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Good Morning Nanty Glo!


Wednesday, June 8 2005
Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Godly rulers

Knowing that no human theme is more central in the Old Testament that that of godly rulers, it's no wonder that people acquainted with and dedicated to following that book care about the character, humility, and other-centeredness of their public servants. Though I know no one in the United States who wants to impose Old Testament laws and their penalties on this generation, everyone who believes the Bible is God-given holy writ knows it has much to teach us, especially in the examples of David, Solomon (the second and third kings of Old Testament Israel), lesser known faithful kings like Josiah, Joash, and other Godly leaders of the people covenanted to God.

The documentary referred to in the previous Jonal about Oliver Cromwell, the ruler of England during the "interregnum" (period between kings) following that country's civil war, called him a "fundamentalist," though that term is certainly anachronistic as used. That is, there was no such word as a designation for Christians at that time. But more accurately it also called him a radical Christian in the sense that he wanted the established church (the Church of England) stripped of its "unnecessary" beautiful trappings ranging from incense to the office of bishop. He was one of the early Puritans, as these goals suggest. Though his astere radicalism produced many injustices like those described last time, he may have been the first western national ruler to consider himself to be ruling on the basis of biblical principle.

Henry VIII, king a century before Cromwell, would probably have disputed this. Having been the first English monarch to have the title "Defender of the Faith" bestowed by the Pope of Rome, Henry considered himself a theological scholar. But between the two, Cromwell was more other-centered and high-minded, in my humble opinion. Henry it was, of course, who split England from the Roman Catholic Church, in order to take a succession of wives for the sake of producing a male heir to the throne. To this day, however, Henry's marks on England are seen everywhere. Though Cromwell brought the nation truly representative government by empowering Parliament, and brought it its first genuine religious freedom (to dissent from the Church of England), few English regard him as a hero of their history.

Arguably the most godly leader of British government was William Gladstone (1809-1898), prime minister (four times) in the Liberal party under Queen Victoria. A website describes him thus:

Gladstone's profound piety, manifest in his daily study of the Bible and regular church attendance, was central to his approach to politics. Over the course of his career, he came to understand that liberty, understood in the context of Christian orthodoxy, was the central political principle. He shared this conviction with House member and close friend Lord John Acton, who saw in Gladstone a statesman inspired by the principle of liberty.

In 1867 he became leader of the Liberal Party, and soon after served his first term as prime minister. Gladstonian Liberalism was a coherent ideology deeply influenced by and consistent with a Christian world view. He advocated a minimalist view of the state, always insisting that government expenditures be pared to the bone, and he opposed measures to create additional public agencies. In this way taxes could be cut and money left in people's pockets. Furthermore, he argued that the needy should be helped by individuals and voluntary organizations, not the state, for state help to the poor would only sap their self-reliance.

Gladstone's view of political economy was also influenced by his faith. The market, in his view, was part of the providential law governing human affairs, and as such ought not be restricted. Instead, he advocated a laissez-faire approach to economics tempered with Christian charity that would provide the opportunity for people to become prosperous.

His piety took him to an opposite extreme from Cromwell: Whereas Cromwell subdued Ireland and upheld the British ban on the Catholic Church in Ireland, Protestant Gladstone led the move that restored religious liberty to Irish Catholics a generation before Ireland won its political independence from Britain.


A complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonals for 2001 - 2005

Parish magazine misprints

In reverse order of popularity, the Parish Pump Top 10 Church Magazine Misprints were as follows:

10 Calvinism* - and the doctrine of predestination - is clearly alive and well in Ft. Myers, Florida. The First United Methodist Ash Wednesday bulletin announced that Lent was a time for us all to ...

...prepent of our sins.

*One of the defining teachings of the theology called Calvinism is predestination (God knows who will repent even before they are born).

Thought for today

National injustice is the surest road to national downfall.

William Gladstone (1809-1898)  

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