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Theocratic

For other uses, see Theocracy (disambiguation).

Template:Basic Forms of government

From the perspective of the theocratic government, "God himself is recognized as the head" of the state,[1] hence the term theocracy, from the Greek θεοκρατία "rule of God", a term used by Josephus for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.[2]

Taken literally or strictly, theocracy means rule by God or gods and refers primarily to an internal "rule of the heart", especially in its biblical application. The common, generic use of the term, as defined above in terms of rule by a church or analogous religious leadership, would be more accurately described as an ecclesiocracy.[3]

In a pure theocracy, the civil leader is believed to have a direct personal connection with the civilization's divinity. For example, Moses led the Israelites, and Muhammad ruled the early Muslims. Law proclaimed by the ruler is also considered a divine revelation, and hence the law of God. An ecclesiocracy, on the other hand, is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation. For example, the prince-bishops of the European Middle Ages, where the bishop was also the temporal ruler. Such a state may use the administrative hierarchy of the religion for its own administration, or it may have two 'arms,' -- administrators and clergy—but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy. The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.

Religiously endorsed monarchies fall between these two poles, according to the relative strengths of the religious and political organs.

Theocracy is distinguished from other, secular forms of government that have a state religion, or are influenced by theological or moral concepts, and monarchies held "By the Grace of God". In the most common usage of the term, some civil rulers are leaders of the dominant religion (e.g., the Byzantine emperor as patron of the head of the official Church); the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion, and divine approval of government institutions and laws. These characteristics apply also to a caesaropapist regime. The Byzantine Empire however was not theocratic since the patriarch answered to the emperor, not vice versa; similarly in Tudor England the crown forced the church to break away from Rome so the royal (and, especially later, parliamentary) power could assume full control of the now Anglican hierarchy and confiscate most church property and income.

Secular governments can also coexist with a state religion or delegate some aspects of civil law to religious communities. For example, in Israel marriage is governed by officially recognized religious bodies who each provide marriage services for their respected adherents, yet no form of civil marriage (free of religion, for atheists, for example) exists nor marriage by non-recognized minority religions. India similarly delegates control of marriage and some other civil matters to the religious communities, in large part as a way of accommodating its Muslim minority.

Etymology

The word theocracy originates from the Greek people meaning "the rule of God". This in turn derives from the Ancient Greek θεός (theos), meaning "god", and κρατέω (krateo), meaning "to rule." Thus the meaning of the word in Greek was "rule by god(s)" or human incarnation(s) of god(s).

It was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the first century A.D. to describe the characteristic government for Jews. Josephus argued that while the Greeks recognized three types of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and anarchy, the Jews were unique in that they had a system of government that did not fit into those categories. Josephus understood theocracy as a fourth form of government in which only God and his law is sovereign. Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the Enlightenment era, when the term started to collect more universalistic and negative connotations, especially in Hegel's hands. The first recorded English use was in 1622, with the meaning "sacerdotal government under divine inspiration" (as in Biblical Israel before the rise of kings); the meaning "priestly or religious body wielding political and civil power" is recorded from 1825.

Current theocracies

Christian theocracies

Holy See (Vatican City)

Following the unification of Italy, Vatican City became the last surviving territory of the former Papal States.[4] In 1929, the State of Vatican City was formally recognized as an independent state through treaties with the Italian government.[4] The head of state of the Vatican is the pope, elected by the College of Cardinals, an assembly of Senatorial-princes of the Church, who are usually clerics, appointed as Ordinaries, but in the past have also included men who were not bishops nor clerics.[4] A pope is elected for life. They may resign.

