AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF ZIEGLER
Conducted by Eric Holmberg
Transcribed and edited by Jay Rogers
Rev. Jeffrey A. Ziegler, is founder and president of Christian Endeavors and Reformation Bible Institute. Christian Endeavors, founded in 1983, is a Christian education organization providing theological lectures and materials to help churches across the denominational spectrum develop a comprehensive biblical world-life-view. Rev. Ziegler has lectured in over 600 churches and pastors conferences comprising 18 denominations and spanning the North American continent, Great Britain and Germany. Reformation Bible Institute was founded in 1985 to train pastors and laymen in the theological opinions of the historic Reformed faith. Since 1985, over 500 students have passed through the halls of RBI in Northeast Ohio. Rev. Ziegler is moderator of the Association of Free Reformed Churches and the Ohio Reconstruction Society. He is an author with articles appearing in The Christian Statesman, The Forerunner, and Chalcedon Report. Jeff Ziegler is the editor of the Revival Flame newsletter and The Puritan Storm, and is a board member of the 135-year-old National Reform Association. Jeff Ziegler is married to wife Karen and has three children; Hannah Grace, Andrew Phillip, and Jeb Stuart.
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Question:-- Wouldn't a Christian Republic run according to God's Law become oppressive to non-Christians?
Jeff Ziegler: Freedom, liberty, has one chief end, and that is to advance Christ's rule, His reign, over all the nations and all the realms of the earth. Liberty without the sure anchor of Christian orthodoxy is really a Greco-Roman idea. It leads either on one hand to unfettered licentiousness and moral anarchy, or on the other, to a paternalistic tyranny. Because when you have moral anarchy, the state will move to suppress that anarchy. Without Christian orthodoxy, the hope of freedom and liberty for which our Founding Fathers fought is elusive at best.
When autonomous man seeks liberty from God, his first action is to revolt against God's law in order to fulfill the lusts of his flesh. Thereafter this period of anarchy, the messianic state seeks to suppress this moral anarchy. At that point, you have tyranny. You have the liberal or the right wing imposing their own morality apart from God. And so the whole idea of liberty is connected intrinsically to the idea of God's moral law. Liberty apart from God's law is an impossibility. There is no neutrality on this issue. It's either God's law or chaos. And if we have chaos, we will have tyranny. God has designed all governments, whether they are fascist, communist or democratic republics, to gravitate towards stability. The only question is will it be the governance of God's Law or communism or fascism or any other man-centered humanistic ideal. So man can have his licentious, lust-filled day in the sun. But he will pay a price in the ultimate loss of all freedom.
It is no accident that apostasy and heresy in the church and civil tyranny among nations walk hand in hand. The orthodox expression of Christianity is the final guarantor of our freedoms. And so if heresy and infidelity to orthodoxy gains ascendancy within the church, it will eventually work its way out into the civil sphere. People often ask me why we have such oppressive government in America today. And my answer is: Don't point to Washington D.C., because, while it is Sodom on the Potomac, the real problem lies with the pulpits of America. Unless we affirm Christian orthodoxy and the resulting freedoms it has birthed and guaranteed throughout the years, we will continue to be enslaved by our statist masters.
Question:-- Was the New Testament Church really a "New Testament" Church as we think of it today? In what ways was their situation different from ours?
Jeff Ziegler: The battle in America is between two ideas or notions and it is the Lordship of Jesus Christ versus the authority of the state or "Caesar." And that's really always been the question. Even in Christ's day, in the Gospels we see that the issue is always framed around: What allegiance do we owe to Caesar? What are our duties? And what allegiance do we owe to Christ?
Romans 13 gives us the parameter by which we are to judge our actions in this way. Romans 13 declares what kind of civil magistrate or elected official is endorsed by God. This kind of civil magistrate be he a monarch, a king, a parliamentarian, a congressmen, a president, must affirm God's law, punish wickedness, and affirm and reward righteousness. That is the kind of civil magistrate we are to obey. However, if the civil magistrate becomes tyranny to God's ways and in fact punishes righteousness and rewards wickedness, by virtue of their call to obey God's Law-Word in every jot and tittle, by His grace, Christians must be resolved to resist tyranny and to stand against such injustice.
