Why You Never Heard of “The Democracy of Heaven”

If you read Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet, Common Sense, which argued against the British Crown’s rule of the American colonies, you may be surprised to find that Paine based his argument on the biblical doctrine of Original Sin.

George III by Allan Ramsay, 1762

[King George III by Allan Ramsay, 1762. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.]

In sum, this doctrine teaches that due to Adam’s disobedience, the entire human race is morally corrupt and driven, to lesser or greater degrees, by deceit, self-interest and self-exaltation.

(btw – Original Sin is the bad news that logically precedes the good news Jesus came to announce. If you find the bad news hard to swallow, you’ll choke on the good news, too.)

A Sinful Democracy

Paine’s reasoning was simple: If both Scripture and common experience teach us that this doctrine is true, how then, could governmental power concentrated in the will of one sinful person — a king — ever be anything but the corrupt exercise of that one person’s self-interest and self-exaltation at the expense of the interests of those he rules?

A king simply cannot be trusted with absolute power.

Instead, Paine argued, to combat the natural tendency of our own self-interest and to produce a more just society, power should be distributed through a representative government with the built-in checks and balances of multiple branches. Democracy was, for Paine, a political construct designed to protect us from ourselves, a necessary evil to thwart the greater evil of monarchy.

The American colonies agreed, a revolution was born, and Americans have not trusted kingly power ever since.

A Righteous Kingdom

But, what if there was a king who was unsullied by sin’s corruption? What if that king’s self-interest and self-exaltation mapped perfectly to the highest good of those he ruled? And, what if that king’s perfect, powerful and wise rule produced a freedom that democracy could never promise?

Could you subject yourself to such a king? Could you serve his interests over yours? Could you exalt his name over yours?

Could you trust such a king?

Would you?

Consider this question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism concerning Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

Q. How does Christ fill the office of a king?

A. Christ fills the office of a king in making us his willing subjects, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Yes, I will trust such a king.

His law shall be my law.

His promise will be my hope.

His honor shall be my treasure.

His provision, my satisfaction.

His protection, my peace.

His love, my salvation.

His mission, my mission.

His Kingdom, my home.

His reign, my joy.

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.” — Isaiah 33:22

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” — Jesus, in Mark 1:14

Would you trust such a king as King Jesus?

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