Thursday, December 22, 2022

Government or State?

Ryan McMaken and Tho Bishop, in conversation with Derek Dobalian, ask the question: Should Christians Hate the State?  To which many Christians would reply with the first verse of Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.

Of course, a more appropriate Christian reply would be based on the command that we are to love our enemies, but as most of us still haven’t successfully worked through the love God and love our neighbors part, this is much to ask at the moment.  But I digress.

The question raised was about the state, but the apostle Paul writes of governing authorities.  Setting aside the many various understandings of the term “governing” and the different interpretations of the passage in Romans (I have offered mine here and here and here and here), what are we to make of the term “state” and the term “government”?

I offer, and this is well grounded in the history of the Christian West: government is designed to enforce laws that come from a source higher than those governing.  This is true at every level of governance – from civil government down to family government.  This as opposed to a state, which enforces laws of its own making.

The transition can be seen in the outcome of the wars of state-building (wrongly called the wars of religion), and was certainly cemented by the end of the seventeenth century in much of western Europe.

So how does this effect an understanding of Romans 13?  Continuing with the passage:

3 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, 4 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.

Who is to define “good conduct”?  If the ruler is God’s servant for good, on what good basis would God have him rule?  If he is to carry out wrath against the wrongdoer, on what basis is wrongdoing understood?

In other words, does God allow the ruler to develop his own rules, to define what is good?  Is there any example of this Biblically in any of the history prior to Paul’s writing these words?

We know, from the beginning God gave the law.  God gave judges to judge according to God’s law – not to make law.  The various kings of Israel and Judah were considered as acting against God’s law – if not, how could any of these be described as bad kings (as many of these were)?  By definition, every king would be a just king if he is free to make decrees and then acts according to these decrees.

So, a proper governing authority governs according to good law which has come from God (I suggest natural law ethics captures this law).  A state is a governing authority that has usurped God’s authority in making the law.

But I am still not yet to the point of answering the question posed by Tho and Ryan.

Doug Wilson offers a blog post: Trump, NFTs, Fremdschämen, and More.  First, a brief explanation of the title, from Wilson:

·         Trump, well, you know that one.

·         NFTs stands for “Non-Fungible Tokens,” which is a cryptographic asset embedded in a block chain…

·         Fremdschämen is a German word for the embarrassment you feel for someone else who really ought to be embarrassed for himself, but somehow mysteriously isn’t.

Apparently, Trump has sold superhero digital images of himself…and these sold out.  There is plenty of embarrassment to go around here.  But this is a sideline to my focus. 

Wilson offers: “…lawless nations are in need of a Legislator.”

I suggest all nations are in need of a (capital “L,” as Wilson puts it) “Legislator.”  But if they don’t lean on the capital L type, then they become state-run nations.  Once they become state-run nations, by definition they are lawless.

We have thought, in our impudent folly, that we were capable of defining and maintaining a moral and just society without reference to God.

Just as it was folly to believe we could live in liberty without reference to God.  (In the endnotes to the Mises podcast, a reference is made to a talk precisely on this topic; text & video.)

But it goes beyond maintaining a moral and just society supportive of liberty.  To live without reference to God (call it, again, outside of natural law ethics), life become nihilistic – meaningless.  We have no purpose, hence can have no meaning:

We have thought that we could generate a purpose for life from within our own immanent frame of reference. We have thought that we could just stand in the laundry basket and carry ourselves upstairs.

I have explored this in the second book identified on this page. 

All law reflects the character of the lawgiver. If God is the lawgiver, He is immutable and He is good. The laws that are based on His nature and character are therefore among the permanent things. Laws based on His character would themselves be unchanging, and they would be good.

And this is precisely the basis for which Romans 13 must be understood.  Authorities rule based on good laws, and good laws come from outside of and above the authorities.  Call it God, call it natural law (of which, God is the author).

In God’s system of government (as described in Romans 13), the governing authorities ruled according to laws established by God.  We do not have such a government today.  Today we have a state – governors that make the laws which they then adjudicate.  They have usurped God’s authority.