While there was no implicit call to resist the tyranny of Rome by Paul, the fact that he gave us that filter in Romans 13 actually was a defense of the civil disobedience of the early church. The very preaching of the Gospel, the serving of Christ as the Lord of the nations, as He being God alone and no the Caesar cult, that was an act of civil disobedience. That's the reason why the Christians were persecuted and hounded and sent to the catacombs and put into the coliseums in the fierce competitions and the persecutions of Imperial Rome. It was the fact that they were not obeying the Caesar cult. So Romans 13 is a defense of the Gospel, but when we act upon the Gospel, when we preach the Gospel, when we live the Gospel, it is inevitably going to bring us in conflict with Caesar -- or the state that would be God.
When we look throughout the book of Acts and we see the Apostles, the deacons, and simple Christians being brought before civil magistrates giving an account for their faith and the Apostle Paul is one of these. And the question comes down to: When it is Christ versus Caesar, do we obey God and His Law or man? That is the issue between Christ and Caesar and on that there can be no neutrality, if we consistently live the Gospel, preach the Gospel, demonstrate the Gospel. Even the idea of rescuing babies -- the early church were taking abandoned babies that were left under the bridge abutment to die by Roman paganism. They were taking them as their own and adopting them and raising them in the faith. That was against Roman law. A true Gospel expression will always bring us into conflict, not with the civil magistrate that God ordains, but with the civil magistrate who seeks to dethrone God and become God himself.
Question:-- What about the "establishment of religion" clause in the U.S. Constitution? Doesn't the U.S. Constitution forbid the display of religion in the civil sphere?
Jeff Ziegler: The main differences between the Roman Empire under the Caesar cult and the early Church's reaction to it and Christians today in a constitutional republic, despite the fact that we've lost so many of our freedoms, we still have remedy at law to begin to work within the process to restore and reconstruct our nation along biblical lines -- simply to restore it to what it once was. Under the Roman authority, Christians did not have the means to defend themselves. Christians did not have the right to an appeal. But we have that process here. We have the right to defend ourselves. We have a Constitution. We have a Bill of Rights. We have elected representatives that we can work with, lower civil magistrates that we can work alongside, convert to the faith and even elect those who are explicitly Christian to these lower realms and then begin to work up into the governmental powers that be.
Reconstruction and reformation is a ground-up idea. The idea of seizing control of Washington D.C., of the Congress and presidency, is hopelessly naive. We have to reconstruct families. We have to reconstruct churches. We have to begin to work at the local level. We have to develop regional zones of kingdom influence. Within that realm, we are exhibiting, testifying, and working for the Crown Rights of Jesus Christ. So in that realm Christians have a greater hope and an easier road to hoe than the early Christians did versus the imperial power of Rome.
It's not as if this is a new thing that we are talking about. Our nation was founded under these strictures. If you go to any of the early colonial charters, the Fundamental Charters of Carolina, for example, there was a test for Christian orthodoxy for all civil magistrates and even land owners that they had to adhere to before they could be a recognized and vibrant part of the social fabric. We are not talking about anything that has not been done. It was done and accomplished in our nation and prior to the War Between the States, America prospered under such a mandate.
So we are not talking about Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. We are not talking about Islamic law. We're talking about biblical law. If we go back and we look at the Commonwealth of the Hebrew Republic, before the kings, we see a very decentralized system of government. Many people have the notion that Moses was a dictator, but that was only in the initial stages of the Exodus, which was primarily a military operation. Soon after that we see that Moses was going to wear away the people and God not only gave 70 elders, but princes and captains of fifties and tens. So you had this incredibly decentralized system of government among the tribes of Israel. People could say it was inefficient, but the whole idea was a check and balance against man's depravity. We modeled our constitutional republic after the Hebrew Commonwealth. That's what we're talking about here.
Question:-- Didn't the Apostle Paul say that we are no longer under law but under grace? If so, then what is the use of the Law of God under the New Covenant?
Jeff Ziegler: The notion of being "under grace and not law" is something not to be underestimated or undermined. But what is it Paul is saying? We are not saved nor justified by law. We are justified by faith in Christ. It is His finished work alone that secures our redemption. However, how is it that we are to live our lives? Is it by every whim or every fancy of our own wicked heart -- a deceitful heart that we cannot know? The Law of God has not passed away in terms of our guide for life in godliness. Jesus himself said that "not one jot nor tittle will pass away" until all things are fulfilled. Christ as the fulfillment of the law gives us the grace, which is divine almighty power effective on our behalf. He gives us the grace to live according to the law not to transgress the law. We see in Romans 6:1, "Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid!" And how is it we know that we sin? We have an unchanging standard in God's Law.
