28 April 2008

A Brief Thought for a Frustrating Election Year

by Phil Johnson



othing in the past half century has done more damage to the evangelical cause than the notion that the best way for Christians to influence society is by wielding our collective political clout. If you think the most important answer to the ills of our society is a legislative remedy; if you imagine that political activism is the most effective way for the church to influence culture; or if you suppose the church is going to win the world for Christ by lobbying in the halls of Congress and by rallying Christians to vote for this or that type of legislation—then both your trust and your priorities are misplaced.

Personally, I think the tendency to seek legislative remedies for every social ill is one of the absolute worst tendencies of contemporary secular society, and it disturbs me greatly to see Christians more or less follow that pattern blindly.

We need to remember that political clout has nothing whatsoever to do with spiritual power. Study the priorities for the church in the New Testament; look at the duties Scripture outlines for shepherds of the flock. You'll find no mandate to press the government for legislation on moral issues. In fact, what you'll see is that jockeying for political clout is one of the very strategies Jesus named as worldly methods that are not to characterize leadership in His kingdom. He said His kingdom is permanently set apart from every earthly dominion because Christ's kingdom is advanced by humble service rather than through the kind of political strategies that depend on the exercise of human authority.
Jesus called [the disciples] to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).


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116 comments:

steve said...

Re: attempts to legislate morality

As Erwin Lutzer has said, we cannot expect unbelievers to have a change of mind without a change of heart.

agonizomai said...

Now THAT needed to be said, and its true wherever we happen to live.

I hope you don't get an avalanche of comments from people who (erroneously) think you are implying that we shouldn't vote or do other socially responsible things as Christians, just as a part of working out our salvation and being witnesses in the world.

donsands said...

Good post. Would the candidates be different if their pastors preached the Word of God; The entire counsel of the Holy Scriptures. And if their pastors preached the Gospel of grace, and spoke the truth in love within the congragtion of God's people?

But there's an apostate church, and the pastors are feeding the people half-truths and lies. So the sheep are eating weeds from the tares.

May the Lord raise up godly and Holy Spirit preaching pastors once again across this country, and then the leaders of this government and republic will be godly and Christ fearing again.

We shall always have the tares, but I wish they were less, and the wheatfield was more full of wheat than tares.

James Kubecki said...

A very loud Amen! Trust not in princes.

I hate posting links to myself, but having made that disclaimer, I am now excused to do so. See my post here, primarily for the collection of great Scriptures.

Chris Roberts said...

I agree with the post, but with the recognition that 21st century America was not 1st century Rome. There was no real representation for the Jews in Rome so one would not expect any command to lobby the government. Many Christians put too much emphasis in trying to change the moral actions of the people through legislation while ignoring the change of heart that must take place. Nonetheless, we cannot forget that in a government by the people, for the people, and of the people, we do have a responsibility to try and shape government in a way that we think will function best.

Frank Turk said...

So Chris: you're saying you agree with the post but, um, not with what it actually said because Rome was not a republican democrasy?

Greg T. said...

AMEN!

SolaMeanie said...

You're singing a song that I've sung for a long time now. While I believe it's important for Christians to be involved politically as good citizens in a supposedly free, self-governing society, hearts will only be changed through the power of the Gospel.

In a way, our very political system can cause confusion for Christians on what is appropriate or not. In biblical times, you had kings and emperors whose word was law.

Today, we the people are supposed to be the government. The very American experiment began with the "right to rebel" at injustice by the governing authorities. Some of the colonists used a certain interpretation of Romans 13 as justification i.e. when a government ceases to be a terror to evildoers, it is no longer a legitimate government and thus can be opposed.

It's an interesting debate. But the long and short of it is, as Christians our primary purpose ought to be the advancement of the Gospel.

David H. Willis said...

I recently found myself getting way too caught up in politics. Thanks for the reminder.

The Doulos said...

I'm teaching a Biblical Worldview class in Sunday School right now, and this is timely since we discussed sociology yesterday and will look at law and politics the next two weeks. It seems that much of the evangelical community has been persuaded the past 20 years that we must pursue our agenda in the legislatures and the courts. While organizations like FOTF and the like have done some great stuff, they've also promoted this view.

I heard some of this from class members as we discussed the Biblical model of social structures: the family, the church, the state. Each instituted by God for a specific role, a specific sphere of influence. We are always wary of the state getting too involved in the family or the church. But it's equally dangerous for the church to become too engaged with the state.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!" Isaiah 31:1

Matt said...

Excellent, Phil. What you wrote could have been written by a ..... a Mennonite!

I, too, believe that all too often, we Christians try to find our hope in the wrong things. Our hope rests ultimately in Jesus Christ and His gospel of grace, not in trying to moralize society.

So what if we're successful in stopping those two gay guys down the street from being married? Then what? Has that actually helped them anything in God's economy? They, and the abortionists, polygamists, etc. need the gospel first and foremost!

I think this post is also great because it serves as a corrective to evangelicals without engaging in wild pendulum swinging. Campolo and McLaren, etc. rightly see the same problem that you do in that "evangelical" has become synonymous with "Republican" or "Conservative" (here in Canada).

You guys take a different approach to the fix, however. Their version of a fix is to make an equal but opposite error and tie their wagon to the left-wing donkey.

I see your approach of encouraging Christians to live out the gospel rather than lobbying government, as the biblical way.

The pendulum stops at the bottom here, rather than swinging violently to the left.

Excellent work.

Matt, the Reformed Canadian Mennonite (hey, I smell a new denomination cooking....)

Matt said...

Oh, and Frank Turk's alive?!

The Doulos said...

I had another thought. (Yes, I only have one track unlike Al Mohler, so they have to come single file.)

Re: the phrase "legislate morality". I know that when this is normally used, it's referring to morality in the sense of behavior. And it's true that moral laws will never completely restrain immoral behavior. God's Law sure didn't/doesn't, much less man's law. However, does this mean that good laws should not be based on some moral objective standard? Should we as Christians not care at all what kind of laws and enforcement and adjudication our government has? Should we abandon the sphere of law and government to the pagan who has no loral standard?

Like everything else in the Christian experience, I think there's a balance here. As salt and light, as the people of God, as the bearers of His Spirit in the world, we should seek to promote justice and law that is in line with God's character and design for the moral world. However, we should never come to the point where we place our trust in this area, where we become more passionate about the legislative process than we are about the Gospel of Christ. If God puts us in a position to influence and shape government (maybe even just as a voter), then we should do so to the glory of Christ. But not trusting in that influence or institution.

As a friend of mine is wont to say: "Blessed are the balanced, for they shall remain upright."

Rick Frueh said...

Democracy was invented by the humanistic Greeks and is a system set up to allow carnal, fallen men to govern themselves. American politics is a corrupt, manipulative, media popularity contest that includes heavy doses of lying, embellishment, slander, misrepresentations, boasting, strategy, and obscene amounts of money paid to persuade the gullible and what money is left over winds up in their pockets.

I personally do not participate on any level. If a business opperated like the government we would boycott it. Democracy is now a bone fide idol worshiped inside the church house every election year.

Imust confess, ,though, I do enjoy it on a "professional wrestling" level, you know, entertaining but not real!

Some trust in horses, some trust in chariots, some trust in votes, but we will trust in the Lord our God.

The Spokesman said...

Amen Phil! If morality can be legislated then Christ died needlessly and the Law gives life!

Phil Johnson said...

Agonizomai: "I hope you don't get an avalanche of comments from people who (erroneously) think you are implying that we shouldn't vote or do other socially responsible things as Christians, just as a part of working out our salvation and being witnesses in the world."

That will happen, I think. But I'm ready for it.

For anyone tempted to accuse me of saying Christians shouldn't have any role whatsoever in the political process, reread the post and notice that I have used some carefully-chosen words. I'm fine with Christians voting, or even being career politicians. What I object to is the high prioritization of political activism among evangelicals and especially their almost hysterical demand for political remedies to all of society's moral ills.

That's not to suggest that Christians shouldn't vote. But if your notion is that Christians MUST try to elect Christians to government, good luck finding a candidate in the current field whom you can vote for without any pang of conscience.

stratagem said...

To the extent that the world wants to legislate Christians out of existence or into the closet, I say we need to fight back politically as we have means. But to legislate morality? No, thanks. The image of making whitewashed tombs comes to mind.

