restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Christian Archy: Some Implications

 David Alan Black  

It is evident that each of the three movements we have discussed, and the symphony of truth they form, entail a constant struggle between the church’s desire to desacralize itself and its desire to engage in practices that are totally incompatible with the Archy of Christ. We may recall the tendencies of the Magisterial Reformers to legitimize the power of the establishment archys and even to use the magistrate’s “sword” to gain for them legal standing. Eller tackles this aspect of the problem by mentioning explicitly the sixteenth-century Anabaptists, who resisted “impositional pressure” (Christian Anarchy, p. 32) to advance the Gospel and who placed no faith whatsoever in human archys to establish the kingdom. (In my new book I devote an entire chapter to these Anabaptists.) In these movements the Free Church element was very strong. The idea that God’s revolution could by force be manipulated to a desired end was rejected by the Anabaptists except for a revolutionary faction that unfortunately held to an “arky faith” (Christian Anarchy, p. 33).

It is a platitude to say that archy faith predominates in Christian circles today, mixing the profane with the sacred, and confusing the end and the means. As long as the church looks for an objective outside itself, which it tries to obtain by very great human effort, it forsakes its calling to be the instrument of God. Once such “churchly archy,” in my opinion, is the homeschool movement in Christian circles, which tends to greatly oversimplify moral decision making: homeschooling is good, government education is evil. Once again, Christianity has been subverted, and a process of earthly archy has developed. This is the well-known mechanism whereby one avoids a troublesome dilemma by projecting an ideal. The result is a tragic substitution of reason for revelation. I do not deny that very valid and persuasive reasons exist to homeschool one’s children (my wife and I homeschooled through high school). I am simply saying that this is a makeshift that can easily substitute morality for the Gospel and exalt law over faith, hope, and love. This is why I do not agree with the Christian homeschool agenda (please note the italicized word) when it argues that the New Testament requires parents to educate their children at home and when it advocates sociopolitical reasons and explanations. For the life of me, I can’t find anything in the Gospels or Epistles of the white-hatted homeschooler pitted against the black-hatted public schooler. No, the Gospel has in fact said nothing about what external form the education of our children should take, except that Christian parents are accountable for raising their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” There is here a kind of fundamentalism at work that attempts to achieve uniformity at all costs. Differences in the interpretation of Eph. 6:1-4 now become inadmissible, and annual denominational conventions even attempt to pass resolutions condemning all government-sponsored education. As I see it (and this is merely my opinion), the crux is that the Christian homeschool movement tends to promise what it cannot deliver: children who grow up to become mature Christians. My guess is that anyone who has raised children that have turned out to be sincere, obedient Jesus followers will say that it depended completely upon God’s grace rather than upon any formal method of education. Had Eller himself written about this topic (which, as far as I know, he never did), I imagine he might have said something like this: “We dare not declare, in principle, homeschooling to be preferable to government schooling in all cases. Each family, and each case, is relative to its own merits. Christian Archy [oops – he would have said Christian Anarchy] not only allows us to give God alone absolute loyalty but frees us to treat relative choices as the human relatives they are.” Now, if we extend this same principle to questions of curriculum (Bob Jones versus Rod and Staff?) and methodology (classical versus modern foreign languages?), I think we will arrive at the heart of Christian Archy.

Certainly, what has been said about the Christian homeschool movement (again, I am sympathetic to homeschooling as such) can also be said about any other Christian “reformist” movement (patriarchy, agrarianism, age-integration, etc.). The trouble is that such moralizing can be done sheerly in the flesh. We can get so caught up in the idea of raising modern knights or returning to the land or asserting male headship when oftentimes all that is actually happening is that our little archy is becoming more and more impressed by its own importance as a revolutionary cause. I am not enumerating here an abstract or theoretical view of things. The dangers lurking in our false panaceas have been fully proven in our day. A similar situation arises whenever one equates the Gospel with right-wing politics – or, for that matter, left-wing politics. “It is the same mistake either way,” observes Eller.” The only question is whether there ever has been any human arky – church, state, cause, group, or whatever – that has merited recognition as God’s chosen instrument of human salvation” (Christian Anarchy, p. 31).

This fact is not always sufficiently realized. Ellul has a very strong statement in this regard: “All this is a tragic result of the substitution of morality for revelation that for two thousand years has been one of the aspects of the perversion of the will of God” (The Subversion of Christianity, p. 94). If Christian Archy means anything, it means that all the “answers” proposed by man to achieve the ends proposed by God are useless and inadequate. Every earthly archy is illusory, and keeps us tied to an outlook we should be abandoning. This simply means that one cannot seek first the kingdom of God and at the same time seek “all these things” in addition to the kingdom.

The Enemy of the church always seeks to turn it aside from the cross in order to make it follow its own way. At various times in its turbulent history, the church has been socialist or communist, liberal or fundamentalist, political or apolitical. It has espoused the social gospel, revolution (of both the violent and non-violent types), egalitarianism, complementarianism, classlessness, class distinction, colonization, and communism. In each case the church has tended to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Writes Ellul, “[The church] is no more than one of the forms in which the will of the world is expressed, and actually it is helping the world to realize its own ends. It no longer represents the power of the action of God in the world” (The Presence of the Kingdom, p. 125). While earthly archys might have a certain value, they are inevitably compromised and, says Ellul, “these ‘compromises’ have turned out badly for the church” (p. 126).

It seems that our steel is fatally flawed after all. It is only in Jesus Christ, the Originator and Finalizer of faith, that we have any possibility of salvation. In reality, the Gospel is the only source of personal, familial, and societal renewal. What matters, then, is not that we lose ourselves in futile political or social agitation. What matters is that we recognize in the incarnation of Christ, and in His death and resurrection, that God was intervening in the course of human history to give us not only eternal life but an abundant life every day. There is now only one response we can give – calling all men and women into a relationship with God through this same Jesus.

NEXT: Concluding Thoughts

Read Part 1: Christian Archy: Introduction.

Read Part 2: Christian Archy: Its Major Tenets.

October 18, 2008

David Alan Black is the editor of

Back to daveblackonline