Now granted, there have been portions of Old Testament Law that have been changed or nullified. For example, the sacrificial system is no longer needed and is repugnant to God because Christ is the final and last sacrifice. The dietary laws have been modified and changed. But the moral law is still binding. For example, the laws against bestiality in the Old Testament are no where repeated in the New. Yet no one will say that bestiality is somehow now under grace. It's still sin. The ideas and notions of our conduct are in the Law of God. They are not options. They are commands. They have not been nullified or abridged in any way by Christ's finished work. In fact, now that law is written upon our heart and our mind and we are given grace to follow hard after them in a way that was not possible in the old dispensation.
Of course, Christianity is ultimately personal and intimate. We come by the finished work of Jesus Christ into a living, real and vital relationship with God. The creation can touch the Creator -- the Christ. That brings joy unspeakable and full of glory -- there can be no doubt. But then what? This personal, real and vital relationship must be manifest. The Great Commission says that we are to be a witness unto all nations. We are to teach those nations all the things that Christ did depict and declare. That means that we are to enforce, declare and disciple the nations, every tribe, every kindred, every ethnic grouping under and according to God's Law.
The idea that religion is only personal is actually heretical. That's an ancient heresy called Gnosticism. They said that the material world was evil and the unseen world was innately spiritual. That's why so many Christians in that era, and even today, have not had a proper view of sexuality, the family, the role of the Church, their role in society, and even the idea of work and creating wealth. They think the material world is evil. And therefore, they must cultivate material monastic ideas to be closer to Christ. But the idea of being close to Christ, the chosen fast of God, is to go out and set at liberty the captives. So whether it is preaching the Gospel to men so that they may be redeemed. Or whether that means going into the civil realm as a politician and declaring the Crown Rights of Jesus Christ there and ruling diligently according to the Law of God. Or whether that means being a home schooling mom and raising a generation of champions for Jesus Christ. At every realm, Christ the expression of the Gospel, His life is real and vital, and therefore it must have an outward flow.
Question:-- Were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution drafted to uphold the moral laws of God -- or were they Deistic humanist documents? If they were Christian documents, where have we gone so far off track?
Jeff Ziegler: There is no question that our Founding Fathers were an amalgamation of some Deistic humanists, Puritan thought as well as high Anglicanism, all mixed together and jostling for position in the context of our founding federal documents. However, there was an acknowledgment of man's overriding depravity, the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely was not a foreign idea to these men. In looking at the Hebrew Commonwealth in its decentralized forms of government, our founding fathers in their wisdom, set about to create a system where there would be checks and balances against this idea of absolute power, government by man, tyrannical carnality, with three branches of government, all of which are supposed to work to counter balance the other. At least theoretically, they would keep in check any tyrannical impulse.
Unfortunately, that assumes these three institutions are appealing to God's Law. No matter how good the system, unless it is under the aegis and covering of God's Law, any system can revert to tyranny. It can be the tyranny of the majority of paganism, of humanism. Even in Israel, in the Hebrew Commonwealth, when they began to apostatize and fall away from God's Law, what did they begin to cry out for? -- a tyrant, a king "like all he other nations." They paid the price for it in terms of wars, tyrannical suppression and taxation, and ultimately in the division of their nation in two separate entities and then the invasion of foreign pagan powers to bring them under the enslavement of their anti-God ways. So they ultimately paid the price and we will too if we don't turn back to God's Law.
When we can compare biblical law versus natural law, scripture is the final immutable authority on every subject of which it speaks. It is binding not only on the regenerate that is the Christian, but the unregenerate alike. You'll either are following God's Law and prospering accordingly, or you'll be broken by it. It doesn't change. So whether you acknowledge it or not, it exists, and all men are judged by its standards.
