Theocracy: Greek theokratia; theos “God” + kratos “rule” = “the rule of God.”
In every nation there are different types of government such as republics, democracies, dictatorships, monarchies, etc. The structure of the government is based upon who is ultimately in control of that government. The structure of the government depends upon whom the laws derive from and who enforces them. The types of governments that exist are endless and are created either by those who have the most power in a society or those who have the most influence. Unfortunately, power is delegated to those who have the most wealth in many cases. Laws being influenced by the people is not a bad thing unless that influence is one that is not submitted under the authority of the true God.
In our case, Christians would rarely say that our country is operating in a godly manner, and they will say our nation needs to “repent” or “turn back to God.” The first problem with this statement is that it assumes this nation as a whole was at one point submitted to the authority of God. We may have seen some glimpses of this, but we have not seen Christ truly exalted over this nation. The other issue with such statements is that these same Christians who are claiming our nation is wicked based upon not only the immorality of criminals who break the laws of the land, but also due to the corruption of legislations and judicial rulings, many times have no answer as to what exactly the nation is to turn to in terms of law. You cannot call a nation to repentance and not be able to point them in the right direction. If we say we are pointing them to Christ (which we should), how then shall we live?
How is a nation under the influence of people who are submitted to the Lordship of Christ—in their own personal lives, in their households, and in their Churches—actually supposed to rule? We have avoided thinking through this question critically because we are afraid of offending those who are not Christians in the public square in the name of “freedom of religion,” or we have avoided it due to our own bad theology in regards to our role in this world and the continuity of the Scriptures.
The truth is every nation has a “god.” Even a nation that claims to have “freedom of religion” has adopted some “god” or “gods,” and that nation will rule based upon the supremacy of that “god.”
In some nations, one man or woman will act as that god, such as in some cases Kings, Queens, and Dictators. Some Kings obviously have ruled under the authority of God, but in cases where God’s law is not the standard the laws derive from the King himself. In other nations a certain ethnic group has been their god and in others certain classes.
You cannot separate the laws of a land from their god. In our nation we seem to have many gods. For some secularists of all sorts, the god may be the Constitution, the “law of the land,” “we the people,” “democracy,” nine robed bandits on the Supreme Court, and many other sources. For conservatives and liberals alike, god is ultimately the State: for them whatever the government says goes, and they want to be in control of it. Unfortunately, many Pastors are unwittingly teaching that the State is god as well—by their misinterpretation of Romans 13 and other passages.
Our nation is controlled, or at least highly influenced, by wealthy people and large corporations, yet it portrays that the people by majority rule are in control. In either case, we have elevated man as the object in which we find truth. In the case of the Constitution, we elevate a document as god. As much as many Christians want to find refuge in the Constitution, it falls short of the Lordship of Christ and opens the door for the tyranny we see today. How is it though, that those who support the Constitution as a biblically inspired document deny that they want a theocracy?
Our nation strives to find objective truth and law apart from Christ. This is due to the influence of the Enlightenment. In the quest by unbelieving and skeptical man to free the people from “religious authoritarianism,” however, what changed was not authoritarianism, but the religion. We were taken from a society in which God is God, to one in which man plays god. This is not to say that everything was perfect before this, but to show that escaping religion is impossible. When we look at the laws of a land, the question is not “is this land ruled by religion or not,” but rather “what religion?” The question is not “do they have a god from whom they get their laws,” but “which god?”
No matter which way you look at it, every society bases its laws upon its religion. You cannot have laws without claiming to have a standard of morality, and you cannot have a standard of morality without claiming to have a belief system. The belief system we adopt is our religion. The object of worship of our religion is either the Creator (Yahweh) or the creation (a person, the people collectively, animals, nature, etc). So, no matter the structure (republic, monarchy, democracy, etc) it is still ultimately a theocracy.
We can see this all through Scripture. When God speaks of other nations, the main culprit is the god they follow. Interestingly for Rome, the Emperor Caesar had exalted himself as a god desiring the people to declare “Caesar is Lord.” He was not just wanting them to recognize him as “lord” in the sense of being a ruler or someone simply in authority, but he wanted to be acknowledge as one who was divine. Instead Paul calls Christians to confess that Jesus is Lord in Romans 10:9, which resulted in much persecution. Sadly, before the crucifixion of Christ, Jews cried out to Pilate to take Jesus away to crucify him proclaiming “We have no King but Caesar” (John 19:15). I hear the sentiment of that statement echoing throughout the church today as well.
What is our standard of law?
We must ask ourselves: can man come up with better laws than God? If man has the freedom to create his own laws, how can we measure whether they are righteous or not? If we answer “by God’s word,” then we have to use His laws. We cannot say a law is immoral and then not be able to give an answer as to why it is moral. If we have an answer as to what is moral, it has to be based on objective truth and not how we feel. It all comes down to the question “By what standard?” By what standard are we to make righteous judgments?
Many Christians will quote R. J. Rushdoony, Greg Bahnsen, or Cornelius Van Til when using Presuppositonal Apologetics in evangelizing or debating, but do not apply it to the laws of the land. If they do apply it, they may only apply it in an area that is most important to them, such as abortion, but not consistently across the board. It’s time to get consistent.
Even when people attempt to make laws that appeal to everyone’s personal belief system, it falls short once there is any regulation at all. Once there is any regulation made, a belief system has been declared. This only continues to prove that humanistic thinking is always inconsistent and ultimately cannot please everyone. In this type of thinking there is no objective truth, but nations result to ruling subjectively, elevating the belief of some over others making themselves a god. If one person says that an abortion at 20 weeks is just and another says 21 weeks, which one is right? How do they determine righteousness in regards to that, or any law? When God’s law is not the standard, righteousness is based upon whatever logic man pulls out of thin air.
I believe Christ has authority over all of the nations and that the rulers of nations are to implement God’s laws. I believe people are fearful when they hear the term “theocracy” because of misconceptions of how God’s law would be applied.
I also believe people are fearful of a real responsibility. The current punishments we have in many cases are not corrective and do not promote real responsibility. Ultimately man has a hard heart against the law of God because the law of God represents God himself. Therefore, our priority is always the preaching of the Gospel as we believe it is the power of God unto salvation, which changes the hearts of man, which then would lead the submission of God’s rule in households, then communities, then states, then nations. When we look at the government we can tell what god is dominating that culture. If we look at the United States government we clearly see a nation that has rejected God and a church that has retreated. When Christians say they do not want to be under a “theocracy,” they are actually saying they do not want to be under the rule of the God of the Bible in that nation, but under the rule of another god. When they say they want God’s rule, but refuse to specify an objective standard that comes from his laws in Scripture, they are essentially saying the same thing. We want the God who saves eternally, but we don’t want his Kingdom and rule here. Christians say God is judging our nation because of its lawlessness, but we’re the first ones to say we don’t want his laws.
It’s time to return to the worldview of the Bible. If we believe what we say about God, our nation, and judgment, then let’s also act like we believe what He says about the rule of His son in this earth:
Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising a vain thing? And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
“I will surely tell of the [e]decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psa. 2).