Self-Government, Conscience & True Liberty:
Self-Government Denied and Perverted
by Gerald R. Thompson
Get Government Out Of My Personal Decisions
Does lonang actually provide – anywhere – that civil government, the Church, the family, or in fact anyone has the legal right to prevent people from harming themselves? Seriously. Does it? Where does it say that, or from where can you logically extrapolate that legal rule? I have never seen such a rule, and don’t know anywhere it can be implied or derived consistent with scripture. In fact, I argue, such a rule flies in the face of, and directly contradicts, God’s expectation of individual self-government.
The two questions we must always ask when we wish to remedy a wrong are: 1) whether the thing is actually wrong according to lonang; and 2) whether anyone has authority under lonang to do something about it. As a general rule, everybody wants to answer the first question, and ignore the second. However, the second question is the most important one to God.
I refer to the example of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4), where it was not enough for any potential avenger of Abel to know that Cain wrongfully killed his brother. It was every bit as important to God whether anyone had been authorized to punish murder (because at that point in time, no one had). In reality, the authority question was more important than the murder question, because God promised to avenge Cain sevenfold, not merely eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth, if anyone acted without authority. (Gen. 4:15).
Well, God hasn’t changed. He still cares deeply about who is, and who is not, authorized to enforce His laws. And the reality is that God has not authorized people to punish every kind of evil or wrongful conduct. Some things (some evil behaviors) God has reserved for Himself to deal with. Things like hate, lust and coveting – to which we can add drunkenness, modesty, foul language, wardrobe choices, and many others. Many laws of God have never been humanly enforceable.
Consider the 10th commandment against coveting and the law of tithing. Coveting you can probably guess – due to its nature as an attitude, thought or intention of the heart – is beyond human authority to enforce. But tithing required an overt act, according to a fixed schedule with designated places of compliance. Tithing was not merely a suggested guideline for the ancient Jews, it was a legal requirement. Would it surprise you to know there was no provision in the divine law to either compel compliance, or punish disobedience?
And even though fornicators are worthy of hellfire (Rev. 21:8), there is no provision anywhere in scripture for people to enforce the law of fornication, or to punish offenders. Adultery, incest, lewdness, bestiality and homosexuality – yes. But fornication – no. Weird, huh? Which means that the liberty of self-government is not limited merely to things which are morally indifferent, but also includes behaviors which are morally charged, but which God has reserved for Himself to enforce, not having given anyone the authority to enforce them. We need to pay attention to God’s enforcement limitations.
Let’s agree, or assume arguendo, that fornication is immoral per se, that it is currently a plague in our nation, and it defiles the land for everyone. It’s bad, it’s wrong, and nothing good whatsoever comes from it. Yet, if God has not delegated any enforcement authority to us, then to exercise it is also bad, wrong, and nothing good whatsoever will come from it. God knows the defilement of the land (which leads to economic woes and eventually dispossession from the land) is the remedy. There is, in fact, an enforcement mechanism in place. If you don’t like the enforcement mechanism God has put into place, don’t complain to me – take it up with the Almighty.
You have heard it said (well, I heard it said when I was younger), you can’t legislate morality. You don’t hear this much anymore, because people have forgotten that neither men nor government can punish all wrongs. Some things – indeed, a very great number of things – are merely moral offenses, not legal offenses. Only God can enforce His merely moral laws. People must let people be immoral. No, it’s not a right to be immoral. It’s a restraint on enforcement authority.
Are you catching the irony here? The best self-government is that which is self-restrained. The best civil government is that which is self-restrained (i.e., does not try to do too much). So why are people always pushing for civil government to do more, as a way to combat a lack of self-restraint? Don’t they see it will have the opposite effect? Apparently not.
Slowly, but surely, over my lifetime society has been piling up the rules, mostly in a vain attempt to regulate things God left for people to decide for themselves. God lets people make wrong decisions. He lets people fail. He lets people suffer for the choices they have made. Who are we to think we can do better than God, and keep people from behaving poorly? In essence, to protect people from themselves? When did that become the purpose for civil government?
The job of society is to punish crimes, that is, only those wrongs which constitute crimes according to God’s laws. I know this is a hard thing for many people to accept. Many wrongs are not crimes, and society, especially civil government, can do nothing about merely moral wrongs. And that’s the way God planned it.
