Thursday, March 12, 2009

Constitutional Peasants

I am not exactly what one would call a Monty Python fan, however, there are certain bits I really enjoy. Perhaps my favorite skit of all time is the "Constitutional Peasant." This scene, taken from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, depicts a smart-aleck peasant who insists on arguing politics with King Arthur, who merely wants to know the answer to a simple question. Listen carefully for some of the objections raised by Dennis, the "Constitutional Peasant," against Arthur's authority:



Two things are evident in this scene: 1) Arthur is king; and 2) Dennis doesn't like it. In fact, Dennis comes up with numerous reasons why Arthur's sovereignty does not apply to him, why he thinks Arthur's rule is oppressive and therefore wrong, and how things should be run. Yet Dennis' feelings and opinions do not change the fact that Arthur is king. While it makes for great comedy, there is a ring of truth to this exchange when we consider its similarity to our human understanding of God's sovereignty.

Not too long ago I had read a transcript of a panel discussion in which one of the members of that panel, John MacArthur, had made an excellent point regarding sovereignty. MacArthur said that people who are accustomed to democratic rule will especially struggle with the idea of sovereignty. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
PASTOR MACARTHUR: I also think that Americans have a specially difficult time with this, because we don't know what a monarchy feels like. We have never lived under a sovereign ruler. We don't have any concept of that. You would find people historically in a culture where they're ruled by a king, who have a very clear understanding, and willingly bend their minds to the fact that somebody can actually be in charge. Not everybody is an elected official. Some people have a divine right to sovereignty. This is a bigger problem in America, I think, than it is in Europe . . . And it has to do with, I think, as much culturally, we just really have a hard time understanding that somebody is the king, and the king does whatever the king wants to do. And the King of the universe does exactly what He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it . . . And we don't like the idea of not being free, you know. We want to have the freedom to choose whatever we want to choose. And that may be the American way, but that isn't the biblical way.

I think this is an exceptionally astute observation. Much of what we understand about God is unfortunately overshadowed by our own personal experience, and even worse, our own personal opinion. We forget that God is King. We like to talk back to Him. We raise our objections using our puffed up knowledge and our fancy, inflated vocabularies. We like to make the decisions, take votes, and decide - on the basis of "majority vote" - what is right and what is wrong. Yet this does not negate the fact that God is King, and the King has spoken.

It is easy to see this rebellious attitude in others who openly and deliberately reject Christ. Like Dennis, they argue that "supreme executive power comes from a mandate from the masses," and not some "farcical" story about a Messiah who conquered the grave. But this attitude often continues to live in our hearts, even after we have sworn loyalty to the King. We object when circumstances do not go our way. We cry "foul!" when we are reminded that we did not seek after God, but rather, He chose us. We struggle with doctrines that are clearly taught in scripture, and assume that if we take a church "vote" on it, we can change the rules to better suit our liking.

When things do not go according to our plans, let's not be "constitutional peasants", crying out, "Help, help! I'm being repressed!" every time God attempts to mortify our pride or give us a thorn in the flesh. We are merely peasants who have been granted the privilege of addressing Him directly. But He is King, He is sovereign, and He is all-powerful. When we try to raise objections against the Sovereign, Almighty King of Kings based on the concept that we are entitled to certain inalienable "rights," we become, like this scene, nothing short of comical. I have been guilty of being a constitutional peasant. Have you?


Click here to read the complete transcript of the panel discussion featuring John MacArthur, or listen to a recording of it, courtesy of Grace to You.

3 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

That is perhaps one of the funniest couple of minutes ever in a movie.

See the injustice inherent in the system!

Jennifer said...

Hey, I just realized something -- it's an Arthur triple play! 1)King Arthur; 2)John MacArthur; and now 3)A comment by Arthur Sido.

It's the little things I notice . . .

WhiteStone said...

God is God and I am not. And in response to your question, yes, our old nature surely does like to insist that things go "our" way and not the way of a Sovereign God. We certainly do appreciate God's goodness when our lives are good. When bad things happen, we protest, thinking our view of things must be more correct that God's. I'm learning to have to bow down in all circumstances. And trust.