Now there is certainly natural revelation. God has made himself known in the creation -- there is evidence of his creation everywhere. But ultimately it is not evidence that man needs. It's conviction of sin and to have his miscreant depraved nature arrested. The role of the civil magistrate is to keep a biblical and sound order, to prosper the righteous and to punish wickedness. You can't do that by natural revelation or natural law. Now it's true that in a godly or predominantly godly society, men will understand natural law in a way that mimics or comes close to biblical law. We see that in the embryonic stages of our nation. However, natural law can be co-opted and pirated by corrupt alien and humanistic worldviews. Natural law can be interpreted from many different angles. In so doing, morality become relativistic.
However, that cannot be said of the Ten Commandments because not only do we have the explicit injunction "Thou shalt not kill" (or murder) or "Thou shalt not commit adultery." But we have case laws which interpret that law and how it is to be administered in the civil realm. So biblical law is superior because it is defined revelation. It is specific and applicable.
Question:-- Can we really legislate the biblical standards of morality on non-Christians? The non-Christian doesn't even believe in the Bible, so how can we even talk about building a society based on the Law of God?
Jeff Ziegler: The idea that we can be governed by many moralities, or pluralism, is really a myth. We are either in obedience to God's Law or we are in opposition to God's Law. Now there is a concern in a mechanistic sense that we are going to impose God's Law through an ecclesiocracy, that is a rule through the clergy, or through some dictatorship as in an Islamic nation. That is a misinterpretation of biblical Law. Biblical Law when it regards civil polity, is the ultimate decentralized government. Scripture does not support nor trust dictatorships. The whole idea behind God's judgment at the Tower of Babel was that man was coming together. He had all of his strength in one central location and had a global government. And God by once stroke of the hand decentralized that government and turned the languages against one another and formed nation-states from that one expression of a global tyranny.
That is the paradigm of the liberal. Liberals and humanists think in terms of statism. They must have the state to coerce and to force their ideas upon the people. They don't have another way of thinking. The state is messiah for them. When they look upon us and see our ideas and notions, that we are fighting for biblical law being applied to all of life, they can't think in any other terms. They think it's going to be a top-down theocratic, oligarchic or monarchic system. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's not revolution or political dictatorships that we place our faith in, rather it's the power of conversion. We are converting literally millions to the idea that God's Law is supreme. We see these revolutionary trends in home schooling, in ecclesiastical reform, and in the civil realm as we elect expressly and explicitly Christian politicians -- not simple neo-conservatives -- but Christians who acknowledge God's Law.
As we see this, one family at a time, one church at a time, one community at a time, one state at a time, America will be converted. It will be through conversion and not revolution that we see this great reordering and restructuring and reanchoring of our society to God's Law. Now there will always be those who are autonomous rebels, who trample underfoot the Son of God, who count the blood of the covenant to be unholy. They will always seek to overthrow God's rule. In the family, we see it with divorce and abortion. We see it in the church with ecclesiastical anarchists, those who will not be governed by sound doctrine. We see it in civil states. But only if they resort to violent means to overthrow godly order would they be suppressed. But they would not be suppressed by clergymen, but by a decentralized federal republic.
Question:-- How did Christian philosophy influence our form of civil government?
Jeff Ziegler: There is great consternation and controversy about what Christ's Lordship actually means in the real world. Most Christians will not argue with the fact that He does rule our lives. He is the ruler, the Lord, the King of their families and their church. But much beyond that, the idea of Christ's Lordship begins to fall on deaf ears. The retort you often hear revolves around the time period when Christ is before Pilate's inquisition and says, "My kingdom is not of this world." Let's put this in context however. Christ was not saying that His kingdom was not manifest in the world. What he was saying to Pilate "My kingdom does not gain it's authority from Rome or the Sanhedrin. My authority comes from on high." Pilate understood this. The irony is that the pagan tyrant understood, but Christians don't today. So the authority of Christ's kingdom is not of this world, but nonetheless, the kingdom has invaded this civil realm, the family realm, "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Every aspect of society is touched by the kingdom of God.
Now how does this work practically? If every time we'll confess, "Every knee will bow" before Christ, that He is the Lord, that monarchs, kings, state representatives, congressmen, and presidents must bow their knee before God. By what standard will they bow the knee? Yes, it gets back to God's Law. The kingdom has no place in terms of seeking approval or legitimacy here in the earth. It doesn't need the president's approval to exist. It's authority comes from the other world. And therefore it is superior and higher. But the kingdom is manifest in the world and Christ's Lordship is manifest in the world in the civil realm, in the family, in every aspect of society, economics, science etc. Christ's Lordship has the claim.