So when we come to the matter of the biblical role of civil government, it is very specifically limited to wielding the sword to carry out wrath on a limited class of wrongdoers (Rom. 13:4). Nowhere do the scriptures commend civil government either to: 1) punish evil thoughts; or 2) punish merely moral wrongs which are not also crimes as God defined them. Nor did God ever give civil rulers the power to (re)define crimes as merely any behavior which those in power want to deter. The chief evil of civil government is not that it does too little, but that it seeks to do too much.
More Government Meddling
God’s Courts vs. Man’s Courts
Consider the distinction between God’s court and man’s courts. Look carefully at Mat. 5:21-37, where Jesus gives a number of examples of the distinction between the courts of God and the courts of men. Watch closely, as He compares murder with hate or anger, adultery with lust, divorce with moral adultery, and a legal oath with common swearing. He makes a moral equivalence between these things (hate is as bad as murder to God, lust is as bad as adultery to God, etc.), but He never says people may on that basis enforce or punish anger, lust, or common swearing, etc. No, those things are reserved for God’s judgment alone.
And no, an improper divorce does not automatically make either the husband or the wife guilty of legal or criminal adultery. (Mat. 19:9). Criminal adultery requires a married person to commit a sexual act with someone other than a spouse. And a divorced person by definition is not a married person. Don’t give me this, well, he or she is still married in God’s eyes crap! God may see it as a moral offense, but He does not thereby rewrite or supersede the civil laws regulating marriage. Nor does God hold the spouses for all eternity to an obligation which they have disavowed. (1 Cor. 7:15).
You can probably guess what I think of ecclesiastical annulments – a spurious and damnable heresy if I ever heard one. God didn’t give the Church the authority to enforce His moral laws any more than civil government, nor did He vest the Church with authority to rewrite or supersede the civil laws of a nation. Sure, the Church can preach and teach God’s moral laws, but cannot enforce them. Nor does the Church have any special authority to administer them (especially in the case of an ecclesiastical annulment, whereby a church purports to separate what God has joined together – see, Mat. 19:6).
As far as I can tell, the Church has no role in marriage (if you can find one in scripture, I’d like to see it). When the scripture says, what therefore God has joined together, it does not mean what therefore the Church has joined together. When God joins people, it is the individuals acting of their own accord before God. It isn’t some ceremony (or a sacrament) that people other than the husband and wife perform. When a priest or pastor performs a marriage and says, by the authority vested in me, I challenge anyone to show by scripture that such an authorization ever took place.
The people (in their individual capacities) decide if and when they are married. The law of Moses made it clear that even if divorce was morally wrong, it was nonetheless legally permitted. (Mat. 19:8). And Jesus said He did not come to abolish or change those laws. (Mat. 5:17-19). So when I compare the courts of men with the courts of God, I do not count ecclesiastical courts as among the courts of God. Ecclesiastical courts are courts of men as much as any court of civil government. It’s just one more example of people trying to do what God has reserved to Himself alone.
The civil government has only a very limited role (essentially, of keeping a record of marriages for inheritance, paternity and related issues). I would argue, under lonang both marriage and divorce are determined by the individuals involved (i.e., the spouses). So yes, I believe in the sanctity of common law marriage, because that, too, is an aspect of self-government. It used to be the common law of America. Shame on those states which have abolished it. And shame on those churches which think they have a hand in the matter.
Conventional wisdom assumes that people are basically good, yet they are fundamentally incapable of governing themselves. Whereas the biblical assumption is that people are inherently flawed and sinful, yet nonetheless capable of self-government. Society has everything backwards – as usual.
Mask Mandates and Lockdowns
Nowhere has this governmental attack on individual self-government been made more obvious than during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to slow or stop the spread of the disease, government agencies around the world took unprecedented steps to restrict the movements and activities of people in affected areas. In the U.S., travel restrictions and quarantine periods were imposed on travelers coming into the country – whether foreign citizens or Americans returning home.
Within the various states, people were required by government order to wear face masks, and to socially distance from each other. But that wasn’t the worst part. Travel was restricted – often, people were prohibited from traveling between their own properties (regular and vacation homes). Businesses were closed, or told to operate at only 25% or 50% of capacity, and the hours they could be opened were restricted – and this was for many months.
Two facts stand out as a result: many businesses (and churches, for that matter) could not survive the lockdowns and were closed permanently. Second, none of the mask mandates or lockdowns halted the spread of the disease. The official catch phrase of the White House was to follow the science. They should have followed the law, instead.
