At one point in his autobiography, An American Life, Ronald Reagan recalled a point he made in his first presidential-inauguration speech regarding the size and influence of the federal government. It follows:
"From time to time, we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?" — (227).
Socialism and communism, which then were prominent, as well as an increasing emphasis on government-reliance, were the objects of Reagan's remarks on this occasion.
In marked contrast, Reagan championed individualism and self-reliance. When applied to the governments of this world, this argument appears flawlessly sound (provided the premise is true). Yet, when it comes to Christianity, an entirely different approach must be taken.
Whereas Reagan affirmed that we, the people, are capable of governing ourselves politically, Christianity teaches just the reverse religiously. Indeed, there is a stark difference between the governments of the secular world, and the government of the spiritual.
In the secular environment, human beings, being equally flawed yet equally autonomous, must take it upon ourselves to behave civilly with each other. This, in essence, is the function of civil government. Men, therefore, have chosen to govern themselves, deciding the methods and nature of such government through some form of general constitution — from monarchical to democratic (for a more expansive treatment of this subject, see: "Politics: Some Things To Remember").
Yet, in the spiritual environment, which transcends the individual, we are compelled to leave the governing to a higher, more sublime power — an elite being.
Civil governments, then, are based upon the correlative imperfection of its citizenry. But the divine government is based on the distinctive perfection of its creator.
Since God is perfect and his will is truth, his edicts can never be modified — his decrees shall ever stand (cf. Ps. 148.1-6; Isa. 40.6-8). Consequently, men cannot govern ourselves religiously/morally (cf. Jer. 10.23) — only a perfect God is capable of doing that (cf. Isa. 55.6-9).
With this in mind, apply Reagan's argument to God's government: "if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?"
Is this not a legitimate question, particularly when spoken in a religious context?
Yet, religious creeds have been written, man-made traditions have been adopted, denominational headquarters have been founded to do just that. Why do professed-Christians feel the need to make laws God has not made, or to make void those laws which he has given, binding and/or loosing them on individuals who are just as flawed as they are?
If we are unable to govern ourselves religiously, then who among us has the capacity — Pope or otherwise — to govern someone else religiously? Rather, "let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rm. 3.4).
In fact, infringing on matters of faith is a blatant violation of the sovereign will of God (cf. Mk. 7.8-9; Gal. 1.6-9). Indeed, God alone possesses the prerogative to determine matters of faith (cf. Rm. 10.17).
Leave the man-made creeds, traditions, and earthly headquarters to the fading kingdoms of this world (cf. 1 Cor. 2.6).
Reagan, Ronald. An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.