The Pretext of Theocracy
Those who assert their authority by way of theocracy define theocracy as ‘God rule’ by way of semantics – ‘theo’ meaning God and ‘cracy’ meaning government. They believe that their authority is divinely appointed whereby they are authorized to receive absolute and unconditional subjection from its members. This is gross error on so many levels. Let us consider a few of those levels.
First, theocracy is a qualifying and delimiting term. This means that it does not refer to all authority; it only refers to a segment of authority that can be isolated from other types of authority. The use of the term inherently recognizes other types of authorities, i.e., democracies, aristocracies, meritocracies, that are different and distinct from theocracy. Whereas the authority of God is absolute and all encompassing. It is without limitation, without qualification or definition, and it itself overshadows all other types of authority. A theocracy does not. No theocracy claims worldwide authority over everyone and everything on the face of the earth and in the heavens; whereas God rule does.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
– Ephesians 3:14-15
We might look at God’s authority as a pie, and theocracy, democracy, etc., as slices of the pie. Accordingly, theocracy is also a relative authority, not absolute or the equivalent of ‘God rule.’
Second, theocracy is carried out by imperfect and fallible men, thus their rulership is imperfect and fallible. This point alone demonstrates that a theocracy is not divine rulership. A theocracy can, and does, err. We need only to look at the history of so-called theocracies and see how many times they changed their doctrines and theologies that they once heralded as the word of God, how many times they changed their opinions of certain people whom they once either extolled or condemned, and how many times they came to accept the very thing they opposed and judged as evil in prior years.
Truly, absolute subjection to an inferior authority will only lead its subjects to a dead end:
“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”
– Psalms 146:3-4
On the other hand, God-rule is perfect, complete and error-free. It is headed by an eternal and perfect being and it’s decrees are everlasting and unchanging.
“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.”
– Hebrews 6:17-18
Nevertheless, man’s understanding of the everlasting and unchanging doctrines is progressive, hence the danger of giving absolute obedience and loyalty to a theocracy!
Third, theocracy is more accurately defined as ‘priest-rule’ in that those who operate a theocracy are of a priestly or priest-like class. No theocracy is run by common laymen, otherwise it would be called a democracy. It is important to note that a theocracy in itself is not an invalid or disapproved authority. A religious association requires some type of oversight or administration. It is a valid relative authority.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
– Hebrews 13:17
However, a so-called theocracy also has the most potential for insidious and reprehensible behavior. One need only look at what has been perpetrated in the name of religion. Some of the most heinous crimes in history have been, and are being, committed at the direction of some type of theocracy. The first century Jewish religious leaders were one type of insidious theocracy:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.”
– Matthew 23:37-38
The Apostle Paul wrote about another such theocracy in his letter to the brothers in Thessalonica:
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?”
– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5
So while an organization of religious leaders can justifiably claim that their rulership is a theocracy, we must understand what a theocracy is. It is priest rule, not God rule and therefore, we must be ever on guard against its potential for error. Those who seek perfect divine guidance must go to the source and follow its leadings above and beyond any claims of inspired direction by men or theocracies.