For one thing, the science was always changing. Quarantine periods started at 14 days, and only several months later it was found that 10 days were sufficient. Social distancing started out at 6 feet, but later it was announced that 3 feet was enough – but strangely, no one in actual practice ever conformed to the shorter distance. Initial mitigation efforts focused on disinfecting surfaces, but later it was found the disease only spread from person-to-person contact. All outdoor gatherings were prohibited before anyone realized virtually all spreading of the disease happened indoors. And where did the lockdowns and travel restrictions put everyone? Indoors.
And of course, initial death projections were very high – experientially they were very low. Many deaths attributed to the disease were among the elderly who were already dying of something else. And the whole counting of COVID-related deaths became politicized, skewed, and inaccurate. Then there was the whole debacle in a number of states where mitigation practices actually caused far more deaths than they prevented (particularly in nursing homes).
There is an argument to be made for isolating, or quarantining, a population of sick people to keep them separate from healthy people. But never before in the history of the U.S. have healthy people been quarantined to protect’ them from getting sick. Never before have perfectly healthy people been told to wear masks – not to protect them from getting the disease (which would be their own choice), but to prevent them from infecting others even though they weren’t infected.
Then, after several vaccines were developed and widely distributed, people were told they still had to mask up – a tacit admission that in reality the vaccines did not guarantee a person could not either get the disease, or spread it to others. Don’t even get me started on the topic of requiring – coercing – people to get the vaccines. At what point in time did the people of the United States give to their state and federal governments the authority to superintend, monitor, regulate or mandate decisions concerning each individual’s own personal health care? Never.
We generally have a legal standard of presumed innocent until proven guilty. I ask, in all seriousness, is there not also a legal standard under the laws of nature and nature’s God of presumed healthy until proven infected? It is not my job to prove to the government that I am not a health risk – the burden of proof does not lie with me. The burden of proof lies where it always does – with the government. Where is the probable cause to justify treating me as a health risk to others (“wear a mask, don’t stand too close, get vaxed”). It sounds to me like it’s time to assert another one of those God-given rights retained by the people – the right to self-determine my own health care.
The whole assumption of the government during the pandemic has been that every person might pose a risk to others – without any probable cause to support that assumption. The argument is made that a little inconvenience to everyone is worth it in order to potentially save someone else’s life. But the whole argument is based on hypotheticals and speculation. Sure, those things might happen, but they probably won’t, and the ability to trace the source of infection is remote.
On the other hand, the violation of my right to make my own health care decisions is absolute and guaranteed. My rights to conduct a lawful business and to engage in lawful travel are violated for certain – no speculation or hypotheticals are involved. So as between a hypothetical risk based on no information other than the fact I exist, and the absolutely certain violation of my personal rights, on balance the personal rights win every time. “Follow the science” – Bah! Follow the law!
There is a second government assumption, of course – that you and I cannot be trusted to govern our own health care responsibly. The main corollary of which is – government always knows best. Even though the government track record is totally dismal (nothing the government did actually stopped the spread of COVID 19). Even though everyone in the government is just a normal, fallible, mistaken human being no better than anyone else. How long will people stand for this nonsense?
Every Plant Yielding Seed
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen. 1:28-30).
Let’s talk very frankly about an uncomfortable subject, namely, substance abuse. You know what I mean – alcoholic beverages, tobacco use, marijuana, opioids, and the like. But I don’t want to talk about how bad they are, or how dangerous. Let’s cut to the chase – admitting arguendo that such substances are dangerous and bad when abused. I want to focus on one and only one issue: Who has the authority to do anything about substance abuse? (Remember the two questions we need to ask? 1 – is it wrong? 2 – who can do anything about it?)
These substances all have at least three things in common: 1) they all have the effect of numbing the senses, acting as sedatives, or inducing a “high” sensation; 2) they are all highly regulated by both federal and state laws in the U.S.; and 3) each is directly derived from, or is part of, a seed yielding plant. And the last of these is the most important, insofar as enforcement authority is concerned.
Tobacco is a seed-bearing plant, and marijuana is a seed bearing plant. Wine is made from grapes, beer is made from barley, and whiskey is made from various grains – all of which are seed bearing plants. The opium poppy, the source of various narcotics including morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone and many other derivatives, is a seed-bearing plant.