We talk about the crown rights of Jesus Christ. By virtue of the finished work of Jesus Christ, He has the right to rule. He has the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He has reconciled all things in heaven and in earth, the visible and the invisible, the living and the dead. He rules over all. Christ's kingdom is comprehensive in scope and absolute in its authority.
Question:-- What can Christians begin to do from a practical standpoint to begin to rebuild our nation according to the standard of the Law of God? What would a Christian America look like?
Jeff Ziegler: The way that the state attempts to supplant God is to intrude upon the God-given rights of personal property and the pursuit of happiness -- the things which are codified in our founding documents. This is true of communism, fascism, socialism and even a democratic republic. When the state begins to tax property, when it says that property which is given to you by God is now subject to their rule and their reign. You no longer own that property. You have become a serf through property taxes and income taxes. God gives you the power to get wealth. He is not the disburser of wealth, but gives you the power to get wealth to honor God. When they begin to tax income, property and things of this nature, they are intruding upon rights that God has given you. If they curtail your speech regarding the Gospel. We see that around abortion mills in these "buffer zones" where you cannot preach the Gospel or declare God's Law. These notions to control the freedom to worship God are all signs of tyranny.
But the good news is this. Tyranny only goes so far and so long before it begins to burn out. First, because of its own corruption. Second, because there is only so much money and so much property to tax. Eventually, this insatiable appetite for more has to be curtailed by simple arithmetic. In America today, we have reached the point where moral corruption, infidelity to Gods law in the civil realm, humanism as a life assistance in the collegiate realm among the intellectual elite, Darwinism, all of these notions are coming to the end of their political and social life span. In fact, I can hear the death rattle in the throat of humanism. They know it. This is in one way encouraging, but in another way it leads us to the most dangerous period. Whenever these systems begin to collapse, men who have tied their fortunes, their lives, their reputations to these corrupted and fallen paradigms become very vicious and violent.
We see this in the old Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union began to collapse, it was uneven. We see anarchy, murder, the Russian Mafia. Yet there could be more political tumult there and in Eastern Europe. We don't see the end of this yet. The same thing could happen in America. When humanism ultimately collapses and Christians rise to the fore, we could see things like the break-up and realignment of the United States. What is happening in the Soviet Union could certainly happen here. Those are dangerous times when one system is collapsing and another system arises. My great hope is that there is sufficient reformation and reconstruction in the church so that when the paradigm of humanism ultimately collapses, we will be able in the crisis to fill that vacuum. Otherwise, we'll exchange one tyranny for another.
Question:-- What about the idea that the government should be neutral and should recognize that we live in a democratic, pluralistic society?
Jeff Ziegler: Probably the greatest evidence of humanism's collapse and the reactionary statist hand being felt is in the former monopoly that we call public education. Public education is no such thing; it's government indoctrination. After all, whether it be Hitler, Stalin or Mao, tyrants always try to grab hold of the next generation to perpetuate their rebellion. The public school system on a number of different fronts is beginning to collapse -- academically, economically because people are no longer voting for levies, and because it is becoming more centralized in Washington D.C. Centralization is never an answer. Any business man could tell you that if the public school elitists definitely wanted to succeed, they would not want to centralize, but that is what they are doing. As these things begin to happen, more and more individuals leave the public school system either for parochial schools, private schools or for home school.
The correct reason for home schooling is not simply the quality of education in the government run school system. It is to say that the government has no authority whatever over you children., You are the one who is ultimately responsible.
As more have home schools, as more move to the parochial schools what is happening is a literal depopulation of the public system. Laws are being enacted at the state and federal level to destroy the freedom the parents have over their children. Home schoolers think that they have fought most of the legal battles in the 1980s. Actually they are going to see that their own success is going to breed a greater backlash by the state against their efforts. Ultimately, the state believes, whether at the local municipality, state or federal government, that they own the children. And that is where the great backlash of a collapsing humanism is going to be felt. It is going to take courage, conviction and sound theology by Christian parents not only to resist the tyranny, but to fight for justice.
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