Catholic Theocracy? Christina Theocracy?

lunamoth

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First let me state that I am not trying to antagonize, but my question is prompted by the discussion going on in the Politics Communism and Christiantiy thread. Second, let me say that I have not thought this topic and question all the way through, so I hope it is not a mistake to start it (usually when I think a question all the way through I decide it is not a good thread or potentially too controversial, but today, caution to the wind!).

We have at least a couple knowledgable Catholics posting here, so I hope that they will address this question, but I would alsso like to hear from anyone who has thoughts about this.

OK, here goes...

Does the Catholic Church envision a Christian theocracy at any time in the future? If so, how is it envisioned it will take place? Were there any "real" Christian theocracies in the past, or are there any today outside the Vatican?

Are there any Christian denominations at all out there that envision wide-spread Christian theocracy as a goal? I'm not talking about a state-sanctioned religion, but a theocracy with an infallible person or body with ultimate authority.

I know my ignorance is showing all over the place in these questions, but nevertheless, here they are.

lunamoth
 
Hi Lunamoth -

"The earliest recorded use of the term "theocracy" is found in Josephus, who apparently coins it in explaining to Gentile readers the organization of the Jewish commonwealth of his time. Contrasting this with other forms of government—monarchies, oligarchies, and republics—he adds: "Our legislator [Moses] had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what by a strained expression, may be termed a theocracy [theokratian], by ascribing the power and authority to God, and by persuading all the people to have a regard to him as the author of all good things" (Against Apion, book II, 16)."
New Advent

Christianity tried it - and thought they's achieved it under Constantine, and the establishment of Christendom. But experience shows, unless the theocrats throughout are saints, it ain't gonna work.

I don't think we hold that view any longer, and at heart the only true theocracy will be the New Jerusalem - or failing that, heaven.

The Catholic Church has maintained since its foundation a separation between Church and State, Pope and Emperor, which Christ advocates in his "render unto caesar that which is caesar's" and "I am not of this world".

The partnership is never easy, often frought, and invisible when you have a strong pope and a weak emperor, or vice versa. And ever open to abuses, as long as man is man.

The Orthodox denominations are closer to theocracy in the sense that the church is identified with a sense of national aspiration.

And then, of course, the Anglican Church (Episcopal Church in the US) has the monarch as its head, in the UK at least, so that presents a theocracy.

Are there any Christian denominations at all out there that envision wide-spread Christian theocracy as a goal? I'm not talking about a state-sanctioned religion, but a theocracy with an infallible person or body with ultimate authority.

Well I think yes - the Catholics divide the world into those who are Catholic and those who don't know it yet!

Seriously, if everyone followed those two simple rules of love, then a theocracy would be immediate and inescapably apparent. Governments would respond to the moral rather than the material issue, which is the wellbeing of all, even at the cost to self - and there's not one in the world that follows that line. 'Hierarchy' and 'Authority' would cease to be dirty words but the simple recognition that some people are better at some jobs than others.

IF I wanted to be argumentative (which I seem to be today) then I would say the current politics of the US reflects your question ...

Thomas
 
Hi Thomas, thank you for the excellent lesson in answering my sophomoric question!
Thomas said:
Hi Lunamoth -

"The earliest recorded use of the term "theocracy" is found in Josephus, who apparently coins it in explaining to Gentile readers the organization of the Jewish commonwealth of his time. Contrasting this with other forms of government—monarchies, oligarchies, and republics—he adds: "Our legislator [Moses] had no regard to any of these forms, but he ordained our government to be what by a strained expression, may be termed a theocracy [theokratian], by ascribing the power and authority to God, and by persuading all the people to have a regard to him as the author of all good things" (Against Apion, book II, 16)."
New Advent

Christianity tried it - and thought they's achieved it under Constantine, and the establishment of Christendom. But experience shows, unless the theocrats throughout are saints, it ain't gonna work.

I don't think we hold that view any longer, and at heart the only true theocracy will be the New Jerusalem - or failing that, heaven.

The underlined is a view that I can share, and I can also see that we've learned at least this much from past mistakes. But is there any biblical or doctrinal support for the idea that Christ actually intended for the Church to be a world government? I did not think so, and that it was the politicians who decided that there could be such a thing as a Christian government.

The Catholic Church has maintained since its foundation a separation between Church and State, Pope and Emperor, which Christ advocates in his "render unto caesar that which is caesar's" and "I am not of this world".
OK, so this is the heart of the question I think, and what I had thought all along. Do you have a rough date for what you mean by since its foundation?