Now, it is a fact – not my opinion, not a myth, not an allegory, not a speculation, not a mere hypothesis – that God gave mankind complete and unrestricted dominion over the seed bearing plants. This dominion is not limited to using seed bearing plants for food (although, obviously, both alcoholic beverages and marijuana are in fact consumed as food).
The point being, dominion over the plants of the earth is not limited to food and beverage purposes. People have an unrestricted dominion to use plants for construction, for gardens, for the care and feeding of animals, and 10,000 other uses. So it frankly doesn’t matter whether tobacco or poppies or marijuana are food or not. We have dominion over them. And this dominion, being given to us by God, is an inalienable right and authority (no civil government that ever has existed or ever will can lawfully deprive anyone of God’s delegation of authority).
A second fact – not my opinion, etc. – is that when God granted dominion authority to mankind, it was given to us in our private capacities (i.e., as individuals and members of families). Which is to say, no civil government then existed at the time of God’s grant, nor did God thereafter submit this private dominion to the jurisdiction of civil rulers. Civil government has no original, inherent or superior right to supervise, superintend, regulate, license, tax or otherwise police the private dominion of individuals over the plants of the earth (whether they are food or not). Period.
To put it as bluntly as I can, civil government (according to the laws of nature and nature’s God) has no legitimate jurisdiction over the private dominion of people with respect to plants. And I mean this as expansively as I possible can. Civil government has no rightful authority to tell me what plants I can or cannot grow, possess, use, or sell to others. By which I mean all plants, whether agricultural, horticultural or any other plants whatsoever, for any purpose whatsoever.
The Usual Objections
Let’s examine the various objections to my line of reasoning – both legal and moral. First up: because of the Fall of mankind (Gen. 3), we lost our dominion over the earth and all of the plants. There is, of course, absolutely no scripture anywhere in the Bible which says that. Can it be fairly implied? No (and I’ve written on this exact point extensively elsewhere), man’s dominion did not get handed over to Satan, nor was it lost. Satan’s dominion, while overlapping geographically, is entirely different (powers and principalities, etc.).
Remember, the dominion granted in Gen. 1:28 is a package deal – along with subduing the earth, mankind has dominion over the fish, birds, animals, and to be fruitful and multiply (i.e., to have children). Do people still have dominion over animals? Yes – livestock, pets, you name it. Same with birds (think chicken) and fish (seafood). No change in dominion there. Do people still have the authority to bear children? Duh. Mankind’s dominion is still in full force and effect.
Did Satan ever have the right to bear children? No. Was Satan ever given dominion over plants, animals, fish and birds? No. Did mankind forfeit (or lose) its dominion as a result of the Fall? No. If that was the case, then why did God repeat the command to be fruitful and multiply after the flood? (Gen. 9:1). And note what else God said after the flood – “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every [animal, bird, creeping thing and fish]. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.” (Gen. 9:2-3a). Sure sounds like dominion to me.
Second up: doesn’t civil government have the right to punish wrongdoers (it does not “bear the sword in vain” – Rom. 13:4). Yes – but that power is limited to matters which God has declared to be wrong. If your argument to me is that civil government is a servant of God to punish people for exercising a God-given authority, then my answer to you is that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. (Mat. 12:25-26). God never gave authority over the same things to separate segments of society, so they could fight each other for control. Plus, God is not the author of confusion. (1 Cor. 14:33). What God gave the private sector (every plant yielding seed), He did not “re-give” to civil government. Nor did God ever give civil government dominion over the earth at all.
Let’s move on to the moral objections. First up: inebriation, drunkenness, and getting high are all specifically prohibited by scripture, are morally wrong, may cause a person to be excluded from heaven, and are otherwise just bad. Let me concede all of the above – because none of that matters as to the authority question. Don’t get me wrong – substances can genuinely be abused, many uses are both incredibly foolish and dangerous, and substance addictions are harmful.
However, we are not here discussing the wisdom of substance abuse. We are here considering who has authority before God to do what. And just because people do harmful, foolish and stupid stuff of their own volition does not thereby deprive them of the authority to do so. We’ve been over this already. God lets people fail, and fail miserably. God evens lets people (gasp!) go to Hell. God never stops people from being foolish or self-destructive. Who are we, as a society, to think we can do what even God does not?
