Should Man Be Governed?

And What is the Role of the Christian Worldview in Politics?

Speech given to the Plano Young Republicans (just north of Dallas, TX) on Wednesday June 27th, 2024.

I want to thank Isaac Laster and the Plano Young Republicans for inviting me to come speak. Despite my silvery hair color, I promise I am not a Boomer. I am firmly GenX, which means I wasn’t parented, I didn’t grow up with a phone, and had real friends with whom I actually spent all day every day. With these friends I foraged for food, baseball cards, and ultimately, truth. It was an existential existence in the 70s. We had Jimmy Carter and Star Wars. 

We thought being nice to the Central Americans by giving them the world’s greatest civil engineering project would keep them there. 

We were wrong. 

We had an old-school space adventure about princesses, pirates, good guys and bad guys, and that had laser-sword carrying, Kurosawaesque Nazirite priest-warriors who were the enforcers of a grand civilization. We thought the sheer cultural force of that would continue a struggling but still-somewhat-existent traditionalist paradise.

We were wrong.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the lesbian-witch Western deconstruction that is Lucasfilm’s “The Acolyte”, but if you haven’t, it is almost drinking game worthy – if you are apt at seeing middle-school-level anti-traditionalist signaling.

But I digress.

Just to gauge the temperature of the room, and if you don’t mind outing yourself as an enemy of the State, how many here are Christians?

Thank you, the stealth drones did get that on video and the death squads are right outside. So…since this is the end, let’s make this a rager!

The question we face today, and that which I want to discuss tonight, is this:

Should man be governed? And what is the Christian’s role in that?

I did not ask “Should mankind be ‘nannied’”. That is something completely different, and has been discussed at length by those who speak of the “Longhouse”. Let’s pour one out for our friend Lomez. No, I ask, “Should man be governed?”

Isn’t that the age-old question? The Bible didn’t consider it a question, but a post-fall fact. Let us consider Genesis 9, and know that I take this as literal truth; but even if you don’t, this IS foundational:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Now, this is the bedrock of Western Civilization, whether you are a Christian or not, for it is the basis of order. Why was this passage needed, and what does it say?

Interestingly, it is organized in a CHIASM. That means it begins and ends with the same idea. What is that idea? That of “being fruitful and multiplying”, and interestingly the chiastic center is “I give you everything.” For now, let’s hold that thought.

What is the prior event that led to God making this covenant with Noah? That’s right, the Flood. Why was there a flood? Well, God wasn’t happy with the people. What led to that displeasure? Adam’s sin. His breaking of the Covenant God made with him. And what was that about? If you remember, Adam, instead of protecting and cherishing the gift of a right companion that God made for him, treated Eve as a kind of science experiment. 

No? Remember, Adam was right there when Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, as he immediately took one as well. Adam, the impression is, was using Eve as his royal taster. Hardly the role for a treasured wife.

So, the whole idea is that man is sinful. That doesn’t mean he is as bad as he possibly could be, but it does mean that, let’s be honest, mankind does exhibit the propensity to be awful. People in and of themselves are flawed. Sin is an idea from archery – of missing the bullseye (they didn’t call it a bullseye back then, just a “mark” you aimed for). We are arrows incapable of flying perfectly straight.

But, back to the passage, this chiastic message of the institution of government:

We are to fill the earth, so much as it can hold – and it can hold a LOT – with people. Yet, what happens when people start rubbing shoulders with other people as this filling occurs? Does the propensity to sin go up or down. Hint: just remember your last experience on 635 during rush hour.

So, people are flawed, they are sinful. That sinfulness increases with population and population density. What is the solution? God says to Noah:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

Who is the second “man” in this? This second “man” is the instituted state. Man must be governed. The Apostle Paul expounds on this reality in his letter to the church in Rome:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities… For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  

Now, for my libertarian friends in the audience, let me encourage you to take a deep breath. I was once a libertarian, though when I was walking the halls of Mises, Hayek dinosaurs roamed the earth and in reality that movement was much more aligned with paleoconservatism. Ron Paul, for instance, is not an anarcho-capitalist. Hans Herman Hoppe, who wrote the proto-Mencius Moldbug/Curtis Yarvinesque “Democracy: The God that Failed” was the last gasp before those seeking the spread of the freedom paradise that is Mogadishu, took over the helm of Libertarianism.

