1 Samuel 8 is an amazing text. It suddenly turns natural law, lowest-common-denominator American evangelicals into radical theonomists, preferring anything to monarchy. 1 Samuel 8 is loaded with presuppositions which are rarely identified by pro-republican evangelicals. I am arguing that prima facie appeals to 1 Samuel 8 as a universal condemnation of monarchy are illegitimate. Further, and I think more forcefully, I argue that appeals to 1 Samuel 8 which act, not only as a universal justification for republican government, but also–which I think the republicans are truly advocating–a universal demand for republican government.
Instead of going through exegesis which no one ever reads, I am going to lay forth my points:
- The American system and the tribal theocracy of 1 Samuel 8 (and that’s what it is, btw. American evangelicals are actually advocating a theocracy) are not the same. Yahweh specifically told Samuel the Israelites were rejecting Yahweh. My question: do evangelicals actually think and see the new America as ruled by Yahweh himself without a mediating figure?
- They will probably answer “no.” They have to for a number of theological reasons. In order to be ruled im*mediately by Yahweh, they would have to receive directions and guidance directly from Yahweh himself. In other words, they actually have to hear the voice of God! (some clever wit will say they do via the Bible–more on that later).
- This means, obviously, some form of mediating figure is necessary (O’Donovan, 50). In order for their appeal to 1 Samuel 8 to be strong, they have to posit the same social form seen in 1 Samuel 8. During pre-Davidic Israel, Samuel was the mediating figure between Yahweh and the nation (1 Samuel 3:19-21). Thus, republicans have to posit some Samuel-ite figure to mediate between God and the nation (the papal overtones should not be missed). Few evangelicals will take this route.
- In rejecting both the immediate rule by Yahweh and the mediating rule of a Samuel-ite prophet, I conclude that republicans should abandon their appeal to 1 Samuel 8. Besides applying a unique situation in salvation-history, and besides the fact that few evangelicals advocate a theonomic hermeneutic (which they must via their appeals to 1 Samuel 8), the republican evangelical must acknowledge that his situation is not analogous to pre-Davidic Israel and any sort of appeal to pre-Davidic Israel as normative for all time is fraught with problems.