Satan, Government and Christian Anarchy
by Greg Boyd
Inspired by my reading of Jacque Ellul, I've been talking about Christian Anarchy the last couple posts. I want to remind folks that "anarchy" used in this way does not denote chaos. It rather means "without (an) rule (archy)." It refers to the belief that people who are under the rule of God are not under any human rule. We are to obey the laws of the land insofar as they are consistent with Gods' will, but we do this because it is God's will for us to do so. (One person who wrote me, Jason Barr, has suggested the label Christ-archist rather than Anarchist. While it's true Kingdom people are not under the rule of governing authorities in this view, we are under Christ's rule. It's an interesting suggestion).
According to the Christian Anarchist (or Christ-archist) therefore, human governments have no significance for Kingdom people. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and are “foreigners,” “exiles” and “strangers” in this world (Phil 1:27; 3:20; Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 1:17; 2:21).
I also want to be clear that I'm exploring this train of thought in these blogs. I'm reviewing what Scripture says about God and government and finding, thus far, that it supports the view of Christian Anarchy. But I want to be clear that I'm still in process on this topic.
So far I've tried to establish that, according to the Bible, earthly governments are premised on mistrust of the rule of God (I Sam. 8). It was not part of God's original plan for humans, but rather exists as a way of God accommodating himself to human sin. I've also tried to establish that, from God's perspective, all governments are "less than nothing" (Isa 40:15-17). Since our trust is exclusively in this God, the "ruler of the nations," we should adopt this same perspective. To live under the reign of God is to live solely under the reign of God and to therefore regard earthly government as insignificant.
What I now want to argue is that all human governments are not only premised on mistrust: they are actually ruled by Satan. In Luke 4:5-7 Satan offered Jesus all the authority of the governments of the world, for he claimed to own all this authority and claimed that he could give it to whoever he wanted. What's amazing is that Jesus does not dispute his claim. He granted that Satan owned this authority and thus could give it to whoever he wanted. But he refused to put himself under Satan's rule to acquire governmental authority.
Everything else the New Testament says about Satan and governments confirms that Satan was, in fact, not exaggerating his power. Jesus three times refers to Satan as the “ruler (arche) of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16;11). An arche referred to the highest ruling authority (the "boss") in any particular region. Satan is also referred as the “the god of this age” and “the principality and power of the air” (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2). And John goes so far as to claim that, “The whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (I Jn 5:19). If the whole world is under the power of the evil one, it hardly seems Satan was exaggerating in claiming all government was under his power.
Not only this, but Satan is referred to as “the destroyer” who “deceives the nations” (Rev. 9:11; 20:3, 8 cf. 13:14) . All earthly governments are depicted as belonging to a single Kingdom that is under Satan's rule but which is now being delivered over to Jesus (Rev. 11:15). Consistent with this, scholars agree that “Babylon” in Revelation symbolizes earthly government under Satan's authority. Babylon rules “all nations," all of which are “deceived” by her “sorcery," which appears to be the deceptive lure of power. (Rev. 18:23).
Just to be clear, this obviously doesn't mean that all leaders in earthly governments are under Satan's rule. Many leaders are God-loving people who are sincerely trying to serve their society and the world. But these passages suggest that the whole power-over system that constitutes human government is under Satan's oppressive influence. I see no way around this conclusion.
Given this clear and consistent witness in the New Testament, followers of Jesus have to seriously question how much confidence we should ever have in any government and how preoccupied we should be with their innumerable fights and problems. We must remember that we are not only "foreigners" and "exiles" in this land; we are soldiers stationed in enemy occupied territory. We are not to become preoccupied with "civilian affairs" and are to "always seek to please our commanding officer" (2 Tim. 2:4).
What our commanding officer tells us to be is fully invested in living under the reign of God, yielding to the Spirit who continually works to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. We are to live Spirit-led, radically counter-cultural lives. And we're to collectively form a contrast society that puts the beauty of God's self-sacrificial character on display in the midst of a world that has grown profoundly ugly.
To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives, society, government and the world that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To live this way is to revolt against Satan and the Powers that empower all that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To live this way, in other words, is to be a revolutionary.
Viva la revolution!