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What about the Mosaic government?

Posted by Chance on August 9, 2006

In my discussions with some commenters on this site, on this blog and theirs, we have often discussed the OT law in relation to economic matters, and how this applies today. I would like to discuss this a little bit further at a later time, probably the next post.

Here is my questions. Should we attempt to model the Mosaic government to some extent, and if so, to what extent? In the OT and the NT, we see what God expects of us, in terms of individual morality (typically, the “do not” commands) and of, what I call, collective morality, such as helping the poor. I realize that “collective” is a loaded term, but I do not mean it in any negative context, I just use the term to address interactions with others, mostly in an economic sense.

For the OT, the governmental law, and the law of God, were one and the same. Israel was under theocratic rule. In the NT, the situation was totally different. Government was hardly a godly form of rule. It was not an avenue for God to reach people; it was typically opposed to God, even when the religious authorities were involved! The morality of the NT was more on the individual level (for individual and collective morality), whereas in the OT, God addressed an entire nation as a collective. (Okay, now the terms may get a bit confusing.)

The NT does seem to be more about freedom, and a one-on-one relationship with God. Food matters are left up to the conscience of the Christian, to some extent. Matters of giving are also between the person and God. To be honest, I don’t know if the tithe (literally, the 10%) is even a solid guideline. (I do recommend a predetermined, consistent amount to give, however). Christians of a libertarian persuasion often point to the “law of freedom” pointed out in the NT.

So where does that leave us? Should Christian morality be a matter of government? Should we attempt to model the features of the Mosaic law? In my view, if economic morality is enforced, so should individual morality. Why look at one side and not the other? If we look at one side, then we are looking at things through a liberal or conservative lens. We are taking biblical laws and passing them through a filter of our own political persuasions.

Part of me thinks that is the way to go, simply model a form of government based on the Mosaic one.

However, another part of me believes in limited government. I look at the situation of Israel, and that was a time when God led the people in a direct manner. They had a theocratic form of rule directly established by God. Today, we have a secular form of government with flawed humans establishing the laws. All humans are sinful; therefore, it is desirable to give them as little power as necessary. (Of course, we all disagree on how much power is necessary).

Furthermore, in the NT, we see Christian morality take place on a more individual level. Yes, God has his commands, but in the NT, we see the relationship with God on a person-to-God basis, rather than God interacting with the masses through a government. The New Testament does not focus so much on rules and regulations, but simply loving the Lord God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. I’ve heard the saying that “Love is the Law.”

What does that have to do with government. Love can really only flourish in an atmosphere of freedom. I could be wrong about that, I may have said it because it was a statement that sounds good. But let’s examine it. Why doesn’t God just make us live in a perfect world? In order to do that we would be zombies, people with no free will, at least, that’s the explanation I have heard. If we have no free will, we cannot choose God. Christianity is centered so much around free will and choice. Satan had the free will to rebel against God. Adam and Eve had free will. We have free will when choosing to accept Christ. We can spit on God’s face in the context of free will, but it is the only way we can truly love God.

To truly obey God, we must love Him. We treat our bodies as a temple out of love for God. We help the poor and needy because of our love for God.

But again, where does government get involved? I had my thoughts all composed, but this is getting to be a bit stream-of-consciousness. This is turning out not to be so much a statement for limited government, but simply not using government as a primary means of enforcing the Christian ideal. I have no problem with a basic welfare system, but I do have disagreements with using government as a means for Christian social action. Christian social action must be done out of love and free will, not coercion. This is not a statement on the “morality” of coercion, but to simply say that giving out of love and free will is of a higher “morality.” This is not a statement against using the government as a means of social order, but when we rely on government as a means of moral order, we put too much faith in government.

More on this later…

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11 Responses to “What about the Mosaic government?”

  1. Dan Trabue said

    Lots of good thought and questions here. One point.

    Where you said:

    “For the OT, the governmental law, and the law of God, were one and the same. Israel was under theocratic rule.”

    I’d clarify this to say that in Israel’s early years, they tried to rely upon God to lead their people (often failing). But once they had Kings (which God recommended against because Kings will tax you to build a huge army and draft your sons and daughters to support this army!), I don’t think you could call them a theocracy anymore.

    More on a monarchy that occasionally sought God’s guidance.

    I’m thinking on the rest…

  2. Chance said

    “More on a monarchy that occasionally sought God’s guidance. “
    How true! I actually was realizing that as I was writing it, but it was hard to pinpoint where things went wrong, and I guess it was with the kings. David was a good king for the most part, but even Solomon started going downhill. I guess that is why God didn’t want kings there in the first place.

  3. Dan Trabue said

    11 God said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    I Samuel 8

    God tells Israel why they ought not depend upon a monarchy and it is for exactly one of the reasons that Libertarians point out – excessive taxation – but they’re excessive taxes mostly for warmongering, which is one of the exceptions Libertarians often give for taxing.

    Which I find interesting…

  4. Chance said

    “God tells Israel why they ought not depend upon a monarchy and it is for exactly one of the reasons that Libertarians point out – excessive taxation – but they’re excessive taxes mostly for warmongering, which is one of the exceptions Libertarians often give for taxing.

    Which I find interesting… “

    Dan, you bring up a good point, and I’ve noticed you asked a similar question on Glen’s site.

    I will put on my libertarian hat for a moment, and speak from a libertarian’s point of view. It may sound a bit patronizing, I don’t mean it to, it’s just the best way I can lay forth that point of view.