I secretly (until now) wonder why liberal "christians" are not maligned for trying to legislate morality ('social justice') the same way conservative Christians are, though? Contextualize that for me.

Rick Frueh said...

"For anyone tempted to accuse me of saying Christians shouldn't have any role whatsoever in the political process..."

Do not be bashful, that is exactly what I'm suggesting. See, no legalism, just suggesting. If all the evangelical dollars, and all the hours spent watching and partcipating, and all the literature and televison/radio time were taken and used even just for humanitarian efforts in Jesus name, I believe we would leave politics to the unsaved and realize how spiritually free we could be and how God's kingdom could be futhered not America's.

Revivalfire said...

It always amazed me that many Christians who argue that the church's mandate is to reshape unjust social structures etc dont see the need to establish Christian laws when it comes to morality issues

Basicly many seem to say we are to fight for legislation that regulates social justice agenda's but not legislation that regulates moral issues.

Quite contradictory really,,,

Anyway, I think I agree with the post. Question though, what about the situation in Germany, should that just have been left to individual Christians to respond to Hitler? Or should the church have had a say? I guess I'm raising the whole Bonhoeffer issue...

stratagem said...

Rick: Reality check, dude. If Christians totally zoned out with regard to politics, they might soon find themselves outlawed, and therefore have NO money for relief works.
Be careful with those "what-ifs", as they can cut both ways.

Rick Frueh said...

stratagem - the fastest growing evangelical church post WW II?

China.

Let's do the math. No politics, no voting, no religious freedom = phenomenal growth. God's sovereignty in action minus the humanistic attempt to manipulate morality and a positive economic ambiance. There is no "cut's both ways" when you trust God - and I am Arminian!

Sharon said...

rick frueh:
"For anyone tempted to accuse me of saying Christians shouldn't have any role whatsoever in the political process..."

Do not be bashful, that is exactly what I'm suggesting.


Isn't part of being a good citizen include participation in the voting process? Didn't Jesus encourage His followers to be good citizens? Therefore . . . I have cast my votes in every election since I turned 18.

A Musician by Grace

Charles Coty said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I think the Christian community takes violent swings without reaching a balance. At one time in my young Christian life, politics was considered a dirty business fit only for ruthless demagogues.

Then came the Falwell’s “Moral Majority” and off to the races we went with the “Reagan revolution” and ultimately conservative control in the House and Senate. I was flying high with the "religous right" and then smashed into a brick wall.

What did all this giddiness achieve? The government’s funding and monolithic power has grown exponentially; abortion still claims the lives of millions; we are spending ourselves into oblivion; and the moral fabric of our society continues to degrade.

Listen, I’m no chicken little and I truly believe the Gospel’s potential to be limitless, but too few know the Word of God. Through our pulpits they are oftentimes fed poor caricatures of it, providing constant successful inoculations against the truth.

At this point we need to swing back to a Biblical worldview where the work of Christ is recognized as the only potential for redemption in this world. Political involvement is necessary but not when it usurps our Savior’s sanctifying role.

I wrote in McCain is Not Able, that I see no refuge this moment in either party and perhaps that’s a blessing that will turn us toward the only One that can provide peace and contentment.

Thanks for your continued commitment to the truth. You guys are truly cutting edge.

Blessings,
Chuck Coty
www.charlescoty.com
www.charlescoty.blogspot.com

SLW said...

I've been hoping someday to read something from you I could unreservedly respond amen to. AMEN!

hansman said...

What about William Wilberforce? Didn't his Christian convictions motivate him to fight against slavery in the political arena?

Ben Stevenson said...

Phil Johnson: "If you think the most important answer to the ills of our society is a legislative remedy... then both your trust and your priorities are misplaced."

I agree with this.

Phil Johnson: "You'll find no mandate to press the government for legislation on moral issues."

I believe in separation of church and state - by which I mean the church and the state have separate functions. But both must obey God. And the purpose of the state is to legislate morality.

"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." -- Romans 13:3-4 (NIV)

I think this passage is clear that the role of the state is to serve as a deterrant on moral issues. The verse talks of the state punishing those who do what is immoral, and rewarding those who do what is moral. This will not save anyone. The gospel alone and can save. Preaching the gospel should be a higher priority than reforming government. God alone can change the human heart to love what is good. But the state also has a role in legislating to deter immoral behaviour.

Daryl said...

Hansman,

See, now yer just meedlin'...:)

I think Wilberforce fits perfectly with Phil's post. The issue he is raising is not, "do we do stuff?" it is, rather "where is our hope?".

So we vote, we lobby, we complain, we run for election, but we don't act like the world is coming to an end (as many do) when a Clinton or a Barak or a not-quite-conservative-enough-Republican get's elected to the White House. We smile and say "this is the government God has given us, let us be thankful that we can preach the truth without persecution".
And, when we are persecuted we say "let us be thankful that we are counted worthy of persecution for his names-sake"

No?

agonizomai said...

Rick Frueh, I like the KISS principle as much as anyone. And I appreciate that your original comment offered a suggestion and did not drop a guilt bomb. What you say makes a lot of sense up to the point where you suggest that we disengage from society altogether, as if the mechanisms of society were of themselves evil. They are not. They are neutral. It's what people do with them that produces evil. Voting is a neutral thing - a matter "indifferent" in which each believer is free to act according to his conscience. Those believers who vote are no less doing God's will in the world than those who evangelize pygmies in Africa. And those who run for political office are not, by definition, unChristian or "out of the will of God". How do we know if they might not be the means of God working in some dark Washington (or ottawa) hole where no other light is shining?

Hansman's comment about Wilberforce is precisely on point. In agreement with him and Rick, this little anecdote says a lot .. "There was a mental institution in which all the inmates were given an annual examination to see if they were fit for release. Over the years the doctors came up with a test that seemed to be foolproof. They would let each inmate in turn into a courtyard in which a wall faucet was fully open, with water gushing out. A mop and bucket were also provided. The inmates who turned the faucet off before trying to mop up were the ones that got released."

The point is this - that reformation both starts and takes place in people one at a time, and not in society as a monolithic institution. So - yes - it starts with the conversion of the individual, but the individual is then placed somewhere by God's providence precisely so that he can be salt and light right there. As Luther pointed out, that can mean milking a cow, just a much as preaching a sermon. Or it can mean running for office. The form of the culture does not necessarily confine the Christian, even though it does not conform him. This is a bit more complicated than KISS, but IMO it is closer to the truth.

Strong Tower said...

Bbbbut, what about manifest destiny, I thought we were the hairs on the divided thrown, or is that heirs to the Davidic throne, whatever...

"Democracy was invented by the humanistic Greeks and is a system set up to allow carnal, fallen men to govern themselves."

Seems to me I read a book called The Ebla Tablets. Ebla had multiple concurrent Kings elected by the people. I think it preexisted some years before the greasy people came along. Interestingly they would have been somewhat contemporary with the Padan/Haran people group if not directly derived from them. But, more than that, democracy is found in 1 Samuel 8, and then if we really want to get picky, there was a similar vote in the Garden of Eden. But, as we know the majority vote tends to be very negative in Scripture usually bringing cursing, Joe and his bros, Moses bro and sis, Moses and the peeps (more than once), the Barabbas thing. It just seems that more often than not when the majority prevails, hell's bells.

A kingdom is most obviously the more biblical type, but not the exclusive means by which God has ruled. There are advantages to the balances of powers we have in this republican/democracy, and the Presbyterian rebellion, as King George called the colonies' govermental aspirations, was established so in recognition of the depraved nature of man (the accountability thingy) and was laid against the more pure democracy/aristocracy of Europe. Balance of powers was written into the federal government and has form in the ascendency of powers, from the people to the states, to the fed. The order, as we now have it, has been mostly inverted. Such is sin that we find ourselves once again at the mercy of an democratically elected aristocracy rather than a republic. We have to deal with the fact. Proverbs says: "When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue." Limited government... single ruler= more biblical government...

You can ask Dan, but I think that this proverb might be rewritten to say, a land transgresses when it has many rulers, or perhaps, with many rulers a land transgresses. The more direct the demorcracy the more rulers. When the official is elected to carry out the will of the people rather than being elected to do what is right, instead of one prince we have many. As we increase government, laws and law makers, I think we sink deeper and deeper in doo. It just seems wiser to shovel when you know what is there then wading through it to see if it is deep enough to bother.