So, to answer the question: yes, Christians must hate the state. 

OK.  If you are well on the path of loving your enemies, then don’t hate the state.  But just know that the state is working against God and working against you.  In other words, the state hates you and it hates God.


More from Wilson, who writes very well.  first, he writes of those who find civil life in America as good and proper:

Imagine not being tired of endless wars, not being able to see the tens of millions of babies slaughtered, not being repulsed and disgusted with drag queen story hours, not being outraged by double mastectomies performed on healthy girls, not being exhausted by the realization that when you go into Arby’s and stare at the menu board you are confronted with nothing but racist options, not being able to understand anything Rand Paul says about the federal debt, and not being able to comprehend that same sex mirage is the codification of something that is loathsome to God.

Imagine not being able to understand that for millions of sane people, another Trump administration would be an upgrade.

His point isn’t that Trump is a superhero savior; his point is nothing more than this: Trump is an upgrade.

In short, imagine turning America into the kind of country that God hates, and then being proud of yourself.

Every June…but…oh, never mind.

There are a host of sins and crimes that we have committed, each one a branch laden down with rancid fruit. There is the abortion branch. There is sexual revolution branch. There is the feminism branch. There is the pornography branch. There is the nation-building branch. There is fiat money branch. There is the endless wars branch.

Wilson has in the past spoken favorably of libertarian political philosophy and Austrian Economics.  It often comes through implicitly in his writing, and sometimes explicitly.


  1. I listened to the podcast you reference. You answered their question more thoroughly than they did, since they didn't answer it at all. I agree. Christians should hate the state, because it does declare evil what is good and good what is evil. The US regime and many other in the world are illegitimate in the eyes of God and should be in the eyes staring at the pastor from the pews every Sunday morning.

    The caution is twofold. First, the line between god and evil is drawn across every human heart. Christians must reflect on our own sin and repent, not just the sins we see outside our homes. Second, we can hate the state and show love to humans working for the state. That doesn't mean we excuse their sin. It means we tell them about Jesus. It means we tell them to repent. It means that if they don't ultimately they must be judged, on earth if possible.

    1. I agree, but I would go further. We tell them about Jesus and tell them to repent, BUT refuse to cooperate with and support them if they don't. We must make it very plain that they will be traveling alone unless they change.

      This is where the rubber meets the road and many, many Christians today are unwilling to draw that line in the sand. It is easier, more convenient, and less risky to just do as instructed by those who rule.

    2. True. I even like the idea of covenant communities. It could include non-Christians but within you would have to agree to certain behavior and to prohibit certain behavior. Part of the purpose would be to keep authorities out who try to enforce the regime's plan.

  2. The Psalmist wrote (139, KJB:21-22), "Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee............I hate therm with a perfect hatred." One Russian Orthodox monk (don't ask me which) stipulated, rightly, that it is a duty to hate God's enemies (not, of course, our personal foe: the inimicus). What we are to hate is not the person but what that individual is doing: his role. And the State is a collection of (evil) roles, not a person.
    Anyhow, tis the season to be jolly!
    Merry Christmas and peace, Mr. Bionic, sir, to you and all our friends on this site! And, again, thanks!

  3. Thank you Bionic. Romans 13 is what governments SHOULD BE. To submit to all corrupt state systems is totally unbiblical. Douglas Wilson is one of the very few great Christian pastors today. Thank you for referencing his writing. He has been deeply influenced by the writing of R. J. Rushdoony. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you, AB. I explore this idea that the apostle Paul is writing to governments, and not to the Christian subject, in the Romans 13 passage in this post:

    2. I believe it is much simpler .Given the time he was writing in, he was advocating obedience to the Roman State.
      It seems to require mental gymnastics to justify and attempt to validate pretty much everything he wrote.
      Christians have One High Priest, Paulians try to juggle two.

    3. Yes. He obeyed them even unto imprisonment, beatings, and martyrdom. Not very obedient if you ask me.