Next up: but if we don’t stop people from substance abuse, they will become a burden to society and will end up costing everyone a lot of time, effort and money. Really? Do you hear yourself talking? God never once said that society in general, or civil government in particular, should take care of people who are (take your choice) harmful to themselves, vulnerable, disadvantaged, marginalized, going through rough times, homeless, etc.
Sure, the Bible in several places admonishes or encourages people to care for the poor and to show charity towards others. But never once does the scripture anywhere indicate that love, charity, or caring for the poor is either a legal duty or a governmental responsibility. The Golden Rule (Mat. 7:12), and other similar scriptures, are never directed to civil rulers or to civil governments. The admonition to love your neighbor as yourself is not a rule of public policy or state action. Such scriptures are directed solely to people in their individual or private capacities. Which makes love and charity matters of personal conscience and discretion.
That our elected representatives have chosen to make such things a public responsibility does not mean God ever intended for us to be put in that situation. We are in a situation of our own making, directly because we have outright decided to ignore God’s limitations on the proper functions of civil government. The obligation of modern society to provide a personal safety net is not one God has imposed. Therefore, don’t expect me to recognize or approve it.
If letting people suffer for their own life choices puts modern society between a rock and a hard place, rest assured the object lesson here is to eliminate the improper functions of the public sector, not to double down and provide an ever expanding social safety net. If self-government is good enough for God, it is good enough for society. And if our society won’t govern itself according to God’s laws, then God has a remedy for that, too. Namely, let the government fail, and then start over. Isn’t that harsh? Yes. But how else will people learn?
So no, I am not advocating for marijuana use. Yes, I am advocating for marijuana legalization. But only because that’s what God’s laws require. If you can show me God’s laws require something else, then (and only then) I’ll change my mind. What anyone thinks is best is irrelevant to God. That settles the matter for me.
I am also, on the same principles, advocating for freedom from all federal land use regulations, the majority portion of state and local land use (i.e., zoning) restrictions, the taxation of mere production, use and transportation of alcoholic beverages, the federal excise tax and regulation of guns, etc. I specifically and vociferously reject the holding of Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942). No really – you should go look that one up. It’s absolutely shocking how much (and for how long) the federal government has waged war against individual self-government, and what ridiculous lengths they were (and are) prepared to go, to stamp it out for the good of society.
In other words, the hypocrisy of the government is palpable, and inexcusable. They treat marijuana as a special plant for political reasons, without once considering that their whole policy regarding plants (that they can tell anyone what plants they can or cannot grow, harvest or sell) is a direct violation of the dominion granted by God to the private sector. Meanwhile, churches on the whole are no better, failing to acknowledge that the Dominion Mandate is a valid and binding legal authorization which all people must obey. Apparently, God wasn’t serious when He said that.
What it all boils down to is this: are you willing to make man’s society in God’s image, or will you tenaciously cling to making society in man’s image of God?
The denial of rightful self-government is not the only way things have gone off track. Increasingly, people are making choices about matters which God never intended to allow for, and instead of curtailing this wantonness, society only encourages it more and more.
Since the laws of nature and the conscience are equally authored by God, they must agree with each other, thus, your conscience can never truly urge you to violate God’s laws. Such urges come from the sin nature, not the conscience. In addition, you can never truly have a right (much less an inalienable right) to violate God’s laws, because God will never contradict Himself by authorizing a violation of His own commands. And since human laws are inferior and subject to God’s laws, so no one can look to human laws to provide a justification for disobeying God’s laws.
So, neither conscience, nor God’s laws, nor human laws, can be claimed as a basis for doing those things which God has not authorized. Therefore, no one has the right (in the name of self-government) to do things which God has not authorized, or which He has forbidden. Such things originate only with our natural corruption, and are worthy of death.
Remember, the essence of self-government is self-restraint, that is, the conformity of both conduct and conscience to the laws of God, or lonang. When all restraint is cast off, and the laws of God are ignored, the result is not better self-government, but a lack of it. And ironically, what is meant to bring increased liberty only brings about more bondage.
The Exaltation of Personal Choice
Fifty years ago, most people had a pretty good idea of what deviance and perversity meant. If you called someone a deviant or a pervert, it was understood to comprehend a range of sexual behaviors including pedophilia, homosexuality, incest, oral sex, sodomy, cross-dressing, and like offenses. Bestiality, of course, would have been considered perverse, if anyone had thought about it 50 years ago (no one did). Same for sex change operations, except for the most part they weren’t yet feasible.
