Catacomb Resident Blog

Doing It Right

02 March 2023

A reader asks an excellent question: Is it even possible to have a covenant nation any more?

I've addressed this before, more than once. Yes, it is theoretically possible. It hasn't been tried, so we have no legacy of experience to work from. Indeed, aside from that first generation of New Testament churches, it hasn't been tried on any level at all.

Make note of this: Whatever we hope to do for a nation must first be established at the level of the local church body. Get it right in the local church body first. Until you do that, there's no way you can hope to understand how it works on a larger scale. Thus, a theoretical "Christian nation" would first have see a genuine Christian church.

We don't have any of those. That is, we don't have any genuine covenant churches. The Covenant stands firmly on one basic assumption that westerners refuse to accept: It is a family. Not just any family, but the model is a Hebrew feudal clan. God says that people are wired to act a lot like sheep when put together in any kind of group. You can debase them to the point they act like cattle, but they start out operating like sheep. The mission of leadership is shepherding.

That Hebrew feudalism is the model of how we interact with God. It's intensely personal; there is no objectivity involved. You approach God as a Person who already knows you better than you know yourself, not as a body of thought. He is not an ideal. It's a very distinct "He" and it's very much a person. Without that personal contact, there is no contact at all. Thus, when He operates through leaders, that feudal model must remain in place. But it's nonetheless a family, not just an organization.

And the mission of shepherding is very burdensome. This must be burned into the culture. The only leaders who qualify are those who would rather be doing something else. Anyone who actually wants the role is morally disqualified. But the definition of manhood is to be a shepherd on one scale or another. That also must be burned into the culture. Thus, a ruler must understand the burden of responsibility, and that the job is thankless, since there will always be sheep who whine about the choices he must make.

And while the shepherd role tends to be hereditary, it need not be purely so. A consensus of lower ranking leaders can agree that the eldest male of some lineage is not so well qualified as someone younger, or maybe even someone from another lineage. There is flexibility in the protocol here. But unless there is some compelling reason for such exceptions, the standard hereditary senior elder is the right path. Despite the inherent flaws from such a protocol, it works out far better in the long run than any other method of selecting leaders. Having the roles inherited and building up a sense of heritage is the best hope we have. Besides, this is the way God wants it.

Sure, let's stack up the descriptors: patriarchal eastern feudalism with a tribal social structure. Yes, the people must have a strong sense of family identity. While it isn't absolutely necessary they they share DNA like a literal family, they still must have an overwhelming awareness that they are one people. It must be rooted in the sense they are one household. They must have be loyal to each other above all other human loyalties. It's just that blood kinship is the easiest way to do that.

The Bible says a Covenant nation of this sort must have both a king and a priest at the minimum. Thus, churches are supposed to have at least an elder and a priestly figure. There is a division of labor here. The elder/chief/king rules on human organizational matters, while the priestly figure leads in ritual and spiritual matters. Both can be quite competent at preaching and teaching; that's not the point. The point is that the tasks must be separated through a sense of identity. Only Christ gets to combine the roles. All of His servants must clearly distinguish the separate roles of the Two Witnesses, and there must be a certain amount of human tension there. It's what keeps them honest.

You'll notice that the faith of the leadership is the key here. During Israel's history, at no time was the whole nation individually faithful to Jehovah. That's just the reality of our human condition. In a small church body you can be a lot more strict about who can be treated as fully vested family members. As the scale of the operation grows, you must make things more formal and a little less personal. That's why daily operations should remain in the hands of the lowest ranking leadership closest to the people. Still, at some point someone must take the reins of a larger body, and this is when we approach the issue of making it into an actual nation.

Aside from the question of whether the context finds a small nation under some other government authority, the question of having a real Christian nation has to answer a lot of included smaller questions. At some point, it is impossible to assume that your membership is all fully engaged in their hearts. This is where a law code comes into play. It requires a heart-based commitment, but assumes that might be missing in some individuals, at least in the sense that not everyone is lead by convictions all the time. That's the problem that code boundaries solve.

The Code of Noah is just an outline. It provides the foundation for any policy framework a ruler must build arising from the unique context of the nation. It established a concept for minimum standards, offering a model for striking the balance between too much and too little guidance for the sheep. Notice that the parable of sheep and shepherd here indicates sheep actually should have very little individual guidance. It's not libertarianism, it's just a recognition that you cannot reach out and compel another to do your will in detail. Some will always wander off and get hurt; that's reality. Still, the concept of a covenant law code is to leave the details to those who are closer to the sheep. A king must have a very strong sense of what isn't his problem to solve. He delegates, sometimes quite forcefully.

If you are going to be disciplined under covenant code, those closest to you have the burden of executing any correction. Think about that for a moment. On the one hand, your head of household has a duty to the honor of the family. He must keep some kind of order. On the other hand, nobody loves you more than those closest to you. Thus, it helps to insure that you'll never be punished unjustly. The executive and judiciary are the same person in the Bible, never an outsider.

This much, as outlined in this post, is easily the hardest terrain to cross between where we are in our American society versus where God says we must be in order to walk in His Covenant. If we could just get that far, the rest would be exponentially easier.

Yes, a genuine covenant nation is possible. American believers have so far done zero in moving toward that model. Thus, it's very hard to write about more detailed aspects of what it might look like. It falls to us few covenant believers to nail down just this much, so that we'll have it ready for deployment during tribulation, on whatever scale is possible. Moreover, it allows us to establish a body of belief we can hand down to future generations, such as those who will have to rebuild the world after the coming solar catastrophes.

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