"You want and do not have, and why, is it not to consume it upon your own lusts." What a formula for the destruction of a nation. Or, to paraphrase, "when the people realize that they can vote themselves government largesse the end has come". Then will the people turn to electing men pleasers, rather than electing men pleasing to God. The ticket today for political office is simply to pander to the majority text of give-mes.

There are two truths that have befuddled many. Why is it that whereever the Kingdom is established, there is at first prosperity and then poverty? The two follow the Gospel whereever it goes. It should come as a warning to us, but for some reason many still want to establish the Kingdom on Earth. It is a story as old as time, girl has child and says I am blessed, has another, as says I have given birth to conflict. So was the nation divided that was born of the woman. So it is written, so shall it be done (always loved that line).

And I agree with Phil...

I actually believe in what Wilberforce did, and really believe that the republican U.S. Government, works better than all that came before it. My problem is with people like Richard Land who would suggest that we (the US) are somehow God's chosen people, somehow unique in history. This nation is cursed (oh God, now I am going to be label a Wrightist), just like every other nation, simply because they are governments of cursed men. I find it so amazing that we would think ourselves somehow different than the nations of Europe. We forget they gave birth to us and our form of governance. Look across the ocean. Look back sixty years. Look back fivehundred. The one thing that stands out is that whereever the Gospel has gone it has spelled the doom of the society into which it has gone, no matter how many zeniths can be pointed out. I think that says something. Mainly, that if we put our trust and effort into building treasures (the Kingdom now mentality) here on Earth, we fall asleep to the immediacy of the Gospel. For only if it is God's will, will we go here or there, today and tomorrow, buy and sell and prosper, or so said someone... How long he will be patient really is not contingent on the state of the state, but upon his providence. He makes it to rain upon the wicked as well as the righteous. But, our tendency it to the pragmatic. We believe because this nation has propered that it is somehow the "revival" nation, that we somehow got it right. Do not be deceived by sight is the warning of Scripture.

Strong Tower said...

revivalfire-

"Or should the church have had a say?"

I think if you will look, there was a "church" voice. It had slipped into the minority. The prevailing "idealism" though was toward social perfecitionism. Wildly appealing concept, prosperity...

The establishment, or resestablisment, of the Confessional Church in opposition to the populist German Church surfaced late and blame could be laddle on all. I think that this history is one of the reasons that Christians called by vocation to civil government are importantly and providencially placed.

stratagem said...

Rick: you wrote:
stratagem - the fastest growing evangelical church post WW II?

China.

Let's do the math. No politics, no voting, no religious freedom = phenomenal growth. God's sovereignty in action minus the humanistic attempt to manipulate morality and a positive economic ambiance.


You are arguing with yourself. You are the one who said we'd have a great impact on the world if only we did more relief efforts. Now you are saying that the Chinese, despite their inability to do relief efforts, are having the greatest impact.
Don't care if you are Arminian or Armenian - a non-sequitur is a non-sequitur.

Rick Frueh said...

My China observation was about the showcasing of God's power in the absence of political leverage. Even though I am more of a political separatist than Phil, I believe the underlying premise is God doesn't need politics to accomplish His will and we should not overestimate its importance even if we choose to partcipate.

But if there wasn't any politics I would miss out on so many great characters. This years runaway winner is "Rev." Wright. I love this man! He exemplifies superior narcissim, spiritual eliticism, an erudite personality, and basically a magnificent living specimen of an evolutionary process stuck on a primate known as Totalus Jerkus.

I cannot wait for Denver. It will make Monty Python look like Mr. Rodgers!

Drew said...

First of all, I agree.

Secondly, it is encouraging when I read the same thing at Pyromaniacs that I am reading from Shane Claiborn, that I am hearing from my Roman Catholic Mom, that I am preaching from my mainline/reformed pulpit.

Thirdly, to suggest that McLaren and other emergents are making the same mistake as the religious right in the equal and opposite direction is, in my opinion, unfair. Jim Wallis lobbies for the left, but most emergents are hesitant to collect and/or wield any kind of power, including political power.

I believe that we should call on our government to do the right thing, but I don't ever really expect them to listen. I will vote for the best candidate, but likely end up working against him if and when he becomes part of the government. (This is a view I share, btw, with Rev. Jeremiah Wright)

Strategem, you asked: I secretly (until now) wonder why liberal "christians" are not maligned for trying to legislate morality ('social justice') the same way conservative Christians are, though?

Who says that they aren't? The stated clerk of the PC(USA) has been derided by evangelicals for doing this. Read "The Layman" and see how well social justice legislation is received.

Sharon, you asked: Didn't Jesus encourage His followers to be good citizens?

If you mean, did he have them pay taxes and not take up arms against the government, then the answer is yes. But by my standard, Christ and his followers, along with most of the Jews, were not good citizens at all. Good citizens rarely receive the death penalty.

Donsands, you wrote: May the Lord raise up godly and Holy Spirit preaching pastors once again across this country, and then the leaders of this government and republic will be godly and Christ fearing again.

Again?? When was this happening?
Lincoln was, in my opinion, the most faithful of the presidents, but he was willing to wage war on his own people to maintain the federal government's power! (He was willing to compromise on slavery) The myth that we were once a Christian nation is just that, a myth.

Rick: I'm almost where you are. Right now, I still vote, but frankly, I wonder why.

stratagem said...

Thirdly, to suggest that McLaren and other emergents are making the same mistake as the religious right in the equal and opposite direction is, in my opinion, unfair. Jim Wallis lobbies for the left, but most emergents are hesitant to collect and/or wield any kind of power, including political power.

LOL, you can't be serious! McLaren and the emergents aren't advocates for particular political policies? Then why are we always hearing from most of them (incl. McLaren) telling us to do all we can about about global warming and the environment, cuts in government programs being evil, and so on? I guess you are saying that if it's an issue they care about, it is by definition a "moral" issue and not a political one? But if Jerry Falwell (peace be upon him) had taken the opposite side of the debate it becomes a political issue?

VcdeChagn said...

That's not to suggest that Christians shouldn't vote. But if your notion is that Christians MUST try to elect Christians to government, good luck finding a candidate in the current field whom you can vote for without any pang of conscience.

http://www.william2008.com/

Of course mainline evangelicals will somehow make it my duty to vote for a mainline candidate...and they'll fail again just like they did in 2004.

donsands said...

Drew,
I'm no historian, but here's a quote from James M. Boice which may help.

"No nation has ever had a total awareness of God, involving every one of its citizens. Nevertheless, there is such a thing as God-consciousness in a nation, and it has sometimes been the case, particularly at the birth of a nation or at some period of special religious awakening, that many people have been aware of God and have been so anxious to serve Him that they have impressed truly spiritual principles and standards on their corporate life. This was true of the United States of America. Not all our founding fathers were Christians. On the contrary, many were mere deists. Some probably believed almost nothing biblical. But these views were not formative for the nation and did not dominate its first organization. In those days, people who did not believe the principles of the Christian revelation did not express their disbelief or fight for their secular outlook as people do today. Consequently, a certain God-consciousness was present and expressed. Prayer was part of national life. "In God we trust" was a genuine slogan. In the schools the Bible was read and taught by thousands.

Unfortunately that ended. The first step in a nation's death takes place when its God-consciousness dissipates or, worse yet, is deliberately removed. ... this is precisely what has happened in America."

stratagem said...

The objection that "America was never a Christian nation" is popular among the Left as an excuse for why we should not even attempt to strengthen the things that remain. The problem with it is that it is a false proposition to begin with: America is not a Christian nation because nations can't be Christians, only people can be. It is a silly and irrational line of reasoning to begin with.

Ben said...

Oh, you meant the presidential election. Here I was hoping to read something about *election*. Fortunately, I am not frustrated about my election.

Good post. Although I'm not sure about this bit: "Nothing in the past half century has done more damage to the evangelical cause than the notion that the best way for Christians to influence society is by wielding our collective political clout."

Isn't there *something* which has caused more damage to the evangelical cause in the last 50 years? Say, for example, bad doctrine? Jerry Falwell? Duct tape Bibles? "Jesus-is-my-boyfriend" praise songs?

Your observation on tendencies toward legislative remedies is beautiful. The sheeple under steeples who blindly follow this cultural tendency desperately need to turn off MSNBC and (probably) switch churches. Maybe to one where most of the congregation doesn't relish in a weird sort of split agony/ecstasy over how it's such a shame that Limbaugh and Hannity are *almost* Christians. (Huh?)

