This last week, the Washington Post had a commentary article on the topic of a theocratic form of government.
While this topic is a political one, it’s discussing the political side of religious terms. Therefore, it appears that some defining statements are required. I find this discussion curious because it’s my belief that people do not understand the difference between a theocracy, and what has become known in some circles as an Ecclesiocracy.
A theocracy is a government by God. I.e., God is the supreme ruler. The Old Testament nation of Israel was in fact a genuine Theocracy until 1 Samuel 8, when they demanded a king, so they could “be like all the other nations.” At that point, Israel became a Theocratic Monarchy. I.e., a nation ruled by a king, who believed in, and served God. His job description was clearly laid out in the Law of Moses, and subsequent dealings through the prophets of the OT.
At a given point, even Israel’s Monarchy became so corrupt that it was no longer viewed by God himself as an honorable nation that represented Him (hence all the judgment read in the prophets). At which point, he handed the people over to the Babylonian empire, and they went into exile in Babylon (Modern day Iraq/Iran) for 70 years.
Upon their return to the land, they did return to the Monarch-style government, but eventually wound up in more an “elder-priest” styled government known as the Sanhedrin– aka council of 70.
After their exile with the destruction of the temple in the late first century, early second century CE, the church took an increasing role of government, being usurped by Constantine in the mid 4th century CE. The power of church rule moved to Rome, and while to some it became fractured, and increasingly fractured, to many Rome is still the seat of ecclesiocratic power.
IT IS NOT A THEOCRACY.
In middle ages Europe, they had an Ecclesiocracy.
This form of government is a government ruled by men, who make up a church/assembly body, but are not explicitly governed by God, themselves (as we saw in medieval Europe, corruption, vice, and cruelty took over– it became a dictatorship, not a government that honored God).
This type of government resulted in the slaughter of far more than the Inquisition. Many genuine Jesus followers were also slaughtered, and at a given point, we see some very heinous crimes done in the name of “religion” and “God.”
It should be made crystal clear– there was never any outright approval by God of the crimes committed during that era.
And in checking my definitions– don’t use a dictionary to define theocracy. It has the wrong definition. The bible has the accurate definition of theocracy.
Theo is the greek word for God.
Ecclesia is the greek word for Assembly, body of people, church.
-ocracy originates out of the term- Kratia, for power, or to rule.
Therefore, the accurate definition of Theocracy would be God Rule.
And the accurate definition of Ecclesiocracy would be – Assembly/Church Rule.
While and Ecclesia could in fact be any body of people, it’s become most commonly associated back to the Church in general.
Therefore, an Ecclesiocratic form of government would be the governments of Islamic rule, Catholic Church, and what Atheists/agnostics THINK christians want.
As a Jesus follower– I explicitly DO NOT want an ecclesiocratic form of government– for the same reason the Europeans blew off church government in the last 800 years.
I do not know any Jesus follower who wants an ecclesiocratic government. The 1600’s Pilgrims who first came here to American soil were seeking to escape an ecclesiocratic-monarchy that had become corrupt, and had violated all of what God had stood for.
What we as Jesus people are attempting to accomplish is to get people to recognize that constitutional government as it was defined 234 years ago is a government ruled by men, by the “consent of the governed” to serve the people whom they govern.
Our desire is to live in a society that we can enjoy, work without 20 million rules telling us how, where, when, or why.
John Adams is said to have stated that the form of government we have can only work for a people who are devoted to genuine religion (a moral and religious People). It is wholly unsuitable for any other type of people.
None who actually follow Jesus seek a government run by a church. This is bound up in our first amendment.
So, when you talk of resenting a “theocracy” and talk at the same time about a specific religion/church running government, you’re actually talking about an “Ecclesiocracy.”