Nowadays, you almost never hear anyone use the words deviance and perversity any more. That’s because today the only wrongful sex is nonconsensual, or deemed to be so because of the involvement of minor children. What God or nature prohibits is no longer the issue. For that matter, few people today use the term moral turpitude (or know what it means), even though not too long ago it was widely understood to include all forms of perversity plus many lesser offenses, such as thievery, cheating, dishonesty and similar behaviors. It used to be that you couldn’t serve in the military or become a lawyer if you were guilty of moral turpitude. Imagine that.
If you look up deviance and perversity in a modern dictionary, chances are pretty high you will see both definitions tied to socially accepted norms. If you try to pin down what norms are acceptable and how they got that way, eventually you will find there are no truly fixed (unchanging, eternal) norms, but only shifting standards society decides to impose from time to time. Which ultimately means all norms are temporary, relative, and if not completely arbitrary, then at least entirely subjective. A different strokes for different folks kind of thing.
Not totally forgotten, but mostly ignored or denied, is the reality that God hasn’t changed His mind about any of these things since creation. No mere passing fad or fancy, God’s laws are fixed, uniform and universal (applying to all times, persons and places). God’s standards of conduct and laws of behavior never change once implemented. And most of the things we are talking about here can be traced back to the creation, by that reason being made a part of the laws of nature.
It’s amazing how many moral deviations can be traced to a fundamental disregard of the fact God created mankind as male and female, and gave them the authority to be fruitful and multiply as a heterosexual couple functioning within marriage as a family unit. The entire LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual) agenda of sexual orientation is one giant rejection of male and female sexuality for each other only. The same is true for gender identity and gender fluidity, which disregard biology (God’s creation) as the definition of gender, and substitute subjective feelings (man’s invention) in its place.
Same-sex marriage and its equally depraved cousins, namely civil unions and domestic partnerships, are a bald-faced effort to redefine marriage and family away from God’s design for marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Polygamy (whether one man with multiple wives, or one woman with multiple husbands) used to be universally scorned. Now, there are reality TV shows about sister wives and other freakish nonsense in the polygamist universe, which only serve to promote social acceptance and legalization of the practice.
If the law of nature were to serve as our example, then the only people legally competent to birth or adopt children would be heterosexual married couples. Permitting an unmarried woman (in the biblical sense) to become impregnated by artificial insemination is an outright rejection of the law of nature requiring a marital union. Same thing for surrogacy, which is simply an unlawful delegation of child-bearing to someone who is not part of the marital union. I make a similar argument regarding the adoption of children by same-sex couples or single persons. Such people have no natural capacity to reproduce (i.e., as a same-sex couple or as a single person) – adoption standards should be tied to the same test.
Let’s get real. God has not authorized people – as mere individuals – to do any of these things. There is no right of conscience, and no law of God, which justifies LGBTQIA lifestyles, subjective gender identification, same-sex marriages, polygamy, etc. There simply isn’t. So the fact that human laws are slowly but inevitably moving towards legitimizing all of these things is not progress. What it is, is rebellion. One giant lack of restraint. A huge failure to conform to the laws of God.
And let’s not forget about abortion. Abortion is, among other things, the unnatural termination of a pregnancy and a life that God has given. In God’s grant of authority to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28; 9:1), there is no express or implied grant to terminate a pregnancy. Nor is there, in the Dominion Mandate, any grant of dominion authority over people, including one’s own person. Neither a male nor a female have dominion over their own body, to treat it as property (like an animal) or to dispose of the fruit of the womb like a piece of meat.
In fact, if you want to get to the nasty truth of the matter, a married woman has no direct authority over her reproductive functions anyway. “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.” (1 Cor. 7:4). If you don’t like it, don’t complain to me. And an unmarried woman has no reproductive authority to begin with. There is no woman’s right to choose.
As discussed above, a woman acting on her own initiative or authority, as the possessor of her body, has no right to bear children all by herself. No woman is capable of reproducing all by herself. Therefore, it is beyond absurd to permit her to decide whether to keep her baby or not as a matter of individual choice. Abortion is not a matter between a woman and her doctor – it isn’t even a matter between a husband and wife – because first someone would have to show that anyone, at anytime, has the God-given authority to terminate a pregnancy. And no one can show that.
