God is an Anarchist
Family, Church, and Government
Written by Darrell Anderson.
I’ve heard and read numerous times that God has “provided” mankind three institutions: Family, Church, and Government. Did God provide or ordain these social foundations or are they only the product of human free will and invention?
Reading Biblical stories from a property rights perspective reveals that those authors affirmed the concept of free will. The story of Cain and Abel is typical. In that story God could have easily stopped Cain, but instead chose to honor Cain’s free will. Likewise, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose to trespass against God’s property. God could have posted at that tree the meanest junk yard dog ever created and could have avoided the entire episode, but instead chose to honor free will.
Many people look at the Genesis story as evidence that God created the institution of family. Perhaps not. After all, Adam was free to reject Eve. Furthermore, in that story notice Adam is the individual doing all the talking. Adam is the one who declares why a man will leave his father and mother. God’s silence could be interpreted as affirming Adam’s declaration, but if God truly honors free will then nobody can be certain. Furthermore, the Hebrew word õishshah is probably more correctly translated woman rather than wife; and such a translation would be consistent with Hebraic customs of treating women as property. If so, then Adam’s declaration was not necessarily about “family.” Regardless, that specific story discloses that the God of the Bible made no declarations about families, and only Adam made such declarations.
What about God providing the institution of the church? The Greek word ekklesia means body, gathering or assembly. Thus, all people who profess a belief in God are part of that body. Human laws are based upon one primary principle — do not trespass. Arguably, the entire Jewish and Christian creed can be summarized into that one principle. Honor that principle and one becomes a part of the body.
Although discussing the previous two “institutions” is not critical, the one declaration that is critical is the claim about government. The two straightforward examples of the Garden of Eden and Cain and Abel, demonstrate that the God of the Bible is serious about allowing humans the freedom to exercise free will. With respect to human action, the fundamental law of not trespassing is as simple a principle as any individual could hope to find or learn. Where does the justification for statism — a centralized civil government — arise? Within the Bible I find no support.
The Biblical story in 1 Samuel 8 is frightening to any individual who pays attention. Essentially, the Hebrews wanted a human king to rule them. Such thinking appalled Samuel. Samuel argued that no human (or group of humans) has standing to rule others, or to appoint somebody to rule others. All people are free and self-governing.
Furthermore, although the Mosaic Law allowed for a human king (Deuteronomy 17), such an ordinance was not the original game plan. The Mosaic concept of a human king was limited. The idea was to help maintain societal order, not to expand the king’s wealth or to create a centralized political system. The king was to rule with the Mosaic Law at his side. In other words, a king was expected to be a moral leader and grand adjudicator and not much more. Anything more was considered idolatry, a violation of the Mosaic First and Second Commandments.
According to the Biblical text, the great offense committed by the Hebrews in requesting a king was not that they thought they needed a king to help maintain societal order, but only because they wanted to be like other people. Rather than be a free and self-governing people the Hebrews instead had visions of national greatness and triumph. They were not content with living a quiet and peaceable life. Thus, according to the story, that was their idolatry — they wanted to be like God.
How does a reader know this? The text describes that God instructed Samuel not to be angry, that the Hebrews had not rejected Samuel but had rejected God.
In that story God instructed Samuel to appoint Saul as king. The text describes Saul as a tall man standing head and shoulders above all other people. The Hebrews cheered their new king who was a fine physical specimen. The Biblical texts later reveal that God declared that humans tend to judge people by outer appearances rather than inner.
Thus, for the first time in the Bible, God acknowledges a centralized system of government — a political state. However, that regime failed. As God predicted, Saul eventually got too big for his britches, and he finally fell in battle.
Notice that although there were skirmishes recorded in the book of Judges, the time span indicates a time of overall peace. Yet, within a short time of establishing a centralized political system of government, the Hebrews were at war. Political power tends to corrupt, and absolute political power corrupts absolutely.
For those unfamiliar with the story sequel, God then appointed David as Saul’s successor. David too was flawed, although the text declares that David was a man with a heart for God. A significant difference was that David usually was willing to admit his trespasses, whereas Saul was not. Nonetheless, the predictions of Samuel came true and the Hebrews basically became slaves to the king. By the time David’s son Solomon died, the Hebrews were internally at war with one another and oppressed by the statist system. The Hebrew society collapsed and required only a handful of decades to flounder.
The Biblical stories declare that although God appointed Saul and David as kings, the appointments were because the Hebrews demanded a human king, not because God ordained such rule. Those same Biblical accounts never again mention that God appointed another human to rule other humans. Other humans always made those subsequent choices — usually by war, plotting, usurpation and assassination. The stories also show that no Hebrew king completely obeyed the boundaries provided by the Mosaic Law. Thus, those stories provide further evidence that the Hebrew God never legitimized any centralized system of government.
In short, the Biblical stories show that God has never been the prime mover to legitimize any central government. Yet, according to the traditional Biblical teachings, God is always willing to meet humans at their level and not his own. The Hebrews wanted a king, God warned them of the despotic results, but the Hebrews remained a stiff-necked people and demanded a king. So God appointed them a king. He honored their free will.
There can be no doubt that humans cooperating together voluntarily will improve the well being of all individuals. Humans are not well adapted to self-sufficiency. However, the philosophy of statism operates upon principles of force and coercion and the threat of violence. That concept contradicts what these particular Biblical stories teach. Samuel’s warnings foresaw the despotic results of having humans rule other humans.
The Biblical stories declare that God wants each individual to be self-responsible and self-governing. This was the first lesson taught in the Garden of Eden. Such conduct requires a healthy and complete respect for property boundaries. The philosophy of statism always violates those boundaries.
Thus, to preach that the Bible teaches God provided or created the institution of government is a falsehood. Naturally, statists and proponents of churchianity would prefer believers to embrace such nonsense.
Rejecting this nonsense does not mean bloody revolution. Although the people within the statist system strive to deprive people of their rightful property, every individual should nonetheless seek to live quiet and peaceable lives. In other words, each individual should ignore statists to the best of his or her ability, not resist. The stories about Jesus of Nazareth provide examples for learning how to live such a life.
The Biblical stories reveal that the only “ordained” system of government is self-government. No human has standing to rule other humans; and there is no Biblical text to support such a claim. God is an anarchist.
Next: Self-interest or Greed?