More of this kind of reasoning Mr. Johnson and I might have to become a regular reader of this here blog.

DJP said...

"Duct tape Bibles"?

The Doulos said...

That would be the new DTB version...

Rick Frueh said...

Don - sometimes outward religious practices without the inward realities are more dangerous than having no religion. America was formed over taxes, not religious freedom. It would not be Biblical to arm and overthrow the government over religious freedom, much less taxes.

Washington felt he could deal with King George and he desired to remain a colony until Lexington and Concord forced his hand. I believe George Washington was a Christian, however the formation of American and the lives that were lost were far from Christian.

The first article of the constitution was a guarantee of no national religion. The church, the invisible body of Jesus Christ, exists within many nations but we are not part of them. Christ said His kingdom was not of this world. We're in it but not of it.

Being identified politically makes us of it.

donsands said...

"It would not be Biblical to arm and overthrow the government over religious freedom, much less taxes."


The declaring of freedom, (The Declaration of Independence), from a tyrant, while acknowledging God, and His Divine Providence is a good thing, I thought.

You think this was wrong Rick?

I hope we're not taking this too far off subject.

Rick Frueh said...

Of course this is wrong as Christians. We are to bear persecution. If overthrowing governments is a Christian thing, then let's send guns to our Chinese brothers not Bibles.

We must submit to the government and where they forbid us to worship, like Daniel, we continue to worship but we do not murder the people at the top to alleviate our suffering. Nowhere in the New Testament is it acceptable to commit violence when circustances are not to our liking.

And it just might be God's will for China to persecute believers, God has a plan and it is not thwarted by what the secular government does. God's Son was born in the very midst of persecution and he never suggested complaining much less overthrow.

Rick Frueh said...

Don - you said
"The declaring of freedom, (The Declaration of Independence), from a tyrant, while acknowledging God, and His Divine Providence is a good thing, I thought."

The church did not do that, a mixed multitude of people who formed a pluralistic government did that, not the church. Our country is invisible. For a government to kill people to become free? I do not know, but we should have no opinion about it because we are not of this world.

I was born here by God's providence so I am an American in their eyes. However my entire allegience is to Christ not any country. I was born a male but I have no allegience to men per se. The Lord hath made a difference between thee and the Egyptians.

American is more like Babylon than a church. But we also should be gentle, humble, polite, and never prideful. I love the people in America but not the organization.

Jim said...

it seems that most people posting here seem content to allow unborn babies to be brutally slaughtered while they sit back and say 'we tried to share the gospel with her, but she wouldnt listen.' Yes, preaching the gospel is first and foremost our number 1 responsibility, but Christians are forgetting our responsibility to "stand up for those who can't speak for themselves."

donsands said...

"However my entire allegiance is to Christ not any country."

My first allegiance is to Jesus Christ. I also pledge allegiance to my wife. I also pledge allegiance to my country, under God.
I'm committed to the Church as well.

I see this nation as a nation that was birthed from the Scriptures. And that it is a good thing to stand humbly against an evil king, and call upon the sovereign Lord to help you stand, and to separate having a righteous and just cause, with all humility. This is what the Declaration of Independence says in effect, I thought.

It's alright to disagree here. I here what your saying Rick, and agree to a point.
I actually wish we would have continued under the sovereign rule of England in one sense. We would all have a stunning accent, like Sinclair Ferguson, or J I Packer, or John Stott perhaps. Wouldn't that be smashing!

Polycarp said...

I am Polycarp' wife, so you can just call me "Wife O' Polycarp".I can't really compete with any of you scholarly types, but I do have an opinion.I agree with just about everything Phil writes, but I had to make my own comment here: What a relief!!This is the first reasonable approach to politics I have heard from another Christian to date. I am a bit extreme, in that I trust no compromised politician, and to me, that would be all of them. I see no real value in fusing the church and state, as I believe they are unrelated; the state is meant to serve everyone, not just us Christians. But my general disinterest in either party(shouldn't two parties make us suspicious?) and in issues like gay marriage, pegs me as someone who just doesn't care, is totally ignorant, or is some kind of traitor. Everyone is disappointed in my laissez-faire attitude, from Christian friends to liberal pagan ones.I don't believe everyone is suddenly going to adopt a Christian worldview based on some change in the law. And, like some of the others have said already, that's putting things in the wrong order.
I believe the world is moving in the opposite direction of Christian morality,actually, so what I find comforting is that it is written already. It's supposed to be this way-- God said so!
Each election,I vote for the lesser of two evils, even if Nadar rightly says I am "still choosing evil". My best friend called Bush a Godly man the other day. And I asked her, "On what evidence do you base your opinion?"
How is he like Jesus?

Jay said...

The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

Just a minor point because the political cesspool remains the same.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

The difference between my view and Shane Claiborne's is profound. I'm suggesting the evangelical movement took a serious wrong turn when they began spending so much energy and resources on political lobbying and protest--and let the preaching of the gospel take a backseat.

Claiborne seems to think what's wrong with the evangelical right is mainly their political stance per se. Pacifist liberalism suits him better than the evangelical flavor of conservatism. But he still seems to think the solution to what ails society is political and economic (requiring the cessation of armed conflict and the redistribution of wealth).

He's not lobbying the halls of congress or overtly organizing to get the vote out, but his neo-monasticism nevertheless plays out mainly as a form of political protest. He seems to be trying to become a kind of dime-store Ghandi.

Don't associate me with him. Please.

Ben: "Isn't there *something* which has caused more damage to the evangelical cause in the last 50 years? Say, for example, bad doctrine? Jerry Falwell? Duct tape Bibles? 'Jesus-is-my-boyfriend' praise songs?"

I'd say all those things are expressions of the pragmatism adopted by evangelicals about the same time they decided it would be easier to vote the Kingdom into power through the political mechanism than to use the means Jesus commanded us to use.

They are symptoms of the very same problem I am pointing out.

Bryan Riley said...

I agree with what you've written except for the conclusion, if it is that you've made such a conclusion, that all attempts to seek legislative remedies or all attempts to lobby for governmental change are per se wrong. I don't agree with that conclusion, but I'm not sure you've stated it absolutely.

I think of William Wilbeforce, as just an example. If one is to look to political power as their source, then they are foolish. But if one is called to such by their Lord Jesus, then go with God!

Why are there so many bad examples and so few good ones? Because we are human and it is difficult to wield human power humbly, but that doesn't mean that we absolutely shouldn't do it. I also believe the passage you cite simply would mean, for one called to govermental authority, to lead there by serving. That is how our government was actually founded anyway, at least in principle. The leaders were to be the servants of the People.

Carlo said...

Phil wrote: "Nothing in the past half century has done more damage to the evangelical cause than the notion that the best way for Christians to influence society is by wielding our collective political clout."

My response: I would agree with some of the sentiments made against this statement. To say that "nothing" has done "more" damage to the evangelical cause than Christians believing we must influence society my political clout, is I think a bit hyperbolic. I also don't see a vast tendency by Christians to seek legislative remedies for "every" social ill.

Sam said...

Thanks for this post Phil.

Reading the comments, it seems like there are lots of different perspectives. I think it would be really helpful if we could separate the discussion of whether Christians should engage with the political process from discussion of whether or not America is, was or has the potential to be a 'Christian' nation.

I understand that some people think these are linked questions ('are we to be preserving salt in a Christianised society?'), but it really helps to answer the first question before we start worrying about whether various founding fathers were Christian and whether the revolution was legit etc (ps it blatently wasn't).

Rick Frueh said...

When gospel focus is compromised as it pertains to reaching the world, well, what you have is...compromise.

After three decades of organization, phone trees, position sheets in church, rallys, conservative ratings, preacher endorsements, Supreme Court appointments, precinct captains, and hundreds of millions of dollars - the major moral issues that evangelical political involvement was supposed to change haven't.

Daryl said...

Drew said:

"Lincoln was, in my opinion, the most faithful of the presidents, but he was willing to wage war on his own people to maintain the federal government's power!"

Romans is clear the it is the responsibility of the government to wield the sword, does this responsibility go away when the man in the White House really is a Christian? I think a far stronger case could be made for rewording your statement like this:

"Lincoln was, in my opinion, the most faithful of the presidents, IN PART BECAUSE he was willing to wage war on his own people to ENSURE THE EMANCIPATION OF SLAVES!"

The idea that waging war automatically makes someone less faithful is hardly a biblical idea.

All,

The general feel of this thread is becoming something like this:

"Decades of political action haven't gotten it done, so forget it"

That's crazy, we do what we do (presumably) because it is right to do it. One might just as well argue (as Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt and host of other false teachers before and since have argued) that preaching the gospel just isn't working so we need to find a better way.

Again, as Phil laid it out, the issue is twofold:

1) What is the primary responsibility of the church? Preaching the gospel.

2) In what do we put our hope?
The Gospel.

Think of it like this. Do I put my hope for my kids' salvation in my ability to discipline and teach them? (God help us all if I do...)
Or, do I put my hope for my kids' salvation in...the gospel?

So...do I stop disciplining them? Hardly. But neither do I despair of their salvation when my efforts appear to be in vain.

There is a role for believers in politics, even it is only to help elect the lesser of two evils. But that is not, nor will it ever be, our primary responsibility.

Rick Frueh said...

Lincoln's presidency - irrelevent to the church

"Decades of political action haven't gotten it done, so forget it" - We should never have started.

"There is a role for believers in politics, even it is only to help elect the lesser of two evils." There's a banner sure to elicit spiritual excitement and God's blessing.

Drew said...

Phil: Claiborne isn't trying to be like Ghandi. He's trying to be like Jesus.

And in terms of political practice, his methods are pretty close to his.

In your rejection of the evangelical power grab, you have taken a step in that direction.

Like it or not, as a follower of Christ, you are associated with him.

Drew said...

Daryl: Lincoln was willing to go to war to protect federal power. The emancipation of slaves did not come until the war was under way. He would have traded slavery for a united country, and it is that fact that makes him less than faithful.

His problem was not just going to war, but going to war for the wrong reason, while being willing to compromise on such an important issue as slavery.

I am convinced that faithful Christians will do a lousy job in political office (if they can get elected, which is hard enough if they are honest). Anybody committed to loving enemies, welcoming the alien/stranger, and trusting in God (rather than military might) is likely to be impeached.

To govern well, at least by the world's standards, a Christian must compromise.

Daryl said...

"Lincoln's presidency - irrelevent to the church"

The church as The Church, true. Individual Christians, not true. He was simply living out his faith in the political arena, just as we all should in whatever arena in which we find ourselves.

"Decades of political action haven't gotten it done, so forget it" - We should never have started."

So slavery never should have been abolished in parlaiment and we should let abortion non-laws go unchallenged? Hardly. Again, pragmatism isn't the order of the day, faithfulness and doing the right thing is. Again, distinguish between what The Church is called to and what individual Christians are called to.

"There is a role for believers in politics, even it is only to help elect the lesser of two evils." There's a banner sure to elicit spiritual excitement and God's blessing."

Again, why the pragmatic approach Rick? It's not about eliciting spiritual excitement, it's about doing the right thing. And giving your neighbour the lesser of 2 evils is surely better than giving them the greater of 2 evils.

Try this. Do nothing other than preach the gospel. Don't help your neighbour, don't give to the poor, don't hold the door for someone, don't do anything other than preach the gospel. Would that fly for a Christian? No. Then why do we imagine it would fly in the political arena? It won't.

It's not about stopping doing stuff, it's about proper priorities and proper categories and...where our hope lies.

Daryl said...

"To govern well, at least by the world's standards, a Christian must compromise."

That's the dumbesty thing I've ever heard. That's like saying "To play hockey by the worlds standards, a Christian must compromise."

So don't govern or play hockey by the world's standards, govern by God's standards. Just remember that government and hockey are civil institutions and not a church, and treat them that way.

Drew, as a Christian you can't work in any given field by the worlds standards either, so do you quit your job, or do you work to God's standards and let him decide how things will play out?

(By the way, it sounds like your assessment of Lincoln is predicated on the idea that going to war is inherently evil, a premise I reject.)

david rudd said...

phil, one of your best posts.

rick f. - "Imust confess, ,though, I do enjoy it on a "professional wrestling" level, you know, entertaining but not real!"

hillarious!

Rick Frueh said...

OK - Follow me closely. I believe slavery is wrong because of the teachings of the New Testament. But according to the Holy Spirit through Paul slaves are encouraged to live Christ to their "masters" not kill their masters. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master Philemon, he didn't tell him he didn't have to go back.

Slavery is unchristian. But nowhere in the New Testament is the church encouraged to kill 500,000 men to free those same slaves. It was a noble cause leveraged by an incredible act of violence.

The church cannot be a "end justifies the means" body. There are some thing all of us are called to suffer, unless you take an emergent view that social injustice is part of the Great Commission.

Drew said...

Not saying we shouldn't attempt to do the job by God's standards--just saying we should expect to get fired, rather than change the way we do things.

You are right that I think war is wrong (as Derek Webb put it, "how can I kill the one I'm supposed to love?") but that doesn't matter to the argument that I am making, because those who believe in the possibility of just war still believe that there must be a good reason.

If there ever was a good reason for war, emancipation of slaves is it. reason.

But that's not why Lincoln went to war.

The Spokesman said...

As a pastor, here are some problems as I see them with wielding our collective political clout:

(1) Morality is not obtained by legislation or demonstration but wherever the Gospel is preached in power and disciples are made who in turn witness to the lost in society. In Ephesus, people didn't stop purchasing idols because Paul picketed the temple of Diana or staged anti-idolatry rallies or lobbied Rome for legislation against it - many stopped purchasing idols because Paul taught the truth, people got saved, they in turn shared the Gospel, more and more people got converted, and fewer and fewer customers were available (see Acts 19:23-27).

(2)Today's church seems to be more interested in imposing God's standards in the courthouse than they are in the church-house. When churches will not operate by the guidelines that God has given in His Word for their government (biblically qualified leaders), for their discipline (biblically maintained purity), and for their exemplary conduct in society (biblically adorned doctrine), then they have no right to impose God's standards on others - or else it is hypocrisy and the world takes note of it!

It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God and the church wielding collective purity is the best way for Christians to influence society.

Daryl said...

"Slavery is unchristian. But nowhere in the New Testament is the church encouraged to kill 500,000 men to free those same slaves. It was a noble cause leveraged by an incredible act of violence."

Agreed. I wasn't aware that the church went to war...I thought the government did.

Rick and Drew. Fair enough. We'll just have to agree to disagree on the war thing.

That doesn't answer the "Christians in the political arena thing" though, does it?

By the way, as far as the end justifying the means thing goes, has that not been exactly your arguement? There has been no end to (fill in the blank), so the means, clearly being fruitless, are wrong?

Rick Frueh said...

"If there ever was a good reason for war,"

Someone give me the Scriptural guidlines for a good reason for a "just" war. These things are all horizontal machinations of man made governments and nationalistic views.

If you are suggesting on a horizontal level that WW II was just I would agree from an American viewpoint. But the church should not have an opinion on wars since we cannot with any Scriptural certainty deem one war better than another.

There is much more New Testament teaching for pacifism than for incorporating any secular conservatism within the spiritual dictates of God's Holy Word. Succinctly, the gospel is our calling, God's Word is our standard, and any and all cooperation with secular institutions must be enjoined with suspiciousness and without compromise.

Violence to effect political change (Revolutionary War, etc.) is compromise in the extreme.

stratagem said...

Drew, as a Christian you can't work in any given field by the worlds standards either...

Probably true - that's why he's a preacher!

Mike Riccardi said...

Does anybody else find it to be very sweet that both Polycarp and his wife don't separate their posts into paragraphs?

LoL... ;o)... love the both of you.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

Claiborne is nothing like Jesus. Jesus displayed a passion for truth and a contempt for the purveyors of spiritual lies that I challege you to identify in any of Mr. Claiborne's public remarks.

Stefan said...

Thank you for this post, Phil. This was a clarion call for clarity on a contemporary conundrum.

I don't have a detailed enough knowledge of the kinds of turmoil that American evangelicalism was going through in the first half of the 20th century, so I don't know for sure, but....

I've been told that this desire among evangelicals to get involved in politics goes back directly or indirectly to Carl F.H. Henry, and his idea that evangelicals should not separate from the world, but engage it.

Any substance to this? It would explain a lot.

stratagem said...

Claiborne is nothing like Jesus. Jesus displayed a passion for truth and a contempt for the purveyors of spiritual lies that I challenge you to identify in any of Mr. Claiborne's public remarks.

Once in a great while, and afflatus of brevity and clarity of thought cuts through all the confusing layers of deceit that false teachers cloak themselves in. The above comment is a flash of brilliance coupled with simplicity.

Drew said...

Claiborne is nothing like Jesus. Jesus displayed a passion for truth and a contempt for the purveyors of spiritual lies that I challege you to identify in any of Mr. Claiborne's public remarks.

Will do, but this will have to wait for the evening.

Not that I believe he comes anywhere close to ACTUALLY being like Jesus. It's just that he has that goal.

Daryl said...

Am I wrong (OK..that's too easy...) but are we confused over the difference between THE CHURCH and individual Christians.

I think there is a difference but it seems like the discussion I was having with Rick sort of centres around that distinction.

In order to stay on point, I'll add that I think Phil's post primarily addresses THE CHURCH and "the avalanche of comments" to which Agonizomai referred at the top mostly relate to individuals.

Thoughts?

Drew said...

It didn't take that long. Here it is:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=4ETBMhEzYKU

Daryl said...

Drew.

That's supposed to be Claiborne speaking like Jesus?

Puhleeze.

Mike Riccardi said...

Anyone else find it funny that Gandhi was quoted in there?

Drew, despite how saddened I am to think that that's your picture of being "like Jesus," I have a serious question for you.

How in the world am I supposed to know, from that, that this Claiborne fellow is a Christian? That is, why can't any random pagan off the street with some sort of sense of injustice for the poor make the exact same video?

Polycarp said...

Daryl:

The video ought to be called "Claiborne Revisits 'Das Kapital'". In your world, even good ol' K. Marx must be a fantastic example of Jesus too?

Daryl said...

Hey there Po0lycarp...I think you meant Drew...not Daryl...no worries.

Drew said...

The challenge was to identify "contempt for the purveyors of spiritual lies." In Claiborn's words.

I have done that.

Never mind the real problem that Phil identified "contempt" as his mark of Christ-likeness. Phil asked for an instance of Shane demonstrating contempt for the lies of this world. Shane did that in this speech/action.

Do you really want me to defend Shane's Christianity? I can do that easily, but I don't think it is necessary.

And its amazing how quickly the call of Marxist comes out. A passing familiarity with either Shane's theology or of Marxism would demonstrate how empty that claim is. But that's the go-to smear these days.

Mike Riccardi said...

Emergents: Answering their interlocutors' questions since... oh wait... nevermind.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

Let's just say the link you posted does indeed speak for itself. It just doesn't say what you want it to say.

One correction I ought to make to my earlier statement, however: I might have grossly over-estimated the quality of his ideology and rhetoric when I referred to him as a dime-store Ghandi.

Drew said...

Thanks for that correction.

From what I have seen, Claiborn speaks the truth, proclaims Christ, and follows faithfully.

He is political--even partisan, but trusts not in earthly power.

Phil Johnson said...

Drew:

So let's get this clear: Claiborne's "solution" to the evangelical obsession with right-wing politics would be 180 degrees different from mine. We're not actually in agreement at all.

Because you originally said you thought you were reading "the same thing" here that you find in Claiborne. I don't want any of the lurkers to get the wrong impression from that.

My strategy involves gospel preaching instead of political protest and lobbying; Claiborne is proposing a Marxist-style redistribution of wealth.

So it's not really "the same thing" at all, is it?

Drew said...

You are same in this: we must not hope in government.

Shane is political in the older sense of the word--in the way that all of our actions are political. Which is to say, our interactions with other people. He is partisan, but not in the traditional political sense. He is partisan, not in a replublican/democrat sense, but by choosing to be with the poor.

Shane's strategy IS the same as yours. He is avoiding political power, preaching the Gospel, and living according to it as best he can. His life is a political protest, in as much as he is not conformed to the patterns of this world, and transformed by a renewal of his ways. But he doesn't lobby. Lobbying would be looking to government for the solution, and both of you have given up on that.

Obviously, the two of you disagree on what the Gospel is. For Shane, "Good News for the poor," involves a redistribution of wealth, but not all redistributionists are Marxists. Marxists use the government to redistribute wealth. Claiborne calls on the church to do this. Shane got his ideas of wealth redistribution from the Bible, not Marx.

Judge him on his fidelity to scripture, not any resemblance that he might have to a particular boogieman.

Drew said...

I'll be more specific: you both agree in that the solution is for the church to start acting like the church.

Rick Frueh said...

I watched the link to Clairborne and I just do not get it. Mother Theresa? This goes to the white hot core of the breach between the emergent movement and historic evangelicalism. Is the gospel the only conduit through which a sinner can believe and inherit eternal life?

The sacrifice is admirable, but when the gospel is compromised by suggesting that humanitarian works can accomplish God's kingdom then you have moved to heresy.

Jesus had it within His power to multiply loaves and fsishes every day of His ministry and feed the poor, and yet He chose to spend much of His time teaching the truth of the gospel. And as He gave the Great Commission, hHis commandment was to preach and make disciples and did not include works as part of that. Mother Theresa did not preach the gospel and therefore was in disobediece to the Great Commission.

Daryl said...

Drew,

That's funny, I got the Claiborne trusted in ordinary people rather than either government OR God.

Also, would the average pagan decry what Claiborne is doing like they decry the real Gospel?

Drew said...

Daryl:

Again, this is a funny standard, but I have to think the answer is "yes."

That's why the police were sent to stop them.

That's how they got the money in the first place: "average pagans" had arrested them for violating anti-homeless vagrancy laws (that "average pagans" had created), and Shane and company received the money as part of a wrongful arrest suit (which they won).

And yes, they did feel bad about getting money from a secular court settlement. That is part of the reason that they chose not to keep the $10,000.

Lots of people get mad when $10,000 gets scattered on the street.

Drew said...

Rick:

Shane the rest of them were not trying to create God's Kingdom. They know that they can't do that.

They were trying to be obedient to it.

The great committsion includes this line:

"teaching them to obey ALL that I have commanded you."

and yes, that includes works.

Polycarp said...

Daryl:

Your video--and the general emergent sentiment within it-- inspired my creativity today and I've written a short poem in reply. I call it:

"Horizontal Elegy"

When the radiance of upward, heavenly realms is lost,

When the cares of earth divert the eyes and heart from our Savior's cross,

When pleasing men and their approval deems
Pleasing our Father all but dross,

When body and soul are all that be
and quenching of the the Holy Spirit of too great a cost...

Then one can declare in no uncertain terms, that he indeed
is lost!

Polycarp said...

SORRY DARYL....

I MEANT DREW (I am dreadfully aweful with names...even when they are spelled-out in front of me!)

Rick Frueh said...

"and yes, that includes works."

OK, but does it include the gospel?

Mother Theresa, "No".

There can be no argument, they do not believe faith comes by hearing.

Polycarp said...

Drew:

While the poem may never make it into an anthology, as it was written in about 15 minutes, the serious point I'd like to make is this: you call it smearing to compare Claiborne's message to Marx? I never said they were the same person, as Marx was clearly the more sophisticated originator of his rubbish; Claiborne is merely rehashing it, just like so many celebrities and pop stars these days. Of course, all rehashings will have their own distinctives. The difference between his message and that of Marx is that Marx at least had the integrity, as an athesit, of declaring his earthbound, man-centered ideolgy as precisely what it was. He did not attempt to call it a Christian message by attributing any of his horizontal worldview to God. On this note, Phil's post addresses the real problem: the utter futility of attempting to make the horizontal become vertical, of which a staunch conservative on the right who claims the name of Christ can be just as guilty of doing as Claiborne (on the left). Hence, just as Phil noted earlier, there is nothing in common with his message and Claiborne's; rather, Claiborne has much more in common with a Pat Robertson than he'd probably like to admit : )

Drew said...

If we are not supposed to get our guidance for our behavior on this earth from God, then where should it come from?

Are you really criticizing Shane for obedience now?

Rick Frueh said...

"Are you really criticizing Shane for obedience now?"

No, I am objecting to his social gospel as evidenced by his joining with Mother Theresa.

Polycarp said...

I'll tell you what:
if you wish to call any of these shanannigans "obedience to God," please go right ahead and do so...each is entitled to their own fiction.

However, back in the land of reality, it is quite easy to see right through the whole sharade presented in this video. I see a frustrated worldling who has apparantly not been able to be as worldly as he wished he could, had it not been for that pesky Christianity he would like to either: a) disassociate with completely, or b) conform, distort, twist, and redefine into whatever he wants it to be...which will make it (whatever "it" really is to him) more appealing to others. As other comments have noted, his little performance is nothing very much different than any pagan could likewise achieve...and nothing more.

So then, under your logic, I suppose you believe Christians should join the crazies at Greenpeace who are being good stewards of the earth, just as God asks us to do (why not call all of them Christians?), or team-up with the wackos of PETA who are likewise caring for God's created animals (they must certainly be believers as well)? However, I'm guessing even the emergents would put on the brakes when it came to joining forces with a group like Planned Parenthood...nah, who am I kidding! They would, and probably already have, found a way to rationalize a pseudo-Christian spin on contributing to the 'fine work' this organization is doing for young, unwed mothers everywhere. Perhaps the more ordinary endeavors of yet another man-centered organization like Habitat for Humanity is where you believe Christians belong (or where we can find hordes of other believers?) because they are helping those in need, and who can ever fault "helping those in need" right? After all, Jesus would.

Well, I think Jesus cares a great deal, as he illustarted through his own words, about someone being "helped" here on earth yet spending an eternity in a very real hell. But, who really cares if a group like Habitat, for example, never shares the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with the people they help anyhow? It is inconsequential isn't it? Just pesky details....

Drew said...

Wow, polycarp. Do you extend such vitriol to all organizations that do not preach the gospel?

Some Christians are boycotting Burger King because they do not pay tomato pickers a living wage, but I suppose YOU are boycotting them because they preach a "works gospel" of cheap and quick burgers, without pointing people to Christ.

Anyway, your whole argument is moot, because Claiborne does proclaim Christ's gospel of grace, not works. Just because it wasn't in one video doesn't mean it isn't there.

Rick Frueh said...

We all could have fed the poor and clothed the naked and minitered to the sick before Calvary. The cross changed everything, or at least it was supposed to.

J. Wesley said...

I think Evangelical Christians need to find a balance. They were almost entirely out of the political loop from 1930-1970, which was wrong, and now they've deified politics and expected it to accomplish things only revival can.

I tend to blog a lot about politics, but I'm aware of the limitations of the State (Kuyper helps with that!)

J. Wesley said...

The Spokesman-

YOU SAID:"As a pastor, here are some problems as I see them with wielding our collective political clout:

(1) Morality is not obtained by legislation or demonstration but wherever the Gospel is preached in power and disciples are made who in turn witness to the lost in society."

ME SAY: I'm not sure this is borne out by Scripture. I believe that as Christians we are to honor God in all aspects of life. The State is just as divinely instituted as the Church. I see no reason why the State should be less influenced by Christian teaching than the family or any other institution established by God. If our laws governing morality are not to reflect God's moral law, which moral law should we use as a template? And if Christians don't work to ensure that our laws reflect godly principles, who will?

I certainly agree that without a robust Christian witness in society, any government-sanctioned morality will be short-lived and gelded. But the State can and should be a valuable adjunct to the Church in matters of public morality.

Romans 13:4 reads:
"4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."

The State is specifically mandated to enforce morality.

As citizens of a Republic, American Christians are a part of this system -- we ave the right and responsibility of choosing and influencing our leaders. This is a gift from God, and as with all gifts, we are accountable to Him for how we use it. Staying out of politics is not an option for the faithful Christian, IMO (though obviously each individual must prayerfully consider to what extent he is called to be involved.)

As for point 2 -- I agree that our moral housecleaning should begin with the Church. And that Christians look too much to the court-house rather than the House of the Lord for their hope.

Anyway, sorry if any of this is facile or annoying. Haven't done much theo discussion in a while. :)



Yours,

J. Wesley
http://www.conservativeintelligencer.com

eastendjim said...

To the extent that the world wants to legislate Christians out of existence or into the closet,

It doesn't matter what the world tries to do. They can't stop Jesus Christ.

Polycarp said...

Drew:

As Rick already made perfectly clear, we (as I agree with him) oppose Clairborne not because he preaches a works gospel per-se, but rather because he scantly teaches THE gospel at all, choosing rather to preach a social gospel instead. And, to the degree in which a works-based definition of salvation falls into the feel-good-ism of leftist causes in general, or that social gospel among the emergent set in particular, remains unknown by anyone but God alone. Indeed, it is not my place to judge one's internal understanding and acceptance of grace verses works because I cannot know it. I can, however, judge the social and/or horizontal focus of an emergent message and compare it to the vertical, God-glorifying focus in a message from a solid man of God--MacArthur, Spurgeon, Begg, Sproul, Lloyd-Jones, etc (you get the idea).

As to your Burger King reference, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'd certainly be in favor of a boycott based upon exploiting workers if indeed what your saying is true. I've not heard anything about this until now, so I'll need to examine further in order to decide whether or not I'll resolve myself to only eating Taco Bell when I want fast food.

I'm afraid it is your point that is moot here because you obviously cannot see a disitinction between the examples of organizations I named and yours. There is nothing ideological, or cause-driven, about a for-profit company like Burger King selling/providing a product or service to the public unless you'd like to make the absurd argument that every company is driven by a vicious capitalism (good Marxists would say they are).

As you noted, people who work for a company are employees, not volunteers. All of the non-profits I named in my examples, driven entirely by pagan humanism, are defined by a clearly-stated ideology, none of which has anything to do with the gospel at all and has everything to do with opposing it. In fact, in these organizations' attempts to praise man (or beast with regard to PETA), this not only undermines the need to make people aware of their spiritual bankruptcy and subsequent need for a savior, but rather inserts an agnostic or athesitic cheap substitute.

For one who names Christ as his/her Lord and Savior, the begging question is obviously why he/she would have anything to do with supporting ideology that is entirely opposed to the gospel--a drastically different question than the silly, strawman argument you presented to me with regard to my supposed contempt for any/all organizations or companies that do not preach the gospel. This is a huge distinction--one I hope you are able to see.

PS: Is "vitriol" and/or "vitriolic" on some sort of "Emergent Word O' the Month" website out there somewhere? Did some emergent leader recently launch this word into the "conversation"?? Is it in some sort of emergent handbook out there?...you know, to use when postmodern values are ever questioned. I've seen it appear quite often within EC rhetoric and I'm just curious.

northWord said...

!!!

Thanks so much (Phil) for saying what needs, so badly, to be said, and heard..!

Messyanic Jew said...

Emergents: Answering their interlocutors' questions since... oh wait... nevermind.

Mike Riccardi just made me come close to spitting Diet Coke all over my laptop! LOL ...

Messyanic Jew said...

I have to agree with The Doulos: there IS a balance to be found when it comes to this topic.
On one hand, there almost seems to be a definite idea in the minds of many Evangelical Christian voters that if they can get a Christian (or someone who professes to be a Christian) into high office, then all the ills of the country will be solved. Personally, I don't buy it and I find it disturbing. I recall visiting the home of an acquaintance just prior to the last Presidential election. My acquaintance picked up a piece of mail and displayed it to those of us gathered in his living room, then remarked that his "Christian voter's guide" had arrived, so now he knew exactly who he was supposed to vote for. I'm still horrified just recounting the incident. To this day, I wonder if that acquaintance had someone telling him which church to attend as well!

I don't think I can agree that we should withdraw from participating in elections or government entirely. As both Solameanie and Sharon have pointed out, Christians are admonished to be good citizens -- which includes having some involvement in the workings of their government.

Having spent 8 years as a full time missionary I can't do anything except 100% agree that our primary task as Christians is to proclaim the Gospel and to make disciples. As such, it seems that our faith must hugely inform our choices when it comes to politics/government. At the same time, I do not think a church is the proper environment for the dissemination of political literature or messages -- I've left one congregation when the pulpit became a place to proclaim campaign messages instead of the Gospel.

Phil Johnson said...

J. Wesley:

Off topic here, but I gotta tell you: "Leave Barry Aone!" was sheer genius.

Drew said...

polycarp:

If you are hearing the word "vitriol" over and over again from many different sources, it may not be a co-ordinated response, but a natural one.