The partnership is never easy, often frought, and invisible when you have a strong pope and a weak emperor, or vice versa. And ever open to abuses, as long as man is man.
Exactly.

The Orthodox denominations are closer to theocracy in the sense that the church is identified with a sense of national aspiration.

And then, of course, the Anglican Church (Episcopal Church in the US) has the monarch as its head, in the UK at least, so that presents a theocracy.
Yet I don't believe that in either case do we have an 'infallible' ruler governing a nation. There is still always a secular counterpart, I think.

Well I think yes - the Catholics divide the world into those who are Catholic and those who don't know it yet!

Seriously, if everyone followed those two simple rules of love, then a theocracy would be immediate and inescapably apparent. Governments would respond to the moral rather than the material issue, which is the wellbeing of all, even at the cost to self - and there's not one in the world that follows that line. 'Hierarchy' and 'Authority' would cease to be dirty words but the simple recognition that some people are better at some jobs than others.
This is the utopian vision of the Christian worldview, and one I agree with and have hope in. But the key is non-coercion, which is is why it remains an idealist, utopian view and not a form of political government.

IF I wanted to be argumentative (which I seem to be today) then I would say the current politics of the US reflects your question ...

Thomas
I think it is a bit superficial and melodramatic to say that the US policies reflect a (misguided) attempt at establishing a Christian theocracy. :) But I do find it worrisome whenever any political figure speaks in a way that suggests they think they have a mandate from God. :(
 
wasn't the crusades and spanish inquisition attempts at theocracy...

Or the church of England...and in some US colonies all were required to attend church...
 
wasn't the crusades and spanish inquisition attempts at theocracy...

Or the church of England...and in some US colonies all were required to attend church...


To be honest I think the intention of the crusades was a nobility very quickly hijacked by the idea of personal gain, but history is littered with high-minded and noble causes derailed by more immediate and selfish concerns - that's a human failing, not a specifically religious one.

Again, history is never quite as simple as we would like. The Office of the Inquisition was founded with a good and noble intention, but again, was turned towards political ends.

If one examines the figures, there were less executions in those countries that supported the Office than in those who decided to act on their own authority. Until the Office any local magistrate had the power to execute a heretic or a witch, and did so 'in the name of the church' whilst having little or no theological knowledge whatsoever. The Office was instituted to prevent abuses - again I am not saying it was free of abuse itself - but the fault, as ever, lies with man, not God.

The 'horrors' of the Spanish Inquisition have been amplified by Protestant propaganda, but nevertheless it was instituted by the King and Queen to pursue their own political agenda - the church actually tried to stop it.

(I'm sure I'll get a barrage of complaint on this)

Let me reiterate, I am not defending it, I'm saying that a balanced view is required, for example a feminist historian has demonstrated that if 'millions' of witches were burnt as people claim, then the population of Europe would have been drastically altered, but it was not, so it cannot be the case.

Thomas
 
hi Lunamoth -

Yes, probably a bit melodramatic.

With regard to the foundation of the church -

The original church was always centred on the bishop, with the bishop of Rome the 'first among equals', because of the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul there - Rome was the center of the Ancient World as such, but the world itself was governed by an Emperor, not by a Bishop.

The hope of course was that in converting the emperor, the persecutions might cease - which is what happened - in the early 300s.

The 'Damascus moment' for Constantine, the first emperor to 'embrace' Christianity, was the realisation that Christianity was the best glue to unite the empire beneath him - he had been crowned emperor by his own troops in Scotland, but had to defeat the armies of the west as well as east to sieze control. Outnumbered 4 to 1, he proclaimed the crucial battle (Milvian Bridge, on the Tiber outside Rome) would be fought under the 'sign of the cross' that he'd seen in a vision (always a good morale boost for the troops).

Constantine's victory owes more to the poor tactics of his adversary rather than the intervention of God.

When the Roman empire was split in two, the Bishop of Rome was the only Patriarchate in the West, whilst the Bishops of Carthage, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem were all in the East, and immediately began to vie for superiority. Thus whilst we have the one Catholic Church of the West under Rome, in the East we have the Orthodoxies; Greek, Syrian, Malabar, Serbian, Russian, and so forth.

But no - I don't think Christ ever envisioned a world goverment in the political sense, and nor is it necessary. If the world was governed by people of good conscience, then all would be well.

Thomas
 
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