Voting is limited to cardinals under 80 years of age.[4] A Secretary for Relations with States, directly responsible for international relations, is appointed by the pope. The Vatican legal system is rooted in canon law but ultimately is decided by the pope; the Bishop of Rome as the Supreme Pontiff, "has the fullness of legislative, executive and judicial powers."[5] Although the laws of Vatican City come from the secular laws of Italy, under article 3 of the Law of the Sources of the Law, provision is made for the supplementary application of the “laws promulgated by the Kingdom of Italy.”[6] The government of the Vatican can also be considered an ecclesiocracy (ruled by the Church)

Islamic states or Islamic theocracies

Main article: Islamic state
Main article: Sharia

An Islamic state is a state that has adopted Islam, specifically Sharia, as its foundations for political institutions, or laws, exclusively, and has implemented the Islamic ruling system khilafah (Arabic: خلافة), and is therefore a theocracy. Although there is much debate as to which states or groups operate strictly according to Islamic Law, Sharia is the official basis for state laws in the following countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. In Nigeria, the constitution provides that states may elect to use Shari'a laws and courts, though non-Muslims are not required in any state to submit to Shari'a jurisdiction and adherence varies by state.[7]

Saudi Arabia maintains religious courts for all aspects of law and has religious police to maintain social compliance.

Pakistan has Islam as its only official religion and its Federal Shariat Court has the duty of striking down any law not complying with the Sharia code of Islamic law; however, ruling falls upon legal scholars who, while required to be Muslim, are not religious clergy.

Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been described as a "theocratic republic" (by the US Central Intelligence Agency[8]), and its constitution a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements" (by Francis Fukuyama[9]). Like other Islamic states it maintains religious laws and has religious courts to interpret all aspects of law. According to Iran's constitution, "all civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria."[10]

In addition, Iran has a religious ruler and many religious officials in powerful government posts. The head of state, or "Supreme Leader", is a faqih[11] (scholar of Islamic law), and possesses more power than Iran's president. The Leader appoints the heads of many powerful posts (the commanders of the armed forces, the director of the national radio and television network, the heads of the powerful major religious foundations, the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special tribunals, and members of national security councils dealing with defence and foreign affairs. He also co-appoints the 12 jurists of the Guardian Council[12]).

The Leader is elected by the Assembly of Experts[8][13] which is made up of mujtahids[14] (Islamic scholars competent in interpreting shariah law).

Another body, the Council of Guardians, has the power to veto bills from majlis (parliament), approve or disapprove candidates who wish to run for high office (president, majlis, the Assembly of Experts). The council supervises elections, and can greenlight or ban investigations into the election process.[8] Six of the Guardians (half the council) are faqih empowered to approve or veto all bills from the majlis (parliament) according to whether the faqih believe them to be in accordance with Islamic law and customs (the Sharia). The other six members are lawyers appointed by the head of the judiciary (who is also a cleric and also appointed by the Leader[15])

Central Tibetan Administration

The Central Tibetan Administration, colloquially known as the Tibetan government in exile, is a Tibetan exile organisation with a state-like internal structure. According to its charter, the position of head of state of the Central Tibetan Administration belongs ex officio to the current Dalai Lama, a religious hierarch. In this respect, it continues the traditions of the former government of Tibet, which was ruled by the Dalai Lamas and their ministers, with a specific role reserved for a class of monk officials.

On March 14, 2011, at the 14th Dalai Lama's suggestion, the parliament of the Central Tibetan Administration began considering a proposal to remove the Dalai Lama's role as head of state in favor of an elected leader.

The first directly elected Kalön Tripa was Samdhong Rinpoche, who was elected August 20, 2001.[16]

Before 2011, the Kalön Tripa position was subordinate to the 14th Dalai Lama[17] who presided over the government in exile from its founding.[18] In August of that year, Lobsang Sangay polled 55 per cent votes out of 49,189, defeating his nearest rival Tethong Tenzin Namgyal by 8,646 votes, becoming the second popularly-elected Kalon Tripa. The Dalai Lama announced that his political authority would be transferred to Sangay.[19]

Change to Sikyong

On September 20, 2012, the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile unanimously voted to change the title of Kalön Tripa to Sikyong in Article 19 of the Charter of the Tibetans in exile and relevant articles.[1]. The title sikyong had previously been used by regents who ruled Tibet during the Dalai Lama's minority.