It's one thing to call Habitat's efforts "incomplete." Most of Habitat's volunteers would say the same thing, which is why they are also (most of them) part of a church. It's another thing to say that they are "counter to the gospel." I don't understand why for profit buisnesses and governments are considered "neutral," but when Christians organize to meet people's physical needs it is "pagan humanism."

And I have said it again and again and again, but your claim that Claiborn does not preach the Gospel is patently false. In this case, you are not being vitriolic, you are lying.

The Spokesman said...

J. Wesley: The State is specifically mandated to enforce morality. And if Christians don't work to ensure that our laws reflect godly principles, who will?

Where does the State get its legislation? From the Church? Who gave Rome laws against theft, murder, and mistreatment of her citizens? See Romans 2:14-15.

You said: Staying out of politics is not an option for the faithful Christian.

I say: I'm not sure this is borne out by Scripture. That would be a matter of conscience.

You said: But the State can and should be a valuable adjunct to the Church in matters of public morality.

I say: But the Church can and should be a valuable adjunct to the State in matters of public morality. Now wouldn't that be awesome! Government bearing the sword of the State as an avenger who brings wrath on one who practices evil and the Church wielding the Sword of the Spirit as an ambassador who brings peace on one who practiced evil.

Polycarp said...

Drew:

With all due respect, attempting to converse with you is essentially fruitless because you either cannot or will not (which is more likely) apply logic in reading my comments primarily, nor in making several of your own.

First, I never said I personally hear/receive the word vitriolic, as I wouldn't waste my time commenting on emergent sites because they simply refuse to hear anything but singing to the choir of their own rebellion. I have seen countless emergents all use the word in various contexts. So, as one one likes to study language and language usage, I find it quite odd--and revealing of blind adherence--that an obscure word like vitriol/vitriolic is used by so many people unless they have been instructed at a conference, on a website, or in handbook somewhere to use the word whenever postmodern values are challenged.

Secondly, I made it quite clear that a group like Habitat is indeed in a different category than the other non-profits I mentioned. However, working within the academic world of secular humanism, I do know how many people from this world love to be involved with them and other charity organizations, namely because of the feelgoodism it promises. These are the pagan versions of missionary organizations...a sort of "everything but" approach. Actually, for that person who calls him/herself an agnostic/humanist/atheist and wants to help people, then these organizations are ideal for them. These groups certainly do not go out and cause major disruptions like the others I mentioned. Good for THEM.

However, I'll pose my question once again to you and the professing Christian who seek out these intentionally secular organizations to invest your time: why on earth would professing Christians seek out the forms of charitible work that intentionally make it a point to keep "religion' out of their endeavors and thus provide earthly services (which are good) but never the glorious message of the gospel? Why, when there are numerous Christian organizations--true missionary work as opposed to the silly emergent "missional" wordplay--that are out there providing the same services for people as a group like Habitat, yet giving them something far greater than a roof over their head in the eternal sphere (they are giving them a roof over their head as well)?

My conclusion is simply this: emergents care little for the eternal sphere because it's all right here and they don't believe in it.

PS: Why do you and so many other emergents express such "vitriol" towards orthodox, historical Christianity and those who embrace it?

J. Wesley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Wesley said...

The spokesman-

NOTE - I deleted my earlier comment in order to revise and extend it a bit. :)

I don't think we're that far apart on this issue. I think we're talking past one another. You're speaking about the Church as an entity, I'm speaking about Christians working collectively within the political system, but not in the name of the Church. To clarify, I would certainly endorse this comment by Phil: "The church as a body has no calling to organize and protest in the political realm."

I agree that the Church as an institution should not be tangled up in the hurly-burly of day-to-day politics. I've written on this for years -- it demeans the name of Christ and robs it of its prophetic voice in society.

But Christians can and should be involved in government, particularly in a Republic. Do you truly believe that we're not called to bring Christ into EVERY aspect of our society? Are there compartments to Creation where Christians are meant to be confined?

"Government bearing the sword of the State as an avenger who brings wrath on one who practices evil and the Church wielding the Sword of the Spirit as an ambassador who brings peace on one who practiced evil."

I have no problem with your reversal of my formulation. It simply hinges on the term "public morality." I mean that the Church is the primary vehicle by which God's moral principles are inculcated into the fabric of our society, while the State enforces gross breaches of these principles.

You're approaching it from a different tack in this 'graph, but one I can certainly endorse. :)

Nice 'meeting' you, btw.

dac said...

What J. Wesley said

Polycarp said...

Drew: I forgot to respond to your last sentence.

"Lying" ?? This is a pretty strong and/or "vitriolic" word choice is it not?

This is by no means a lie because when I watch/hear his messages (I've seen a few of his videos), his "gospel" is quite different than anythying I hear or read from men like MacArthur, Begg, Sproul, Mohler, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Ferguson, Barnhouse, etc., etc (i.e. solid men of God). Oh, it may at the core have some of the same raw ingredients as the True Gospel, similar to the way certain kids' cereals in the grocery store like to advertise how nutritional they really are, but it has so many layers of sugar-coated additive and distortion that one can hardly say they are eating a healthy bowl of wheat grain when they eat "frosted cookie crunchies" (we must appeal to the youth after all).

Throughout the NT we have numerous warnings about "other gospels" that will appear in the last days; we also see references to "false doctrines" and/or "false teachings"; I think it is interesting that the word "other" appears in scripture when the authors could have just used the word "false". In other words, someone can say quite easily that they are preaching the gospel, but which gospel? Or what have they done with or to "the" gospel?

Next thing we know, people will say U2 is preaching the gospel in their concerts...oh yea, they already are saying that.

The Spokesman said...

J. Wesley

Nice 'meeting' you too!

I believe that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world has more to do with moral character based on sanctification flowing from justification in the Lord than moral principles based on legislation. Are we the salt of the earth and the light of the world because we legislate morality or because we live it?

I propose that living morally has a far greater impact than legislating morality. It is the State's God-given responsibility to legislate morality. It is the Church's God-given responsiblity to live morally. Therefore even the Church is called to be subject to the State (Romans 13:1-7) and is not to usurp the God-given authority of the State. Likewise God has called the Church to live morally (Romans 13:8-14) and the State is not to undermine the responsibility of the Church by legislating immoral laws.

And again I ask, Where does the State get its legislation? From the Church? Who gave Rome laws against theft, murder, and mistreatment of her citizens? See Romans 2:14-15.

So, Christians working collectively within the political system, can legislate morality through the "moral majority", still not live morally (many won't even govern themselves according to God's standards for the Church), and attempt to be the State rather than the Church.

Truth is if the "majority" were really "moral" then the Church would be a valuable adjunct to the State in matters of public morality.

Reversing the order and having the State as a valuable adjunct to the Church rather than the Church as a valuable adjunct to the State is I believe a reversal of God's divine pattern.

Drew said...

I don't evalutate Claiborne's message by comparing it to MacArthur's, I compare it to Christ's.

I believe that Good News and Good Works should go together. It is better if an organization preaches as it works, but I do not begrudge those that do not.

My apologies if you think I was vitriolic towards you. I certainly an not vitriolic towards biblical Christian orthodoxy. I embrace it.

Polycarp said...

Drew:

Thanks for your apologies, if you were indeed being "vitriolic" towards me. Frankly, I do not view my comments nor the comments of others--especially at this site-- on a personal/emotional level, so no offense taken and no offense given I hope. I find most people here embrace objective, Biblical truth as the highest priority, and that without emotionalism or personalizing what is said or heard. As you appropriately said, Christ's example is what we must follow, and the Lord Jesus always demonstrated the importance of truth over subjective emotions and contextual relativism.

My comment about your word choice being vitriolic was somewhat tounge & cheek, as I understand why you would say you thought I was "lying" with regard to my take on whether or not Mr. Claiborne preaches the gospel, as you truly believe he does and I do not.

No worries, we can agree to disagree.

Josh said...

Can we do both? Can we be humble servants for the sake of Christ, AND be politically active in a system that allows us to be politically active to protect regligous freedom in America? America was and is established on religious freedom and that allows folks like us to do exactly what we are doing - speaking freely. If we don't become prayerfully and politically active we lose those rights. Just look at communist nations. I for one don't want America's religious freedoms to be taken away without a fight. I think I would regret not being involved for the sake of my children. I want to educate them the way I think is best and I don't want a government telling me how to educate my kids. Just look at Germany. They are still dealing with Hitler's rules against homeschooling and kids are literally taken away from parents. It could happen here if we don't defend our rights.