Christian Action Project (CAP) – Study 5 – Kingdom of God – Delegating Authority
In this study, Gary North makes the case that we have been delegated to carry out God’s dominion assignment on earth. This involves every institution.
· God is sovereign and Christ is the only link between heaven and earth.
· Our delegated system on earth has complementary authorities. None is absolute.
· Decentralized self-government is God’s model for mankind.
· God delegates authority to man.
· Men have created ‘theologies of despair’ which nullify God’s model.
· In effect, men have actively shown they don’t trust God’s judgment of putting them in charge of ruling His creation.
· God’s sheep must become shepherds.
In order to transition from Study 4, I will repeat the closing paragraph from it as a lead-in to Study 5, so there is no misunderstanding as to what Gary North is asserting here. Very simply, this study is an accusation of our dereliction of duty as delegates of God. We have to repent and return to His way.
Excuses, excuses, excuses: man never runs short of excuses. The problem is: God never accepts them. Adam and Eve didn't escape, just because each of them blamed somebody else for the problem. God holds His people responsible for laboring continually to subdue the earth to His glory by means of the grace of law. That responsibility is with every generation, and God expects His people to extend the dominion of His kingdom, generation by generation, culture by culture. He has told us that Christians can do it, and that eventually His people will do it. It may take a thousand years, but they will do it. Man was created for this very purpose, and Satan will not successfully thwart God's plan. Angels will not take the credit for Satan's long-term retreat into his last stronghold; the redeemed adopted sons of God will take the credit, under the sovereignty of God.
The following is from Gary North’s “Unconditional Surrender”:
Delegating Authority As we have seen in earlier chapters, God's institutional outline provides for both centered and local decision-making. God is both one and many. His rule gives equal ultimacy to the unity and diversity of life. But it should be obvious that God is the head. He is the final authority. He is the absolute sovereign. He is the only true source of commands. Christ, as the Incarnate God, who was fully human and fully divine, two natures in one Person, in union but without mixture, is the only link between heaven and earth. No other being, no other institution can legitimately assert a claim to divinity. No other institution is perfect. No other person or institution is infallible. None! Not the family, not the institutional church, not the civil government, not the economy.
Therefore, we have a system of complementary, competing authorities. The Bible tells us: "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14). In a multitude of lawful sovereignties there is also safety, in time and on earth. Each authority has its assignments, defined by God's law, but no single authority has absolute authority in any given sphere of life. Only God has absolute sovereignty. Therefore, the Bible establishes a system of checks and balances, and God's law provides the pivot point.
There must be a major authority in any given institution, but that authority can be challenged by other lawful authorities. A father must rule his household, but a wife can sometimes override him, as Rebekah overrode Isaac's choice of evil Esau as the son to receive the blessing. (She did have God's promise to guide her [Genesis 25:23; 27:1-17].) A father may not murder his children, either. The civil government can legitimately defend them from death. Parents may choose to abort an unborn child, but the Bible says this is murder, and the criminals must be executed, which would include the physician who was a participant (Exodus 21:22-25).
The authority structure in any institution is hierarchical, but it is never absolute. It faces lawful challenges from other ordained institutions. It also faces the possibility of appeal from one lower on the chain of authority to a higher institutional authority. The proper structure of responsibility is upward, from the responsible individual to a supervisor. The man beneath is to exercise self-government, but the man above may establish terms of performance, if they are in conformity to God's law, and he may supervise performance. Each institution acts as a miniature court. There is an executive function with the head of the institution to establish general rules, goals, and standards of performance, as well as to establish punishments and rewards. But any functioning system which is top-heavy becomes bureaucratic, lethargic, and unproductive. No man is omniscient. No man is God.
Therefore, a wise man decentralizes authority, making each subordinate fully responsible for his own performance, and a wise ruler sets up a reward system which encourages self-motivation and self-government. Since no man can police everything under his authority, the wise ruler acknowledges this fact and delegates authority downward. He delegates precisely because he wants to extend his own dominion. Delegating authority is not a retreat from responsibility, but the essence of responsibility. Few decisions in life are more difficult, more laden with responsibility, than the selection of a subordinate to take over a particular task. (Selecting a wife is one example.) Yet it must be done if institutions are to grow. Any institution which relies on a central governing committee to achieve its goals is going to be a bumbling, blind, and woefully inefficient organization.
