Christian Anarchy? Seriously?

So, recently, a former professor of mine published an article on The Gospel Coalition outlining why, in his opinion, Christians can, and should, vote. Naturally, at that point, the Yoderites and Christian anarchists came out to play.

Now, here’s what I mean. The Yoderites are those Christians who hold to the thought of John Howard Yoder, who believed that Christians needed to disassociate themselves from government, as it was too morally compromising due to the necessities of governmental action–war, policing, moral compromise in policymaking, general oppression, etc. The Yoderites will at least acknowledge that government is necessary, but will insist on not dirtying their hands with the grease that keeps the engine running. Since that grease is made out of money and blood (this, by the way, is universal), I understand this position as a legitimate interpretation of Scripture, albeit one I disagree with on exegetical and prudential grounds.

The Christian anarchists are those who take it one step further to say that there should be no government, as government is not only unnecessary, but inherently evil. Essentially, when you finally get them to Biblical rationale for such an action, (do something unprudential and read the comments section–I’m Tom, criticize my arguments at your leisure), they tend to emphasize 1 Samuel 8:10-18, where Samuel outlines all the awful things the king will do to the people of Israel if they get one. Spoiler alert: he’s right, if you read into the rest of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. They tend to either ignore Romans 13, or discount it in favor of 1 Samuel 8.

The problem with this can be seen in the fact that the Israelites already have a governing system. If you read the whole chapter, you find that Samuel has basically been acting as a king for Israel, and the reason Israel wants a king is because his sons are, in fact, terrible people. (Shades of Eli, here) In subtext, if one reads Judges, Israel is also tired of the anarchy–bear in mind, they nearly wiped out Benjamin a few years earlier for protecting a city full of gang rapists. Now, the reason for the anarchy is that they are not following the Law of God–however, given that the point of the Law is that we can’t follow it, this is not a valid reason for saying we should attempt to roll that way ourselves. Also, the tribes were generally governed, as examples of collective action by various tribes can be seen throughout the book of Judges.

In other words, Israel’s sin here is not even that they want a government. Their problem is not even that they want a king, that they might follow God better. Basically, their motivation, if one reads 1 Samuel, is that they want to be like the cool nations, who have kings who can lead them into war and stuff. And, even then, note that God doesn’t tell Samuel to go and anoint a psychopath.

Finally, the Christian anarchist still has to deal with pesky things like “Render unto Caesar,” as well as Romans 13–y’know, the chapter that says to obey the governing authorities, as they have been put in place by God to encourage good and punish evil.  We can argue about particular governments and their merits later; the concept of government, however, is not, theologically, sinful in and of itself.

In other words, just because a concept gets hijacked by venal bribe-takers, psychopathic powermongers, and meddling do-gooders, it doesn’t mean we throw it out–it means we deal with the hijackers–preferably, by not letting them jack it in the first place.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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