And this brings us to the paradox of liberty: for man to have freedom, he must be governed. Sinful man isn’t so sinful that he cannot recognize the capable among the throng, or too sinful to occasionally see that something is “wrong”, but is too flawed to be left completely to his own will.

I ask you, have you ever attempted to play a baseball game with no foul lines? Have you played volleyball without a net? The Lord Christ’s own brother James says 

25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

This seeming paradox, that liberty is the fruit of Law, hints at the insights learned in game theory. But you don’t need to be a theoretical math nerd to know that life is hard if you are afraid to leave your home. Freedom to die without purpose is little freedom at all. The aforementioned Mogadishu, clearly a place with no law, is on no one’s vacation list. Yet even there, law abounds…it is just evil law. It is the law of the warlord tyrant.

So there seems to be some principles at work here:

Law brings freedom

Law/Rule is inevitable

You need good law 

So, how do we climb that mountain? How do we get good laws? How do we get laws that maximize good freedom? What is good freedom? Who decides what is “good”?

You need good people. And how do you get them? And, most importantly, how do they become “good”? Back to Paul of Tarsus’ letter to the church in Rome:

Romans 5:7 “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die”

Plato, over 400 years earlier, wrote, “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato also writes in The Republic of his brother Glaucon, who relates a tale about a shepherd who discovered a gold ring that made him invisible when worn. The shepherd, who before finding the ring had been a “righteous” man, used the ring to seduce the king’s wife and ultimately kill the king himself to possess his kingdom. In fact, this man would become equal to the gods by doing what is right in his own eyes. If this sounds to you like Tolkien and Nietzsche had a timewarp love child, you aren’t wrong. Anyway, Glaucon says:

“…he would, and in all other things, conduct himself among mankind as the equal of a god. And in so acting he would do no differently from the other man, but both would pursue the same course. And yet this is a great proof, one might argue, that no one is just of his own will but only from constraint, in the belief that justice is not his personal good, inasmuch as every man, when he supposes himself to have the power to do wrong, does wrong.”

(Republic, 2, 360c)

The basic point in the Republic is that “righteousness” must be produced under compulsion or forced, since no man will be righteous of his own accord. This recognition has tremendous implications for our understanding of the nature and purpose of law. 

Now, you might be wondering why this distinction between “righteousness” and “goodness” has appeared. They are in fact distinct concepts. Righteousness (diakosyne in the Greek) means “covenant keeping”, or keeping your word, your promises and your duties to the Sovereign. Goodness (agathosyne) means a character from God that produces virtue, and a beneficence of care towards others.

We have this issue, then, that righteousness, that which seeks covenant keeping with the sovereign, must be from the outside, what theologians call “alien”. This compulsion in kindergarten form is Law, and in mature form is the Sacrificial King. Both compel, but one is PERSONAL. Law is beneficial, but a WISE RULER is better.

In the Christian understanding, God is holy. He is completely “other”, distinct from His creation and the corruption therein. But He is also “righteous”, in that He keeps His promises. This is why Jesus is called “the righteousness of God”…

Jesus was God the Father’s keeping of His promise to send a salvific Messiah to Israel and the world.

So, anyway, back to the main point, we see that the Righteous Man that produces Righteous Rule, who also has an attitude of agathosune (goodness) towards his people, it is this that brings freedom.

Since we seem to generally lack wise and good rulers, or candidates, some have sought to reintroduce the Mosaic Law, the Torah, to the modern state. This is called  “Theonomic Reconstructionism”. Yet, if we are being honest, the Torah isn’t a complete civil code. There is nothing about water rights, for instance. There is the foundation for a civil code – the type of things we are told that God, and therefore we, should be worried about. We should care about people and their reasonable safety. An example from Torah is that if you build a house with a roof which is accessible, it must have a railing, for instance. Radical libertarians need not apply here, as the market won’t resurrect your child who fell off the roof and broke her neck. The Torah, as Law, is therefore good, but immature and incomplete. Even the Jews who did not convert to Christianity knew this, and expanded upon the Torah and Tanak with Mishnah and Talmud.

In the public square, in the culture of the West, we see that most have rejected a transcendent view of law and goodness for a rationalist/materialist reality. I question if “rationalism” is rationalist, for it seems to rely on irrational and flawed humans to be the final arbiters of what IS, what is TRUE. Marx was not dumb, and had some occasional interesting insights, but his overall view of reality leaves something to be desired and perhaps 100 million dead.

Furthermore, in an attempt to avoid transcendence at all costs, you get “simulation theory” and unseen forces and matter “holding all the universe together”. We have some good news for these people, for that in which they grope for in darkness we have illuminated in the Bible.

Some others have turned to Nietzschean vitalism as the materialist answer to the turn away from the transcendent in the public square. Nietzsche wrote this lament, the ideas of which slowly drove him crazy. This is part of the speech of “The Madman” written in “The Gay Science”:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.

Does this Madman, Nietzsche’s proxy, sound happy? There is a purposeful lack of joy. Let’s be honest, if you kill God, someone’s is going to fill the void. And perhaps this was Nietzsche’s point, that if you kill God, you better be prepared to BE god. And, atheist or not, people always have gods. And, to be even more honest, humans make terrible gods. This obvious fact slowly drove the German insane. 

Long before there was Frederick Nietzsche, the Romans tried making a human a god with their Emperor Cult. After Julius Caesar was assassinated, and a power struggle ensued, Octavian became Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, and the founder of the Roman Empire. He became “Son of God”, and “Pontifex Maximus” – that is, the High Priest. He oversaw the Pax Romana, and was as such the “Prince of Peace”. The announcement of his ascension to the throne was an “Euaggelion”, or what we would call “Gospel”.

These facts have made many uncomfortable. This is unnecessary…as the New Testament writers borrowed all of this language to describe the real Savior, the real High Priest, the real World Emperor. Consider the preamble to the Great Commission, in which Jesus states: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

But as I said, contra Nietzsche, and contra the Romans, humans make terrible gods, that is unless they are sinless and righteous. We know that the Gospels present Jesus as sinless, as the one arrow that was straight (again, this concept of sin comes from archery, and now you know where the idea of someone being a “straight arrow” originates). But was Jesus righteous? Did He keep covenant? Did He keep His promises? Let’s see.

Jesus had his prophet hat on in Matthew 24, where the “Olivet Discourse” speech was given. In Jerusalem, near the magnificent Jewish Temple Herod the Great had built, He makes two major prophecies: that of His own raising from the dead in 3 days in the form of a New Temple, and the utter destruction of Herod’s Temple. Now, the Bible is quite clear about the resurrection bit, and James Cameron’s efforts aside, no one has ever produced a body or a clear narrative disputing it. But what of the Temple? Let’s go back to the Romans.

The Hasmoneans had constructed a fortress near the Dead Sea called “Masada”. This was in the 2nd Century BC. The Romans had appropriated it after the death of Herod the Great in 4BC. In 66AD, a sect of the Jews called the Zealots took control of it, killing the Romans soldiers garrisoned there.

This was what we call in geopolitics a grave miscalculation. As massive revolts followed, the Roman Emperor Nero had had enough, and sent in the Syrian contingent of the Roman army.

The history of what followed is incredibly interesting, but long-story-short, Nero died during this conflict leaving Vespasian as Emperor. He sent his son, Titus, to finish the rebellion. He very much did, in the process completely burning and demolishing the Temple. The Jewish government, and the Temple cultus, fell. In many ways, it was the end of the old world.

So, as the Old Covenant world ended, Jesus’ prophecy came true. He was vindicated, and the colonizing of the world from Heaven by Christianity via apostles, missionaries, and the churches they planted began.

Now, what does all this mean for you the Young Republicans in Plano, nearly two thousand years later?

Well, if you buy all these stories…and they are widely received history with many sources, you see a guy who was righteous (He kept His promises) and was good (he cared for his common man) set up rule. And it has lasted, in all its different expressions, for a long time.

It would make sense that we would follow His example for good government and wise rule. That is, if you want success. And ultimately, He said He followed the will of His Father. He followed. This seems to be the dividing line between the wise rulers of history and those who have tyrannically subjected those they governed. Those who saw their persons as a rule unto themselves versus those who saw themselves as bound to an outside standard. An alien righteousness. Those who discover, and receive law and wisdom versus those who think they can create it. Republicans vs Democrats.

How does this work in real life? We see that in the Bible, and in the world around us, there are three institutions:

  • The Family
  • The State
  • The Church/Religion

And we see that there are three offices within that institutional economy:

  • The Priest
  • The King
  • The Prophet

These are both three-legged stools in which all three must be healthy for civilizational stability. In every situation of societal decline, there is some destabilizing weakness in one or more of the institutions, and in one or more of the offices.