God delegates authority to man. He tells man to subdue the earth. If a sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent God delegates authority to a creature, then it is imperative that men follow God's lead. Most government should be self-government. In fact, most government is already self-government, and a system that isn't built on this assumption cannot hope to succeed in the long run.
By creating theologies of despair, men have encouraged the creation of a huge central government, meaning the State or the institutional church, or a combination of the two. If we insist that God failed in His choice of a competent subordinate when He delegated authority to man, then we become hesitant to delegate authority ourselves. If God Almighty selected man to subdue the earth, and man was not only immediately deflected from his assignment, but was permanently deflected, despite the grace of God, then what possible hope can mere men have in locating subordinates who will become dominion-minded and reliable self-governors? If God's plan for man to subdue the earth was permanently deflected by Satan, then only a fool would delegate much authority to a subordinate. A wise man under such a theological assumption would hold onto every shred of power he had, as if his future depended upon it. He would never develop institutional arrangements that foster independence among subordinates. He would delegate only as a man delegates to a machine or a totally submissive servant. He would choose only breathing robots, rotting machines, known as bureaucrats, to fulfill his purposes.
This is basically the kind of blueprint for the millennium that millions of Christians have today. God supposedly chose the wrong being to exercise dominion. Satan rules in power on earth, and poor, pathetic man even (we might say especially) regenerate man cannot hope to triumph, in time and on earth. So Christ will just have to intervene directly in the historical process, remove man from all ruling authority, and return physically to start giving orders to His servants. If God has to intervene directly in the process of history, and change the rules of history to establish His kingdom on earth (for example, by intermingling Christians in transformed bodies with Christians converted after Christ's return, not to mention the devil's servants tares who never were removed from history), then we should expect a bureaucratic kingdom on earth, the likes of which mankind has never seen. Egypt's bureaucratic consolidation becomes a joke in comparison with Christ's supposed coming kingdom. No more delegated authority. No more responsible individuality. No more personal maturity through self-government. Just a massive, unquestioning system of bureaucratic government - the hierarchy to end all hierarchies - the pyramid to end all pyramids!
All this follows directly from a particular theology of despair. This theology of historical defeat, this cosmic pessimism regarding the abilities of regenerate men under God's sovereignty, leads inescapably to the acceptance of bureaucracy. Those who hold this theology of historical defeat and who also belong to some non-denominational church, which has no institutional chain of command or which any one will admit to anyway, have become pessimistic with regard to reversing the socialist world's march into bureaucracy. Satan is a consummate bureaucrat, who wants direct power, but who has no law structure that is reliable and no subordinates who can be trusted. Yet his kingdom in this century has pushed around Christian cultures, precisely because the Christians have become reconciled to the idea of the triumph of bureaucracy. They see no defense against it, except a bigger and better bureaucracy to be established by Jesus when He comes to rule in person for a thousand years. "It you can't beat the system, join it. If you can't join it, imitate it."
Because Christians just don't trust God's judgment in selecting them to rule the earth, without God's physical presence, they don't trust themselves. They don't trust in their own judgment. They have no faith in their own dependent and responsible efforts to subdue the earth, under God and by means of His law. They want directions. They want to be told what to do. They are afraid of responsible self-government.
We are sheep. The Bible calls us sheep. But we are to be obedient sheep, and we are to strive to become shepherds, as the apostles become shepherds. Because of self-government under God's law and under God's lawfully constituted authorities, we sheep can become shepherds. We can then become rulers. As sheep, we must never forget the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10). He is the source of our strength. The means of advancing from sheep to shepherds is through self-government under God and in terms of His law. We are not to become spiritual bureaucrats the ultimate human sheep but law-abiding shepherds (John 21:15-17). We must learn to trust the judgment of those who assign us new responsibilities, just as deacons are supposed to trust the judgment of elders who assign them responsibilities (Acts 6). The way to advance from sheep to shepherds is by continual delegation of responsibility downward, not by the continual expansion of centralized, bureaucratic power at the top.