Is Working With The State Serving Two Masters?

There are anarchists (or voluntarists), such as myself, that hold to a voluntary view of civil government based off of Theonomic Law, reason, and utility. I, as an voluntarist and Theonomist (sometimes the same people but certainly not always), however, am not opposed to using and participating in institutions that currently do not match our standard of a just society. Though a voluntary based civil society is best and is the model we see pre-king in scripture, there is little to no evidence to indicate an intrinsic sinfulness of participating in a form of civil governance that does not meet the strict Theonomic and voluntaristic standards.

When a man like Joseph can serve a very pagan pharaoh in a very pagan society (Gen. 41:40-44), and he does so willfully, we see a stark contrast between justifying a particular form of civil governance and working within the same form of governance for the good of others according to God’s Law. The civil government of a land may be compromised by its actions, but does this compromise seep into every person participating with said civil government? Joseph and Daniel serve as slam dunk examples of righteous men working within evil institutions.

Some may say “well, Joseph and Daniel had no choice” yet these are the same folks who would rightly say “shall we obey man or God’s Law?”. Joseph “just doing his job” isn’t an excuse or a way to sidestep what is clear.  Furthermore, an appeal to the Biblical command for slaves to obey their masters is not relevant to this question. Texts speaking of obedient slaves and servants in no way justifies sin. If it is sin to work in civil government, it is sin whether or not you’re in slavery. If your master commands you to sin, you say no and take the punishment. Even death. Obedience to masters does not extend to sin. What is clear is that if it were intrinsically (note this word) sinful to participate in a tyrannical, tax based, pagan nation, then Joseph would have sinned by serving Pharaoh. Joseph, being a righteous man, would have refused to serve Pharaoh. However, this is not what we see in scripture. Not at all. We see Joseph taking the position given to him, along with the power and authority vested in that position, and using his authority for the betterment of Egypt. Joseph worked faithfully in a pagan nation, and thus Egypt thrived. And because of this faithfulness in a paid non-voluntary governmental system, Joseph is able to help his family. Yes. That family.

And then we have Daniel. Similar situation as Joseph. Daniel refuses the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar more than once. He refused to eat from the king’s table and defile himself (Dan. 1:8). When Daniel’s friends refuse to bow to a statue of the king, God spares them from the fire, and then the king promotes them. Promotes them. In the same king’s government. Then Daniel is raised up to a high position of authority within the “Darius Administration”. Daniel then refuses to sin against God by ignoring the command to only worship the King. This leads, as we know, to the lion’s den. God delivers him and his high position in the state is restored. With all of this refusing to bow down to tyranny and with all of this fearing God and not man, are we to believe that Daniel was disobeying God by participating in the civil governments of wicked kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Darius?

Furthermore, within ancient Babylon and Egypt, the Pharaohs and Kings were seen as deities. This is hugely significant when claims are made that by working in a pagan government you are, by necessity, “worshiping”, “supporting”, or “praying” to a false god. Unlike modern America, these ancient pagan civil governments actually did worship their leaders as gods, yet men like Joseph and Daniel still worked within these man-made kingdoms for the Glory of God. What does this teach us? It teaches us that if someone does what they can for good (according to God’s Law) with the position available to him, then he will be judged according to his actions. Not by an association he has with the whole government. A faithful second in command of all of Egypt is not guilty of the blatant tyranny and idolatry of the government of Egypt. Likewise, a faithful modern State Representative is not guilty of the blatant tyranny and idolatry of the US Government.

One point of confusion and/or deception is in regards to “serving two masters” and authority. Some anarchists have made the claim that a recognition of civil authority is an affront against the authority of God. Similarly, being engaged formally in the state or supporting someone who is a governor, mayor, legislator of the state is seen as an example of attempting to serve two masters. This, as seen by the above Biblical examples, is not true. Simply put, God delegates authority. Any and all legitimate spiritual authority, whether it is civil authority or ecclesiological authority, comes from God and God alone. When men and women in positions of authority do not use their authority in a righteous manner, their authority is illegitimate and can be ignored if wise and prudent. However, if these men and women within man-made institutions use their earthly authority according to the Law/Word of God, then their authority is legitimate. This real and holistic authority is vested, or delegated, authority. It is not an authority separated from God. To obey your parents isn’t “serving two masters”. To faithfully serve as an elder in a local fellowship isn’t crowing yourself king. To do as your boss says at your workplace isn’t to “serve the kingdom of man”. Likewise, to support a Gubernatorial candidate that is genuinely  seeking justice isn’t “serving two masters”.

The claim that believing government should be greatly decreased or even abolished (the involuntary statist sort, at least) while simultaneously working within or with that government is in no way a denial of immediatism. Civil governance is not intrinsically sinful, therefore the same attitude and method of changing civil governance should not be used. Immediatism is a doctrine of repentance and being a member of a secular/pagan government is not a sin. Therefore we cannot apply immediatism to holding a civil office anymore than we can apply it to being employed by a secular and sometimes ungodly company. Many actions of the government are intrinsically sinful, but the same could be said of the governments of Egypt and Babylon. To work from within an institution that is not intrinsically evil in order to bring about change and reduce the evil that this institution perpetuates is no sin. To participate in and speak for the actual injustices is sin, but to belong to an association that approves of or funds an injustice is no sin. There is an obligation placed on any Christian within a corporate body to speak out against the sin within the corporate body, but this obligation applies to citizens of a state, nation, members of Christ’s Body, families, etc. It is not limited to formal members of a legislative body or members of an executive branch of a state. We are all members of corporate bodies that are guilty of vast crimes. Refusing to vote does not change this. Isolating yourself from civil governance does not make you any more pure or holy. Affirming a distinctive between ecclesiological authority and civil authority is in no way a worshipping of two kings. Only speaking out against the injustice can make you innocent of the corporate crimes. One can do just that and more from within the civil government.

Yes, I support eventual statelessness and I support a voluntary society based on Theonomic principles. But there’s a giant difference between an antinomian denial of all delegated authority that leads to an “holier than thou” refusal to actually work towards a more free and righteous society, and the seeking of the restraining of earthly authority according to Biblical bounds.

Sadly, the attitude of some anarchists is similar to a doctor having the ability to cure an illness, yet stubbornly refusing to get near the patient because he is too fearful of being defiled. This overly pious and isolationist mentality is not only unbiblical, it is fully incapable of achieving its stated goal.

Like a man sitting around praying for the homeless to be fed while his pantries are full, this form of radical stateless pietism is about as asinine and worthless as making a big show out of church rituals while refusing to do the work necessary to establish justice and mercy. It is one thing to make the decision to not participate, and quite another to work against the establishment of justice.

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