    Here goes…

    A libertarian believes in maximum freedom. My freedom ends where your’s begins. The only legitimate function of government is to preserve this freedom (and life, of course, which one may state is an extension of freedom). I don’t have the freedom to steal, because doing so inflicts on your right to own property. I don’t have the freedom to kill another person, because, obviously, that inflicts on their freedom to live. But to prevent these things from happening, government must be in place to prevent one person from harming another. Ayn Rand says that the legitimate parts of government are the police, military, and the courts. Some libertarians call this the non-aggression principle. Government can only act to prevent one person from aggressing against another.

    That is why libertarians say the military is a reasonable function of government. Now, with that said, such a believe does not imply a belief in all the money spent towards the military, or even a belief in all the wars the U.S. has been involved in. In fact, many libertarians will state that too much is being spent on the military, and that Iraq was not justified, based on the NAP (non-aggression principle). Many libertarians do believe in environmental protections, because bad air caused by people is a form of aggression on others. (Like you’ve pointed out, dumping trash in a neighbor’s yard. Which is a funny image. Imagine me just carrying my trash can to my neighbor’s yard and dumping it out. That is kinda funny).

    Now, whether or not this view is right or wrong is not the issue. I do believe that spending money on the military is different than spending money on say, welfare or roads. I don’t see inconsistency when one supports reasonable military spending, and not spending on anything else. If maximum freedom is the goal, this view is correct. Where I differ, however, is that I am willing to exchange some of this freedom for a little bit of security (i.e. a minimal welfare system, a few regulations on businesses, etc…)

  5. Dan Trabue said

    I think your posts and comments have the makings of great discussions if we all had more time and, if you have the inclination, enough beer…

  6. Chance said

    I’m always up for beer…

  7. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Dan,
    I thought you were a teetotaler. I, on the other hand, am trying to find time and $ to sample every micro-brew in Louisville as well as every variety of Sam Adams–the first good American beer in forever!

  8. Dan Trabue said

    I am. I said that for y’all’s benefit…

    I’m a tea-totaller, just not the Nazi-christian tea-totaller I used to be.

  9. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    “If maximum freedom is the goal, this view is correct.”

    When I can return to economic topics on my blog, I am going to have to address this further. Because my perception is that an unfettered market isn’t freedom, but slavery. The tyranny of the market is one of the greatest tyrannies ever unleashed.

    A last comment on this post: If I understand Libertarian theory aright (always a dicey proposition!), what you should support is the minimal military needed to protect the nation from attack–not a bloated military budget 15 times as much as the next several nations combined. (This doesn’t include the $1 billion per WEEK we are now wasting in Iraq.) The Center for Defense Information (a think-tank created by high-ranking ex-military officers who believe in a strong defense, but ONLY a defense, and who were convinced that Eisenhower was right about the military industrial complex) every year estimates that we could cut the military budget in HALF (provided the right things were cut and funding shifted to the right places) without lowering our purely defensive capabilities one iota.

    According to CDI, much of the military budget amounts to more corporate welfare.

  10. Chance said

    Michael,
    I agree with your statements concerning the military budget. Although we would probably disagree on how much it should be cut, I do not support a bloated bureaucracy by any means.

    Although a libertarian believes in military spending, they do not necessarily support every action or every dollor spent on the military.

    I, no surprise, disagree with your assertions about the tyranny of the market. In my view, the transactions that take place in a market system are voluntary. I know the industrial revolution brought about some horrible conditions, I’ll have to read up on it, but even then, I think the Industrial REvolution at most supports some market restrictions, but still a market that is free. However, I know we have different philosophies when it comes to the market overall.

  11. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Okay, going back on my “last post” comment. Here is some of what I have in mind about the tyranny of the market: 1)How often do successful businesspeople have to uproot families and move in order to get ahead in a company? This is probably less thanks to telecommuting, but it is still huge. 2) The role of advertising, something not forseen by Adam Smith. (I insist that all supposed free market folk actually READ the Wealth of Nations. Why is it that, I, a democratic socialist, seem to know the foundational text of modern capitalism better than most capitalists?) Advertising creates “needs” for things that no one needs. In fact, people who use propaganda for political or war purposes, study advertising. 3)Unfettered market forces can never appreciate anything for itself, just for its market value–thus any virgin forest is a potential tree farm. Any mountain valued only for whatever minerals can be mined from its depths–even at the cost of the mountain itself. Any work of art is only valued for its sales value. 4) Unfettered market forces are acidic to relationships. After teaching us all day every day that humans are no more than “rational self-interested consumers” (Friedman), we come even to view spouse and children this way. (E.g., the trophy wife) When they are no longer useful to our individual advancement, we leave for other market-driven relationships. Even supporters of capitalism often admit that it is the biggest macro cause of family disintegration. (Although about more than just laissez fair capitalism, Marshall Berman’s _All That is Solid Melts Into Air_ speaks strongly to this.)

    Then there is the way the market replaces wisdom with mere technical knowledge, so that if something CAN be built, it suddenly must be built, mass produced, and sold–no matter how unwise this would be. Conservatives rail against things like in vitro fertilzation (with some justification), but its rationale comes from the free market ideology’s affect on science: Conception, pregnancy, and birth are now marketable items. Surrogate motherhood is the same thing.

    I could keep multiplying examples. We have to have markets. They are efficient distributors of necessary goods and services. Command economies such as in the old USSR don’t work and take great tyranny to even come close. But market forces by themselves are equally tyrannical. We must govern markets rather than let them govern us.

    That may take individual wisdom, counter-consumerist education and values in churches, etc.–individual morality, as you say. But it will also collective curbs on the power of the markets.

    The alliance of social conservatives, including most conservative Christians, with free market fundamentalists, is ironic–because NOTHING destroys the values that social conservatives love faster than unfettered market forces.

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