Words define us as a people. They give us ideas and concepts that we otherwise wouldn’t have on our own. And some of these words are actually too important for us to allow to be lost to time. They are too important for that to happen. That is why it is imperative for us to take a break and explain what they mean from time to time: like the distinctions between God’s sovereignty and national sovereignty.
When we submit ourselves to the future, sometimes we forget what the past is all about. But by recovering the past, by recovering history, we can open ourselves up to other options besides repeating it over and over again.
I challenge you to see for yourselves what the difference is between them.
Sovereignty, first of all, lexically means “the quality or state of having supreme rank, power or authority.” When the notion of sovereignty is acknowledged in reverence toward God, we are saying that He is great, He is powerful, and that there is no other like Him. What this term is also saying in this context is that God is the highest authority mankind will ever have to contend with. In other words, He is Judge, not we. We will have to give Him an account, not the other way around. Therefore, He is not in office by popular demand. God, in fact, constantly reached out to Israel in the Old Testament but was normally denied – hence the frustration of many OT prophets. So, God is not ruling right now at our behest. We are His subjects, not vice versa.
And this is an important principle if we are to consider inalienable rights. We have these rights given by the Creator – they had better be sturdy! If they were given by a human authority – let’s say, by Hobbes’ “Sovereign” – then they are revocable, for they are attached to human whim. If a human can grant them then a human can take them away. If, however, God grants them, then no human can ever remove them. They are permanent. They are forever. Therefore, it is God’s sovereignty that grants the essence of inalienability to our natural rights as human beings.
Sovereignty, in relation to God, emphasizes the notion that there is no one like Him and that He is truly the omnipotent ruler of all the universe.
In the sovereignty of God there is hope for the future.
But what does it mean for a nation to be “sovereign”?
This notion comes from amongst the oldest of concepts in civilization: borders, independence from other like-states, and treaty-making abilities with those states. One legal dictionary explains it this way:
The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which an independent state is governed and from which all specific political powers are derived; the intentional independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign interference. [emphasis added]
1) One of the ways that this is actualized is via something called borders. A nation without borders is not a nation at all – at least not for long! What is separating one country from another? If there are no countries, then we – every citizen of God’s green Earth – are actually each a member of, what science fiction has called, an ecumenopolis: a world-city.
However, is this really the way to go? A planet with one, heavily centralized, global government with no individual liberty or the freedom for us to go about our business? Having localized authority gives the citizen a deeper sense of control over his or her life – doesn’t it you? Nation-states are an important idea to keep around for a long time, I think.
So clearly this is not the case. Clearly, the world is full of countries with borders; it just seems that we are the only ones who don’t give a hoot about it. If we follow this through and become in essence the only nation in the existence of the world to have no national demarcations, then where are we? Either every human being is a member of the United States or no human being is. Furthermore, America will not last long as a sovereign nation-state if it does not treat its own borders with respect and dignity; for who else will? Who else will…
2) Having the ability to decide who is and is not allowed to enter your sovereign space is a critical part of nation-hood.
National sovereignty incorporates the idea of having the authority to decide who is and who is not allowed to come through those borders. Boundaries, in general, involve the concept of saying “no” to some and “yes” to others. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them? Of course, it would be immoral to say “no” to a person based on race alone or something in those regards. But what about somebody’s criminal record? What about any communicable diseases they are carrying as we speak? This is perfectly within the realm of reason to inquire about; don’t you think so?
3) Treaty-making power. Every nation-state has got to have some. In the course of time it may become prudent to enter into an alliance with another sovereign nation or two, if it is in her best interest to do so for the time being. For example, after the hell of the Second World War came to a crushing end, NATO was formed. This North Atlantic Treaty Organization holds to this day as a principle that if just one of its members – say Iceland, Italy, or America – is hit, all of the nations will respond as one fighting force. In this way, these independent nation-states “got each other’s backs” in order to help stave off another multi-continental war of previous magnitude. So far, it has done a good job.
4) Nation-hood requires enough power to write, enforce, and adjudicate its own laws. To illustrate this point, I can turn to another – and less effective – inter-national organization: the U.N. What was once designed as an effort to manage the affairs between sovereign states has now declined into an enterprise of managing affairs within them. Case in point, environmentalism. The United Nations has taken upon itself, via its self-named “Ageneda 21,” the initiative of managing all things climate-related in all countries who are a part of this membership – particularly Western states. The degree of supranational intrusion is immense when the amount of city planning given to “sustainable growth” projects that are directly connected to this initiative is properly examined for what it is.
A nationally sovereign country will not stand up for those shenanigans from an outside political body for long.
5) This idea embodies the aspect of trading with other nation-states. Trade enables an iron-sharpens-iron fervor that improves and does not diminish the overall quality of products (goods or services).
6) A nation has to be able to defend itself.