States with official state religion

Main article: State religion

Having a state religion is not sufficient to be a theocracy. Many countries have a state religion without the government directly deriving its powers from a divine authority or a religious authority directly exercising governmental powers.

Historic states with theocratic aspects

The largest and best known theocracies in history were the Umayyad and early Abassid Caliphate, and the Papal States. And as with any other state or empire, pragmatism was part of the politics of these de jure theocracies.

Antiquity

The imperial cults in Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, as well as numerous other monarchies, deified the ruling monarch. The state religion was often dedicated to the worship of the ruler as a deity, or the incarnation thereof.

Early Israel was ruled by Judges before instituting a monarchy. The Judges were believed to be representatives of YHWH or Jehovah.

In ancient and medieval Christianity, Caesaropapism is the doctrine where a head of state is at the same time the head of the church.

Christian

In the Byzantine Empire (324-1453 AD) the Emperor was the head of civil society. He also exercised authority over the ecclesiastical authorities, or patriarchates. The emperor was considered to be God's omnipotent representative on earth and he ruled as an absolute autocrat.[23]

Geneva under John Calvin's influence and the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the "Puritans" had many characteristics of Protestant theocracies.

The short reign (1494–1498) of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican priest, over the city of Florence had features of a theocracy. During his rule, "un-Christian" books, statues, poetry, and other items were burned (in the Bonfire of the Vanities), sodomy was made a capital offense, and other Christian practices became law.

Although having a lay ruler (the King of Jerusalem) the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1299) is considered to have some theocratic influences.

Also the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector is also considered to have a considerable amount of theocratic influence.

The Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace in 1860s Qing China was a heterodox Christian theocracy led by the self-proclaimed younger brother of Jesus Christ, Hong Xiuquan. This theocratic state fought one of the most destructive wars in history, the Taiping Rebellion, against the Qing Dynasty for fifteen years before being crushed following the fall of the rebel capital Nanking.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Main articles: Theodemocracy and State of Deseret

Another ecclesiocracy was the administration of the short-lived State of Deseret, an independent entity briefly organized in the American West by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its original borders stretched from western Colorado to the southern California coast. When the Mormons arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847, the Great Basin was still a part of Mexico and had no secular government. As a result, Brigham Young administered the region both spiritually and temporally through the highly organized and centralized Melchizedek Priesthood. This original organization was based upon a concept called theodemocracy, a governmental system combining Biblical theocracy with mid-19th-century American political ideals, including heavy reliance upon the U.S. Constitution.

The treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo resulted in the Mexican Cession by which Deseret was incorporated into the United States. In 1849, the Saints organized a secular government in Utah, although many ecclesiatical leaders maintained their positions of secular power. The Mormons also petitioned Congress to have Deseret admitted into the Union as a state. However, under the Compromise of 1850, Utah Territory was created and Brigham Young was appointed governor. In this situation, Young still stood as head of the LDS Church as well as Utah's secular government.

After the abortive Utah War of 1857–1858, the replacement of Young by an outside Federal Territorial Governor, the eventual resolution of controversies regarding plural marriage, and accession by Utah to statehood, the apparent temporal aspects of LDS theodemocracy receded markedly. However, — like many Christians, Jews, and Muslims — Latter-day Saints regard some form of theocracy with God as the head (king) of a chiliastic world government to be the true political ideal. But, until the Second Coming of Christ, the Mormons teach in their 12th Article of Faith: submission to the powers that be. But true to their beliefs in individual liberty and moral accountability, they exhibit a strong preference for democratic-republican, representative government as embodied in the Constitution of the United States.

Montenegro

Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro offers a singular example of monarchs willingly turning their power to ecclesiastic authority (Montenegrin Orthodox), as the last of the House of Crnojević (styled Grand Voivode, not sovereign princes) did, in order to preserve national unity before the Ottoman onslaught as a separate millet under an autochthonous ethnarch. When Montenegro re-established secular dynastic succession by the proclamation of princedom in 1851, it did so in favor of the last Prince-bishop, who changed his style from Vladika i upravitelj Crne Gore i Brde "Vladika (Bishop) and Ruler of Montenegro and Brda" to Po Bozjoj milosti knjaz i gospodar Crne Gore i Brde "By the grace of God Prince and Sovereign of Montenegro and Brda", thus rendering his de facto dynasty (the Petrović-Njegoš family since 1696) a hereditary one.

