I was completely MIA during February on the Plucked Chicken. Please
accept my apologies. Blogging must give way to other priorities. Five
or maybe even ten other priorities, depending upon the way they’re
Back in November, a comment was posted to which I have meant to respond
ever since. Time passes quickly, but since I own the Plucked Chicken, I
will bend space and time here and recall the original post to
which Mary responded.
Let me begin by thanking Mary for the comment, and apologizing for my
lateness (measured in the normal space-time continuum) of responding.
Firstly, perhaps I’ve heard the phrase before, but please define and
give a little background for the phrase “the kingdom of the left.”
It’s defined more or less in the first paragraph as “the framework of
secular and worldly laws and rulers that encompass life on earth.” “Our
government” is a hopefully-acceptable shorthand for that, assuming we
share the same government. There’s a fairly recent CPH book called The
Anonymous God which contains a number of essays that touch on this
topic. Veith’s God at Work defines the “two kingdom” doctrine. The
gist is that God rules all things, both sacred (church) and secular
(world). One He rules through the Gospel, and the other through the Law
— particularly that law written upon the heart of man. They are the
kingdoms of the “right” and of the “left,” respectively.
You also make some assumptions in the first sentence of the fourth
paragraph that I’m not sure I agree with. And you then carry those
assumptions into the rest of the paragraph to explain yourself. You
say, “When we study the Ten Commandments, they teach us that the
Kingdom of the Left — our government — exists as a gift from God,
having certain responsibilities that represent His blessings upon us
when they are fulfilled.” When I study the Ten Commandments, it is
as a guide, rule and mirror for my own life. I think it’s in the
worldly philosophers of perhaps the 17th and 18th centuries where we
find the commandments used the way you are trying to use them.
I’m not very familiar with those philosophers. Do you mean people like
Adam Smith? I’ve been meaning to read some of their work to see what I
think about it.
Maybe I’m being too grammatically nit-picky here, but you say,
firstly, that the commandments teach us that our government exists as
a gift from God. Ok, I agree that government is a gift from God, but
where do the commandments say this. I guess I can stretch my
imagination to see that when the fourth commandment tells us that
things will be well with us if we honor our fathers and mothers that
maybe, perhaps, some could infer that therefor those parents (and
therefor all authority) are a gift from God. I think Romans 13:1-4
says it better, especially the line, “for he is God’s minister to you
The implications I’m drawing from the Commandments — particularly the
fourth — are fleshed out more in the Large Catechism than in the Small
Catechism. Romans 13 contains a reflection of these implications,
especially in the teaching that the government is “God’s minister.” In
these observations, my intention is to applying the implications of the
Commandments as a guide or a rule, more than as a mirror.
As the latter nine commandments are comprehended in the first
commandment, the last six are similarly comprehended in the fourth.
Since the fourth also shows God’s establishment of earthly authority
(a.k.a. His kingdom of the Left), we can see how the last six
commandments relate to the way He would have earthly government exercise
Further you also are saying, I think, that the commandments say that
the government has certain responsibilities toward it’s citizenry and
that God will work through the governments fulfillment of these
responsibilities in order to bless people. Again, of course,
everything works out best when God’s Law is followed, but can we say
that the commandments are teaching us about governmental
responsibilities? I think this is kind of turning them on edge or
inside out or something.
It’s applying some of their implications as the divine intent for
government, which is admittedly only a small aspect of their scope. In
fact, I mainly mean the Second Table, because the First Table relates
more to the Kingdom of the Right. For a broad application of what God
commands, the Catechism (Large and Small) expresses the direct force.
I’m sorry, perhaps it is the late hour, but I really don’t understand
your point about the Fifth Commandment. I get the first clause. I
think I get the second, but again, I don’t think that commandment is
primarily aimed at government.
You’re right. I don’t think its primary aim is government, either.
Like the rest, it’s mainly about our individual responsibility toward
God. Yet I think it has a secondary aim, and maybe more than that.
It’s easy to grasp the words of these commandments, but God keeps
teaching through them more and more as we consider their practice.
There are places in the Bible that more clearly give the
responsibility to protect life to governments, are there not?
Probably. For some reason, though, I like to use the Catechism as a
starting point for launching into these exercises.
And the final clause of that sentence totally looses me. Is the
antecedent to the pronoun it and its, the government?
And what is the greater responsibility in the fourth commandment of
which you write?
Its greater responsibility is to preserve the order necessary for
citizens to “enjoy long life.” That means if a particular citizen like
Timothy McVeigh, decides to take the lives of his fellow citizens, the
fourth commandment implies that the government can take his life in
Again, in the same paragraph, the Sixth Commandment is not addressed
to government, but to individuals and tells us how we are to live our
individual lives. Not how the government should make its laws. Yes,
it would be nice if there were laws to support Biblical marital
choices, but I really don’t think that the commandments address
government. You’re phraseology on that one is somewhat more to my
taste, however. I’d still rather it read, “The Sixth Commandment
reveals that God wants lifelong marriage, obviously between one man
and one woman.” And leave the government part out. Not that I
disagree about the beneficence of Biblical civic laws,. I just don’t
think the commandments address that.
I wouldn’t classify this as a civil law, because that would go too far.
I think my point in this post was that God gives the government certain
responsibilities for defending the order of civil society, and the cues
for that ordering are built into the various commandments.
And so on with your discussion of the other commandments. Yes, I’ve
had this discussion with you before, I think. I am perhaps ready to
be convinced, but it just isn’t there for me yet. This really seems
to me like dependence upon worldly philosophy to try to support a
certain kind of government.
I wouldn’t make this argument with those who reject biblical authority
in the public square, because to them it would be a weak argument. They
need to become Christians, first. However, I think with other
Christians we may confidently assert that God actually prefers not
certain types of government, but that certain responsibilities be
carried by government, in whatever for it may take. I prefer not to
think of it as philosophy, but a rational application of what God has
revealed, particularly as contained in the Small Catechism.
And don’t get me wrong. I in no wise mean to disparage the gifts God
has given us through our system of government and constitution and
property and capitalism and democracy and freedom and etc. But I’m
not comfortable using the Ten Commandments this way. It’s a bit too
much “implication” and “inference” and “seeming” for me.
You’re probably right that some other Bible passages would address these
things more directly. I’d welcome further comments from you or anyone
else suggesting which ones to use.
I have heard this same thing discussed slightly differently. Perhaps
even at the Plucked Chicken? I think it is in the context of
individual civic rights, which as you know is another of my “issues.”
I think it goes like this. The commandments can show us God’s ideals
with regard to human interaction and therefor, civil society. For
instance, if we are not to kill, then, therefor, another must be able
to assume a right to live. Again if we ought not steal, then those
from whom we are not to steal must have a right to their property.
Further,if we are not to commit adultery, this then, protects the
right of married people to have a God pleasing marriage. And so on.
I think I am finally comfortable with the use of the word “rights” in
this sense. (But I’m still not convinced that this is how the
founders used the term, however.)
Exactly. And good point about the Founders. They were not necessarily
the sharpest of theologians, nor even Christians.
Sorry this got so long. You’ve been writing such “deep” things
lately, my poor overly full “mom-brain” can’t keep up.
Thanks for trying. I write infrequently, so I try to make the most of
it when I do.
And good grief, what’s with this crazy word verification thing. I had
to keep going back to see which “captcha” I was on.
Have you noticed the new system using ReCaptcha? I think it’s neat.