration of Independence, as the nation’s charter, is the superior state document of the United States of America. The pursuit of the People’s original ideal intentions as expressed or directly implied in the Declaration is the only legitimate source of primal authority for the American nation's government. The Union of States and its Constitution were founded with and depend upon that source of primal authority.

We also noted that America, and its government are authorized by ideals, statements describing the perfect condition, perfect in the eyes of God. The Constitution is a practical mechanism meant to approximate those ideals in an imperfect world.

There are other nations ostensibly designed to live under certain ideals portrayed as God's Laws.  So America is not unique in that one respect.  These other nations, however, begin with entirely different and even incompatible assumptions regarding what God's Laws actually are.  Let's look at one of these, Great Britain.

Great Britain boasts of a constitution, however that constitution is not simply one document, such as we know the American Constitution.  That constitution is somewhat ethereal.  It is comprised of a series of documents and court cases that date back as far as the Magna Carta.  Because over time, cases may be decided on opposing principles from previous cases, the resulting principles of which derive the 'Common Law,' the supreme law in Great Britain is subject to change, not so much from acts of Parliament, but from acts of the courts.  Because the primary influence on newly decided cases is a certain prevailing standard of the day, the meaning of the British Constitution changes with each newly decided court precedent.  In this manner, popular opinion has a direct role in the meaning of British Supreme Law.  Although it is an imperfect instrument of supreme law, at least in theory, the United States Constitution is founded on authoritative ideals, ostensibly Natural Laws of God, and not prevailing societal opinions. 

But according to the British Supreme Law, the head of the government remains in the person of the monarch, the King or Queen of England. It has to be that way because, according to the supreme law, sovereign authority for Great Britain flows from God, to the monarch, from the monarch to the government, and from the government to the people.  In this manner, the people receive authority from God, but the authority they receive is a mere remnant of the authority first passed from God to the monarch.

But that seems to fly in the face of what we are taught, that Britain is a democracy; that its parliament is elected by the people, the "commoners."  That is true, but only by contract, not by authority directly from God.  By contract with the monarchy does the House of Lords receive authority.   By contract with the House of Lords does the House of Commons receive authority.  And only because the House of Commons allows itself to be elected by the people does Great Britain resemble a democracy.  The House of Commons could change that simply by changing the laws.  THe House of Commons owns sufficient authority to do that.  But the chances are great against it, because if they did, they would likely have a revolution on their hands.  A revolution could change the very nature by which authority is conveyed.  Therefore, popular opinion, and possibly fear of reprisal, keeps Great Britain resembling a democracy, at least to the extent that it does. But to the extent that it resembles a democracy, it does so only out of a series of historical agreements that emerged for various reasons, and at various times, those agreements being between and among the monarchy, the Lordship and the commoners.

Not lost in all of this transfer of authority, however, is that sovereign authority enters the British system of government through the monarchy.   As much as it may seem differently, Great Britain still holds to the 'Divine Right of Kings' model of national government.  That is why the monarch is referred in Great Britain as 'the Sovereign.'  And because of this close relationship, ostensibly with God, the monarch is the actual head of the Church of England. And this is why each succession to the throne is performed under coronation ceremony in Westminster Cathedral, by the second in charge of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

So in Great Britain, sovereign authority flows in the following manner:

God >> Monarch >> Lordship >> Commoners

Authority for government flows in the following manner:

God >> Monarch >> House of Lords >> House of Commons >> Commoners

So it is easy to see who is really at the bottom of the pecking order of authority in Great Britain.  At the very bottom are the people.  Only by contract, and indeed contract entered into through coercion, were any rights to govern ever wrested from the monarchy.  Still, officially, and legally, the British Monarch is more than simply a figurehead.  The British Monarch is still the head of state in Great Britain, receiving authority directly from God, or so the laws express.

But the American Founders understood a different flow of authority, inherent in the Scriptures of the Bible, than are evident in the design of the British Divine Right of Kings model.  Using the scriptures as the basis of their reasoning, the American Founders acted on the self-evident truth that, rather than national sovereign authority flowing from God, to a monarch, on its way to the people, God instead endows that authority directly to each individual.  And with that authority, the people decide whether they will authorize a government to take on certain roles they feel may be necessary.  In this fashion, the American flow of authority might be better understood as the "Divine Rights of Man" model.  The American model of the flow of sovereign authority is thus.

God >> Individuals >> Government

Recognizing that these models for governing are fundamentally incompatible, because the Founders reasoned the authority for their actions in defiance of the king, and did so directly from the same scriptures the king read from, they were able to justify the authority necessary to break the political bonds that connected them with Great Britain, and did so within a jurisdiction in which the King, himself, was bound, the King James Scriptures.

Within those Scriptures, the Founders' view of God's authority to men is inferred from Jesus' sermons, given directly to the people, bypassing local governments, bypassing local religious authorities.  The Apostle John wrote of this flow of authority.  When Judas betrays Jesus, and as a result Jesus is brought before the court of Pontius Pilot, Pilot demands Jesus to cooperation in the proceedings.  When Jesus refuses cooperate, Pilot speaks,

"Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have power [authority] either to free you or to crucify you?" (John 19:10)

To which, Jesus responds,

"You would have no power [authority] over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:11)

Because God's authority to govern one's self extends directly to men, that authority is unaffected by powers assumed by an unelected government.  Unelected by the people, and therefore owning no real authority to govern, Jesus understood that Pilot had no authority over Him. Had Pilot owned authority, it would have been given to him by God above, which it was not.  To crucify Jesus would therefore be the act of a despot, a tyrant, a king, such as King George represented to the American Founders.   And so, according to Jesus Christ, the greater sin than even the crucifixion by Roman government, by men following orders according to man's law, however unauthorized by God, was a voluntary act of betrayal by Judas.  Judas possessed God's authority to utilize his own free will.  But Judas used that authority against God.  Although both are sins, according to Jesus, personal betrayal of God is sin greater than that of crucifying God by the power of a despot.  And therefore, the individual who betrays God is owed the greater punishment.

And so the lesson here is that the two basic models of government, the American "Divine Rights of Man" model, and the British "Divine Right of Kings" model, practiced in their basic forms, are incompatible.  The Founders drew authority from the Scriptures to break from the king's supposed authority.  And they did so by nullifying the king's authority, holding that it was invalid according to the Scriptures.

Interestingly enough, however, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, the both sides decided to peacefully coexist.  Under that treaty's terms, neither side validates the others source of authority; but both sides hold to that their claim that their respective nations are authorized by the "most Holy and Undivided Trinity."

Next in our series, America IS A Christian Nation, we will begin to discover just what it means to be 'one nation under God.'

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I love your charts that show the direct flow of authority, comparing and contrasting our government with that of Britain's. Brilliant!
    So clearly stated, even a liberal (forgive me, Father) can understand it!
    I never made this connection and, if it weren't for your words of wisdom, never would have, Hank.
    Thanks for sharing these pearls among us. . .
    We are all enriched in knowledge and in truth by your words.
    May the Lord continue to richly bless you!

    ReplyDelete

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