Perhaps that title is a bit strong. But I am certainly disappointed in my Reformed forefathers when it comes to political theology. This post is the first of many that will no doubt follow on PMV--Peter Martyr Vermigli--and his political theology. As far as I can tell, only one book has been published on the subject (and it's simply a compilation of some of his writings), and I have it in my hands.
Though taking place within the context of a Biblical commentary, his whole discussion of the rights and privileges of the magistrate reeks of natural theology. When it comes to the question of "What if the magistrate is corrupt and abuses his powers?" it never enters into PMV's head to bring the Church into it at all:
But when princes are so corrupt, what is to be done? We must obey, but usque ad aras, that is, so far as religion suffreth. May private men take upon them to alter a corrupt Prince? They may do it in admonishing, in giving counsel and reproving, but not by force of weapons.
I happen to agree with what he says about private men, but he forgets that there is another institution in this picture--the Church. There is not simply the State and its citizens. The Church does have a certain ability to stand against the corrupt prince that the private man does not. Of course, again, this does not take the form of arms. In the case of pagan rulers, it may indeed not be able to take much form other than "giving counsel and reproving"--however, even this holds much more authority, coming from the Church, than from any number of private men. But what if the magistrate is a corrupt Christian? It is unconscionable that this question does not even arise for PMV. The magistrate is simply considered in terms of his public role as magistrate, and the question of whether or not he is a covenant member never arises. Where's the antithesis here? PMV takes examples from ancient Rome and applies them on magistrates of his day. But there is something really missing here. For, if the corrupt magistrate is indeed a Christian, the Church has a great deal more to say. The Church cannot fight with worldly weapons, but it can fight with what are far more powerful--spiritual weapons. It can bring all the discipline of the Church down upon that corrupt magistrate. Now, we can't necessarily know how this will turn out, but I have to wonder, why does PMV not even discuss this angle?
In other words, PMV needs to read Torture and Eucharist.
I would like to apologize to any who may have read my posts on James Jordan's view of images, and to Jordan himself.
I recognize that I worded some things too strongly and it was inappropriate for a potentially public forum where anyone may read what I say and misunderstand my intent. I had naively thought that only a few close friends, if anyone, would read the posts, and they would understand the context and be able to discuss these things with me.
Also, when I posted the material, I forgot how strongly I had worded some of the things that I had typed up, having written them that way in order to give strength and focus to my writing, but originally intending to soften some things later. Of course, that is not to deny that even in the first place, my attitude toward Jordan was inappropriate. It was. I believe strongly that he was very wrong in many of the things he said them and the way he said them, but I know that, to any Christian, especially a learned teacher, I should give the benefit of the doubt, rather than imputing maximum error, as I did.
Furthermore, I hope that everyone who has read this blog understands that the admittedly strong stances I have been adopting have been primarily for the sake of argument. I don't think I know hardly anything about this stuff, but I've been trying to figure things out and work out what positions are and are not tenable through suggesting some thoughts on the subject, and inviting discussion and correction. I don't think I've made that clear enough, but please understand that is my intent. I'm not trying to shake down the walls of Protestantism single-handedly. Right now, I'm just trying to find the walls.