Covenantal Anarchy

This is the term that I came up with, with Aric’s help, that I think describes the political outcome of Jesus’ teachings. We were discussing whether no government is better than bad government, and disagreeing on some things. I didn’t think that Jesus was pointing toward anarchy as the best political alternative, but we both definitely disagreed with the traditional Reformed love-affair with government as such. I mean, come on. The Westminster Confession was written at musket-point. What did you expect them to say about authority figures? And then its easy for the culture with all of the money and the power (that is, ours) to perpetuate this uncritical affection for government because it mostly isn’t used against us. Ask people in the DRC or Iraq or Sudan what they think of government, and you might get a different answer.

So I though of covenantal anarchy – Christ seemed to be a fan of peacefully resisting the Powers That Were, of taking their claims of authority over mind and person to an absurd extreme in order to subvert them, or of simply pointing out that rules are made for people and not the other way around. It wasn’t just bare anarchy, though, because clearly there were other expectations as to how we are to act toward each other and what sort of relationship we are to seek with God.

Now, bear in mind that I am in a denomination (PCUSA) that seems to think that nothing is more important than arguing over rules. It seems eager to use rules as a weapon far more than they are used to restore relationships. The focus is on “decently and in order” – but something can be decent in the usual sense, and orderly, and wrong. You can dress up a blunt instrument however you like – beneath the thin veneer of decent and orderly you still have a weapon. I honestly don’t think you can follow Christ until you disarm.

Like I said after one of our Polity classes – these rules are for when you fail at Christianity and you feel like you need to try something else. I can’t imagine a world without rules, but at least acknowledging this, instead of pretending that the rules are somehow good rather than a regrettable necessity (Denominational Nomism?) would be a breath of fresh air.

I’m really lost as to how I can tell my Comittee on Preparation for Ministry things like this. I wonder how’d they respond to a statement of faith that read “Christ came, in part, to demonstrate the monstrous idolatry of confusing temporal authority with God’s desire or design”?

I mean, one way or another, wasn’t Christ killed because of rules?

4 thoughts on “Covenantal Anarchy

  1. Amen brother!!!!

    And I’m glad you wrote a post on it. I was holding off since I didn’t want to be the first to put it out in the sphere since you actually coined it. But now that it’s out, I’m gonna use it liberally.

    I think I agree with 100% of what you said in this post. You might be losing your edge, Doug.


  2. Doug, I don’t know about you all, but my polity class ended with a discussion of the consensus model as a “new and emerging” form of polity, which subverts hierarchy in governing bodies by giving everyone a veto. It does give me hope that our sister church in Australia has been making all their decisions by consensus for a decade now. I discovered it through the National Network of Presbyterian College Women, and intend to use it with my session in a year’s time. I, also, am thoroughly discouraged with our polity’s emphasis on majority-vote decision making. It seems doing so builds up divisiveness, anger, and resentment, as we’ve become accustomed to simply winning 50% plus one over to our side if we want something done. I don’t believe such an approach is either emotionally or spiritually healthy for our little swarm here. Have you experimented with other forms of decision making with your congregations? If so, how have you found the results? Amy


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