The Church calls one to look outside of himself for the righteous standard. The State holds the evil-doer to account. The family is the basis for grounding in morality and preparing for the future.

Similarly are the three offices: the Priest is the house servant of God, a trusted guide to relationship with the Divine. The King is the one who champions the people and guards their well-being. And the forgotten role is that of the Prophet, the one with eyes to see where history is headed, and who reminds the King (or the State) of its duty and obligations to God and his people.

The relationship of the offices to the institutions is therefore easy: the King is the head of the institutional state. The Priest/Pastor is the head of the Church, that colonizing force of Heaven in the world. And the Father (& mother) is the prophet, the one who through raising children and reminding the King/State by his voice sees into the future and keeps the nation on track.

So, Young Republicans of Plano, your charge is this: form families. Educate your children in the history of the world and in the greatest collection of wisdom ever collected which is the Bible. Remind them that righteousness and virtue do not come from within, but are alien. It comes from outside, for we are bent arrows, unable to fly completely straight. Remind yourselves of these truths daily, and speak to the one who bestowed us with life and every good thing.

And then take your office as Prophet in this holy priesthood, seeing what lies ahead in the lives of your children and their children, preparing a great inheritance for them, a treasure for them. And whisper, or shout as the case may be, into the ear of the King that he must submit to the Lord God, whether he believes in Him or not. For wise rule is never the result of doing what is right in his own eyes.

The original question was this: should man be governed? The answer is yes, for without wise rule there is no righteousness, and there is no freedom. The overriding question given for this talk was, “What is the role for the Christian in politics?” Without the Christian, who is to remind the State, and for that matter the Churches, what is good and evil? Who is to be that prophetic voice necessary for civilization to flourish?

In the Garden, all food was good for food, yet the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was probationally forbidden from humanity in its infancy, its immaturity. In Christ, in the Churches, you have grown up. You are mature. You have been given this by the Spirit leaving the Temple and residing in each of you. You have the capacity for wisdom, the application of this knowledge of what is right, and what is wrong. You have, by the Spirit and the Bible, the Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

But wait…Adam sinned in the Garden…as a “conservative”, once he repented and sought God’s forgiveness, why didn’t he simply return to the Garden? Wasn’t it better there? God would not allow it. He placed an Angel with a flaming sword at the entrance of Eden to guard it. “You CANNOT RETURN.”

God has created time — this strange fourth dimension of reality. Perhaps time is even an aspect of God’s character itself. It is the only thing in science that is measured against itself: time moves at one second per second. It is a reflection of “I am that I am”. And, reflecting the reality of the Angel of Eden, time moves only in one direction, and that is forward. One CANNOT RETURN. 

Therefore, nostalgia, that seemingly conservative yearning to “RETVRN!”, is both immature and impossible. Ronald Reagan, or even better yet, Richard Nixon, will not be reincarnated. The 1950s will never happen again. You don’t get a do-over of the disastrous move by William F. Buckley and National Review in purging the Right from the political elite. Jimmy Carter happened, and the Panama Canal isn’t ours and won’t be. Barack Obama’s purposeful destruction of race relations and gender reality happened. You cannot, as I did growing up, not lock the front door in the city. You cannot leave the keys to the car in the sunshade. Nostalgia kills, even though it seems like a sweet friend. 

Regarding this nostalgic impulse, my friend Charles Haywood recently wrote:

Instead of taking the easy path, that of bathing in nostalgia, in wanting to go back to the past, however, we should remember that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and choose to instead take the narrow path of struggle and sacrifice, not only in our spiritual lives but in our political lives.

“You cannot force primitivism. By definition this means the future will not be like the past, and in a bright, if very different, future — nostalgia will once again be relegated to a niche taste.

At least, that should be our goal. We cannot go back, the way is shut. It is easy to see why nostalgia is attractive, and why many conservatives today fall into its warm embrace.

The past, even in living memory, was so much better than today, on every axis. It seems obvious that if one finds oneself far down the wrong path, beset by terrors, the logical response is to reverse course. But nostalgia enervates, it prevents action, it fosters pacifism that leads to destruction.

There is no return. All that can be done is first destroy our enemies utterly, and then build a new thing, find both the wisdom of the past and the needs and limitations of the present.