Islam

For years, Islam implemented a theocracy, starting from the time when Muhammad established the Muslim empire in Medina in the 7th century all the way to the early 20th century when the last Caliphate was dissolved in Turkey. After the time of the Prophet, caliphs (from the Arabic word Khalifah which means successor) would rule according to Islamic law, or the law found in the Quran and in the narrations from the Prophet. Although the caliphs did not claim to receive revelation directly from Allah as did the Prophet, they based their decrees on the Quran, demonstrating that Allah, not the earthly ruler, was the ultimate authority.

Buddhism

Unified religious rule in Tibet began in 1642, when the Fifth Dalai Lama allied with the military power of the Mongol Gushri Khan to consolidate the political power and center control around his office as head of the Gelug school.[24] This form of government is known as the dual system of government. Prior to 1642, particular monasteries and monks had held considerable power throughout Tibet, but had not achieved anything approaching complete control, though power continued to be held in a diffuse, feudal system after the ascension of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Power in Tibet was held by a number of traditional elites, including members of the nobility, the heads of the major Buddhist sects (including their various tulkus), and various large and influential monastic communities.[25]

Political power was sometimes used by monastic leaders to suppress rival religious schools through the confiscation of property and direct violence.[24][26] Social mobility was somewhat possible through the attainment of a monastic education, or recognition as a reincarnated teacher, but such institutions were dominated by the traditional elites and governed by political intrigue.[25] Non-Buddhists in Tibet were members of an outcast underclass.[25]

The Bogd Khaanate period of Mongolia (1911-1919) is also cited as a former Buddhist theocracy.

Zoroastrianism

During the Achaemenid Empire, Zoroastrianism was the state religion and included formalized worship. The Persian kings were known to be pious Zoroastrians and also ruled with a Zoroastrian form of law called asha. However, Cyrus the Great, who founded the empire, avoided imposing the Zoroastrian faith on the inhabitants of conquered territory. Cyrus's kindness towards Jews has been cited as sparking Zoroastrian influence on Judaism.

Under the Seleucids, Zoroastrianism became autonomous. During the Sassanid period, the Zoroastrian calender was reformed, image-use was banned, Fire Temples were increasingly built and intolerance towards other faiths prevailed.[27]

Fictional theocracies

Depictions of a fictional society dominated by a theocracy recur in science fiction, speculative fiction and fantasy. Such depictions are mostly dystopian, and in some cases humorous or satirical; positively presented theocracies are very much the exception.

  • The Dune series by Frank Herbert.
  • Lost Horizon - Shangri La is a positive theocracy.

See also

Christian:

Islamic:

Other:

References

Further reading

  • Hirschl, Ran. ISBN 0-674-04819-9, 978-0-674-04819-5.

External links

  • Biblical Theocracy, etext of a book by Stephen Palmquist (Philopsychy Press, 1993).
  • EtymologyOnLine
  • Is Judaism a Theocracy? chabad.org
  • First Things, August/September 2006, p. 23-30 – Theocracy, Theocracy, Theocracy
  • Caliphate: The Future of Islamic Theocracy
  • Freedom of Religion in Israel
  • Dr. Martin Erdmann journalist and theologian. Book: Building the Kingdom of God on Earth (English)
  • Dr. Martin Erdmann journalist and theologian. Book: Der Griff zur Macht - Dominionismus der evangelikale Weg zu globalem Einfluss (German)
  • collection of articles on the subjects dominionism, sacralism and theocracy - Rachel Tabachnik, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. Martin Erdmann, Rudolf Ebertshäuser, Sarah Leslie, Discernment Ministries Inc. u.v.m (English + German)
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