Acton Institute Powerblog

Kyriarchy and Kuyper

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Statua chrystus królCourtesy Adrian Vermeule at Mirror of Justice, I ran across a word new to me: Kyriarchy. Given the context and my admittedly limited Greek-language skills, I was able to work out the gist of the idea. As Vermeule puts it, “On November 20, the Feast of Christ the King, a coronation ceremony took place at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow. The President of Poland and the Catholic Bishops officially crowned Jesus Christ the King of Poland.”

Vermeule goes on to wonder what impact, if any, this might have for Poland’s constitutional order: “Is Poland now to be classified as an authoritarian regime? What is Poland’s small-c constitution, if it still has one?”

Off the top of my head, I would point to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a precedent, which is perhaps best understood as a constitutional monarchy, first with Yahweh as the heavenly monarch with judges as the main earthly authorities, and later with a human monarchy subsumed and accountable to that divine rule. Torah was the national constitution, and there was a whole apparatus in place holding various institutions and authorities responsible for various duties.

I don’t think it would be right to call such divine lordship merely “symbolic.” And I don’t see why mutatis mutandis something like that couldn’t also be coherently put in place today.

The Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper had a lot to say about something that might be understood as Kyriarchy in a broader sense, at least. For that, I recommend his three-volume treatment of the lordship of Christ Pro Rege, the first of which is now available in English translation.

It is, of course, one thing to affirm the lordship of Christ over everything, including particular nation-states, and quite another to work out the particular ways that ought to be reflected in a particular political order. As Vermeule rightly notes, this isn’t merely a technical issue of polity, but a more substantive question of political, and even public, theology.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

Comments

  • Interesting concept! God was no more king over Israel than over every other nation and all nations today. He rules nations. The uniqueness of Israel was its submission to God some of the time. It’s submission was demonstrated in not having a human king to lord it over others, tax them into poverty and fight continual wars, and in not having a legislature to invent laws and pretend they had the same authority as God’s laws. They only had judges to settles disputes between people using God’s laws.

    God gave Israel just 631 laws, most of them ceremonial religious laws. Civil laws consisted mostly of prohibitions of theft, murder, fraud, slavery and kidnapping. They were sufficient for Israel under the judges for over 400 years.

    It seems that the way to make Christ our king would be to get rid of Congress, the presidency and all of the federal agencies. Taxes would be voluntary, as was the tithe. Then we would be subject only to God’s laws and not to man’s.