This raises a difficult and uncomfortable point: are there domestic enemies? Didn’t liberal democracy promise to destroy enmity and make all our opponents simply debate sparring partners? Didn’t Jesus Himself say to love one’s enemies? Indeed, He did.

However, let’s quickly look at Jesus’s ethic of enmity. The word Jesus uses for “enemy” is exthros. This is the person you have a personal beef with. He did not use polemios, which is a public enemy. This makes complete sense when you consider the difference, and harmonizes with Jesus’ actions in the New Testament.

Everyone who opposed Jesus either implicitly or explicitly, who Jesus interacted with personally was treated with kindness, patience, and love. However, the public enemies of God and Christ’s purposes were dealt with for the purpose of rhetorical destruction. Paul follows the same practice…think of his interactions with the Apostle Peter in Galatians. “I opposed him to his face” when he publicly went against the great council’s decisions in Acts 15. Think of Paul’s response to the Judaizers, who were tasking gentile Christians with going back to ceremonial Torah; “I wish they would emasculate themselves!” Yet, never do we have an excuse for dehumanization, as it is written “I (this is God speaking) do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked”. Ezekiel 33:11

So, in personal interaction, love those whom you encounter. Have patience with the wandering soul. But publicly, be bold. The enemy, the one who seeks the destruction of you and your people, if they are doing so in rebellion to that which is plainly true, is to be opposed at every turn. Do not enable them. Pray for them – again love them if encountered personally — but the public enemy is to be treated as such: an enemy.

Imagine a scenario where you are the manager of a main component of a new software package your company is working on. Eventually, it will be integrated into the suite in which the future of the entire business depends. There are a handful of component managers, all under the Chief Software Designer. The Chief calls a meeting of the component heads.

But imagine you have a problem. The head of the financial module has been stealing your lunch from the programmer kitchen. You are livid at this guy. I mean, these sandwiches you spend your good time making at zero dark thirty are YOURS. The nerve of this guy.

You go to the Chief’s office. “Hey boss, I can’t come to this meeting. Frank has been stealing my lunch. I mean, I am so mad. I hand make these sandwiches. They are bespoke!”

The Chief gazes upon you with blistering incredulity, “Hey, RON. I don’t give a rat’s behind about your personal beef. Go deal with that personally. You are such a wuss. Just talk to Frank. Right now, we have a mission to accomplish here, that all our livelihoods depend on. Keep the big picture in mind.”

Our personal problems with others are to be settled with Christian love, or the greater mission of the Church in fulfilling the Great Commission suffers. And this mission is political. Why? Because people are involved. It is by definition of the “polloi”.

Now, back to our compelling hypothetical: what if it turned out instead that Frank was taking company secrets, a selling them to a competitor…how would the response change? Frank would be an existential enemy, seeking by word and deed you and your compatriot’s destruction. What should you do with Frank? Try to argue with him? Try to “win his heart and mind that what he was doing is wrong” while he’s lighting his cigars with $100 bills?

No, you would figuratively destroy Frank, and then visit him in prison.

Is this right? Prison is part of the state apparatus. Is the state a moral agent? Let’s again consider this from Romans 13:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 

You, if you are baptized and are allied to Christ in faith, are a Royal Priest according to 1 Peter 2:9, to proclaim to the world good and evil. Again, proclaim to the world the wisdom of Christ: that which is good and evil. This is your political calling. How else will the authority in Romans 13, the magistrate, the state, the avenger of wrath, how will they know who the wrongdoer is unless those who know right from wrong inform the state? You — all of you who are baptized, who have professed faith in Jesus as the Christ – you are to be the voice of God in Christ Jesus for the benefit of the whole world, beginning with your friends, your acquaintances, your town, your county, your state, and your nation. Doing so with love personally, and boldness publicly.

This is what drives our attitude in politics. Therefore, be bold. It is your calling.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Ronald Dodson

Ronald Dodson is CEO and Portfolio Manager of Dallas North Capital Partners, a private fund management firm. He also frequently writes on geopolitical developments and global risk. He has worked with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. His interests include the Noahic Covenant gentile believers in the ancient world, continental theology and coaching soccer. He is a deacon in the PCA.

2 thoughts on “Should Man Be Governed?

  1. This is a fantastic speech, one that hits on just about every wayward wind blowing on the right currently. There is a lot of wisdom in it. The right would be a formidable movement if it takes these words into account.

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