So no, none of these things are aspects of lawful self-government. What they are, is a concerted attempt to throw off the laws of God. But God isn’t worried. In fact, He’s having a good laugh about it, because He will have the last word, a word of judgment.
Why do the nations rage? and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Ps. 2:1-4).
The irony is that all of these behaviors are undertaken for the purpose of breaking free from God’s laws (in other words, to bring liberty), but they only lead to bondage.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Pet. 2:17-19).
When it comes to true liberty, God has something else in mind.
The Nature of True Liberty
I have a simple formula for describing and defining justice and liberty
Law = The will of God for all people
Justice = To carry out the will of God
Liberty = Freedom to do the will of God
God’s law then (not human law, obviously) is simply the will of God for all people. We’re not talking about any commands or orders given to particular people (such as, “go here and do that”). Nor are we here interested in the laws of ancient Israel, except to the extent they indicate or confirm a general rule extrapolated from creation. What I’m after, and what the laws of nature and nature’s God are all about, are those universal principles of law laid down by God for all people, places and times.
Justice in the modern world is merely whatever result is spit out by the system for the administration of justice. In other words, as long as you and your legal claims have been processed by the right people according to the rules of the system, the results are irrelevant. Not so with God. His idea of justice is inextricably linked to His will for all people. Any result which complies with His will (i.e., God’s laws) is just, no matter what anyone thinks about it. Any result which contradicts His laws is unjust, no matter what anyone thinks about it. Fairness is irrelevant.
Liberty is the freedom to obey and carry out God’s will. So liberty involves the freedom to do justice (God’s will for all people), but it also allows people the freedom to carry out God’s specific will (such as, “go here and do that”). Especially with respect to those matters springing from the freedom of the mind (education, religion, love, charity, speech, etc.), liberty is the freedom to fulfill our duties to God according to the law of conscience.
But I don’t want you to think – I absolutely never want you to think – that liberty under God’s law is limited to matters linked to the freedom of the mind. Liberty and conscience are also directly involved in the matter of fulfilling the Dominion Mandate (i.e., deciding how best to use one’s resources, subdue the earth, raise a family, and exercise stewardship of all material things). This is the aspect of liberty most under appreciated (or permitted) in society today.
True liberty, then, is both empowered and constrained by God’s will. It is empowered by the individual conscience directing each person in how to fulfill his duties to God, the ultimate source of which is the laws of God written on the heart. It is constrained by the will of God in that no one has the freedom to violate the laws of God, which are the greater part of God’s will. True liberty is the goal of righteous self-government (the freedom to fulfill the laws of God according to the dictates of conscience).
True liberty is contradistinguished from mere license, which is just another name for unbridled lawlessness. License is the manifestation of a lack of self-restraint. It is the opposite of conscience, of God’s laws, and self-government. License is the failure to govern one’s self, to bring one’s conduct under the rule of law, and to fulfill one’s personal responsibility to the Creator. License is an attempt to cast off the laws of God, to declare oneself free and independent from the Creator, and to impose one’s own will as the only true law.
License is not the sort of self-government which God has fitted us for. The whole premise of self-government is for us to be responsible and accountable to God by conforming our conduct and conscience to His laws. By rightly governing ourselves, we avoid the need for others (even wrongly, or misguidedly) to try to intervene and force us to comply with those rules of behavior which govern us. In other words, the better we govern ourselves, the better we are able to hold back governmental excesses.
God, the creation and people – we all form a closed system. There is no escaping this system, or getting around or outside it. It does no good to object to the way the system has been established, to bemoan any perceived injustices arising from the nature of the system, or to rally support from others for the overthrow of the system. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Ps. 24:1). It’s all His, friends. You can shake your fist at it if you want, but you protest in vain. Nothing will change merely because you want it to. And try as you might, you cannot overthrow God.
So the main question concerning self-government is this: Are you willing to accept the system God has put in place for our government and work within it the best you can, or will you revolt and waste your life fighting something you can never win?
Which brings us – inevitably, I suppose – to the realization that all self-government is really about the willingness to observe, respect and follow God’s laws. God isn’t going to force anyone to follow His laws. Of course, the failure to do so will incur an eternity of punishment. But if that’s what you truly want, God is perfectly content to go along with it. He respects both your ability to govern yourself and your personal responsibility for behavioral decisions, more than you do yourself, most likely. Just FYI.