Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Fiat is more than just an Italian motor company. It is a Latin word for "let it be done." It is a formal decree, a command, an act of the will that can (even arbitrarily) create something without further effort.
We sometimes hear people talking about fiat currency or ruling by fiat. What this means respectively is that our money doesn't have anything backing it, or there is no law supporting it. There is nothing real or tangible behind fiat to give it any intrinsic worth or value. The U.S. dollar has value because we believe it does. That's it. Likewise, when someone rules by fiat they are ruling by decree. There is no authority behind it except that we believe they have authority and act as though they have authority.
A governor is no different than a schoolyard bully when they make decrees apart from the legal process. For example, mask mandates are not the law. They are mandates by fiat. "Do what I say because I said so." "wear the mask, or else." "Treat the dollar as if it has so and such value, or else." Really, the only difference between a fiat mandate and a law is process. At the end of the day, all that matters is if the law or decree is either consented to or enforced. Can it be backed up? There is no inherent truth or validity behind fiat laws or currency except that the people agree to it, or -if they don’t agree- they can be made to.
Some have brought forth the accusation that God created everything by fiat, "Let there be light, and there was light." Or in Latin, "Fiat lux et facta lux." Indeed, God did speak all things into being by fiat, as an act of His will, but divine fiat is completely different than mortal fiat. God's will lacks the fallen nature that our wills have. In the fall our will became divorced from God's will such that we now desire things that are contrary to God's desire. The human will, in its fallen state, is no longer backed by God's will. God's will, however, is perfect and complete on its own within the infinite majesty of the Holy Trinity. His will is the backing by which all things are backed.
Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me [the Holy Spirit], and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true." -Jn. 5:30-32
What do we mean when we say that God created everything “from nothing”? Do we mean that God created all thing as an arbitrary act of the will, like our own fiat currency and mandates, with nothing to back it? No. We simply mean that he spoke it into being without any pre-existing material apart from himself. I maintain that God invested himself into his creation. It was created and continues to be sustained by Him. I do not think that God woke up one morning and decided to create. I do not think He could have made it any other way, with variant laws of nature, etc. because it was good in the beginning and reflects the nature of the creator.
To be clear, I am 100% affirming that in accordance with the scripture and the Lutheran confessions, God created everything in heaven and on earth out of nothing... besides his eternally begotten Word, of course. That is the point I want to make. The Word of God, who is God and became flesh, by whom all things were created has real backing. All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to him, and has always belonged to him as the eternally begotten Son of the Father.
God's Word has true value. He has real weight in himself whether anyone believes in Him or not. He is the backing behind all backing and without him nothing has any backing. But still, we can choose other backings, false, and empty things...vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
When God willed the world into being it was not in the same manner as we understand the dollar or government being willed into being. He backed up what he had made by calling it "good". He cannot arbitrarily change the rules by fiat like a dictator because he cannot lie. When God made man in His own image He backed him with something of infinitely more value than gold or silver or the U.S. Dollar.
The question is often raised, "Why can't God just forgive us?" If he is all powerful and has created everything by fiat, why doesn't he forgive us by fiat? Why doesn't He just print more forgiveness? Why give the promise of salvation that takes thousands of years to be fulfilled? Was it necessary for the Word to become flesh? Why did God have to die on a cross and rise from the dead? Was it just how he chose to save us? Did He have any other choice? Is there value inherent in the shedding of blood, or did God just decide that life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11) rather than in the hair or the toenails or the simple will to forgive? No, nothing in God’s plan of salvation is by accident or arbitrary. It is beyond our understanding but everything that God would have us know is revealed in his Son
There is something eternal about this creation. Not that it always existed, but rather God desires for his creatures, who were made in His image, to be with Him forever in the New Heavens and New Earth, which have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Something glorious that cannot be made on a whim, nor thrown aside when it becomes convenient. Creation matters because redemption matters and vis versa.
Our world is full of fallen mortal fiat. We are fighting over virtual space. We are being pumped full of lies and propaganda that are not backed by reality. We are adrift at sea, unmoored from solid ground. We are off the gold standard and are spiraling toward collapse, and more than that, we are off the God standard and spiraling to a more severe collapse.
C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." This is the difference between mortal and divine fiat.
This world of sin and death is impermanent. It is a world of our own making and will not be redeemed according to the fallen fiat will of man. So be it. Fiat. "Let it be done." But a new creation is coming that has been redeemed, purchased and won by the blood that flows for all eternity.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, our creator and redeemer; fiat voluntas tua, "Thy will be done." Amen.