The Corner

Speaking of Dictators

Interesting email from readers regarding yesterday’s G-File. Among the thoughtful responses two objections keep coming up. First, that dictatorships are inherently antithetical to an open society and the rule of law. The second is that God is the author of all things and therefor he did create the Buick.

There’s a lot of stuff tied up in here and we could get into the nitty gritty of a lot of theology and poli sci if we wanted to. But I’m not over-qualified in this arena and, besides, I’ve got a syndicated column to write. So let me just make a couple quick points. I agree entirely that as a practical matter, dictatorships have proven to be hostile to open societies and the rule of law. And in no way do I want to live under a dictatorship — unless I am the dictator, of course. But then I wouldn’t be living under it, now would I?

But at an abstract level, I’m not so sure there’s anything inherent to dictatorship that would automatically preclude an open society and the rule of law. After all, God is an unelected and absolute dictator. This is particularly so in the Hebrew bible. But I would guess that most Christians would concede that when Christ returns and rules on earth — I hope I’m getting this right — he won’t be running a democracy. I mean would Tom Daschle require the King of Kings to get sixty votes in the Senate? Surely, if the rule of law and open societies are good things, it would be hard to believe that God would oppose them.

This leads to the second point. Yes, God is the author of all things. But we do have free will — at least as far as I’m concerned. It is the free will of dictators which tends to make dictatorships unpleasent forms of government and it is the free will of citizens which causes us to favor democracy (in part because we don’t trust the free will of others).

I’ve never been able to reconcile the notion that God wills every single human action with idea of sin. I’ve read plenty on the subject (so please, no long essays on Calvinism etc) and it always seems to me that if God wills every human action, then God has no right to get angry at people when they mess up. It sounds to me like yelling at a remote control car you made hit a tree.

Note: Nothing in this post should be interpreted as an assertion of authority or expertise on these issues. Whenever I write something about religion or theology I get all of these emails from people who say I should keep my mouth shut etc.


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