Tuesday, January 24, 2006
I'm not American...I'm Kuyperian!?!
"Do not bury our glorious orthodoxy in the pit of spurious conservatism." ~ Abraham Kuyper (Dutch Theologian, Statesman, Journalist and Prime Minister of The Netherlands)
Jesus Christ is not running for office in 2008. Regardless, of what the conservative religious right might lead you to believe, it just won't happen.
There is an ever-persistent trend of late by many conservative Church congregations to try and "politicize" the Gospel. That is to say, that if we can censure and monitor every aspect of our society under the auspices of Christian principles (or as the "fundamentalists" like to call it, "returning to our roots"), then America would be a better place - and don't forget to vote Republican. This, as one writer put it, is a two-thousand year old Galatian error.
I can't tell you how many times I've recently had conversations with people who believe this way. They are thoroughly convinced that if we put prayer back in schools and keep the ten commandments in front of the courthouses, viola--problems solved. These are noble intentions, but there are far-reaching consequences of this sort of logic that are not being considered by those that hold this view. So, I want to pose the same question that I asked of a friend of mine who happens to be in this school of thought:
If the Law of God couldn't make the Israelites any better, then what makes you think that making the Bible the "Law" in America would make us as a nation any less corrupt?
And here in lies the controversy of this movement known as Christian Reconstruction. But as it has been stated before, religion and politics don't mix. Never more clearly can it be seen than when one takes a long hard look at the misguided (although, well-meaning) plan of "reconstruction". If carried out to fruition, this movement would only subvert and distort the truth of the Gospel. The reasons can be seen in the following conclusions:
1. The Church stops focusing on evangelism (the salvation of souls) and begins to focus on political hot-button issues and agendas.
It has become a trendy thing to turn Sunday Morning sermons into political rallies. I'm not saying that certain societal woes should not be dealt with on Sundays, but it needs to remain in its context. Pastors should be about the business of shepherding the flock; teaching the congregation in accordance to the Word of God is the way to help them keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Inviting your favorite politician to give a speech on how and who to vote for will only cause a tension (unnecessarily, I might add) between the Church and the rest of the world. It becomes "us" against "them". But isn't it "them" that we are seeking to save? There is also the lingering danger of seriously dividing the Body of Christ over non-essential issues. I have seen it time and again; if a fellow brother or sister in the Church doesn't vote on the right side of the political party line, he or she is considered a heretic! This is the same sort of muddle-headed thinking that brought about the Salem witch hunts. If sound doctrine is in place, discernment will follow.
2. The separation of Church and State is perilously blurred.
By this, I mean that the Church seeks to usurp the power of the government and strong-arm people in to "right living". This is not evangelism, it's nothing more than behavior modification. We are never to force anyone to believe what the Church believes. We are simply to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and allow the Spirit to change the hearts and minds of those that hear. Trying to force the issue will bring about ghastly consequences. For example, most people want to have prayer put back in schools. Okay, fine. But if you're a Christian, what is stopping you from praying? It is a right that no one can take away from you. Why would you want to force someone to pray who may not even worship in the same manner as yourself? That's false worship. God finds no glory in it. I expect the non-believer to not want to see the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouses, I expect atheists to want to take "God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Abortion will be accepted, Gay marriage will pass, etc., etc. The light of the truth is not in them. Christianity as a federal law will ultimately fail, due to the fact that it skews the purpose of the Gospel. The Church becomes the Pharisaic and intrusive. How exactly does one legislate policies against the Sin? The heart of man is the heart of the problem. Christians obey the law of God because they have been given a "new heart". We live the way we do because the love of Christ compels us. Trying to force those who have yet to be (or who never will be) quickened by the the grace of God through the spirit would be the equivalent to Jesus grabbing the rich young ruler in a headlock and forcing him to follow. There's no love in it. No true Christian is ever saved in this manner, so why would we expect anyone else to be any different?
My major concern in all of this is the enthusiasm and fervency with which some fellow Christians hold to this view (in reformed and non-reformed circles). If carried out, this sort of mindset snuffs out the great commission. Christians do not conquer through military or political might, but through the love and sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Anything else makes for sloppy evangelism until it all eventually boils down to elephants and asses: Christians becoming fat and lazy in their spiritual lives hiding behind the guise of "political correctness" and "conservatism" while holding grudges against those who aren't like them, forgetting that we too used to be stubborn mules lost in the darkness. Much like fascism and communism, two bad ideologies on opposite ends of the spectrum come full circle to make an even worse situation than the one that you had before. The truths of our religious beliefs are tainted and have become a leveraging tool for election strategies. A vivid illustration of this could be seen in the comment that a political analyst made after the democratic party lost the last election: "the democrats need to get 'born again'". This statement turns the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in to a farce.
It is time for Christians to check their allegiances. Christ shows no partiality to any man, political party, or country. In the imitation of our Lord and Savior, we should do likewise. That being said, none of this is written to discourage individual Christians from taking up political causes or even hold political offices. By all means, if God permits, we should take the opportunity. However, I think that the Church trying to become an empirical legislative branch of the government is a grave error. It is trading away the liberties that we are granted as individual living stones which are free to go out into the world and seek the lost, for becoming a solid concrete entity which will eventually stunt the growth of the Church altogether. It also causes us to run the risk of being at odds with scripture on the way we should view the civil magistrates and government officials of our country. We are to submit to them, because they have been ordained by God's providential hand (regardless of how we may feel about them personally). They are there for our protection and we should pay them the respect and honor due to the office in which they hold - whether we voted for them or not!!! When they overstep their boundaries and begin to rule willingly up and against the Kingdom of Heaven, Christian citizens may rightly come together and make their voice heard as is our right. We must learn to use separation of Church and State for its proper purpose and advantage, not to our own undoing. The church and the state alike both have an obligation to wield their respective swords responsibly (the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God in the church and the sword of wrath in government) .
I don't see Christians as conservative or liberal. I definitely don't see them as republicans or democrats. We are either biblical or unbiblical - discerning or indiscretion - in the world or of the world. These are the lines in the sand that must be drawn. Any neutrality in these areas, or granting priority to party or politician, is a vote against Christ.
As J.I. Packer summarizes:
"The Church's sphere of authority relates to the civil gorvernment at the level of morality. The church has the responsibility to comment on the morality of governments and their policies on the basis of God's word, but should not appropriate to itself the power to set such policies. Whereas these assessments may foster political action among Christians, they should act in their capacity as citizens rather than as a representatives of the church. In this way the gospel works through moral persuasion and the working of God's grace among citizens."
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." ~Romans 13:1-10 (ESV)
"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." ~1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria,