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Leviticus v. Leviathan

Dec 31, 2005

Throughout the Middle Ages, the monarchs and popes asserted their divine rights to rule the people. It was called in Latin, Rex Lex, "the king is law." What is the law? Well, ask the king (or pope). Whatever he says is the law at any given moment in time. The law was purely at the whim of the king, and he usually had the military might to enforce his laws.

By the time James I came to the throne of England in 1603, the natural rights of man in England had already become a settled principle in law and in the popular mind. However, in the early 1600's James I of England began to challenge this.

"He replaced the feudal power of the nobility with a strong central government, and maintaining the divine right of kings, he enforced the superiority of the state over the church." (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, p. 388)

There was great resistance to this from both clergy and barristers. The clergy continued to object to the king's interference in church matters, and the barristers brought lawsuits against the monopolies and taxes brought by King James.

Even so, the Puritans found themselves constricted by the Church of England to such a degree that they found it necessary to leave and start their own colony in the New World.

By 1620 the Puritans came to America to escape the re-emerging principles of Rex Lex. In 1644 Samuel Rutherford published a book entitled, "Lex Rex," which inverted the principle. It means "The law is king." That is, it bound the king to the justice of law as if he were an equal to the people.

John Locke, counsel to William and Mary, followed up with his "Two Treatises of Government" in 1690 refuting the idea of absolute divine sovereignty of kings. These treatises ultimately became the textbooks of American political thought that brought about the American Revolution and this new concept of Lex Rex and government under obligation to the Divine Law.

But meanwhile, a philosopher named Thomas Hobbes published in 1651 a book called "The Leviathan," in which he advocated obedience to the king apart from church sanction. The following are quotations from a book, "Leviticus v. Leviathan," written by an attorney, Wayne Holstad of St. Paul, Minn.

"Life was bleak in the Old World. For the individual without privilege, life was solitary, nasty, brutish and short. Hobbes described life in the state of nature as consisting of individuals in a constant 'state of warre' needing intervention from a civil authority, to whom was given absolute sovereignty to keep the peace. The rulers maintained peace at the expense of individual equality and individual rights." (p. 258)

"While acknowledging fundamental rights, Hobbes vested absolute sovereignty in the monarch, aristocracy, or people and analogized the sovereign power to Leviathan in Job 41. But the Leviathan of Job and from Hobbes was subject to divine law. By rejecting divine law, fundamental rights and limits on sovereignty are voided and made null. Political power then becomes absolute and limitless, a philosophical necessity under Hobbes and Holmes view." (p. 248)

"But in America, political power was limited to only those powers that were the proper function of government. The people had not consented to an absolute sovereign. Rather, powers not delegated to government remained with the individual, and that formed the basis of the American concepts of freedom and liberty." (p. 244)

"The symbol of Leviathan represents raw political power exercised absolutely by whomever is in power at a particular point in time. Virtue is irrelevant and a waste of time. Modern judges and legal scholars who advance theories of fundamental law, without rooting the fundamental law in Biblical theology, either assume the role of Leviathan . . . or struggle to find support for natural law theories derived from fuzzy natural law philosophy based on tradition or generalized ethical goals gleaned from history." (p. 242)

"Hobbes rejected both general and special revelation." (p. 241)

"Oliver Wendell Holmes is probably the best-known apologist for the modern theory of ethics. In 'The Path of the Law,' Holmes proposed a new theory of ethics that radically differed from the classical view that virtue implied something more than acting to avoid punishment by the law. The new theory also clearly and firmly placed the foundation of standards of virtue into the hands of men, rather than God. . . To Holmes, ethics and law are essentially the same thing, and virtue is reinforced by fear of Leviathan.

"This viewpoint is inconsistent with the classical and historical view of philosophers who wrote about ethics. But the modern view necessarily resulted from the separation of law from Biblical truth, and the separation of modern law from principles of Biblically-based natural law." (p. 241)

"America must once again choose as their rulers either Leviticus or Leviathan.

"Leviticus establishes a system of law and government based on divine sovereignty and it is a symbol of the special revelation of Scripture that traditionally formed the basis of Common Law and America's Constitutional law.

"Leviathan, in contrast, establishes a system of law and government dependent on the will of a small group of flawed humans, whose right to rule springs from power, position and wealth, and that answers only to the few. . .

"For Leviticus to succeed, citizens and government must submit to the absolute sovereignty of the omnipotent God. For Leviathan to succeed, citizens must submit to the absolute sovereignty of all-powerful humans. Under Leviathan, human rights are alienable, deriving their status from the government, and they can be stripped away at its whim. Under Leviticus, inalienable human rights derive from the Hand of God, and no government can strip them away." (p. 248)

So this is the choice. The American experiment has thus far failed, for we have gone back to worship Leviathan, rather than God. Yet I believe this will change soon, and to this we pray and labor.

To order Wayne Holstad's new book, "Leviticus v. Leviathan," go to www.wayneholstad.com

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones